Your mother’s constant nagging to oil your hair can now be rationally explained. The Centre for Nanotechnology at the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University has just concluded a part of a study on hair-care that shows that the traditional coconut oil therapy is an effective conditioner.
The centre used its state-of-the-art equipment unique to the country to understand the effect of oil on hair. After testing large number of hair samples treated with and without oil, findings showed that even after washing, oil forms a layer on the hair making it soft, smooth and stretchable. It forms a uniform thin layer of thickness less than ten nano-meters on the hair surface. One nano-meter is a billionth of a meter and about one lakh times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair.
“Hair cuticle is a layer of overlapping cells or scales resembling the tiles of a roof. Oil causes reduction in cuticle-scale-height (the outer layer of hair),” said Arvind Singh, a researcher in the lab. “Quantitative measurement of oil-treated hair surface indicated a decrease in the friction coefficient and hardness of hair. Effectively, hair becomes soft, smooth and stretchable after the application of oil.”
High-resolution images were taken and alterations of cuticle height, split-ends and other morphological features of hair were studied. Techniques such as atomic force microscopy, ultra-nano indentation and nano-tribiological techniques were employed for the study.
The Kalina lab specialises in studying nano-scale properties of biological materials. The lab will now study the impact of oil on hair at more levels.
“Our machines can penetrate hair from 5 to 200 nanometres. We now want to study the impact of oil at various depths. We also want to look at the impact of oil on the health of hair and share our findings with dermatologists for application,” said DC Kothari, coordinator of the centre.