the chemistry of clumping

As we've all noticed, clumping can take awhile to form during the drying stage. We'll start with stringy looking hair but by the time it's dry it has clumped.

It totally boggles me how the hair does that but I think that if we understood that we might understand more about getting clumps.

I really don't get the chemistry.

What are the scientific things that draws the hair strands together? I know I read about it in a curlchemist article but I can't find it again! It talked about gel drawing strands together in a particular kind of bond-- something that my hair doesn't seem to understand coz most gels make it separate!

same with oils- they seem to make my hair separate. same with glycerin.....

So 2 questions:
Why does hair clump at all and
is there a scientific reason for some people's hair separating with gels, oils and glycerin and other people's hair clumping from them? Is it related to porosity or something?

Any experts out there who get this? We love your experience and wisdom!

Last edited by hmixon; 04-16-2009 at 08:59 AM.
I don't think it's that involved really. Clumping is nothing more than a large group of hairs all curling in the same direction, forming a larger curl. When hair becomes stringy, it's smaller groups curling in differnt patterns. Getting hair to clump is no more difficult than getting a bunch of hairs to follow the smae pattern, and then drying in that pattern so that they hold the form. Gel allows this to happen.

I think it's more a matter of not messing with the hair more than anything. The more I mess with my hair when it's wet, the more the curls separate out into their own patterns. But, if I don't mess with it when it's soaking wet, the water binds the hair strands together and they begin to all curl the same way and form clumps. If my hair is stringy when soaking wet, it will be stringy when it's dry unless I manually take sections and "train" them into a cohesive curl pattern, at which time they will clump.

That's just my opinion based on nothing scientific and I could be full of hot air on the subject. But, my experience with my hair leads me to believe this.
tinah- I like your theory and it makes sense intellectually, but I haven't found why it doesn't work out for me in real life.

My hair should clump really well and easily according the curl pattern but there seem to be other factors that affect it. Soaking wet it clumps but as it dries it loses all clumping.

Gel will make it stringy pretty much no matter what, even though that sounds nuts according to what gel is supposed to do. And I can manually put the strands together but they won't bond.

That's why I'm pondering if there are other factors.

like oils and glycerine- they make my strands repel one another but others find that oils and glycerine help clumping
This isn't exactly chemistry but there's a Jonathan Torch article that addresses clumping (sorta)...I found it helpful at least! In his answer to the very last question he says:
"Defining ringlets means learning to group your hair in curls. The more hair grouped to form each curl, the looser the curl."
It might be worth checking out
2c-3a. Thick density. Texture = mixture of medium and fine.

Always trying to boost my curl!


Go-to products: Pink Boots, CJSG, LALSG, Abba Pure Finish gel
Experimenting with: CJAF, CJ CCCC, JCRR/CC, BRHG, PB Goo, Re:Coil, Komaza CHP, EcoStyler Protein
Didn't like: HESMU, Matrix Biolage Gelee (both too goopy)

http://public.fotki.com/thicknwavy/
Last updated: Dec. 3, 2009

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