Earth Science

What are relative humidity and humidity?

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frizzy hair
High humidity is the bane of the curly haired woman whose locks turn to frizz
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Relative humidity and humidity both have a profound effect on how we feel

Unless you're a meteorologist, most of us donít give much thought to humidity other than to curse it in relation to our hair. There's too much humidity! My hair is going to frizz! There's no humidity! My hair has completely gone flat.



Additionally, if you're an arthritic you are probably more than the aware of the negative effects that weather has on creaky joints, but you might not know that humidity plays a part in the aches and pains that you experience at certain times. What are relative humidity and humidity, other than the bane of the curly haired woman and the arthritic?


Humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor that is in the air or the extent of dampness in the atmosphere. Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air in comparison to the amount of moisture that the air can hold at a given temperature.  



Relative humidity indicates how saturated the air is. When the air that is not saturated cools, relative humidity increases. At some point, the air reaches a temperature at which it becomes saturated, which occurs when evaporation and condensation are equal.



Absolute humidity points to the actual amount of water vapor that is in a sample of air or vapor concentration. When absolutely humidity increases this can lead to body aches and pains. Dry, cold air is often associated with migraine headaches.



Condensation sets in at a certain temperature, which is called the dew point. Also called the condensation point, the dew point is the temperature at which air must be cooled by continuous humidity and pressure until it becomes saturated. Cloud droplets, dew, mist, fog and ice crystals form at the dew point.  



When temperatures and the relative humidity are both high, itís going to feel damp outside and look murky. As vapor condenses this causes the development of clouds, snow, rain, dew, fog and frost. Warm air is capable of holding more vapor than cold air.


When the maximum amount of vapor possible is in the air the said is considered saturated. As air cools down to the dew point temperature it is no longer capable of holding moisture which makes the water vapor condense.


Now on to the important aspect of humidity: Your hair. Humidity is likely to make your hair frizz, particularly if you are a curly top. If this is the case, either bite the bullet and live with the frizz, or you can try to tame your uncontrolled hair using a small drop of silicone hair serum, which should be applied to wet hair. Add a strong hold non-alcohol gel and then allow your hair to air-dry, preferably, or blow it dry using a diffuser.  


On the other hand, if humidity makes your hair go flat, refrain from using products that leave a heavy residue in your hair, weighing it down. Use a volumizer and flip your hair upside down when drying it, which will give you further volume, maximizing the lift at your hair roots.  


Those unfortunate souls that suffer from arthritis and/or fibromyalgia may experience widespread pain, stiffness and headaches when absolute humidity is low. High levels of humidity that accompany a low barometric pressure are notorious for increasing joint pain and stiffness in arthritics. Fibromyalgia patients experience more pain on days when there is high barometric pressure.


The weather connection and how people feel has been suspected since Hippocrates took note of the association back in 400 B.C. Weather can and does influence our moods and how well we feel physically, and it can definitely take its toll on our hair!

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