Magnesium Sulfate- Curly Friend or Foe

What is Magnesium sulfate?

Magnesium sulfate is an ingredient often touted as a natural curl booster or curl activator for hair. It is typically used in leave-in conditioners and curl enhancers, both commercially available and homemade, and it is applied via a spray-on delivery method.

Many people have noted that their hair often responds remarkably well to the initial application, but further uses yield dry tresses that behave in an unruly fashion. Several explanations have been put forth for this phenomenon, but there still remains some confusion as to why it happens.

By delving into the protein structure of hair and curls, and how magnesium sulfate interacts with these, we can gain clear understanding of the mechanism by which magnesium sulfate enhances curl pattern and retention, and also why the effects seem short-lived and eventually become unpleasant.


Antioxidants in Hair Care Products

Most of us have been recipients of much indoctrination regarding the benefits of antioxidants, both for our health and our appearance. Eat your multi-colored vegetables, drink your freshly-obtained green juice, take your vitamins, and slather on expensive skin creams loaded with these nebulous molecules, and you will be fit, appear young, beautiful, active and healthy, right? With claims like these, it seemed inevitable that hair care products showcasing these materials would make their debut on the shelves of hair salons, health food stores, and drug stores, and of course, this is the case, especially in the natural market sector.

But are these ingredients truly beneficial when used in topically applied hair care products, or are they simply a clever marketing strategy with minimal effects? A consumer armed with knowledge of what oxidative damage is, how it occurs, and what can be used to protect against it has the advantage when evaluating product claims and making purchases.


Curly Cocktails: A Beginner's Guide

Quick True or False Quiz:

Your bathroom houses a LOT of hair care products.

When you see a new curly product on the shelf, you HAVE TO buy it.

You’re creative.

You like options and variations.

You have so many products, you could put “CVS” above your bathroom door.

If you answered true to three or more of the above, you’re probably a Product Junkie AND you like to experiment with hair products. We like to call this process “cocktailing” (sorry, no Grey Goose included). The NC forum CurlTalk has endless resources for cocktail recipes, but here is a quick introduction into the science of curly cocktails.


Manuka Honey: Benefits for Natural Hair & Skin

Alex of TheGoodHairBlog uses Manuka Honey in her mixes, so I thought I'd share a piece on its benefits!

Since the days of the Egyptians, honey has been used extensively for a variety of tasks: cleaning wounds because of its antibacterial property, as a dietary supplement, as a gel for super sleek ‘dos and much more. While your everyday honey is great for all of these uses, there is a new type of honey out there that is quickly gaining popularity for its purity and potency: Manuka honey from Australia and New Zealand.

Manuka Honey for Skin

Many women who suffer from dry skin due to harsh commercial cleansers, acne and rosacea swear by the use of honey for washing their faces. Honey is suitable for use as a daily cleanser because of its antibacterial properties which allow it to gently cleanse the skin without stripping it of all of its natural oils. But the benefits of Manuka honey come from it’s increased antibacterial potency. Since honey is has a low pH of around 4.5 it is said to be pH balanced and helps to maintain the optimum pH of the skin.

To use Manuka honey as a cleanser, place a dime sized amount on your hand and rub it on your face using circular motions. Then grab a wash cloth and soak it with warm (not hot) water and place the cloth on your face. The heat of the cloth should open up your pores for deeper cleansing. Remove the wash cloth from your face and rewet it and gently wipe the honey off of your face. The heat of the water and the wiping motion should remove all the honey from your face. Then feel free to moisturize your face like normal.

Manuka Honey for Hair

When it comes to hair care, honey has many uses and can be used a plethora of ways. To know how to get the most out of your Manuka honey check out these yummy recipes:


Shea Butter v. African Butter- Natural Hair Care

by Shelli of Hairscapades

I don’t use shea butter a lot, but it is a natural product that I incorporate into my hair regimen in a couple of ways. When I first started experimenting with it 2010, I found it was too heavy and waxy to use as a sealer for my ends. It just sat on top of my hair like wax and made it look dull and ashy. Coincidentally enough, it just sat on top of my skin as well, though my skin would shiny … it would just come off on my clothes and chairs!!! So, I started using shea butter by mixing it with Eco Styler Olive Oil gel to smooth and control my edges. And, it works great for that for me.


Mongongo Oil: An Exotic Emollient for Natural Hair

Mongongo oil has been valued for centuries in Africa and is now gaining popularity in the rest of the world as we become educated about its beneficial qualities. Not only is the fruit extremely nutritious, but the oil has many useful properties as an emollient for both hair and skin. What makes mongongo different from other botanical oils and how does this affect its properties?


Mongongo oil is obtained by cold-pressing the nuts that come from the Mongongo or Manketti tree (Schinziophyton rautanenii). The Manketti tree is found from coast to coast in Southern Africa. It thrives in the seasonal dry lands where it weathers a broad range of temperatures from sub-freezing to scorching desert heat. It is found both sporadically scattered and also in large groves throughout northern Namibia, southern Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. The egg-shaped, reddish brown fruit is prized by both the people and the elephants indigenous to the region. The nuts are often gathered from elephant dung, a practice that is less labor intensive than harvesting the fruit and extracting the nut from the center.

Composition of Mongongo Oil

The nut is very high in fat (>57%) and contains a plethora of other valuable nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and thiamine. Each seed contains approximately 560 mg of vitamin E (tocopherol). The antioxidant properties of this vitamin lend a high degree of thermal and oxidative stability to the oil, which greatly delays onset of rancidity of the oil, even in the intense South African heat. The oil has been greatly prized, not only for its nutritive benefits, but also as a skin and hair emollient and skin protectant.

The composition of the oil in mongongo fruit is fairly different from many other plant oils used as topical hair treatments or conditioning ingredients. It is comprised of between 40-50% polyunsaturated fatty acids, as compared to shea and coconut oil, which are comprised largely of saturated fatty acids and mango, olive, avocado, jojoba and almond oils, which are comprised mainly of monounsaturated oils.

Fatty Acid Content of Mongongo Oil:
  • 45-55% polyunsaturated fatty acids: linoleic acid, alpha-eleostearic acid
  • 17% saturated fatty acids: palmitic acid, stearic acid
  • 18% monounsaturated fatty acid: oleic acid
Unsaturated molecules have at least one carbon-carbon double bond in their structure. Double bonds are connected at a different angle than single ones and this produces a kink in the molecular geometry. This type of structure inhibits crystallization by impeding packing of adjacent molecules. For this reason, oils with high concentrations of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are typically either liquids at room temperature or melt readily upon contact with skin.
Stearic acid, a saturated hydrocarbon molecule with 18 carbons (relatively long-chain fatty acid) has a melting point of 69.6°C (157.28°F). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated hydrocarbon with a melting point of 10.5°C (50.9°F). Polyunsaturated acids, such as linoleic and linolenic, have multiple kinks in their chains and are liquid at very low temperatures (melt point = -5°C (23°F) for linoleic acid).

