Hair-Washing in Microgravity

Featured Video Play Icon

I imagine that the most common questions astronauts get come in the form, “How do you do X in space?” In this video, astronaut Karen Nyberg demonstrates how she washes her hair in space. Using no-rinse shampoo, the process is not terribly different from on Earth: wet the hair, work in the shampoo, add a little more water, and use a towel and comb to work it through all the hair. The big difference is that Nyberg’s hair sticks almost straight up the whole time. That’s an effect of microgravity, obviously, but there are fluid forces at play, too, namely elastocapillarity.

Hair typically feels quite different when it’s wet. Strands bunch together and feel stiffer. This is because of the water trapped in the narrow space between individual hairs. The water’s fluid characteristics (capillarity) affect the solid hairs and change their elastic properties – hence elastocapillarity. We see this on Earth, of course, but the effect is especially noticeable without gravity pulling the wet hair down. (Video credit: K. Nyberg/NASA; via APOD; submitted by Guillaume D.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: