Sunday, January 1, 2012

Microfiber Vs. Terrycloth

This is one of those posts which makes me I think,  "I can't believe I actually think about these sorts of things." ©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

What do you dry your hair with? Initially, right when you step out of the shower or bathtub? Can what you dry your hair with cause or reduce frizz in wavy and curly hair?

Microfiber towels are popular for cleaning eyeglasses and windows without streaking or scratching, and microfiber fabrics provide moisture-management for clothing. You know the “moisture-wicking” winter clothing? That’s usually microfiber. Microfiber is made of spun-together fibers (usually polyester) which are individually extremely fine in diameter – about 1/100th the thickness of a hair strand.

When you dry your hair with a cotton (terrycloth) towel, it absorbs moisture quickly because the towel is dry and your hair is wet – but also because the shaggy texture of the towel creates far more surface area to come into contact with your hair.

Rather than absorbing water like cotton, water is pulled through the spaces between the fibers of microfiber by capillary action. Microfiber pulls water through the fabric and out to the other side where it can evaporate – as though through a drinking straw. It moves water by displacing it – not absorbing it.

Microfiber towels make your hair less dry than terrycloth towels. Or rather, if you squeeze sections of hair in a cotton terrycloth towel, the outside of the section of hair will be more dry than the inside whereas with a microfiber towel, the moisture remains more evenly distributed.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
So will the use of microfiber towels reduce frizz when used to "dry" curly and wavy hair? I think you have to judge that for yourself. I suspect that differential drying speeds in the same sections of hair could lead to a less orderly (defined) wave pattern when cotton terry towels are used.

One clear advantage to microfiber towels is that they are usually smaller and lighter than a cotton terrycloth bath towel. This encourages gentler handling overall – you can gently squeeze and blot your hair dry without getting your arms and head tangled in a full-size bath towel.  Rubbing, wringing, and wrapping hair up on your head will ultimately lead to hair damage, breakage, and duller-looking hair (in a word, frizz). So your technique is as important as your tools, um, towels. Blot and squeeze, don’t scrub and rub your hair. If you want to try a microfiber towel, but not pay a lot for one made just for hair, you can find packages of multiple microfiber towels in the automotive section of department stores or discount stores which are usually inexpensive. Save some for cleaning windows and eyeglasses.

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