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In the flexabrasion test a hair is drawn backwards and forwards over a wire and the number

of cycles to break it is counted. It is demonstrated that the variance in comparing the number
of cycles to break two short closely-adjacent root-end segments taken from each of a series of
hairs is very much less the variance obtained by testing only one segment from each of the
hairs. The opportunity is thereby provided for using one of each hair segment pair as a
control and its partner for evaluating the effects of different toiletry processes upon cycles to
fracture. The within-hair pairing approach was used to explore some of the fundamental
parameters affecting the flexabrasion process. It was shown that the number of cycles to
fracture diminished significantly with increasing cycling frequency in the range 0.25 to 7.9
Hz and that the relative humidity (RH) at which the test was conducted had a distinctive
influence upon cycles to fracture, with a maximum at ca. 80% RH. The number of cycles to
fracture at 60% RH was also significantly greater for hair segments previously wetted, as
compared with segments that had been previously dried.
The flexabrasion method is relevant for the hair toiletries industry because the physical
processes of the test closely parallel those that, in the course of normal grooming of hair on
the head, lead to fibre fracture and the formation of split ends. Thus during combing, and
particularly during a snatch, as tangled hairs are re-aligned into parallel array, hairs are
forced into tight radii of curvature as they pass over each other (Figure 1) and under force this
bend is propagated along each hair.
This process in which hairs are incrementally bent and then straightened, particularly where
this is done at short time constants, leads to longitudinal shear within the fibre shaft.
Conditions often prevail in which the longitudinal shear stresses cause the fibre to split
locally and then that split is propagated to the end of the fibre where it is released as a classic
split end. Even where visible splitting of the shaft does not occur, impulsive shear of this type
can lead, in susceptible hairs, to focal weakening between longitudinal elements. Such a weak
point then becomes the focus for further damage in other subsequent combing operations,
either to generate a split end or to produce the condition of trichorrhexis nodosa; and
brushlike ends when these finally break. The flexabrasion test mimics all these processes and
is therefore considered to be a valuable aid for measuring the propensity of hairs for
longitudinal splitting and premature fracture and for evaluating the effectiveness of agents in
extending the fracture lifetimes of the hairs.
The flexabrasion test involved reciprocated passage (1 Hz, amplitude 10mm) of single 100
mm-long hairs over a wire of 100 m diameter and under a load of 20g. Because of large
inter-fibre variation in fatigue lifetimes they found it necessary to test 100 separate hairs for
each treatment regime and then determine the number of cycles to fatigue fracture half the
population (n), as an effective measurement. Despite the cumbersome nature of the test they
obtained some valuable results. They showed for example a systematic reduction in n
between the root, middle and tips of weathered hairs, and a reduction in n with increasing
exposure of hair root-end segments to sunlight or with increasing numbers of treatments with
hydrogen peroxide. They also demonstrated the effectiveness of various acid treatments or of
shampoos buffered to low pH for restoring the n value of bleached hair to that of an
unbleached sample.
It was realised one way to significantly improve was to flexabrade closely-adjacent paired
segments from the root-ends of individual hairs; the argument being that there was likely to
be much less variability between the segments than between hairs. To do this it was necessary
to reduce the gauge length of the

Figure 1: Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of tangled hair. This snapshot
picture was obtained during an experiment in which a small lock of hair was dynamically
combed on the stage of the SEM. Noticeably (as at bottom right) many of the hairs bend
round each other in tight radii of curvature.
hair segments being tested to 16 mm and to reduce the amplitude of the motion to 4 mm at
1Hz. By this method they were able to show that indeed the within-hair variance in fatigue
lifetimes was much less than the between-hair variance and that 16 adjacent segments, taken
from root to tip along just one weathered hair, showed a monotonic reduction in flexabrasion
lifetimes. The way was now open for the practicable and convenient testing of cosmetic
treatments upon flexabrasion lifetime by using hairs in which one segment was used as the
control and its closely-adjacent paired segment was treated. The advantages of this are
clear; namely, a large reduction in the number of hair segments required to be tested for each
treatment and/or a dramatic increase in statistical significance for each treatment.
The current paper describes the details of a newly-constructed flexabrasion apparatus and its
use for exploring some of the fundamental parameters affecting flexabrasion lifetimes in
human head hair.
Hair samples: All the results reported here were obtained using hairs taken from a single 4oz
10 lock of virgin natural medium brown hair obtained from De Meo Brothers Inc. of New
York City. The hairs were not treated beforehand and great care was taken in their handling
to prevent damage that otherwise might have led to a reduction in their natural flexabrasion

Flexabrasion equipment: This was custom built to our requirements. It consists of the
means for moving up to 25 hair segments at one loading mechanically backwards and
forwards and at right angles over a drawn metal wire. The wire (that can be readily replaced
as required) is held under tension and rigidly supported at intervals of 15 mm; each hair
segment passing over the wire at the mid-point between the supports. Provisions were made
for varying the frequency with which the hair segments were reciprocated across the wire at
frequencies between 0.25 and 8 Hz, and over a distance of either 2 or 4 mm under constant
load of 12.1 g. Provisions were also made for using hair segments of different lengths. At one
extreme the fibre could be of 30 mm total length mounted between two crimps; i.e. to a gauge
length of 15 mm. At the other extreme hair segments of 8 mm total length were glued with
cyanoacrylate glue at each end for a distance of 2 mm to the upper surface and at one end of
flattened crimps; i.e. to a gauge length of 4 mm. Each test position was equipped with an
electromechanical sensor for detecting fibre breakage and the total number of cycles to each
break was appropriately logged in a bank of counters. The instrument was also provided with
a cycle frequency meter, a total elapsed time meter (stopping when all samples have been
broken), stop, start and reset buttons. The whole apparatus was placed in a temperature- and
humidity-controlled cabinet.
Specimen preparation: The chosen standard for all the present work was to use hair
segments of 14 mm total length glued to flattened crimps. The method for preparing these is
shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: Method of specimen preparation - For convenience each root-end segment is

designated A and its adjacent partner, B.

Placing the hair segments in the machine and running it. The crimp at the tip-end of each
mounted hair segment was passed over the flexabrasion wire and slotted into a depression
located at the end of each drive arm, where it was held lightly in place with a small rubber
grommet. The crimp at the other end of each specimen was introduced into a slot in a solid
cylindrical weighting unit and held in place with a grub screw. As each sample was mounted
into the machine it was not initially placed under the tension of the hanging weight. Only
when all had been inserted were the hair segments put under the tension. The standard
conditions under which the majority of tests were carried out are shown in Figure 3.
Results and discussion
Inter- and intra-hair flexabrasion lifetimes: In this experiment A and B segments were
both untreated and tested under identical conditions at 60% RH; this RH having been chosen
as a reference standard. The results are shown in Table I.

Figure 3 Summary of the flexabrasion test set-up and conditions.

Table I Number of cycles to fracture for 19 paired root-end hair segments.

Test conditions for all the segments were 60% RH, 23C, 2Hz and 4 mm displacement.

The A segments were tested at a distance of 7 mm from the root end of each hair and the
B segments at a further 14 mm along each hair. The results presented in Table I confirm the
advantages of using closely adjacent segments from hairs in the flexabrasion test. Thus the
within-hairs variance is very much less than the between-hairs variance (variance ratio = 32)
and there is no significant difference between the averages for the A and B segments. The
opportunity is thereby presented for using similar paired segments for determining the effects
of various hair treatments or for exploring changes in flexabrasion conditions. Thus where the
wish is to evaluate some hair toiletry treatment, both segments will be tested under identical
conditions but the B segment will receive the experimental treatment, whilst the A
segment will be used as the control.
Cumulative changes due to weathering along hairs from their root-ends results in progressive
changes in flexabrasion lifetime along their length. For this reason it is advisable to work
with the two segments taken at the root-end of each hair and to keep the distance between

centre points of them as short as possible. For all the work reported here, and for convenience
of handling the segments, we have chosen this distance to be 14 mm.
Effect of frequency upon flexabrasion lifetimes. The effect of changing flexabrasion
frequency upon the number of cycles to fracture, under otherwise comparable experimental
conditions, was quite dramatic as shown in Table II.
Table II: Summary for the flexabrasion testing of paired hair segments at two different
frequencies. Test conditions were 60% RH, 23C, 4 mm displacement and frequencies of
0.25 (A segments) and 7.9 Hz (B segments).

An increase in flexabrasion testing frequency from 0.25 to 7.9 Hz (nearly 32-fold) resulted in
the number of cycles to fracture being reduced to almost 1/3 rd.
In the course of flexabrasion testing, each hair segment undergoes repetitive bending and
straightening at all points along the flexabraded length. If these events occur slowly enough
longitudinal shear, which will be maximum about the plane containing the major axial
diameter, will be accommodated by stress relaxation in the hairs internal components. On
the other hand, if the process is rapid enough these viscoelastic components will be unable to
respond rapidly enough and the hair will be susceptible to longitudinal shear embrittlement,
to fatigue and to fracture. We can calculate an appropriate time constant for these processes if
we assume each bending or straightening event occurs over of the wires perimeter. For
this we will consider the mid-point of the hairs traverse where its velocity over the wire will
be maximum (and incidentally is where the hair segments normally fracture). Some key
calculated time constants are shown in Table III.

Table III: Calculated time constants for bending during the flexabrasion test.
Assumes 70 m hair, 200 m wire, 4mm displacement.

