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When we talk about healthy hair, most of us tend to focus on perfecting the moisture/protein balance. Is my hair too dry? Then I need to increase moisture levels. Have I been experiencing breakage? If so, then it's time for a protein treatment. There's often little focus on the third aspect of what I like to call the trinity of healthy hair. Ceramides.
Ceramides are lipids (oil) that naturally occur in the strand. Their main purpose is to act like the glue that helps the cuticle layer lay flat and remain intact. Think of your cuticle layers as shingles on a roof, ceramides would be the bond that keep the shingles firmly in place. A healthy strand of hair needs a tightly packed cuticle layer in order to maintain its strength, elasticity, and shine. Without it, your hair becomes vulnerable to all kinds of unwanted damage.
Although ceramides occur naturally in the healthy strand, we impact normal levels when we undergo a chemical process, use excessive heat or even by the simple act of combing or washing the hair. In fact, there was a study done where the hair strand was observed on test subjects prior to, and after, shampooing. Believe it or not, the cuticle layer is chipped away each time we wash and comb our hair. This type of cuticle damage can be minimized by by making sure your ceramide levels are in check. So let's talk about how we can do just that.
One of the first things you can do is read the back of your product label to see if you have any ceramide containing products in your arsenal. If the ingredient list doesn't explicitly say “ceramide” on the label, check for 2-oleamido or 1-3 octadecanedio. These are both synthetic replicas of our naturally occurring ceramides. One way to boost levels of our own ceramide production is to massage our scalp daily with eucalyptus oil. Another study done asked women to massage their scalp 2 times daily with a solution containing 3% eucalyptus oil. After 3 months of consistent use the women (who had natural, un-treated hair) increased their ceramide levels by 120% producing “thicker, visibly healthier hair!” Here's the catch, this method only worked with the newly grown hair. Applying the eucalyptus oil lotion didn't impact ceramide amounts the hair's length. Women who've incorporated ceramides in their regimen often say their hair feels stronger but without that stiffness that protein gives. Does this mean your hair no longer needs protein? Nope. While ceramides do help reinforce the strand, they aren't as effective at strengthening the inner layers of the hair like protein does.
So what is a natural way to add ceramides to your regimen? Natural oils like hemp seed and wheat germ oil are a great source of ceramides. Unlike with the eucalyptus, you can start using wheat germ oil today to help reinforce your tresses. You can purchase wheat germ oil on it's own or you can seek out products with this ingredient. That way you can give your hair a daily dose of this highly valuable hair strengthener.
Ceramides make hair smooth and strong! I've been experimenting with ceramide containing oils... I'm loving Burts Bees Nourishing Baby Oil because it's natural and readily available (Walgreens, Target, etc.).
One of the many characteristics of ceramides is the high levels of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, which supports healthy body, skin, and hair. The list below breaks down the amount of linoleic acid (and where you find LA, you often find cermides) in common oils and fats. These oils are great for moisture retention and smoothing the cuticle. Many of them may help boost your cermides naturally.
Safflower oil 78%
Grape seed oil 73%
Poppyseed oil 70%
Sunflower oil 68%
*Hemp oil 60%
Corn oil 59%
*Wheat germ oil 55%
Cottonseed oil 54%
Soybean oil 51%
Walnut oil 51%
Sesame oil 45%
*Rice bran oil 39%
Pistachio oil 32.7%
Peanut oil 32% 
Canola oil 21%
Egg yolk 16%
Linseed oil 15%
Olive oil 10%
Palm oil 10%
Cocoa butter 3%
Macadamia oil 2%
Coconut oil 2%
*studies conducted show these oils contain ceramides.
While in Orlando, I met the lovely Nadege, and we talked ceramides for a while! She also gave me a sample of her oil, Gleau (pronounced glow). It's an Argan oil blend with two kinds of wheat germ oil, and Camellia seed oil from Japan. There are a total of 8 nourishing oils found in Gleau, and it's non-greasy! Sweet, right?!
Wanna get your hands on a bottle?!
In the comments below, tell us about your experiences with ceramides or why you plan to start experimenting.
Today at 5pm EST, I'll randomly choose one winner to receive a 2oz bottle of Gleau!