Properties of the different types of fatty acids

The protective outer cuticle layer of hair is not a solid surface, but is porous in order to allow transport of oils and water back and forth through the hair and into the cortex. The lipid-rich cell membrane complex layer just beneath the cuticle scales acts as a diffusion port, enabling fatty acids and moisture to travel into the interior of the hair strand.

Molecular size and shape determine the probability of a fatty acid to travel through the cuticle layer into the cortex of the hair. Saturated fatty acids such as stearic acid, lauric acid and palmitic acid diffuse easily through the pores of the cuticle layer and penetrate the cortex, where they provide flexibility and suppleness to hair strands. Spectroscopic studies demonstrate that despite their kinked structure due to the single double bond, monounsaturated fatty acids are also able to readily penetrate the interior of the hair via this route.

However, the more unwieldy structure of polyunsaturated fatty acids prohibits them from penetrating into the interior of the hair strand and they remain adsorbed onto the surface of the hair. Oils such as mongongo oil that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, form a protective and emollient film on the surface of the hair, where they act as a barrier preventing moisture from escaping the interior of the hair. These fatty acids can add gloss to hair and improve comb-ability by smoothing the surface of the hair. Due to the presence of the acid groups in their structure, these ingredients can also have a mild humectant effect.
The linoleic acid in mongongo oil is known for being emollient to the hair, and stearic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid are good at penetrating to the cortex to supply elasticity and improved mechanical properties. Perhaps the most interesting properties of mongongo oil can be attributed to the presence of α-eleostearic acid, a conjugated trienoic fatty acid. This molecule has three double bonds in the middle of its structure that are conjugated, meaning they alternate (double bond-single bond-double bond-single bond…). These types of structures have unique chemical properties due to this conjugation, as they can delocalize certain of their electrons in response to various stimuli in a process known as resonance stabilization.

There are three reasons that this very specific feature of the organic structure of α-eleostearic acid is interesting to us in hair care applications. The first is that the conjugated diene structure enables this fatty acid to act as a mild sun protective agent via UV-absorption and subsequent resonance stabilization. The second reason is that the molecule is capable of undergoing a UV-initiated photopolymerization reaction, whereby the fatty acids molecules link together into a three-dimensional crosslinked network, forming a flexible film on the surface of the hair. This provides physical protection to the hair and also may impart style hold or curl retention. Thirdly, this polymerization mechanism (called curing) substantially reduces drying time for hair. Even once polymerized, the carboxylic acid groups on the molecule should be sufficient enough “hydrophilic handles” to permit removability in water, especially if conditioner and/or mild shampoo are used.
Since it is fun to experiment with our hair, it seems worthwhile to at least sample some of these new products containing this ingredient. Look for products that contain other quality ingredients and that feature mongongo oil sufficiently high up the ingredient list. Beware products that are comprised primarily of other oils and only include this as a trace ingredient as they may prove to not be a sound investment. Let us know your thoughts when you do try some of the new mongongo oil products.
  1. Dyer, J.M., et al,, Differential Extraction of Eleostearic Acid-Rich Lipid–Protein Complexes in Tung Seeds, JAOCS, Vol. 75, no. 11 (1998)
  2. Yang et al. BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:250,

 Have you tried monongo oil? If so, was it pure, in a commercial preparation or mixed with other natural oils? How did you like it?

Um, What Are 'Active' Ingredients?- Hair Products

via TheBeautyBrains

Kaja inquires…You often mention “active ingredients” – what are they and which are the “non-active” ingredients?

The Left Brain replies:
I love this question even though there is no simple, straightforward answer. While other cosmetic chemists may have their own definitions, I like to think that you can break all beauty product ingredients down into five basic categories:

*5 Types of Cosmetic Ingredients*

Active ingredients: They deliver the promise of the product.
Of course the type of activity varies widely. I guess the “truest” active ingredients are those specified as drugs by the appropriate governing body. So UV absorbers in sunscreens, benzoyl peroxide in anti-acne creams, and fluoride in toothpaste are all REALLY active.
But even the surfactants used in a shampoo or body wash are active by my definition – they are responsible for getting your hair or skin clean which is the basic promise of the product. The same thing goes for the silicones in a hair conditioner, the colorants in a mascara, or the polymers in a hairspray. If the ingredient is essential to making the product work, then it is “active.”

Base ingredients: They form the delivery vehicle for the active ingredients.
Active ingredients are rarely used by themselves in a 100% concentrated form. There’s usually an optimal use level for ingredients to ensure they do their job. Therefore the actives have to be “diluted” with something. That something may be as simple as water or as complex as a cream or lotion base or an aerosol spray. It may take dozens of ingredients to form the “base” of the product. Solvents, like water and alcohol, and emulsifiers, to help oils and water mix together, are among the most common types of base ingredients.

Control ingredients: they ensure the product stays within acceptable parameters.
Gums and polymers are used to stabilize emulsions, acids and bases are used to balance pH, polyols are used to maintain texture after freezing, and  preservatives are used to protect against microbial contamination. These are just a few examples of control agents that help maintain the quality of the product.

Aesthetic agents: they improve the product’s sensory characteristics.
The look and smell are important parts of almost every cosmetic product which is why you’ll see colorants and fragrance used so frequently. You might even see “glitter” particles added.

Featured ingredients: they are added to increase consumer appeal. 
These ingredients are also called pixie dust, fairy dust, marketing ingredients and a few other names.  These are truly “inactive” because they’re added ONLY because they look good as part of the label. The serve no function other than to attract consumer’s attention. These ingredients include botanicals, vitamins and minerals, (some) proteins and just about anything else “natural.” You can easily spot these ingredients because they are often incorporated into the product name (Sun-kissed Raspberry Shampoo) or placed on the front label (lotion with jojoba oil).

Skills Notes: Product Ingredients

by Shelli of Hairscapades 

So, I was thinking about how overwhelming it can be when you first discover the online natural hair web-iverse. There is sooooo much information out there and some of it is very technical, while other is anecdotal. And, while the education can be enlightening, it can also cause more issues than remaining ignorant!! Been there …  done that. LOL!! However, I do believe there is a “sweet spot.” You know … that point where you’ve read enough, watched enough and tried enough to make informed decisions about what products, techniques and regimens will work for you and also know enough to figure out on which ones you should take a pass? *Singing* “Walk on byyyyyyyy.”

