Almost every day, there seems to be a new miracle ingredient that promises to revolutionize haircare; powerful moisturizing, 5,5000x stronger hair, frizz-banishing, super nourishing, mega growing - the list goes on and on. Usually the new miracle ingredient is some sort of uber exotic oil that costs $40 for .5oz, and in truth, won't be any more discernibly different than your run of the mill virgin coconut oil that cost $7.
Today, we're going to take a different approach and talk about an ingredient that:
- Is essential to healthy hair and growth
- Is naturally occurring
- Can be replenished fairly inexpensively
What ingredient is this? Ceramides.
WHAT CERAMIDES ARE AND WHAT THEY DO
Ceramides are one of three types of oils found inside the cuticle of the hair. For those that care, 18 MEA (methyl eicosanoic acid) and Cholesterol are the other two. Ceramides exist inside the hair cuticle to act as a cement of sorts, keeping the hair in tact. Hair cuticles are often thought of as densely packed shingles on a roof, and ceramides are the glue that keeps the shingles together (flattened, as opposed to raised).
WHY CERAMIDES ARE IMPORTANT
Hair strength, elasticity, moisture retention, porosity, shine, smoothness, and resistance to weathering/breakage all depend upon how flattened cuticles are. Raised cuticles allow moisture to escape more readily, increasing porosity and the likelihood of breakage and weathering.
Note: Hair naturally weathers over time, but this can be accelerated when cuticles do not lie flat. On the other hand, when cuticles lay flat, hair is shinier, retains moisture better, feels smoother, porosity and elasticity are improved, and of course, the hair is stronger. All of this is possible with proper amounts of ceramides in the hair.
IF CERAMIDES ARE NATURALLY OCCURRING, WHY DO I NEED A PRODUCT WITH CERAMIDES IN IT?
Much like other elements of hair, through chemical processes (coloring), heat (blow drying, flat ironing), washing, and general handling can weather and deplete the amount of naturally occurring ceramides in the hair. Utilizing products with ceramides in them will help restore proper balance within the hair, and minimize damage.
It should also be noted that ceramides are most beneficial for hair that has been chemically treated--relaxed or colored. Natural hair benefits from products containing ceramides too; it is just that as with any conditioning, nourishing, or restructuring ingredient, the more damaged the hair, the better it works.
HOW CAN I INCORPORATE CERAMIDES INTO MY REGIMEN WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK?
Luckily, ceramides are readily available in tons of products - either naturally occurring or synthetic. Both are valuable to hair, but the synthetic ceramides more closely mimic those inside the hair cuticle than plant based ones. When determining if your hair products contain ceramides, look for the following ingredients:
- 1-3 octadecanedio
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Hemp Seed Oil
HERE ARE SOME PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN CERAMIDES AS WELL:
- L'Oreal Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm (my favorite)
- Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Moisturizing Conditioner
- ORS Hair Mayonnaise
- Nexxus Humectress Ultimate Moisturizing Conditioner
- Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Leave-In Fortifier