Silicones & Natural Hair: Good, Bad & The Ugly



When it comes to silicones, the truth is pretty simple: they aren’t as bad for your hair as everyone makes them out to be.

But, just like everything else in life, moderation is key. You wouldn’t load up on chips when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, unless of course they were all-natural and baked instead of fried. There are exceptions to every rule and using silicones can actually be part of a good hair care regimen. The trick is to be sure that you understand which silicones do what, and keep in mind that while some aren’t ideal, others aren’t all that bad.

Read More>>>

To Cone, or not to Cone...That is the Question

I came across this wonderful article by Tonya McKay on NaturallyCurly.com, and thought I'd share it with you! I avoided silicones for years, and recently I asked myself, why ...I had never had a problem with silicones, but I read that they were the devil, and so I followed suit. My two fave conditioners have amodimethicone, and my hair has never been happier. Don't be like me, read the facts yourself, and come to your own conclusion. Each silicone is slightly different. So, ladies check this article out, and find out the pros and cons of the silicones you're using!

"Silicones have been a very popular ingredient in hair care products for several decades. One notable product was called “Sudden Date”, which was touted for its ability to add shimmer to the hair and to revive a tired hairstyle in the event that there was no time for a proper washing. Their popularity has grown due to their unique ability to condition the hair without the build-up associated with many of the more traditional oils and fatty alcohols. According to a recent publication by Dow Corning, 82% of new hair care products introduced in the USA contain silicones.
The reason for the popularity of silicones in products for the skin and hair lies in their molecular structure. Rather than being made up of a carbon-based backbone (organic), silicones (inorganic) are made up of a backbone of repeating units of silicon bonded to oxygen, with small organic molecules forming a sheath around the outside of the molecule. This unique structure allows the silicone molecule to be very flexible and also to spread very easily and evenly onto the surface of a hair strand. The flexibility of the molecule allows for the passage of gaseous molecules through its structure. This makes the films formed on the surface of the hair very “breathable.” The films that are formed are noted for their lightweight, emollient and silky feel, and thus these materials are used as conditioning agents in many products. Silicones also have a high refractive index which makes light reflect off the surface of the hair, making it appear shiny and glossy.

Silicones are used as conditioning agents in shampoos, where they have been found to deposit at high rates onto the surface of the hair, especially if combined in the product with a cationic (positively-charged) polymer (referred to on labels as Polyquaterniums). This mechanism of conditioning is known as “dilution deposition” or the “Lochhead Effect.” Due to this property, they played a major role in the innovation of two-in-one shampoos, and are still used in those formulations today.

Silicones are also used in rinse-off conditioners, intensive treatment conditioners and leave-in conditioners, where they reduce combing friction, provide an emollient effect, impart gloss and reduce static charge between hair strands. In styling products, their primary role is to add a softening effect (called plasticization) to the sometimes brittle polymers used to hold the style. Some forms have been found to aid in color retention, to boost foaming of shampoos and to enhance curl retention.

There are many different forms of silicones as the backbone lends itself to chemical modifications which can influence the final properties of the molecule. Also, the number of repeat units present in the molecule (known as the molecular weight) will affect the performance of the ingredient, depending upon the final application of the product. It should be mentioned for practitioners of the “Curly Girl method” that only the PEG-modified ones or the dimethicone copolyols are water soluble.

There are several main categories for silicones approved for use in hair care products.1. Dimethicones 2. Low molecular weight cyclic silicones (cyclomethicones) 3. Dimethiconols 4. Dimethicone copolyols 5. Phenyl trimethicones 6. Amine-functional silicones
(Amodimethicones)

Cyclomethicones
These are low molecular weight silicones that are ring-shaped. They have been found to provide very light conditioning effects as well as to speed drying time after a wash. These molecules are volatile and will thus evaporate from the surface of the hair, leaving behind no residue. This volatility may perhaps make delicate, curly hair feel drier, but that is just my own speculation.

Dimethicones
These have been the most commonly used silicones in conditioning products until recent years. They spread easily onto the hair, provide gloss and substantivity (lasting conditioning effects), and provide a soft, silky feel to the hair. They also reduce static and fly-away hair. All of these effects are influenced by the molecular weight of the molecule, which is not usually disclosed on the product package. Due to their extremely hydrophobic nature (lack of water solubility), these products may build up on the hair over time if a traditional surfactant-containing shampoo is not used.

