The Psuedo-Scientific Term Grappling the Hair Community
Hygral Fatigue fooled everyone, posing as a scary side-effect to overwatering hair. Find out how a source spirals into misinformation and how to watch out for it
Unravelling a Concept
Have you ever come across a ‘loose thread’ concept where, when pulled it continues to produce thread until all that’s left is an unravelled mess? A concept of that nature is hard to wrap one’s head around because it acts as a tangible source but keeps on shedding until it no longer makes any sense. This is how I have come to understand the mysterious concept of ‘Hygral Fatigue’. It is a shell, one that on the surface appears to be a scientific claim, but on further research reveals it does not live in the scientific realm. A concept created, what appears to be, out of thin air and has become predominantly known in the curly hair community as a scary phenomenon.
What is Hygral Fatigue?
If one searches up ‘Hygral Fatigue’ hundreds of articles and videos that claim to define it will appear, they will go on to explain its dangerous nature and how to prevent it. Defining this term is essential; the root problem is its false definition. Beginning to unravel this term requires first to understand it. The term itself is commonly defined as the over moisture of hair from water penetration which results in the hair strand swelling and deswelling.
To put it simply Hygral Fatigue is the loss of one’s curl pattern from the constant change of wet to dry (specifically during and after showers). The claim is that this constant opening and closing will cause a weakness in the strand. Due to this hair care experts have claimed to reduce the frequency of showers, or wetting then drying hair, so that the hair strand does not have to excessively swell and deswell.
Where Did This All Begin?
I have spent the past months conducting research on this term and trying to find its origins and how it came into the hair community. My own research and opinions from professors and scientists have led me to a clear understanding of Hygral Fatigue and its mystical properties. I began my research shortly after I started believing in the term “Hygral Fatigue” and began to change my own routine as a cautionary measure. My brother saw all the changes I was making to my routine and started to question where I had gotten all this information from; his prompting pushed me down the rabbit hole of Hygral Fatigue and its very interesting nature.
In this article, I will share all the commonly cited articles by hair experts and demonstrate how the studies can not be linked to human hair. Hygral Fatigue is a concept not backed up by evidence and should not be given any weight. Ready to delve into the world of Hygral Fatigue?
Piecing the Puzzle
In the scientific realm “Hygral Fatigue” does not exist as there are no studies on this concept and therefore no link that over moisture of the hair can lead to a loss in curl pattern. Articles and videos about Hygral Fatigue have had a severe misuse of information to push the idea of Hygral Fatigue. This careless use of scholarly studies has spread irrational fear about how often hair can be wet.
Most articles and videos on Hygral Fatigue cite three main scholarly articles, however, the problem is that these scholarly articles discuss topics unrelated to Hygral Fatigue. The articles are as follows:
- “Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometric investigation of penetration of coconut oil and mineral oils into human hair fibers: Relevance to hair damage” Published in Journal of Cosmetic Science , 2001 , Volume 52 , Issue 3 , pp. 169–184
- “Hygral Expansion of Woven Wool Fabrics” Published in the Textile Research Journal Volume 55 Issue 1, January 1985 pp.28–40
- “ Measuring Hygral Expansion in Woven Wool Fabrics”. Published Textile Research Journal , 1991 , Volume 61 , Issue 6 , pp. 319–327
Dissecting the Core
The first article is a 2001 joint-study by TRI-Princeton and Marcio Industries Ltd published in the Journal of Cosmetic Sciences. I contacted the authors included in the study, but have yet to receive a response. On their website, TRI-Princeton states they “are an independent, non-profit, scientific research and education organization” their team consists of researchers from multiple science backgrounds. Marcio is an India-based consumer goods company. There are three noteworthy areas of skepticism for this article:
1. The Funding
The study is partly funded by Marcio Industries which also happens to make hair products like shampoos, oils, and conditioners. The article itself explains how using coconut oil on human hair creates a protective layer against water moisture which helps prevent over-moisture of the hair. Does this sound familiar? The article is claiming to prevent Hygral Fatigue through the use of coconut oil on hair as it allegedly “better provides protection from damage by hygral fatigue”.
While funding can be an area of skepticism it is not a ‘be all end all’ as many times there are trustworthy journals that are funded by companies seeking to gain economically from the research. However, it is still important to always follow the money and establish where it is coming from.
2. Verbatim use of “Hygral Fatigue”
In the article’s abstract the term “hygral fatigue” is used. This is strange because, as previously mentioned, the term Hygral fatigue is not accepted scientifically. This begs the question of: why would a scholarly article use a non-scientific term? The only reason to use this term in the journal is to cherry-pick their arguments. My hypothesis is, the article is trying to push an agenda, one where Hygral Fatigue is the villain and coconut oil is the hero. Coconut oil that readers could perhaps purchase from Marcio Industries.
