Why Does Humid Weather Make Hair Frizzy?

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iStock

People with long hair know that even the most meticulously primped 'do is at the mercy of the weather. When the air is humid, hair can start to crimp, curl, or frizz the moment you step outside. Don't just curse the weather every time your hair takes on a mind of its own: the chemical makeup of your locks is also to blame.

A strand of hair is composed of bundles of a fibrous protein called keratin, and the shape and structure of your hair is determined by how these proteins bind together. Keratin molecules contain high amounts of the amino acid cysteine, which in turn contains sulfur atoms. When two keratin chains are nearby, the sulfur atoms from the neighboring molecules can react to form a strong disulfide bond. These bonds lock keratin molecules together and maintain their composition whether your hair is wet or dry. You have them to thank for much of your hair's durability and strength.

Hydrogen bonds are much more numerous in hair, and a lot more fickle. They form when a positively charged hydrogen molecule gets caught between two electronegative atoms in a strand of hair. Unlike disulfide bonds, the hydrogen bonds that form between these atoms are easily dissolved when wet. They break down and form anew each time you take a shower and dry your hair. They're also affected by the humidity in the air.

Instead of breaking down the hydrogen bonds in hair, the right level of humidity produces these bonds in greater numbers. More hydrogen molecules provide more opportunities for hydrogen bonds to form with keratin proteins. As more bonds form, proteins start to double back on themselves, resulting in curly or frizzy hair.

These effects are amplified in hair that's especially dry. Dry hair tends to soak up moisture in the air like a sponge, breaking the strand's outer shaft and making hair look frizzy. This is why hair that's been damaged by heat, chemical coloring, or an overuse of products is often more vulnerable to humid weather.

One way to fight the frizz is by moisturizing your hair before leaving the house. Conditioners, natural serums, and all-around gentler treatment can help cut down on dryness. If that doesn't work, we suggest avoiding tropical climates whenever you can.

How Waffle House Helps Measure the Severity of a Natural Disaster

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iStock

There are a lot of ways the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses and addresses the severity of a natural disaster. Meteorology can predict movement patterns, wind gusts, and precipitation. Resources are dispatched to areas hit hardest by torrential weather.

But when the agency needs an accurate, ground-level gauge for how a community is coping during a crisis, they turn to Waffle House.

Since 2004, FEMA has utilized what former administrator Craig Fugate called the “Waffle House Index.” Because the casual dining chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tracking to see if a location is closed or working with limited supplies can help inform the agency as to whether affected areas are ailing or taking steps toward normalcy.

“If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad,” Fugate told NPR in 2011. “We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow ... If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet.”

For FEMA, the ability to order a plate of smothered and covered hash browns is an important analytic. If a Waffle House is having trouble getting stock, then transportation has been interrupted. If the menu is limited, then it’s possible they have some utilities but not others. If its locations have locked their doors, inclement weather has taken over. The chain’s locations would normally stay open even in severe conditions to help first responders.

The company has opened a Waffle House Storm Center to gather data in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm expected to touch down in the Carolinas this week. But not all locations are taking a wait-and-see approach. One Waffle House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has already closed due to the looming threat, making it the first red dot on the Index.

[h/t CNN]

See What Hurricane Florence Looks Like From Space

NASA via Getty Images
NASA via Getty Images

As Hurricane Florence continues to creep its way toward the Carolinas, it’s repeatedly being described as both "the storm of the century” and "the storm of a lifetime” for parts of the coastlines of North and South Carolina. While that may sound like hyperbole to some, Alexander Gerst—an astronaut with the European Space Agency—took to Twitter to prove otherwise with a few amazing photos, and issued a warning to “Watch out, America!”

According to the National Weather Service, “Hurricane Florence will be approaching the Carolina shores as the day progresses on Thursday. Although the exact timing, location, and eventual track of Florence isn't known, local impacts will likely begin in the afternoon hours and only worsen with time throughout the evening and overnight period.”

On Tuesday, Wilmington, North Carolina's National Weather Service took the warning even one step further, writing: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew. I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.”

Gerst’s photos certainly drive that point home.

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