The experiment has shown that as the time constant is reduced from 58.8 to 1.9 ms the hair
segments undergo fewer cycles to flexabrasion fracture. The time constant for bending at the
fastest operational speed of our machine (7.9 Hz) may yet be considerably slower than that
occurring during a snatch in the combing of a tangle of hair on the head. Despite this our
standard test conditions at 2 Hz are probably sufficient for duplicating the conditions under
which many hairs fracture during the combing of hair on the head.
Effect of humidity upon flexabrasion lifetimes: In this experiment A segments were
tested at 60% RH and B segments at a different RH, allowing 30 minutes for each to
equilibrate from being taken at ambient RH (in the range 52 to 56 % RH). In each case
approximately 20 hair pairs were tested. All other conditions were kept the same (i.e.
frequency, 2 Hz; translation 4 mm). A summary of the results is shown in Table IV.

Table IV: Summary of results for testing A segments at 60% RH and B segments at
a different RH. Otherwise standard test conditions of 200m wire, 4mm displacement and

Not all the different RH conditions produced a significant difference between the testing of
the A and B hair segments (c.f. Table IV). Where both segments were tested at 60% RH,
this was not surprising because our expectation was for their means to be identical (c.f. Table
It seemed convenient to express the change in flexabrasion lifetime as a proportional change
for the average in each experiment of the B segments compared with the A segments. The
figures for this are shown in Table I and these are plotted out in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Graph showing the effect of RH upon hair segment flexabrasion lifetime
relative to that at 60% RH.
It has been argued previously that when consumers of hair products refer to hair strength,
the underlying physical processes causing them to make a judgement are not primarily tensile
in nature but rather involve major elements of flexure and inter-fibre abrasion such as occur
during the combing process. In these respects the present flexabrasion test is thought to be a
good model for assessing hair strength. Figure 4 provides strong evidence that maximum in
hair strength occurs at 80% RH than at any other RH. We believe the reason for this is that
absorbed water plasticises the internal components of the fibre against the longitudinal
stresses induced during flexure. In a similar fashion, the fall-off in strength as the RH is less
than 80% is due to a reduction in structure plasticisation by water. With increasing RH above
80% the strength falls off precipitously. The two factors likely to be important determinants
of this are a significant reduction in the hairs tensile strength and an increase in its
coefficient of friction.
It is common experience that a greater level of fibre fracture occurs if hair is combed wet or
during the vigorous application of a hot hair dryer, than under normal dry (i.e. ambient)
conditions. The results presented in Figure 4 are consistent with this.
Effect of direction of approach to moisture equilibrium: There is hysteresis in the
equilibrium moisture regain of all keratin fibres when the humidity of their environment is
cycled between 0 and 100% RH. More particularly, the equilibrium moisture content is
greater by about 2% of their dry mass if untreated human hairs are brought from being wet to
60% RH than if they are brought to this same RH from the dry state. Experiments were
carried out to ascertain whether moisture hysteresis influenced flexabrasion lifetimes. A
segments were dried in a vacuum desiccator over silica gel for 22 h, whilst the B segments

were soaked in double-distilled water for the same period. After briefly blotting the wetted
samples on tissue, the segment pairs were mounted in the flexabrasion equipment and
allowed to equilibrate at 60% RH for 2 h, under conditions of forced air circulation, before
their flexabrasion lifetimes at this RH were determined. A significant (P = 0.063) increase by
a factor of 2.1 in the average fatigue lifetime was obtained for the pre-wetted hair segments,
compared with their pre-dried partners.
It was not established to what extent the moisture contents of the pre-wetted and pre-dried
hairs had reached equilibrium at 60% RH in the 2 h before the flexabrasion test was carried
out. Even on the basis of the normal hysteresis of water sorption in hair we can expect the
pre-wetted hair segments to contain significantly more absorbed water at the time of the test
than the pre-dried ones. Difference in moisture content is undoubtedly the underlying cause
of the observed differences in flexabrasion behaviour in the present experiments. They do
highlight the need for extreme caution in the interpretation of flexabrasion results where a
change of relative humidity has occurred. Thus in testing for changes due to a particular
experimental treatment of the B segments, it is essential both segments are tested under
strictly comparable conditions. Where an experimental aqueous treatment of the B segment
has been carried out, it is advisable therefore that the A segment is treated with water or an
equivalent solution not containing the agent of interest. Both should then be brought in
parallel to the flexabrasion apparatus and tested in parallel.
The flexabrasion test is believed to be a good model for measuring what consumers refer to
as hair strength. Paired within-hair samples provide much greater opportunity for evaluating
the effects of hair treatments by flexabrasion than a single sample from each hair. The
number of flexabrasion cycles to hair segment fracture decreases dramatically with increasing
cycle frequency. Experiments were carried out in which one hair segment was tested at 60%
RH and its paired partner at a different RH. A master curve was thereby obtained describing
the general effects of RH upon cycles to flexabrasion fracture. Hair strength increased
gradually as the RH increased from 30 to 80%. The strength fell off precipitously between
80% and 90% RH. Hair was significantly stronger when wetted samples were brought to 60%
RH than if brought to this RH from being dried. These results have important implications in
the toiletry processing of hair.