Recent breakthroughs have finally brought a pill that can straighten hair from the realm of pipe dream to inevitable, but what about the options on the market now?
Despite how recently we’ve identified the curly hair gene, there are supplements on the market right now that claim they can help straighten your hair. It’s true that researchers have made huge strides towards synthesizing a pill that can actually change the texture of your hair, specifically using bug protein, but anything you can purchase today isn’t going to do the job.
We dive into what’s on the way, how far away we are, and what’s up with the current options for the hair straightening pill.
Will a Pill Straighten Your Hair in the Future?
A decade or so ago, the first whispers of a future hair straightening pill were already being discussed, but researchers were quick to admit they were years away from market. These days, we’ve made extensive strides in determining what genes control our hair texture and in the kinds of materials we would use to straighten hair.
According to a review of curly hair research conducted by the Royal Society, more than 50% of all hair fibers exhibit some degree of curl, no matter the ethnicity. Curly hair is actually an expression of multiple gene variants that control keratin structure, which may be influenced by climate and temperature.
That means developing a permanent pill would involve suppressing multiple genes or fundamentally altering the structure of the hair itself.
Recently, one group of researchers made headlines for what they say is the protein that will be responsible for doing just that. The Israeli team of scientists claim that resilin, a protein found commonly in insects, is the perfect means to achieve the hair straightening pill.
But still, many are skeptical a pill could ever work.
Cosmetic chemist Ginger King explains that changing genetic makeup is tricky, to say the least. “I have serious doubt on this. How hair follicles grow is genetic thus Asians have straight hair and African Americans have coily hair,” King explains. “To change genetic makeup is difficult, and even if it does happen, what else is being changed?”
There’s also the fact that an oral supplement interacts with other things you consume throughout your day.
“Also, people eat different foods and what are the impact of food interaction with supplement?” King questions. “This is why all the supplements on the market have a disclaimer not evaluated by FDA. You pretty much paying for people’s marketing. This is not like skin or hair care where you can have controlled study, where you only apply certain products on a consistent basis to see results. Unless all testers are having the same diet every day, the test cannot be validated. Besides, you cannot control what people eat…”
How Does Hair Straightening Work?
We are already able to achieve this kind of long-term straightening with treatments like hair relaxers and Japanese Yuko bonding. Gentler methods including amino acid treatments replicate these longer lasting results without harsh chemicals, but as a trade-off, don’t last as long.
According to New York trichologist and founder of multi-brand hair care platform Leona.com, Shab Caspara, this is really the only way we have to permanently straighten hair. “For long-term or permanent results, chemicals are required to alter the structure of your hair texture by either breaking the bonds in hair and resetting them to straight or infusing hair with ingredients that tame frizz and texture,” Caspara explains.
When hair is straightened temporarily, it’s usually achieved through heat.
“Heat straightens hair by temporarily breaking the hydrogen bonds found in the structure of hair,” Caspara explains.
What About Hair Supplements Out Now?
There are two versions of what you would call a ‘hair supplement.’
The first is an oral hair supplement like a vitamin. The second is a booster ingredient you might add to a hair care product. That second one, according to King, has some relevance depending on what ingredient you’re talking about.
“If you are talking about hair supplements to be added in hair care products, there might be some validity because a lot of hair straightening products are based on sulfur chemistry,” King explains. Sulfur compounds applied topically do have some straightening benefit. “However, sulfur stinks like rotten eggs, so no one will want to add it in a hair care products. It’s crazy.”
Let’s jump back to the first one: an oral supplement.
The truth is, we really have no evidence that an oral hair supplement (like sulfur or keratin-based supplements) would have any impact on the curl of your hair.
“If you are talking about oral supplements, that is nonsense,” King says. “Keratin supplements taken orally may give you a better hair appearance due to the amino acid content, but they won’t straighten your hair.”