Well, all that being said, it may take some time to reach your very own personal “sweet spot.” Shoot, it took me a year plus! LOL! But, I thought that I might be able to help some reach their spot more quickly and navigate some of the ins and outs of natural hair by providing some fundamentals in a simple format, as well as links to additional information for those desiring more details. And thus, the idea for Skills Notes was born. (Yup, Skills Notes. Hairscapades was too long and Skills has been my nickname since college.)

So, with that, welcome to the first installment of SKILLS NOTES!


SULFATES: Cleansing agents found in many shampoos. Traditional sulfates can be harsh and strip hair of necessary moisture and oils. However, there are now many cleansers on the market that are sulfate-free and/or formulated with mild sulfates.  

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are following the Curly Girl (CG) method, the Tightly Curly Method (TCM) and/or those with dryness issues. 

WHY: These individuals should avoid harsh sulfates and seek sulfate-free or mild sulfate alternatives.

For more information on sulfates and the alternatives, check out these articles: Which Sulfates Are Safer Than the Others? What’s in Your Shampoo

SILICONES: Conditioning agents used in shampoos, conditioners, stylers, serums and glosssers that provide slip and shine. Most ingredients ending in “cone,” “col,” “conol” or “zane” are silicones. There are four basic categories of silicones: water-soluble, slightly water-soluble, non water-soluble but repels build-up, non water-soluble and build-up prone. Non water-soluble silicones can eventually prevent the hair from absorbing sufficient water/moisture to remain hydrated, which can cause dry hair.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are following the CG Method or the TCM and/or conditioner only regimens. 

WHY: These individuals should either avoid non-water soluble silicones, use mild sulfate or sulfate-free shampoos that remove silicones or incorporate a “clarifying” sulfate shampoo into their regimen as needed. 

Want to learn more? Check out these articles: The Real Scoop on Silicones (silicones explained) What’s the Scoop on Silicones (chart with recommended cleansing agents by cone)

PROTEINS: Protein is used in many conditioners to reinforce and strengthen the hair structure, especially when hair is damaged or weakened by chemicals (i.e. permanent colors and/or chemical relaxers and perms). Protein treatments should be followed by moisturizing conditioners to restore elasticity or the hair may become brittle and feel dry. “Protein sensitivity” is a term used for hair that responds negatively to protein, either because the hair has sufficient protein or becomes brittle despite post-treatment moisturizing conditioners.


WHY: Ensuring that hair is strong and moisturized aids in appearance and reduces breakage that can impede length retention goals.

For a listing of proteins as well as tons of other useful information, check out this link: Curls 101 FAQs

GLYCERIN: Humectant found in many products that is used to attract water into the hair shaft.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those with porous and frizz-prone hair, those with low porosity hair and those with dry hair. 

WHY: In humid climates (i.e. high dew points), glycerin can cause high porosity hair to frizz and tangle. For those with dry or low porosity hair that is hard to moisturize, glycerin can help draw water from the environment into the hair and help reduce/eliminate dryness. Many curl activators contain glycerin in order to aid hair in moisture retention and some naturals/curlies have found success with these type of products.

For a list of common humectants, see the Curls 101 FAQs link above.

ALCOHOLS: There are two basic categories of alcohols used in hair products: short chain drying alcohols (bad) and long chain “fatty” alcohols (good). Short chain drying alcohols evaporate quickly, so they are used in products to decrease the time it takes hair to dry. In contrast, long chain “fatty” alcohols are lubricating, moisturizing and “film-forming” in order to lock in moisture.


WHY: Short-chain drying alcohols should be avoided whereas long-chain fatty alcohols are fine and can be sought out for their moisturizing properties.

Drying alcohols: SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denatured, Propanol, Propyl alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol

Fatty alcohols: Behenyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, C30-50 Alcohols, Lanolin alcohol

MINERAL OIL: Mineral oil is used in products as an emollient, to seal in moisture, block humidity and enhance clumping/curl formation. It is non-water soluble. Mineral oil does not penetrate into the hair shaft to moisturize on its own. It simply aids in sealing in water/moisture. Mineral oil has gotten a bad rap, because it is often used in products with other ingredients (like petrolatum and lanolin), which are sticky and/or greasy. These combination of ingredients can cause build-up on the hair and scalp, as well as attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. Some naturals avoid mineral oil at all costs, but it does have benefits. Cosmetic grade mineral oil can be light and non-sticky.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues. 

WHY: Products with mineral oil combined with petrolatum, lanolin and some vegetable oils can be sticky, greasy and build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Therefore, they require a cleansing agents to remove.  

Want to learn more about mineral oil and how it stacks up against coconut oil? Find more information here: Using Mineral Oil for Hair Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil – Which is Better?

PETROLATUM: Petrolatum is used in products to seal in water, provide a barrier against heat and chemicals and add sheen to the hair. It is non-water soluble. Petrolatum is sticky, which can attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. It can cause build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Petrolatum is found in many traditional hair “greases.”

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues.

WHY: Products with petrolatum, lanolin and some vegetable oils can be sticky, greasy and build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Therefore, it requires a cleansing agent to remove.

PARABENS: Preservatives used to extend the shelf life of products by protecting against a wide range of microorganisms. The most common parabens found in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.  

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who want to use all-natural and/or organic products exclusively. Those who want to avoid this preservative due to concerns about toxicity and studies that indicated that parabens disrupts hormones and were detected in breast tumors. 

WHY: Self-explanatory.

For more information about the FDA’s position on parabens and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) assessment and recommendations, check out these articles:

And that’s it for the first edition of SKILLS NOTES, Product Ingredients!

So, how’d I do?? What ingredients would you add to the list of basics?

What's In Your Shampoo?


They say "don't judge a book by its cover," and a similar thing applies to hair products. Don't judge a shampoo (or conditioner or gel, etc.) by its bottle. Fancy labels and high price tags don't necessarily translate to good products. What DOES matter is what's in those products, so the most important part of the label? It's not the brand or the sparkly letters or the miracle promises. What matters is the stuff in tiny type -- the list of ingredients.

And that's why professional salon products especially formulated for curly hair are often the best, since they have the ingredients you need and avoid the ones you don't. But the stuff you find at the local drugstores? They can be great, too, if you know what you're looking for.

The rule of thumb for bouncy curls: No sulfates, which is a type of surfactant, aka detergent.

