Salon in space: UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi gets haircut from crewmate on ISS

Extensive research has been done about hair growth and wash in space


Angel Tesorero

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Photo: MBRSC
Photo: MBRSC

Published: Wed 29 Mar 2023, 2:59 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 Mar 2023, 4:14 PM

After almost four weeks in space, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi had his first haircut aboard the International Space Station (ISS), given by his crewmate Nasa astronaut Frank Rubio, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has tweeted on Wednesday.

In the photo, AlNeyadi, wearing green shirt, is seen seated relaxed while Rubio is focused in doing the haircut using a trimmer that has a suction device which prevents hair from floating and contaminating the microgravity environment aboard the ISS.

The reason for the vacuum is to make sure loose hairs don't float around the orbiting space station. According to Nasa, loose hair can clog filters and affect air circulation and filtration. Floating hairs can also create a safety hazard because they can be inhaled or irritate an astronauts' eyes.

Astronauts like AlNeyadi, who are on a long-duration space mission, do require haircuts. This is why a set of clippers can be found on the ISS. The set is attached to a vacuum device that sucks up trimmed hairs, so that they don’t fly all over the space station.

As for shaving facial hair, it is similar to shaving on Earth, except that the electric razor that is also attached to a vacuum.

AlNeyadi is not yet seen shaving his beard but astronauts aboard the ISS shave with either foam or an electric razor, which are preferred choices , since these methods don't require water and hair follicles are automatically collected.

Astronauts also have their personal hygiene kit. According to Nasa, personal preferences, such as the brand of toothpaste, are accommodated if possible.

How does hair grow in space?

Astronauts trimming and shaving hair in space has been documented by space agencies. Hair growth in space was also one of the scientific experiments earlier conducted.

Back in 2016, the hair follicles of 10 astronauts who had spent around six months each on the ISS were collected and studied. The follicles were gathered at different points during their time in space, including before their launch and after they returned.

Dr Masahiro Terada, a researcher at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and his colleagues said: 'We found that spaceflight alters human hair follicle gene expression.”

They also found a number of genes that inhibit hair growth were more active during spaceflight, “suggesting it may grow more slowly or stop altogether while in orbit.” The study also revealed hair follicles of men and women may react differently to the environment in space. They found the activities of some of the genes involved in hair growth were more stable in female astronauts than in their male colleagues.

How do astronauts wash their hair?

Astronauts have a different way to wash their hair unlike on Earth. Aboard the ISS, they use no-rinse shampoo, with very little water, and they must quickly catch any water droplets that float away.

They start by wetting their hair with very little amount of then they apply the “rinse-less” shampoo as they do on Earth. Then they “rinse” the soap out of their hair with wet towel and use the dry part of the towel to dry it out before they comb their hair. “The air conditioning system will pick up the condensate both from the towel and from the hair and put them back into the water reclamation system,” according to Nasa.

Here’s how astronauts wash their hair as shown in an earlier video shared by Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg.


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