Friction and wear of human hair fibres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • James Bowen
  • Simon A. Johnson
  • Andrew R. Avery
  • Mike Adams

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Open University
  • Unilever


An experimental study of the tribological properties of hair fibres is reported, and the effect of surface treatment on the evolution of friction and wear during sliding. Specifically, orthogonally crossed fibre/fibre contacts under a compressive normal load over a series of 10 000 cycle studies are investigated. Reciprocating sliding at a velocity of 0.4mms-1, over a track length of 0.8 mm, was performed at 18 °Cand 40%-50% relative humidity. Hair fibres retaining their natural sebum were studied, as well as those stripped of their sebum via hexane cleaning, and hair fibres conditioned using a commercially available product. Surface topography modifications resulting from wear were imaged using scanning electron microscopy and quantified using white light interferometry. Hair fibres that presented sebum or conditioned product at the fibre/fibre junction exhibited initial coefficients of friction at least 25% lower than those that were cleaned with hexane. Coefficients of friction were observed to depend on the directionality of sliding for hexane cleaned hair fibres after sufficient wear cycles that cuticle lifting was present, typically on the order 1000 cycles. Cuticle flattening was observed for fibre/fibre junctions exposed to 10mNcompressive normal loads, whereas loads of 100mN introduced substantial cuticle wear and fibre damage.


Original languageEnglish
Article number024008
JournalSurface Topography: Metrology and Properties
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2016


  • Fibre, Friction, Hair, Interferometry, SEM, Tribology, Wear