In a nuclear apocalypse, hair conditioner could be your downfall

With the world inching towards to a scorching nuclear demise, as it is want to do, the US federal government has released a few rules of thumb to abide by, via its Nuclear Blast page. Clothes off, hop in the shower, ample soap and water, oh, and avoid conditioner like the plague.

Human hair is comprised of hair protein scales and a mass of tiny crevices. Using conditioner in the wake of a nuclear attack could increase the likelihood of radioactive particles sticking inside these crevices, in turn encasing you in radioactive material. Radiation safety expert Andrew Karam spoke to NPR, explaining that hair “can come apart during the day like a pine cone […] Radiation contamination particles can get between those scales”.

If this sounds like scaremongering, it isn’t: it’s wariness. Last week saw North Korea threaten to engulf U.S. territory Guam in an “enveloping fire” of missiles, significantly ramping up the threat of nuclear war. This prompted Guam’s Office of Civil Defence to make like the US and issue an information sheet clueing up its inhabitants on cautionary measures to take in the face of a nuclear fallout. Hair conditioner, it concurred, “will bind radioactive material to your hair”, and is to be avoided at all costs.

Clean freaks needn’t despair, though. Shampoo and soap have got the all-clear from experts, as they’re free from compounds such as cationic surfactants and polymers that work to smooth the hair’s protein scales down. Indeed, their principal function is to wash nasty things off you. Meanwhile, that mirror/cashmere/pearl/[insert opulent synonym here] look that you’re fed by L’Oreal et al is achieved by conditioning product actively remaining in your hair. And all that excessive oil will lure radioactive particles to ensconce themselves in your perilously glossy mane.

Karam, who worked in the US Navy as a chemistry safety control officer in the 1980s, says it’s hard to quantify how damaging it could be if you persisted in using hair conditioner throughout a nuclear war. “It’s a very minor thing to give up using conditioner for a couple of days,” he said. “Just wash with shampoo until the radioactivity is washed out.”

You have been warned; it’s up to you where your priorities lie. Now if only Kim Jong Un and President Trump spent less time maintaining their peculiar barnets, and more time diverting nuclear fallout, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place…

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