What Does Ionic Technology In Hair Tools Mean?
For most of us, it’s been a while since our last chemistry class. Let’s do a quick review:
Atoms are small basic units of ordinary matter. Atoms can join together to form molecules, which in turn form most of the objects around you.
Atoms are composed of particles called protons, electrons and neutrons. Protons have a positive electrical charge and electrons have a negative electrical charge. Neutrons have no electrical charge. The protons and neutrons cluster together in the central part of the atom (the nucleus) and the electrons 'orbit' the nucleus. Atoms have the same number of protons and electrons.
With an equal amount of protons and electrons, the negative electrons and positive protons cancel each other out and atoms have no charge at all. But if an atom gains or loses an electron it becomes an ion.
- electrons > protons = negatively charged ion (more electrons than protons)
- electrons < protons = positively charged ion (less electrons than protons)
Water in hair creates positively charges ions. Certain conditioners and styling products also contain positively-charged ingredients. When the ions in the hair are mostly positive, the protons begin to repel each other (think of two magnets pushing each other away) resulting in an open cuticle which creates weakened hair, frizz, flyaways, and static.
The ionic technology works because the tools produce large amounts of negative ions. These negative ions interact with the hair and product by dividing the positively charged molecules (like H2O for example) into smaller particles that evaporate more quickly. This technology also allows the smaller nourishing molecules created by the product to penetrate the cuticle which strengthens your hair and helps it to retain moisture.
Now you understand what ionic technology is and why almost 90% of hair styling tools boast using it; but with so many options, how do you know what the best tools for your hair are? Of course cost and convenience will play a role in your decision, but be sure to consider the other factors that will determine how effective your styling tools will be for you.
One important factor is the material of your styling tools. All ionic tools are not the same, and it is important to match your selection with your hair type.
Here is a breakdown of the two most commonly used hair tool materials and which hair types they work best for:
CERAMIC: Ceramic is usually made of clay and hardened by heat. It can be used in the body of an appliance or as a coating on internal parts. By replacing metal or plastic components with ceramic, the styling tool is able to produce more consistent and less harsh heat. The heat is typically a far infrared heat that penetrates the hair shaft, working from the inside out and protecting hair's natural moisture and shine. (According to The Global Healing Center, Far Infrared is also used in certain therapies to boost your immune system, increase the amount of white blood cells and killer T-cells, promote healing, reduce muscle soreness and muscle spasms, and provide relief for rheumatoid arthritis.)
Because ceramic heats up quickly and evenly across its surface it regulates temperature more effectively versus traditional tools that can distribute heat unevenly, further compromising weaker areas of the hair. Ceramic tools with ionic technology, especially blow-dryers, brushes, and flat irons are great for finer, more damage prone hair.
TOURMALINE: Tourmaline is a crystal-like mineral which naturally generates negative ions when heated. This maximizes the negative ion output which speeds up styling time and seals the hair cuticle to promote smooth, shiny hair. Because tourmaline tools also emit infrared heat, the hair is supported through styling and capable of enduring much higher levels of heat without creating damage. This makes tourmaline tools best for thicker hair that requires more heat.
While some of the best ionic styling tools are made with tourmaline, they are not all equally effective. In certain tools, tourmaline crystals have been crushed into a fine powder and transferred to the major components of the appliance but in others, a few parts may just be coated with a mineral compound. Because tourmaline is a rare gemstone, the price of these hair dryers can vary greatly, depending on the quantity and the way the tourmaline is incorporated into the tool.
Hairstylist Tip: Look for a blow dryer that falls within the 1300 to 2100 watts range. With higher wattages, you can always turn down the heat, but maintain power.
If you are ever unsure of the best styling tools to purchase for your hair, talk to your stylist; an experienced stylist will be able to guide you in the right direction.