A surfactant—sometimes referred to as a detergent—is a substance that, when dissolved in water, gives a product the ability to remove dirt from surfaces such as the human skin, textiles, and other solids. There are several types of surfactants, from harsh to mild, and sulfates are in the most harsh class. Common sulfates as found on hair product ingredient bottles include:
  • Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
  • Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
  • Sodium Laureth, Myreth or Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate
Milder surfactants—less drying and recommended in lieu of sulfates — include:
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Coco Betaine
  • Cocoamphoacetate
  • Cocoamphodipropionate
  • Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate or Cocoamphodipropionate
  • Lauroamphoacetate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
Now, makes sense that we wouldn't want harsh detergents messing with our curls, right? Next week we'll talk about proteins! Meanwhile, you can learn more in the Live Curly Live Free e-book, Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curly Hair.

Shelli's First Cassia Treatment for Natural Hair

by Shelli of Hairscapades 

A few months ago, when I was replenishing my henna, indigo and zizyphus stash from, I decided to order some cassia from too. I’d been wanting to try it for a while as an interim treatment between hennas, because it is supposed to have many of the same conditioning benefits sans the time-consuming and messy process!

What is Cassia?

There is NO such thing as neutral henna or blond henna! Much of what is sold in boxes called neutral or blond (sic) henna is Cassia Obovata, usually with unlisted adulterants. Cassia obovata will make damaged hair silky, thick, lustrous, and helps keep your scalp healthy, just as henna does. This has a golden yellow dye molecule, but it won’t show up on your hair unless you are very pale blond (sic) or gray. Cassia will not make dark hair golden. Cassia will make gray or blond hair golden.
Those who don’t want the red color that accompanies henna may be interested in cassia as it provides many of the same benefits, without the deposit of the red dye (lawsone) molecule. It also isn’t supposed to cause the curl loosening that is a potential side effect of henna. That being said, it’s the deposit of the red dye that provides much of the strengthening, thickening and shine-enhancing benefits of henna. Henna is a plant resin that bonds to the keratin in the hair strand, carrying the pigment with it and filling in rough spots in the cuticle (hope that I got that right!). Cassia is a different plant and though it coats the hair with a plant resin as well, it is not as strong. Therefore, the effects of cassia only last about 1-2 weeks, whereas the conditioning benefits of henna lasts 3-4 weeks and the color is permanent. However, preparing, applying and “marinating” cassia is far less time-consuming as it only needs to “sit” for 30 minutes and be left on the hair for 30 minutes to an hour. No gloves or bathroom protection are necessary either!!

My Cassia Mix & Process
Now that we got that out of the way, on Sunday I debated doing a cassia treatment. But, I was persuaded to go for it on my Facebook page (see here). I had applied a pre-poo mix of Aubrey GPB and Honeysuckle Rose conditioners mixed with Vatika Oil on Saturday. I’d previously read the instructions to apply cassia to dry hair, but after searching around a little, found that some applied it to wet, washed hair as well. So, I knew that I was okay to wash my hair first. During the same search, I also found that there are different cassia recipes just as there are for henna. So, I decided to make a pseudo cassia gloss using the same ingredients that I use with henna, with one exception. I used warm filtered water instead of green tea as adding an acid to cassia releases the yellow dye molecule. That isn’t a problem for my dark hair, but it might have caused my grey roots to yellow. No bueno.

So, with that, here was my process:
  1. Mixed 100g cassia powder with approximately 1 cup of warm filtered water and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  2. Hopped in shower and shampooed hair in 6 twists with diluted DevaCare No Poo (diluting No Poo provides it with nice slip). Released each twist to lightly finger detangle and re-twisted before rinsing shampoo (20-30 min.).
  3. Got out of shower and mixed about 1/2 – 3/4 cup Sally’s GVP Matrix Conditioning Balm and 1/4 cup of honey into the cassia mix.
  4. Applied cassia mix to hair in sections, smooshing it on scalp and through length to thoroughly coat strands.
  5. Piled hair on top of head, wrapped it in plastic wrap and put on a plastic baggie.
  6. Donned Hair Therapy Heat Wrap for 1 hour.
  7. Hopped back in shower, rinsed and finger detangled with loads of Herbal Essence Hello Hydration (HE HH). Threw in some Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut conditioner too (just to use it up; won’t be repurchasing as it gives me no slip. I’ve been taking CurlyNikki’s advice and using it for shaving though ;) ).
  8. Deep conditioned in 6 twists with Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Moisturizing Conditioner (1 hour w/heat wrap).
  9. Rinsed DC under tub faucet using Cool and Seal technique with diluted HE HH.
  10. Styled WnG with Sheilo Leave-in Protecant and Jessicurl Confident Coils Styling Solution using Rake & Shake technique.
My hair was still damp when it was time for bed, so I put it in a pineapple, made one big loose twist and formed a loose bun by securing the ends with a jaw clip. This morning, I released the bun to find my hair still damp. But, I used a little Wonder Curl Polishing Pomade to smooth out a little bit of the crunch anyway.
My Review and Results 
Overall, I think this cassia treatment worked out well!! As expected, it was a lot easier and far less time-consuming than henna. It had a similar grassy smell, but that doesn’t bother me. I also got the same level of shine and smoothness that accompanies a henna treatment … unfortunately for me, that seemed to still be accompanied by curl loosening!! What the heck?? This is NOT supposed to happen with cassia! Okay, okay. I suspect that this may have to do with how much I conditioned my hair during this process … pre-poo, conditioner in the cassia, conditioner to detangle, deep condtioner. So, I’m hoping that my curls will bounce back with some protein-instilling Aubrey GPB conditioner (sans the Honeysuckle Rose mix) and another wash. But again, my hair looks and feels pretty good! In addition to being shiny and smooth, it feels very clean, light and fluffy.

Initial Conclusions
Depending on how my curls bounce back after my next wash session, I definitely think I’ll try cassia again in another month or so. Shoot, might as well … I have another bag of it ;) ! Plus, the results are supposed to wear off after a week or two, so I really don’t expect the curl-loosening to be long-lasting or permanent. Since the whole process is so much simpler and shorter than henna with similar results, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone contemplating henna, but who is hesitating because of the color or time concern.

Do you use cassia? What’s your mix? What kind of results do you get with it?


CN says:

My thoughts on cassia from a previous post-- 
"I tried cassia about 4 times before moving on to henna. Initially, I was afraid of the red color, especially since I had a considerable amount of brown highlights throughout- I wasn't going for 'fire engine red'.  Cassia is similar to henna... although it's a different plant altogether, it has some of the same conditioning effects, sans color. Like henna, cassia strengthens the hair shaft, improves overall health, and adds lots of shine. It doesn't, however, reduce shrinkage or significantly thicken the hair up. Its effects are far more fleeting- lasting at the most 1-2 weeks. The mixing, application, and rinsing process is a bit less taxing as well. For starters, you don't have to wear gloves! Also, you only have to leave it in for 30 minutes to get the conditioning effects. Since you're not worried about dye release, you can mix in everything but the kitchen sink- I used to mix in oils, conditioner and honey. Some blonde and gray haired ladies use Cassia for the slight yellow tint that it gives off. If you have dark hair, you don't have to worry about this effect.

