Hair Chemistry


Hair is made of up of protein which starts off in the hair follicle. As the hair cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called keratin. These mature hair cells travel up the hair follicle and become dead material once they leaves their roots - the reason why it doesn’t hurt when you get a haircut. In other words, hair is dead material.

    • Hair is composed primarily of proteins (88%). 

    • These proteins are of a hard type (keratin)

    • Comprised of many amino acids 

      • Cysteine 

      • Aspartic acid 

      • Serine

      • Alanine

      • Glutamic acid 

      • Proline 

      • Threonine 

      • Isoleucine 

      • Glycine 

      • Tyrosine 

      • Leucine 

      • Phenylalanine 

      • Valine 

      • Histidine 

      • Arginine 

      • Methionine

    • With cystine which gives hair much of its strength, being the most abundant 

    • The amino acids are joined together by "peptide bonds” which are;
      –     Hydrogen bonds
      –     Cystine bonds
      –     Salt bonds
      –     Sugar bonds

    • These bonds are link together to form the hair structure;

      • The "alpha helix“ a coiled coil structure



  • This bond is responsible for the ability of the hair to be stretched; 

    • its elasticity and return back to its original shape. 

  • The hydrogen bonds allow us to change the shape of the hair temporarily with the aid of water or heat

  • It is the most readily broken down and the most readily reformed. 

  • It is responsible for approximately 35% of hair strength and close to ~ 100% of hair's elasticity 


  • Similar to the hydrogen bond

  • It is also responsible for approximately 35% of the strength of the hair but 50% of the hair's elasticity.


  • Also known as the disulfide bond, sulfur bond, or just S bond

    • Formed by cross-links between cystine residues (amino acids) of the main polypeptide chains. 

    • The main amino acid of hair (sulfur)

      • Responsible for 
        –    Hair's toughness or abrasion resistance
        –    Holding the hair fibers together
        –    Hair type (genetic mark up)


  • This bond is largely resistant to the action of acids but the can be broken apart by alkali solutions
  • Which what enables us to permanently straighten or wave the hair.

  • Permanent relaxers (straighten naturally curly hair)
    –     Breaks the disulfide bonds causing the hair to loosen up for reshaping. (a reducer)
  • Perms - acid based hair relaxers 
    –     curl or wave naturally straight hair
    –     instead of breaking up the disulfide bonds totally, it weakens the internal structures of the bonds. (an oxidizer)


  • Gives the hair toughness but little strength (5%).
  • Contributes to hair moisture


  • Responsible for hair type (genetic mark up)
  • Hair is curly or straight;
    –     depending upon the number of disulfide bonds between hair proteins found in the hair shaft.  
  • The greater the number of links
    –      the curlier the hair, 
    –     and the fewer the number of links; the straighter the hair.


A pH's of 3.0 to 3.5 

  • Will not only close the cuticle but more importantly compact it. This:

1) Adds natural shine 
2) Detangles 
3) Adds elasticity 
–     The lower the pH, the higher the positive charge. 
–     This in turn brings hydrogen bonds from a beta state (weak) to and alpha state (strong). 

Hydrogen bonds account for nearly 100% of the hair's elasticity.  
 4) Locks in moisture and protein 
–     A compacted cuticle will not allow evaporation or dissociation as much as an open cuticle. 


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