Hair care tips: What is an ionic hair dryer?
The science of what is an ionic hair dryer.
Sifting through the ever-growing barrage of magazine articles and advertisements devoted to hair care and beauty products can leave one confused, overwhelmed, and too often – misled. It seems the moment you’ve “updated” your make-up and hair supplies, something “newer”, “better”, and “guaranteed to produce results” comes along. The ionic hair dryer is no longer the latest, nor the most sophisticated of the lot. However, it continues to be one of the least understood. To clear up some of the mystery behind this wonder of tress-taming wonders, let us begin with some insight into the miracle that is your hair.
Hair grows from tiny holes in the skin, which those in-the-know refer to as follicles. Inside the follicle is the living tissue that allows your hair to grow. So, to clear up the water-cooler debate: your hair is NOT alive – at least not the part you can see with the naked eye. The cuticle lays like a bunch of roof tiles on the outer layer of each strand of hair. The cells of the cuticle overlap like fallen dominos. This layer protects the inside from damage. When you’ve once again realized you’ve got split ends, you’ve actually worn away this protective layer, and have exposed the raw hair shaft – and that’s as ugly as it sounds.
What all this really means to you and I is that if you damage your hair (via repeated colorings and perms, etc, etc), it will not repair on its own. The shafts of hair that you lovingly wash, condition, dry, style and brush, are ostensibly dead, and therefore lack the ability to repair themselves the way your skin or gums can. So, as you over-process your cherished mane, keep in mind that you are stuck with whatever mess you make. Stuck, until you either cut it off, allow it to grow out – OR find the product among products which might offer genuine hair first-aid. And therein lies the unbelievable promise of the renowned ionic hair dryer.
So, what does the ionic hair dryer do for you that your run-of-mill dryer does not? The claim of the ionic hair dryer is that it smoothes the “tiles” of the cuticle layer, causing them to tighten and lay flat. Picture the aforementioned fallen row of dominoes. The “stepped” effect of the dominoes laying jaggedly atop one another is the equivalent of the “frizzies” in your hair. Now, imagine laying a piece of material over the top of the dominoes, giving the appearance of a more “level” surface. This “smoothing” effect is what the ionic hair dryer claims to deliver. Smooth, flat cuticles, so the theory goes, make your hair appear healthy, lustrous, and frizz-free.
How exactly does this miracle of shiny, silken hair occur? The answer, it seems, depends on the manufacturer of the particular ionic hair dryer you purchase. All brands claim their ionic hair dryers pump out millions of ions. (An ion, I’m sure you will recall from your high school Chemistry class, is an atom that has an electrical charge (+/-) as a result of either gaining or losing electrons.) However, there are conflicting claims as to whether the ions delivered by the dryers are positive (+) or negative (-). The majority of manufacturers advertise negative ionic dryers. Either way, the explanation of how the ions “heal your hair” is basically the same. The ions attach to the cuticle layer of the hair shaft, creating the appearance of a more level or smooth surface, and offering a protective coating. Supposedly, this ionic layer will trap in the moisture, yet also speed up overall dry-time. Less dry time equals less heat applied to your precious tendrils. Less heat, we all know, equals less damage. And less damage equals better-looking hair.
Does it work?
Some manufacturers claim to have performed “half-head tests” in which a conventional dryer was used on one side of a model’s head, and an ionic dryer on the other. The outcome, they claim, resoundingly supports the superiority of the ionic dryer. Hardly a scientific study – of which, I’m sorry to say, there are none to speak of. So, for the time being, we are left on our own to conduct what experiments we can in the salons and bathrooms of our lives. One thing is certain – by the time we feel sure of the ionic hair dryer’s value (or lack thereof), something “better” will mostly likely have come along to take its place.