I left cassia for henna for one reason- I wanted bigger hair. I didn't, and still don't mind the red. You're going to get improved hair health with both cassia and henna, but henna's effects will last upwards of 3-4 weeks, depending on how often you wash.

In my honest opinion, Cassia is just a REALLY good conditioning treatment."
 for more, click HERE

Water Soluble Silicones 101

Silicones have many unique properties that make them a preferred ingredient for hair care product formulators. They form a film on the surface of hair strands which allows them to effectively act as a lubricant between adjacent hair strands and reduce the forces required for detangling hair. Due to their high refractive index, they also impart a high degree of gloss and shine to hair when used in conditioners and styling products. Silicones also provide protection from the thermal damage often sustained during hair drying and heat styling. Certain silicones, especially amine-functionalized ones, have also been shown to increase color retention of artificially dyed hair.

However, despite their numerous benefits, curlies are frequently admonished to minimize use of silicones or to avoid them entirely.

So what’s the problem?

Sadly, there can be too much of a good thing. Years ago, it was fashionable for stylists to douse curly hair in heavy silicone oils in order to get control of frizz and to add a much-coveted shine to curls. Unfortunately, these products had a tendency to backfire over time. With repeated use, the serums accumulated on the surface of the hair, keeping water from entering the cortex and causing it to become dehydrated, weighing down hair, and completely disrupting natural curl pattern. The buildup could be very difficult to remove, requiring repeat applications of harsh shampoos. The result was dry, frizzy hair that resisted attempts to restore its natural beauty.

Similar results can occur when conditioners with high amounts of non-water soluble dimethicone are used. Buildup issues are especially problematic when non-traditional methods of cleansing are employed, such as conditioner cleansing, baking soda scrubs, or vinegar rinses. For this reason, it has become a popular recommendation for curly-haired people to avoid products containing silicones. This has the unfortunate consequence of depriving many curlies of some of the beneficial properties of silicones in hair care products.

Is There a Solution?

Happily, polymer chemists have spent time developing and optimizing water soluble silicone-based polymers for various reasons. These materials impart many of the desirable properties of ordinary silicone polymers, but they are more easily removed from the hair via rinsing, conditioner washing, or cleaning with mild shampoos, and do not require the use of harsh sulfate-based surfactants. They can also enhance moisturizing properties or add humectant qualities. These silicones provide more options to curly ladies and gentlemen.

What makes a silicone-based polymer water soluble?

Simple silicone polymers, such as dimethicone (polydimethylsiloxane) are comprised of a linear inorganic backbone of silicone and oxygen, with organic (carbon-based) pendant groups. These materials are extremely hydrophobic oils. However, several different types of chemical reactions can be utilized to add hydrophilic character to the polymers. These new polymers are amphiphilic, containing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic portions, and are classified as silicone surfactants.
Perhaps the most straightforward and popular method for rendering a silicone molecule water soluble is by adding multiple units of ethylene glycol (-OCH2CH2O-) to sites along the polymer chain. The oxygen atoms in these segments add polarity to the silicone and are readily available for association with water molecules. This process is called ethoxylation or polyethylene glycol (PEG)-modification.
PEG-modification can be done on sites that dangle from the silicone backbone, which results in a polymer shaped like a comb with hydrophilic tendrils. PEG can also be added to the terminal ends of the silicone polymer, making a straight chain surfactant type copolymer, with a hydrophilic block-hydrophobic block-hydrophilic block structure. Star-like molecules can be created by PEG-substitution occurring both at the ends of the polymer and on the pendant groups. Each type of polymer has slightly different properties.
On product labels, these polymers were formerly denoted by the name dimethicone copolyol. The preferred nomenclature for the comb-shaped polymers now is PEG-X dimethicone, with X being the number of repeat units of ethylene glycol. The block copolymers are designated Bis-PEG-X dimethicone, and the star-shaped polymers are designated Bis-PEG-X/PEG-X dimethicone. The higher the number “x” is, the greater the water solubility. Below a threshold of approximately PEG-6, the polymer is only sparingly soluble, and when the degree of ethoxylation equals or exceeds 8, the material can be considered to be highly water soluble.

Similar modification of a different silicone results in the novel polymer Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, which is completely water soluble and highly moisturizing to skin and hair. Another interesting water soluble silicone polymer is one modified with side chain copolymers of poly glucosides (sugars), PEG-8-PG-coco glucoside dimethicone. This material is completely water soluble, has high substantivity to hair and skin, is very moisturizing, and also has sufficient surfactant qualities that it can be used as a foaming agent and mild cleanser in gentle shampoos. Silicone phosphate esters (INCI name: Dimethicone PEG-X phosphate) are another category of water soluble silicone surfactants that provide excellent moisturizing properties and act as foam boosters.

What should I look for on labels?

Ultimately, it is most important to be your own scientist and try various products on your own hair in order to determine what gives the results that you like the most. What works for one person may not work for another, for many reasons.

If you are interested in trying some of the benefits of silicone-based products, but find it important to stick to those that are most easily removed via no-shampoo and mild-shampoo techniques, you will need to know what to look for on labels. The following silicones should be compatible with that type of hair care routine, and should provide many of the desirable effects of silicones, such as the addition of shine, moisturizing effects, thermal protection, and color retention, without any accompanying worries about buildup and frizz..
  • PEG-8 (or higher) Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-8 (or higher) Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-8/PEG-8 Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane
  • PEG-8-PG-coco glucoside dimethicone
  • Dimethicone PEG-X phosphate
  • Dimethcione copolyol (this is an older and less descriptive designation, but may still be found on some labels)
So curlies, are you willing to let your hair make friends with these water-soluble  silicones?

Understanding Silicones- Natural Hair

 via Good Hair Diaries 

Silicones are ingredients in many hair conditionersshampoos, and hair gel products. They usually have hard to pronounce names like phenyltrimethicones or amodimethicones. Too make things easier, just remember that most ingredients ending in "cone", "col", "conol" or "zane" are more than likely a silicone. Silicones will produce a  build-up on the hair and scalp because they are often not water-soluble. This is why clarifying shampoos are so important to those of us that use "cone" filled products.

There is one exception to this rule though. If the abbreviation "PPG" or "PEG" is in front of the silicone, this means that it was specially developed to be water-soluble and will not leave a build-up like other silicones. It's also important to note that some people don't experience build-up with any of the silicones.  As with everything, you must experiment and see what works (or doesn't) for you and your curls.

