Women need all the help they can get, and it’s especially exciting when scientists step in to make our multitasking lives a little easier.

Dyson, the British company that’s building electric cars across the straits, took women’s hair issues seriously enough to devote six years to testing and researching different types of hair and styling habits all over the globe.

It found that women desire body, fullness and movement in their hair, and that there was much room for improvement in styling technology. Among the issues it could help women (and men) in styling hair were tangled hair, temperature damage and frizz.

Dyson invested £24mil (RM130mil) in research and development, built 642 prototypes, and had 230 engineers and scientists work on its second item in beauty technology, the Dyson Airwrap Styler, a hairstyling tool.

This follows the success of its Supersonic hair dryer, which has garnered rave reviews.

Airwrap Styler

The motor spins to create an area of high pressure at the top of the styling barrel, which allows the hair to curl around the barrel. This is known as the Coanda effect.

There was much anticipation at the recent Airwrap regional launch in Bangkok, as beauty geeks with immaculately coiffed hair waited for the unveiling of the promise of a revolutionary product.

Dyson head of engineering Adriano Niro kept his introductory speech brief and then allowed the Airwrap to do its own talking, so to speak.

He placed the Airwrap next to a strand of hair, which promptly wrapped itself around the styler. It was almost as if the styler was a wand and the hair had been summoned by sorcery, but in actual fact it was all science.

The Airwrap is powered by Dyson’s digital motor V9 which enables it to style with air, and without the need for extreme heat.

The motor spins to create an area of high pressure at the top of the styling barrel. A high velocity jet of air disperses out of six air slots around the barrel.

This generates a physical phenomenon which allows the hair to curl around the barrel to style, known as the Coanda effect.

It occurs when a high-speed jet of air flows across a surface and, due to differences in pressure, the air flow attaches itself to the surface.

Taking advantage of this principle, Dyson’s team of engineers and aerodynamicists created a way to style hair using only air combined with heat.

“We have been obsessively manipulating airflow for more than 25 years. Our expertise in aerodynamics is one of our core technologies. Harnessing the power of Dyson’s digital motor, we have engineered a truly unique styling tool that prevents extreme heat damage when styling. I’m immensely proud of what our engineers have achieved,’ said Dyson founder and inventor, James Dyson.

Unlike traditional curling irons, the Airwrap does not use heated metal plates to curl hair.

It comprises a “control centre” – one baton-like machine that expels heated air, and eight different attachments that go onto the machine individually to create different hairstyles for different hair types.

While hot air is used, temperatures never go beyond 150ºC – the temperature that engineers at Dyson have discovered to be the maximum hair can tolerate before it begins to be significantly damaged.

Science Is The Answer

In designing the Airwrap, there were various technical challenges to overcome but it was understanding the culture of styling hair that was the most difficult.

“There were technical challenges for sure – for the technology working at the right time, the manufacturing processes were hard to control and so on. But all technical challenges were easy in a way, as in we were confident we could overcome them.

“The most difficult challenge was finding a scientific approach to something so personal and subjective,” says Advanced Insight Engineer Veronica Alanis who sent her resume to Dyson because she was intrigued by its vacuum cleaner. She was hired, and moved from Mexico to Britain, where she started working on the Airwrap.

Airwrap Styler

Veronica Alanis has been working on the Airwrap Styler for the past three years, since she joined Dyson.

Being a woman gives the 29-year-old product designer an edge because “you understand the problems firsthand; not all the problems because my problem is different from my colleague’s problem. It’s an advantage because you feel a bit of yourself in the problem but at the same time you have to look at the problems in a subjective way.

“What is successful for me might not work for you, and you have to take a scientific approach.”

Understanding different hair types all over the world was crucial in creating the Airwrap.

Alanis says they also had to consider that there are different behaviours when it comes to styling hair and they needed to come up with a product that worked for everyone.

“In the beginning, I was wondering why we were doing a beauty product. But then you start looking at different categories in different projects, and there’s always air – some sort of air management, air control, aerodynamics … we understand heat and transfers, heaters, and separation systems, and filters.

“So, from a technology point of view it made sense to come up with something that uses everything we are good at but at the same time it’s humbling to see a new range of products.

“We have never been a beauty instrument before, and we realise there is so much to learn. And what the people I work with are most passionate about is a challenge,” says Alanis, who added that the styler would save time because hair can be styled more easily, and also styled from wet to dry.

The Dyson Airwrap styler comes in three variants with specific attachments, designed with different hair types and desired looks in mind. On top of curling barrels of different sizes, the product also comes with attachments such as soft, firm and round brushes, and a pre-styling dryer. It’s now available in Malaysia, and is priced between RM1,999 and RM2,199.