by Susan Walker of Earthtone Naturals
So how does this information apply to your hair care regimen? I’m not one for completely eliminating the use of an ingredient from my regimen due to theoretical concerns. My approach is to understand the process and then make an informed decision as to whether or not I’m going to try a product.
Winter Hair Care – Low Dew Points, Dry Air, Low Humidity
Because of the low amount of moisture in the hair in these conditions, using products with a lot of humectants may result in dry, brittle hair. As a result I’m making the following recommendations:
· Use products with humectants that are lower on the ingredient label.
· Use products that contain humectants that don’t have a high water-binding ability.
Therefore the following ingredients shouldn’t appear high on the label: glycerin, sodium PCA, sodium lactate, propylene glycol. You can probably add agave nectar and honey to that list.
· This is important: if you are going to use products that contain humectants high on the ingredient list and with a high water-binding capacity, then it’s likely a good idea to use a moisturizer with a lot of emollients and oils underneath. I wear my hair in twist outs quite a bit and the gelly I use contains glycerin as the second ingredient. In the colder weather I use a moisturizing hair butter on my hair that contains a lot of oils and thick butters BEFORE I put the gelly on to twist my hair. Additionally, I don’t use a lot of gel; just enough to get the hold I need for my twist outs. This results in extremely soft, moisturized twist outs that have staying power.
· Instead of traditional gels use cream-gels that contain a fixative polymer, as well as oils and butters. This way you’ll get the added moisture as well as the hold.
Summer Hair care – High Dew Points, Moist Air, High Humidity
Our hair can naturally thrive in this type of environment since there is so much moisture in the air. However if the hair is highly porous and damaged it can tangle, frizz and be prone to breakage. Using products high in humectants will cause the hair to be frizzy, feel constantly wet and, depending on the humectant used, result in the hair feeling sticky. In this climate I recommend the following:
· Minimize the use of products high in humectants. So the gelly I use to twist my hair with would be no bueno in this condition. One thing I will say is that I could still get away with using the product if I don’t use as much on my hair. So just because glycerin is the second ingredient doesn’t mean it can’t be used. Just reduce the amount and see what happens.
· Opt for products that contain fewer humectants or those that are not as powerful. So those ingredients are glycerin, sodium PCA, sodium lactate, propylene glycol, honey and agave nectar perhaps. Humectants can still be used. It’s just suggested that they are in the formula in a lower concentration which means they are further down on the ingredient list.
· If using gels, use ones that contain PVP/PVA copolymer, dehydroxanthan gum and some xanthan gums since these polymers can still allow curls to hold up under high humidity conditions and typically don’t feel sticky.
· Use anti-humectants. Anti-humectants are ingredients that don’t attract water and actually repel water. The anti-humectant property of a substance allows it to prevent water from entering into the hair from a humid environment and they can coat and seal the external cuticle layer. So what make good anti-humectants? Since oils and water don’t mix oils such as shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil fit the description and role. Another ingredient is silicones. Love them or hate them these ingredients can be beneficial to textured hair for heat protection, conditioning, shine and to combat humidity when used appropriately. Another set of ingredients that can be used are esters and lastly waxes like beeswax. Keep in mind that these ingredients may need stronger cleansing agents to be removed from the hair in order to prevent product build-up and conditioner washing may not do an adequate job at product removal.
And from the Dew Point Perspective…
If you’re assessing the moisture content in the air by using dew points then there are a few things to note.
· If the dew point is below 35°F:
The moisture in the air is low so low that a humectant applied to your hair may draw moisture from your hair and bind the moisture to itself. The result? Dry, splitting hair. In this situation you’ll need to use a lot of moisturizing products, make sure that your hair is not too dry by keeping it slightly damp after you wash it, and use a leave-in conditioner underneath your products that contain humectants.
· If the dew point is 35°F to 50°F:
This is the optimal range for humectant use in curly hair. There is just enough moisture in the hair to get optimal results from humectant use resulting in great curl definition.
· If the dew point is 60°F or above:
You may need to use anti-humectants to seal the hair shaft, flatten the cuticle and reduce the absorption of moisture into the hair.
Please keep in mind that these are just guidelines on what types of products you should use in certain environments. Ultimately you’ll need to try out different products with the understanding of WHY you’re actually using them, to assess whether or not your hair responds favorably. Just because the weather is dry and cold doesn’t mean you can’t use glycerin in your hair if you layer a leave-in condition underneath. Or maybe it does. Do what works for you.
What’s the ultimate goal in any weather? To ensure your hair is well moisturized and has minimal damage. Hair that is moisturized will be protected from losing too much moisture in dry weather and absorbing too much moisture in humid weather. Damaged hair will be more porous and therefore more susceptible to changes in climate. So ensure your hair is in as healthy a condition as possible to withstand climate changes (if you live in areas where these occur often) with resilience.
What is the climate like where you live? What types of products work best on your hair in this climate?