Silicones Likely to Build-up

  1. Dimethicone
  2. Cetyl Dimethicone
  3. Cetearyl Methicone
  4. Dimethiconol
  5. Stearyl Dimethicone
If you're someone like myself, silicones help me detangle my hair and keep frizz at bay, so I have no intention of letting them go completely. So what does a girl do in this situation? Luckily, it's not all gloom and doom- - there are some silicones that slow down the build-up process and others that are water-soluble!

Deposit Repelling Silicones
  1. Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
  2. Amodimethicone
  3. Cyclopentasiloxane
  4. Cyclomethicone
Water Soluble Silicones
  1. Stearoxy Dimethicone 
  2. Behenoxy Dimethicone
Getting Rid Of Silicone Build-up

Purchasing a quality clarifying or chelating shampoo will remove the product build-up. Some women still swear by mixing baking soda into their normal shampoo to convert it to a clarifying shampoo. Whichever method you choose, be sure to follow-up with a apple cider vinegar rinse to regulate the pH balance of your hair. You should find that your products take better to freshly clarified hair.


CN Says:
When I first jumped off the Curly Girl (CG) Bandwagon, I fell right into a vat of amodimethicone.  The old DevaCare formulation contained this silicone and it did amazing things for my hair.  What was once dry was now soft, and what was once tangled... smooth.  No longer avoiding silicones like the plague, I began experimenting with great success.  I've found that my fine strands require some silicone action for less stressful detangling sessions and more productive styling sessions... they protect my hair from some of the wear and tear of detangling, help my highly porous strands stand up to humidity and keep the moisture from wash day in much longer.  After extended use, I found fewer single strand knots, fewer split ends and less breakage.  As far as build-up goes, I've found that shampoos containing the gentler surfactant 'cocamidopropylbetaine' effectively rid my strands of all traces of silicone, but once every couple of months, I'll use an SLS containing shampoo for good measure.  The only ingredients that I've experienced build-up from are mineral oil, petroleum and the like. I don't seem to run into issues with silicones. 

I love this chart by chemist, Tonya McKay, which at a glance, will inform you whether or not the silicone is water soluble or not and what form of cleansing agent can be used to effectively remove it.

Water soluble?
Recommended cleansing agents
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Phenyl Trimethicone
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
PEG-modified dimethicone
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
Dimethicone copolyol
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing

As with everything in my life, I'm either on the wagon or off.  Currently, many of the products I'm using actually would be classified as CG (no silicones, mineral oil, or petroleum, etc.).  I'm not avoiding silicones, I'm just trying some new curl creams, many of which are boutique brands that abide by the 'natural' rules of the community.  I'll keep you posted!

What about you? Do you play with silicones?

The Best Vitamin for Natural Hair Growth?

There is no mistaking the current trend in the cosmetics industry to incorporate vitamins and plant derivatives into formulations in order to advertise products as healthy, natural, green, sustainable or possessing anti-aging properties. One popular claim suggests using vitamin C for hair growth. As an essential nutrient for health, vitamin C takes part in many cellular processes and must be ingested by humans in significant quantities as we do not manufacture it internally as some other species do. Centuries ago, it was common knowledge that deficiency in this nutrient (later identified as vitamin C) among sailors on long voyages and the malnourished poor caused a horrible condition known as scurvy. The condition was determined to be easily preventable with the consumption of relatively small amounts of fruit or vegetables that had abundant levels of vitamin C. It is critically important for optimal function of the immune system and for tissue growth regeneration. Clearly, vitamin C is well-established as a necessary substance for internal consumption. But, does it really have any benefits when used externally in skin and hair?

Vitamin C in Beauty Products

Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Vitamin C is a popular component of many topically applied skin care products, where it has definite observed benefits when used above certain concentrations (5-15%). At the surface, it acts as an anti-oxidant, combating damage caused by free radicals created by environmental pollutants and ultraviolet radiation exposure. This can help prevent formation of new wrinkles that occur when free radicals are present on skin. Vitamin C has also been shown to penetrate and transfer to epidermal tissue where it aids in cellular repair and promotes collagen production. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all of the mechanisms and variables by which vitamin C benefits skin, but clearly, it does provide some genuine value. Whether or not it provides benefits to hair is less dependent upon complicated cellular processes and more dependent upon some basic chemical properties.

Chemical Structure

Vitamin C is the common name for ascorbic acid, a small chiral molecule, in other words one that can occur in two different forms that are non-superimposable mirror images of one another. The type of ascorbic acid found in plants, synthesized in animals and used in cosmetic and food products is the left-handed molecule (levorotatory enantiomer) of ascorbic acid (L-ascorbic acid). For whatever reason, the right-handed version (dextrorotatory) does not occur in nature and the lab-synthesized version offers no benefits over its more readily available isomer.

Properties and Benefits

Vitamin C is a small molecule organic acid, with key structural features in common with other mild acids, such as acetic acid (vinegar) and citric acid. For this reason, ascorbic acid can act as a mild clarifying agent in shampoo and can be effective in helping remove mineral buildup accumulated on the surface of the hair. This improves the ability of the hair to accept moisture, which makes it more soft and supple and resistant to tangling and breakage. Also, the lower pH of acidic shampoos smoothes and tightens the cuticle surface, rendering the hair more evenly reflective and shinier.
The presence of multiple hydroxyl groups (oxygen-hydrogen, -OH) makes ascorbic acid extremely hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and binds water to itself. For this reason, vitamin C can act as a humectant and effective moisturizer in hair products when used in conditioners, leave-in conditioners and styling products.

Also, when included as a component in leave-in conditioners and styling products, vitamin C can act as an anti-oxidant, much in the same manner as in skin creams. Free radicals can cause structural damage to the proteins in hair, which can lead to split ends and breakage. They also can react with both natural melanin and synthetic dye molecules resident in the cortex of the hair strands and bleach color from hair, while simultaneously causing physical damage to it. For this reason, free radical scavengers, such as vitamin C can be quite useful in color retention and maintaining the health and integrity of hair. Ascorbic acid is water soluble and is thus not a concern for build up or accumulation on the surface of hair, even when non-mainstream cleansing methods are employed (low-poo, no-poo).

Oftentimes, vitamin C is used as a preservative or pH adjuster in hair care products and has no significant impact at all on final properties of the product. If it appears as one of the last few ingredients, below what is known as the one-percent line, you can be assured that this is the case.

