The Emperor’s New Hair: Utilizing ELNs in the Improvement of Chemical Relaxers

Chemical relaxers are often used to change a person’s look, but also contain chemicals that can produce adverse side effects. ELNs can thus be used to improve the chemical composition of these relaxers to promote healthy hair and happy consumers.
Image Source: Flickr user Jaysin Trevino

A person’s hair — its texture, color, curl pattern — is one of the first characteristics others notice. Rightly or wrongly, people often make assumptions about a person’s personality based on what’s growing on his or her head. In modern society, women can use wigs and hats to alter others’ perceptions; however, a more permanent way to alter hair’s architecture is to use chemical relaxers. First discovered by Garrett Morgan, who noticed that an alkaline based chemical used to polish machine needles could also straighten curly hair, chemical relaxers today are broadly classified as “lye” relaxers, no-lye relaxers and “thio relaxers.” Still, despite our modern technology, one study found that nearly 95.56 percent of individuals who had undergone the procedure reported an adverse side effect and other studies have even deemed hair relaxers “toxic” for consumers.

Additionally, consumers become increasingly interested in natural alternatives to relaxers, which can contain harsh active ingredients such as sodium hydroxide, lithium hydroxides and other varieties of harsh oxidants. In fact, those with sensitive scalps must often refrain from using lye chemical relaxers and even milder ingredients can cause hair loss, scalp burns and other side effects. In this context, companies should do more to 1) determine alternative, non-chemical ingredients and 2) limit or significantly reduce the number of chemicals used to straighten hair.

Determining Non-Chemical Alternatives and Decreasing Existing Chemicals with ELNs

How can companies achieve the two aims discussed above of determining novel ingredients that are non-toxic, while also limiting any necessarily “toxic” chemicals? The use of electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) can go a long way toward ensuring these two goals are achieved. ELNs provide researchers with the information to enter experimental data, organize the information and then easily interpret said experiments. Here are specific ways in which ELNs can support the work of companies interested in changing the ways in which chemical relaxers are formulated:

  • Non-toxic ingredients: Though there are newer, non-lye chemical relaxers, the ingredients still prove harsh for some individuals. ELNs can assist researchers in organizing information about other non-toxic or natural alternatives. Experiments can then be tested to determine how effectively these ingredients work to straighten hair. By recording this data in one location, company managers and researchers will have access to this database to then identify which ingredients to push into the production pipeline. Given the organizational power of ELNs, products can more quickly go to market using this technology.
  • Decrease toxicity: ELNs can also be used to record information about the nature of active ingredients or more specifically, determining the least amount of chemicals that can be used to produce a desired effect. Thus, scientists can conduct experiments using existing chemicals to identify which ingredients can be omitted or decreased without significantly affecting the efficacy of products.
  • Nurturing hair: Relaxers are used to “relax” curl patterns or straighten the entire hair and as such can sometimes lead to split ends and damaged hair. ELNs could similarly be used to determine any additional ingredients that can be added to chemical relaxers in order to protect the hair shaft. Women, especially African-American women, often stop relaxing their hair because their hair health seems to suffer along the way. Thus, determining the types of botanicals or non-toxic chemicals that can be added in conjunction with relaxers, can assist women in protecting the health of their hair and their overall satisfaction with the products.

ELNs are a powerful tool to help researchers organize information and collaborate with others in order to bring a product from ingredients to the store shelf. The BIOVIA Notebook has been assisting researchers do just that. To determine how our best practices electronic lab notebook can help you, please contact us today.

3 thoughts on “The Emperor’s New Hair: Utilizing ELNs in the Improvement of Chemical Relaxers

  1. This article – “The Emperor’s New Hair: Utilizing ELNs in the Improvement of Chemical Relaxers” – is intriguing. I agree that companies should do more to make the hair-straightening process less harmful and ELNs sound like a great way to make progress.

  2. Thank you for your comment! Indeed, I hope companies start to improve the hair-straightening process by using milder chemicals that are less likely to damage the hair.

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