Using this term verbatim establishes a clear audience towards the curly hair community. The article is targeting people who have fallen into believing the effects of Hygral Fatigue.
3. Lack of focus on Hygral Fatigue
The final area is the lack of focus on moisture, if one were to believe Hygral Fatigue is real and cite this article, it is still a misuse as the whole article mentions “Hygral Fatigue” only once in the abstract. Some hair professionals are accepting Hygral Fatigue as real only because it is mentioned briefly in this one article.
The Other Sources
Another commonly sourced article is “Measuring Hygral Expansion in Woven Wool Fabrics” and “Hygral Expansion of Woven Wool Fabrics” they discuss very similar points so I will be discussing both scholarly articles together.
I’ve read in some articles that the term “Hygral Expansion”, used in both these scholarly journals, is a scientific term for Hygral Fatigue, and this is a half-truth. While, yes, Hygral Expansion is indeed a real scientific term, it has not been used for human hair, rather only woven wool fabrics.
These studies on woven wool fabrics are directed towards tailors whose aim is finding out the best solution for keeping the shape of clothing when cleaning. “Hygral Expansion of Woven Wool Fabrics” investigates “drying conditions” and how they affect “hygral expansion measurements”( Dhingra et al. 1) they use different drying techniques such as placing the woven wool in a convection oven, then in a microwave oven, etc. The overall purpose is to put the woven wool through extreme environments to see which is the best fit for the clothing.
The other article “Measuring Hygral Expansion in Woven Wool Fabrics” specifically mentions tailors and investigates the best way to wash clothes so that it keeps its fit without shrinkage or ruining the original look. One cannot take these studies, made for clothing, and transfer them onto human hair because in doing so they take these studies out of context.
The studies are also testing extremes, the woven wool fabrics are submerged into water for hours, while human hair is not being submerged into water, unless someone is taking a shower for hours every day, and even then the hair would not be fully submerged. One might argue that when hair is drying it is still wet and can then suffer from over moisture, however the hair is still not fully submerged and therefore comparing it to the woven wool study is improper use.
In the articles I have read on Hygral Fatigue, another common claim is that woven wool has similar properties to hair therefore using these scholarly articles is okay. This is also a half-truth, while woven wool does have similar properties to hair these studies were not conducted with the purpose of discovering the effects of over moisture on hair. Having similar properties does not make them identical, these studies are not transferable to human hair. Unless a specific study, with the purpose of discovering the effects of over moisture on hair is made then, one cannot claim that these studies on woven wool prove any negative effects on human hair.
What Professionals Think
I contacted all the authors of these studies and got a response from two authors. They have asked to remain anonymous and to not use their words directly so I have paraphrased their responses.
One of the authors, who hadn’t heard of Hygral Fatigue before, began to explain how their study put woven wool under extreme circumstances and therefore should not be used to compare to human hair during the environment of water in showers. He also highlighted that, despite the studies, there has never been anything that suggests damage to the woven wool even after all environmental changes, there is nothing to prove that the deswelling and swelling of the strands ever caused damage to the wool.
My other source has stated that the effects done on the woven wool are not permanent and can be reversed, therefore not damaging the woven wool. He suggested that the concept of Hygral Fatigue would only really make sense if one was freezing the hair and then thawing it.
The final person I reached out to is a trichologist who stated that hair is able to come back to its original form, therefore the effects of water during showers are reversible.
Their responses highlight a repeated element: that these are reversible effects with no proof of damage.
People in the curly hair community claim to have seen the effects of Hygral Fatigue first hand, that over moisture ruined their curl pattern, however hair is tricky. The effects on their curl pattern could have been the result of a product or a change in their routine. Everyone’s hair reacts differently to products. Whether one believes they have seen the effects of Hygral Fatigue or not, what remains the same is the misuse of information when handling the Hygral Fatigue topic.
The evidence shows that there is no scientific backing for Hygral Fatigue.
The main citations for articles about Hygral Fatigue are the woven wool studies that have been taken out of context. The effects on the fabrics, from swelling and deswelling, were reversible and non-damaging.
There is no proof to suggest that Hygral Fatigue, or swelling and deswelling of the hair strand, results in a negative reaction on hair. When a claim as big as this is made, that Hygral Fatigue can damage curl pattern, it should be backed up with scientific evidence and right now it is clearly not. A quick google search of Hygral fatigue could make anyone believe in its existence. There are so many articles and videos on it, but quantity does not equal validity.
When coming across new concepts that appear to be real always dig deeper and always have a healthy dose of skepticism.