Chemical Engineering Your Hair For Best Results

Lead Engineer- Michael Kirk:

My undergraduate degree was in Chemical Engineering. This is what gave me the idea to use stoichiometry in Calories in Calories Per Dollar and every permutation of. Later, working in a foam factory, I took 1 too many 5S classes and became fascinated in Industrial Engineering, eventually getting my masters degree in IE.

Using my knowledge of Organic Chemistry, I have collected notes to understand the inputs and outputs in hair. (These chemical names mean something to me)

This will be the guide to cleaning, maintaining, and styling your hair using Chemistry.

As a warning, I wanted to please everyone. If things get overwhelming, it will get simpler very quickly. A few factoids for my fellow chem engineers.

Diagnose Your Hair

What do you wish your hair could do?

Need more/less volume? Too frizzy? Doesn’t hold? It will help to have some goals in mind.

Comparing Shampoos- How Clean Do You Want Your Hair?

100% Clean

Trying to ‘start over’? Get dye out of your hair? Or you just need to get clean? We have Chemistry to maximize your clean.

Hair is porous, this is important to remember. There are physical holes in your hair. Hot water makes these holes bigger and more flexible, allowing more stuff out of your hair. Soaking additional time, and physically touching/scrubbing your hair will also increase clean. Hot Water cleans better than cold. (Don’t burn yourself)

‘Extracts’- Otherwise known as Soaps/Oils/Fatty Acids. You need to add oils to remove oils, this is your ‘non-polar’ necessity to clean your hair. As an example- “Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract”. These clean oils will both stay in your hair and replace old dirty oils.

Sulfates. This is the very common Surfactant that really cleans your hair. Bubbles make water, ‘Wetter’. Reducing surface tension, helping clean further. This is very important for shampoos and 100% clean.

Outside of those, shampoos have various large chain alcohols(-OH) to help move this into your hair. These wash out or evaporate easy. Most shampoos have various perfumes for sent. Anti Dandruff has an active ingredient.

Real World Usage- Only use 100% clean, 1 or 2 times a week.

Less Clean

If you have recently dyed your hair with colors, your hair is temporarily holding small/medium sized molecules in the pores of your hair. Hot water, soap/oils, sulfates, and physically scrubbing will all cause dye to come out faster.

There are gentler shampoos, without sulfates that can be used to clean hair to a lesser extent.

Cold/cooler water is preferred to keep dye in.

Real World Usage- Every 1 or 2 days.

Too Frizzy/Too Oily

After shampooing, conditioner comes to mind. These are ‘good oils’, they don’t smell bad, and they make your hair look smooth, shiny, and removes frizz.

Similar to shampoo, these are the same oils/’extracts’ as mentioned earlier in cleaning. In conditioners, the goal is to keep them in your hair. Traditionally conditioner is added, we wait for hair to cling to it, and we rinse out the extra. Suflates and Surfactants are not added to conditioners.

The goal with conditioner is shine, and frizz reduction. Alternatively to the shower routine, small amounts of conditioner can be added outside the shower for a similar effect. This can be useful for local areas where frizzy hair is present.

As a byproduct of conditioner being oils (non-polar), they will also act as soap and clean your hair. This can replace shampoo and lower the frequency of washing your hair with shampoo.

For getting that perfect non-oily shine, experiment with different regiments of sulfate shampoo/conditioner cycles.

Too Oily? Clean your hair and start over.


After hair has been cleaned and conditioned, a combination of plastics and heat can ‘set’ your hair. Common words for this are hair gel/moose/hair spray and blow dryer.

If you look at the ingredients in hair gel, you will see plastics and long chain alcohols to move plastic into your hair. These make your hair more rigid, keeping it in the perfect place.

Blow Dryer’s are magic, sculpting hair tool that also gives the ability to add volume to your hair.

Bleaching, Lightening, and Destroying Hair

Bleaching your hair physically removes some of your hair. As a result, it appears lighter. This can happen in the sun due to harsh rays.

Its commonly misunderstood that ‘Walmart’ box dye is a worse quality than salon bleach. The entire goal is to strip your hair. Salons have 10,20,30,and 40 volume options, which corresponds to strength.

The health of your hair depends on how much hair you have left. As you go more blonde, you will have less hair. If you keep bleaching, it will eventually fall apart.

There are two ways to keep getting lighter. Oleplex(repairs hair and rebuilds by giving amino acids, its kinda crazy) + more bleach. Or, Blue/purple dyes can make your hair appear whiter, but dyes are not bleach.

Hair Dye is not Bleach

Hair dyes are small chemicals, that when light hits, absorbs most colors, but reflects and emits a specific color. For blonde hair, many people see oranges after bleaching their hair, the solution is to add a counter color, blue or purple. This gives the eye a white color, making hair appear lighter and blonder.

You can apply hair dye without bleaching the hair, giving a darker and more subtle look. However, its very common to bleach first, and dye later for brighter and more defined outcomes.

Reminder that the dye are physical chemicals, washing your hair will force some to fall out. Don’t eat them.

Recap Your New Tools

Hair is oily/dirty? Shampoo, sulfates are strong.

Hair is frizzy and dull? Conditioner and figure out a satisfying shampoo/conditioner cycle

How to shape your hair? Gels/moose/hair spray + blow dryers

Bleach is used to permanently lighten hair.

Dyes are used to temporarily color hair.

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