After we shower or get out of the pool, our hair becomes wet and tangled and we immediately want to brush or comb it out, especially for those who have long hair. Some of us may think that brushing wet hair is easier because the water that is absorbed into the hair acts like a conditioner and makes brushing and combing smoother. Although this may be true for some people, the hair is actually getting damaged due to its loss of elasticity from the water.
So, how does water weaken hair? Karen Marie Shelton from HairBoutique spoke with beauty scientist Dr. John Gray about what happens to hair when it is wet. Hair has hydrogen bonds that are connected to keratin, the protein that shapes the structure of hair. When the hair is wet, it becomes very fragile because “the water breaks down the natural hydrogen bonds in the hair.” When the hydrogen bonds are broken, the structure of the hair changes, hence curly hair when wet becomes straight and thin and straight hair when wet becomes straighter and thinner. Without all the hydrogen bonds being intact with keratin, the hair becomes vulnerable to pretty much anything if not careful.
Wet or damp hair makes it easy for braids as it can gather all the baby hairs or fly-aways and keeps the hair in one place when braiding. Damp hair is also perfect for curlers since the hydrogen bonds are not completely there to hold the natural shape or structure of the hair.
If styling must be done on wet or damp hair, be cautious on how it is handled because aggressive brushing and combing, or just running fingers with sharp nails through the hair can break the hair strands. Consider using a detangling spray or leave-in conditioners to help ease combing wet hair.
Here is a link with some tips from Shelton on how to prevent wet hair damage: