Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? Episode 138

Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair?It_means_no_worries

Georgina asks…Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? I’m looking at a Mason Pearson brush that’s about $100 and I want to know if it’s worth it.

It’s tough to give a definitive answer because as you might imagine there aren’t many double blind, peer reviewed scientific studies comparing different hair brushes. But we DID find a couple of studies that may be helpful.

The first study, “A Statistical Analysis of Hair Breakage,” pointed out the something that seems obvious: different combs and brushes will affect your hair differently depending on their structure. The researchers say that the spacing between teeth or bristles has a big influence. They also noted that “different comb or bristle materials may also have a different tendency for abrasion.” Unfortunately, the research didn’t provide any data on the differences in abrasion which would have been really helpful to answer your question!

A second study compared brushes to combs and confirmed the importance of the configuration of the brush bristles (or comb teeth.) It compared hair breakage resulting from use of three different styling implements:

  • A Goody flat paddle style brush with featuring plastic bristles with bulbous tips with a bristle bulb diameter of 0.2134 cm.
  • A cylindric Prive styling brush also containing plastic bristles with a smaller bristle bulb diameter of 0.1118 cm.
  • An Ace comb of unspecified dimensions.

Their results showed that both brushes and combs cause hair breakage because hairs become “looped” around individual bristles. Once they are looped, the friction increases and the hair can be pulled out or broken.

Interestingly the data showed that brushing causes more long hairs to break while combing causes shorter hairs to break. Apparently this has to do with how brush bristles are configured in multiple rows and columns.

The other interesting finding of this study is that brushes tend to distribute hair over a wider area than a comb which tends to confine the hairs to a narrow path. That means that in terms of oil distribution a brush could provide a better opportunity for even oil spreading than a comb.

Finally, although we couldn’t find any data to back this up, we hypothesize that boar bristles MAY do a better job of spreading scalp oils throughout the hair.

That’s because boar’s hair brushes would have a greater affinity for oils than plastic or nylon brushes. If the boar’s hair does act as a natural reservoir of oil it could lubricate hair better. Again, that’s just a guess.

So the bottom line is that we don’t have a definitive answer but it LOOKS like the configuration of the bristles is more important than what material they’re made from. Based on what we’ve seen it may be best to use a combination of a wide tooth comb to detangle and a natural fiber bristle brush (like boar’s hair) to distribute oils through your hair.

However, even though there MAY be some slight advantage to boar bristle brushes it’s hard to say how much money that difference is worth. You also have to consider the overall quality of the brush, how long it will last, and how it feels in your hand and so on. Even if there’s no clear scientific benefit sometimes it’s just nice to splurge on nice stuff.

Reference 1:
J. Cosmet. Sci., 61, 439–455 (November/December 2010) A statistical analysis of hair breakage. II. Repeated grooming experiments. Trefor A. Evans and Kimun Park.
Reference 2:
J. Cosmet Sci., 58, 629-636 (November/December 2007) Hair breakage during combing IV: Brushing and combing hair. Clarence Robbins and Yash Kamath.

Can you use  Magic Eraser to remove spray tan?

Marilyn says…I read that you can use a Magic Eraser sponge to remove spray tan. Will it work and is it safe? 

First of all, what is a Magic Eraser? It’s a brand name for a P&G household product under their Mr. Clean line. It’s made from a spongey like material called Melamine foam and I think it’s an interesting product because of how it came about.

Melamine foam is actually a formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer. It’s been used for decades as as insulation for pipes and ductwork, and as a soundproofing material for studios, sound stages, and so forth. At some point, an enterprising chemist figured out they could incorporate a surfactant into this stuff, make it into hand sized blocks, and sell it as a household cleanser that “erases” stains from hard surfaces.

Will it help get ride of spray tan? Probably pretty well. The DHA used in sunless tanners reacts with the upper layer of stratum corneum to stain the protein in skin. If you scrub that upper layer off you’ll make the tan go away faster. In fact, that’s one test used for exfoliation efficacy – you stain several spots on the skin, measure the color on each spot, then apply a different type of exfoliator to each spot and remeasure the color. The lightest spots are the most effective exfoliator because they removed the most stained skin cells.

Is it safe? That’s a different question. As a general rule it’s never a good idea to use a household product on your skin. That’s because they’re not subject to the same safety testing requirements as personal care products. It may contain some free formaldehyde but that’s not likely to be a problem unless it’s present at a fairly high level. But there may be other issues. For example, there could be small amounts of unreacted polymer that could elicit an allergic reaction. It’s one thing if you are just holding one of these in your hand as your scrubbing your kitchen counter. It’s another thing if you’re rubbing it all your body to scrape off a tan.

Is Milk of Magnesia a good makeup primer?

We blogged about this a few years ago but we haven’t discussed it on the show. This is one of those internet skin care hacks that just won’t die. I still see it pop up on Pinterest and YouTube. Milk of Magnesia is a common over-the-counter laxative. Technically speaking, it’s a solution of magnesium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite and it works by drawing water into the intestine so you can poop.

Can this stuff do anything for skin? Well, the ability to drive water absorption into the intestines MAY make it capable of tightening skin and leaving a smooth surface for make up. And it may also have some mild antibacterial properties. And since it’s such an effective absorbent it may get rid of excess oil. (Another rumor is that it’s good for acne.) So there’s enough here that you can sort of see how this idea got started. But is it safe?

Not really. Since it has a high pH (about 10.5) it can disrupt the natural acid mantle of skin which means it can dry it out, leave you open to skin infections, etc. If you use this stuff on a regular basis, ESPECIALLY if you leave it on your skin like you would a makeup primer, I think it’s far more likely to do damage than it is to help. Why wouldn’t you just use a product specifically formulated to be used on your face instead?

Are sheet masks better moisturizers?

Frances wants to know…I’ve recently gotten into skin care products from East Asia, mainly Korea, & sheet masks are a BIG trend over there. My question is, do they actually deliver superior hydration to the skin?

Sure, while the sheet is on your face it’s very good hydrator. These things cover a lot of surface area, they’re larger reservoirs of product and they’re quite occlusive which means they’ll trap moisture against your skin. If it’s a foil backed mask it’s even better because nothing will evaporate through that.

But… once you remove it what happens? These things don’t leave a lot of product behind. Compared to a cream or lotion a mask isn’t likely to provide much benefit after it’s removed. Of course it depends on if it contains the proper amount of an active ingredient but just from a hydration perspective masks are not the ideal delivery system. They also don’t allow your to fine tune the delivery like a cream does (you can use your fingers to apply exactly where you want it around your lips, eyes and nose.) Sheet masks aren’t that precise.

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