Vitamin C for Hair Growth

The marketing materials for some hair care products claim that their vitamin-C containing formula can promote hair growth and repair an unhealthy scalp. While it is certainly true that ascorbic acid is capable of transfer to tissue and cells in specifically-formulated skin care products where it can participate in cellular processes, this isn’t usually the case in shampoos and conditioners. The reasons for this are that the pH of hair care products is generally too high for the acid to be active and the concentration of the ascorbic acid is too low for there to be any benefit. For this reason, most of these types of products will have no significant impact to the scalp or hair growth. However, it is possible that a formula intended for direct skin application might be of some benefit to the scalp tissue. Whether this would promote hair growth is not certain, but a healthy scalp is in the best position to perform this function. This would probably fall into the category of “it couldn’t hurt to try in moderation.”

Final Thoughts

Some users have reported that some vitamin C-based products have felt drying to their hands and hair. This is going to be very dependent upon an individual’s hair and skin type as well as on the other ingredients in the formulation. It is doubtful that the vitamin C itself leads to dryness, but perhaps if coupled with harsh surfactants, a too-low pH or insufficient emollients and moisturizers, a product could produce that undesirable tactile feel. Always trust your own reaction to a product and use what works for you!

Zwitterionic Surfactants: A Milder Alternative?

by Tonya McKay of NaturallyCurly

In recent months, we have taken an in-depth look at the structure and properties of cationic and nonionic surfactants. Another interesting category of surfactants used in both hair and skin care are the zwitterionic ones, those that naturally have two charges on the molecule, both positive and negative. These are attractive to the formulator due to their tendency to boost effects of other surfactants in the solution, as well as an ability to ameliorate undesirable properties of some surfactants, such as skin irritation and a tendency to strip the hair and skin of too much moisture. One familiar surfactant of this type is cocamidopropyl betaine, which is appreciated by many curly-haired consumers for its gentle, yet effective, cleansing capabilities.

What are they?

Zwitterionic surfactants (also: amphoteric surfactants) are characterized by having two distinct and opposite charges on the molecule at either adjacent or non-adjacent sites. The presence of both a positive and negative charge renders the molecule overall neutrally-charged at neutral pH. Some types of zwitterions are susceptible to pH changes in a solution and may become completely cationic or anionic in acidic or basic environments. The positively-charged site is typically a quaternized ammonium ion, but can also be a phosphonium ion, while the negatively-charged site can be one of a variety of anionic groups, such as sulfate, carboxylate, or sulfonate. There are several common categories of zwitterions used in hair care formulations, such as the betaines and amphoacetates.
In general, amphoteric surfactants have been found to be compatible with other surfactants and polymers, including silicones. The formation of self-assembling complexes between amphoteric surfactants and polymers or anionic surfactants has been observed and found to impart interesting properties to solutions containing these molecules. Amphoteric surfactants reduce static in hair by decreasing its surface charge density. Since the interactions between hair and zwitterionic surfactants are primarily physical rather than ionic, they are easily rinsed and removed from the surface of the hair. They have been found to minimize skin and eye irritation common to other surfactants, especially sulfates. They also can boost the foaming performance of anionic surfactant systems via a variety of mechanisms, by either increasing the speed at which foam is formed (flashing), improving the density and luxurious feel of the foam, or by increasing the foam stability (longevity).

Types of amphoteric surfactants
The betaine family of zwitterions possesses the positive-negative head group structure of trimethyl glycine (betaine), an amino acid derived from sugar beets. The hydrophobic tail group can be a straight chain alkyl group (such as in coco betaine), or can contain an amido group, such as cocamidopropyl betaine. Other betaines include lauramidopropyl betaine, oleamidopropyl betaine, ricinoleamidopropyl betaine, cetyl betaine and dimer dilinoleamidopropyl betaine. Additional variants are sulfobetaines, hydroxysulfobetaines and sultaines. Betaines are more resistant to thickening via addition of salts than their anionic cousins. For this reason, in order to achieve a pleasingly thick product, addition of viscosity-boosting polymeric additives may be necessary, which can increase the cost and complexity of the formula.

Cocamidopropyl betaine is particularly valued for being an excellent cosurfactant for sodium lauryl sulfate, but it is also a gentle cleanser in its own right. Studies have found that it removes silicones from hair very effectively, without drying out the hair. It has also been shown to improve the solubility of sodium cocoyl isethionate, an extremely gentle, creamy and emollient surfactant. The combination of these two has the potential to create an extremely gentle and moisturizing shampoo.
Betaines are more resistant to thickening via addition of salts than their anionic cousins. For this reason, in order to achieve a pleasingly thick product, addition of viscosity-boosting polymeric additives may be necessary, which can increase the cost and complexity of the formula.

The specific betaine selected can have a significant impact upon the viscosity, foaming behavior and detergency of the final product. In order to choose the best betaine for her purpose, the formulator must be familiar with the properties of each of her options and how each interacts with the other ingredients in her formula. She will generally have a goal in mind regarding the physical properties, cleansing strength and cost of her formula and all of those will factor into the decision. Fortunately, for consumers, the primary concern is how the product feels on the hair and how the hair behaves afterward and the differences should not be tremendous between the various betaines. Currently, cocamidopropyl betaine is the one most often seen on labels and in the proper formulation, and is quite gentle to hair and skin.

Other families of zwitterions are also used in formulations. They are becoming more common as their interesting properties are explored and as companies continue working to develop non-sulfate-based cleansing platforms. Some familiar ones might be the imidazoline derivatives alkylamphoacetates such as disodium lauramphoacetate, as well as alkylamphopropionates. These materials share many of the beneficial and gentle properties of the betaine family.

Overall, zwitterions are an interesting class of surfactants with the potential for more growth in application, especially for curly hair, which needs a more gentle approach to cleansing.

Consumer power

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for sulfate-free and gentler shampoos and cleansing products, especially in the curly-haired population, as we have learned the damage that can be done by harsh surfactants. As formulators continue to respond to the push from consumers for alternatives to sulfate-based cleansing systems, we can expect to see a growing number of products relying upon the milder cleansing properties of zwitterionic surfactants. They are less likely to strip curly hair of its much-needed moisture and can impart a silky feel to hair when used with other ingredients. A patent search reveals that scientists are working to develop more polymer-zwitterion systems, which should also eventually benefit the end product user by providing performance-enhancing properties. In this demand-driven market, the power consumers have to drive the research and development of new products is quite remarkable and should not be underestimated.

The Science Behind Using Panthenol in Hair Products

by Tonya Mckay of NaturallyCurly

Panthenol is a popular ingredient for both skin and hair care products. Hair care products that use this ingredient are said to have enhanced moisturization effects and add thickness or body to the hair. Proctor and Gamble has built their entire Pantene Pro-V line of products to capitalize on the properties of this ingredient. There seems to be a bit of confusion, hoever, about the role of panthenol in a formulation and whether or not it is beneficial or possibly even harmful for curly hair. A closer look at the chemistry of panthenol should provide clarification about this ingredient.

The Basic Chemistry

Panthenol is a derivative of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and is known as a provitamin. Panthenol is what is called a chiral molecule, or one that has a molecular structure that gives it a “handedness,” either right-handed (dextrorotatory) or left-handed (levorotatory). These two mirror-image enantiomers are not superimposable on one another, in the same manner in which your two hands are mirror images of one another rather than exact duplicates. Oftentimes, the two versions of a molecule have differing chemical or biological properties. For cosmetic purposes, panthenol is supplied either as a racemic mixture (50/50) of both types of enantiomers or as the purified “D” version. This is most relevant in skin care applications, as the D-version of panthenol is the biologically active version.

The Properties

The multiple hydroxyl (-OH) groups on the panthenol molecule impart most of the physical properties to it, most particularly its high solubility in water and other solvents. Panthenol is a highly effective humectant, a class of ingredients used in skin and hair care products to promote moisture-retention. It has a highly hydrophilic and hygroscopic chemical structure which attracts water from the atmosphere and binds it to various sites along the molecule. Humectants typically possess multiple alcohol (hydroxyl) or similarly hydrophilic sites (such as ethers or ammonium groups), which are available for hydrogen bonding with water molecules. Hydrogen bonding between humectants and water aids in moisture-retention by minimizing water loss due to evaporation.

Panthenol is not only a humectant, but is also a useful moisturizer and emollient. It spreads evenly on the surface of hair strands, forming a smooth film on the surface of the cuticle. This film gives enhanced coherence to the reflection of light from the surface of the hair, which imparts significant gloss and shine. The smooth film also provides excellent slip between adjacent strands of hair and detangling properties. Panthenol is capable of penetrating the cuticle and entering the hair shaft as well, where it aids in moisture retention and provides volume.

It is important to note that sometimes penetration of the shaft by ingredients can create a rough cuticle surface and lead to frizz, due to swelling of the hair shaft. This may not occur for everyone and is dependent upon several factors, including porosity of the hair and the amount of the ingredient used in the product. It is a potential undesirable effect, so keep this in the back of your mind when using a product containing the ingredient.

Although there is a persistent rumor that panthenol creates waxy buildup on hair, there is no evidence to support such an assertion. Panthenol is not at all similar in structure to waxy materials. It is also extremely water soluble, alcohol soluble, mildly soluble in glycerin and is fairly easily capable of being mixed into most oils. Additionally, panthenol has no component to its chemical structure that would cause it to bind tightly to the surface of a hair strand. For these reasons, it should be easily removed from hair by rinsing, washing with mild shampoo and even conditioner cleansing. If one is experiencing problems with build up and unpleasant hair texture when using a product containing panthenol, the issue is more likely due to other ingredients in the formulation.

Panthenol is readily absorbed by skin, and as the precursor of vitamin B5, it directly impacts metabolic processes in epidermal cells. It has been found to have many beneficial properties for epithelial tissue, including increased hydration and improved elasticity and is believed to promote cell regeneration. When used in shampoos and conditioners, panthenol conceivably provides added benefit by improving scalp health and potentially improving hair growth.

Final Thoughts

Panthenol is a naturally-occurring material that adds several beneficial properties to hair care formulations. It is a humectant, emollient, glossifier, detangler and moisturizing agent. It is highly water soluble and is also easily removable with mild plant-derived oils or via conditioner cleansing. When selecting humectant-containing products, one must keep in mind the climate in which they live, how that impacts hair and how they might expect a humectant to contribute to the overall performance of their own hair within the constraints of that climate. Also, depending upon the porosity of your hair and the type of product being used, you may experience a roughened hair texture or some frizz due to penetration of the hair shaft. If this should happen, it might be best to discontinue use or to decrease use of the product. Finally, experimentation is the best way to find out what works well on your own hair.

Do you look for products that contain panthenol?

Using Olive Oil for Natural Hair Health

by Samantha Berley via

What You Might Not Have Known

It’s a well known fact that, olive oil can be a fantastic conditioner for hair but there are many other things about this essential oil that make it a great go-to for hair care. Olive oil is one of the top emollients that is known to penetrate the hair better than others. That doesn’t just mean that it nourishes and conditions. An olive oil treatment can improve the elasticity and strength of your hair far better than other essential oils.

There are other even lesser known facts about olive oil. For instance, olive oil is not just an average emollient. It contains anti-inflammatory properties that promote scalp health and prevent dandruff. What’s more, olive oil is not likely to cause an allergic reaction, which makes it easier on sensitive skin and hair.

Methods and Oil Treatments

There are a couple of different ways to implement olive oil treatments. The first thing to keep in mind is that olive oil needs a way to absorb into the hair follicle. That is why users like both the wet method and the dry method.

Both methods or treatments begin with warming olive oil. Warm about a half a cup of olive oil in a microwaveable bowl or cup. The olive oil should be warm but not hot to the touch. If you have fine hair or prefer a lighter treatment, add coconut, sweet almond or jojoba oil.

Where Methods Differ

The next part depends on a couple of different things. Some users prefer wet and recently conditioned hair while others want the hair to be dry. If your hair is wet and conditioned, it will lock in the moisture and additional nutrients when the olive oil is applied. The downside is that olive oil is already slightly more difficult to apply due to the hair’s slipper nature. If you apply olive oil to dry hair, it has a similar effect, but many argue it doesn’t lock in as many nutrients as the wet treatment. Even so, it’s less of a mess than the wet method.

Whichever one you choose, place your oil-drenched hair into a shower cap or wrap it with plastic wrap. Let the olive oil sit for between 5–45 minutes before washing out in the shower. This depends on which treatment you use. Olive oil does well with minimal time, but giving it several dozen minutes may increase the effects. Many users recommend hopping in the shower and letting the steam do its thing to enhance the effects of the olive oil on the hair. Once you’ve washed it out, watch your step as the floor will be slick with oil. Towel dry and comb as usual.

Although there are arguably more popular essential oils, olive oil is well-known as a culinary ingredient and easy to obtain in any average grocery store. For food and for hair, olive oil has been used since the dawn of civilizations ranging from Mesopotamia to Ancient Egypt and Greece. It’s no wonder then, that olive oil is found in a variety of hair care products. Olive oil penetrates the hair cuticle so that the necessary moisture and nutrients are absorbed leaving your hair not only smoother, but shinier and healthier as well.

Do you use olive oil to enhance the health of your hair? What is your favorite oil for your hair?

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