Practical Modern Hair Science - Book Review

Allured sent us a review copy of their latest release Practical Modern Hair Science.  It’s a great addition to any cosmetic science book shelf and a must-read for someone focused on hair care product formulation.  The book is written by a variety of authors including an impressive list of academic authors and industry experts.  It is a bit more “heady” than many other cosmetic science books and is focused more on the scientific background of the subject than on practical applications.  But if you are looking for the perfect primer for a hair care product scientist, this could be it.

Hair science book details

The first two chapters describe in detail, the biology of hair.  In chapter one, the current understanding of hair structure is presented.  I found the focus on amino acid distribution and tying it into biochemistry particularly interesting.   The second chapter goes into great detail about the growth cycle of hair.  It provides excellent background information for anyone interested in working on hair growth/thickening products.

The next three chapters delve into the chemistry of different types of hair products.  Chapter three gives a great overview of shampoos and does an excellent job of covering the pertinent issues related to surfactants.  Conditioners are also covered in this chapter but not as thoroughly as cleansing surfactants.  In chapter four, the science of hair color is nicely reviewed complete with chemical reactions and even some formulations.  This is a must-read chapter for anyone interested in formulating hair color products.  The fifth chapter gives a great overview of the chemistry of changing the shape of hair.  This includes permanent curls and relaxer products.  While the material included was excellent and thorough, it would have been nice to see information about other hair straightening treatments such as the Japanese or the Brazilian straightening methods.

Chapter six provides a great review of ethnic differences in hair.  This will be helpful to any formulator who is creating products for different parts of the world.  The only issue with this chapter is it seems out of place and may have made more sense to include it early on in the book with the other hair biology chapters.

The next four chapters describe testing and physical parameters of hair fibers.  Chapters seven and eight go into detail about the mechanical properties of hair including information about hair strength and breakage.  The physics behind the behavior of the fibers can be a bit complicated but the authors do a good job of keeping it meaningful to cosmetic formulators.  These chapters will be of great help to formulators who are developing test protocols for claims and prototype evaluations.  Chapter nine gives a detailed description of how to evaluate and quantify visual properties of hair.  In chapter ten, everything you would ever want to know about the adsorption of materials onto hair is provided.  While I’m not sure how this would directly relate to formulating it is interesting nonetheless.

Chapter eleven does a good job of covering the causes of hair damage including a discussion of pH effects, water swelling, temperature, and reactive chemical exposure.  Although the information is great, this chapter feels out of place and may have made more sense to include it earlier on in the book.

In the next two chapters, the book jumps back to products for the hair.  Chapter twelve covers the topic of dandruff in detail with a particular focus on the causes and biology of the condition.  The treatments for dandruff are described in the last few pages and while complete, the section may be disappointing to formulators looking for suggestions on how to create an antidandruff product.  Chapter thirteen gives a great overview of hair styling products and polymers.

Chapter fourteen is a particularly interesting one as it describes all the changes that can be expected in hair as it ages.  While much of this may be viewed as trivia, the information should be able to help formulators create products that are age appropriate.  As with the other biology chapters, it would have made more sense to include this chapter earlier on in the book but the information is great.

The final chapter discusses hair care claims and provides a detailed description of the types of tests that can be run to substantiate claims about frizz, shine, strength, color retention and more.  It will be helpful in the later stages of product development in addition to claims substantiation.  An excellent finish to the book.

There are only a couple of criticisms about the book which should be considered when releasing a revised volume.  First, the book organization is slightly off.  There were a few biology chapters that would have made more sense to be included earlier on in the book.  They seem misplaced.  Second, there could be a bit more relating the information back to hair care formulation.  From a formulator’s standpoint, it would be difficult to glean formulation advice from this book.  Finally, the index for the book is light.  It just seems like it needs a lot more words indexed.


As mentioned, Practical Modern Hair Science provides a great overview of the subject of hair science.  It is written in an understandable way and covers the relevant topics in excellent detail.   It is also packed with references which make further research into any of these topics much easier.  Overall, a great addition to any cosmetic science library.

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