Dimethiconols
These silicones are either dimethicones or cyclomethicones combined with very high molecular weight dimethicones that possess a hydroxy-functionality (an alcohol group) at the end of the molecule. These molecules provide significant conditioning effects to the hair and also build the viscosity (thickness) of the product. These are not water soluble.

Phenyl Trimethicones
These are also not water soluble and are used for medium conditioning effects as well as a very high gloss and shine.

Dimethicone Copolyols or PEG-modified dimethicones
These are the only silicones that are water-dispersible or water soluble. They are made by chemically adding groups to the silicone molecule that are water soluble. This unique structure enables these silicones to not only provide excellent conditioning benefits, but also to act as nonionic surfactants. They can provide foam boosting and facilitate good wetting of the hair in a shampoo. They provide lubrication, reduce tackiness (sticky-feel), can go into clear formulations due to their water solubility, and do not show as much tendency to stick to the hair. Since they don’t have as much substantivity (the ability to stick to a surface), they are primarily used only for light conditioning.

Amodimethicones
These silicone molecules are modified by adding amine-functional groups to the structure. This makes them more polar and highly attracted to the negatively charged surface of the hair. Thus amodimethicones are noted for their high rate of deposition onto the surface of the hair, their extreme substantivity, and for great reductions in combing friction in both wet and dry hair. These silicones are considered to be the most useful for extremely dry or damaged hair due to their strong conditioning effects. These silicones are also not water soluble, so due to their high level of substantivity there may be some build-up if hair is not regularly shampooed. However, a preliminary study of this by Dow Corning showed only slight build-up after 3 uses (see reference 2).

Removal of build-up X-ray refraction studies performed at Dow Corning have shown that silicone molecules are almost 100% removed from the surface of the hair when a shampoo containing sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl ether sulfate, or cocamidopropyl betaine was used. This is excellent news for those who enjoy the benefits of silicone additives in the products they use and who do not mind using a shampoo on an occasional basis. However, if one plans to use the method of conditioner-washing one’s hair, these water insoluble and organic insoluble materials seem to be something that should possibly be avoided, with the exception of the dimethicone copolyols or PEG-modified variety. Bottom lineStudies show that silicones actually minimize scalp irritation caused by the surfactants used in many hair care products. Fifty years of studies and data demonstrate that these are one of the safest materials we use in personal care products. There is no (current) scientific evidence that silicones are drying or otherwise cause dull hair, although some curlies report anecdotal evidence of such. Not properly washing silicones out of hair may result in them coating the hair, preventing hydration. Some curlies obtain the best results when they use silicone-containing products in cycles: they use them for a while, then lay off for a while, then come back to them. Finally, if you are a no-poo’er and like the results you get with silicones, you may obtain best results if you use products only containing the Dimethicone Copolyols or PEG-modified dimethicones."

Heat Protectants- Silicones Are Our Friends




In my Fry Eggs, Not Your Hair experiment I demonstrate the effects of heat transfer on an egg to emphasize the importance of incorporating a heat protection product into your thermal styling regimen. If this demonstration does not convince you that heat damage is real, I really do not know what will. Heat softens the keratin in hair to become more pliable; however, if you are not careful, too much heat penetrating the hair too fast will cause water to boil on the inside of the hair shaft, which will instantly weaken the hair. If you are going to use heat on your hair, there is no way that you can completely eliminate the damaging effects that it will have, but you can decrease the amount of damage by protecting yourself.

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.

Silicone
Water soluble?
Recommended cleansing agents
Dimethicone
No
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Dimethiconol
No
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Phenyl Trimethicone
No
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Amodimethicone
No
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Cyclomethicone
No
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
PEG-modified dimethicone
Yes
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
Dimethicone copolyol
Yes
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?

What Is Silicone?

 IG @el.michell

by Mary Wolff

Most women are nervous about what we put on our hair. We want to make sure we are using the best products to get the results we desire. The problem is sometimes understanding that ingredients takes an advanced degree in chemistry.  With so much talk lately about what chemicals do to skin and hair, it’s no wonder you have questions!

Continue!>>>

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TINY CLOSET

by Amanda

Clean hair is healthy hair. Cleansing is essential for your hair to retain moisture and for your scalp to breathe. The LOC method and co-washing are favored by many, but you can only layer on so much until your strands are suffocated. As many curlies avoid high humidity and high dew points to preserve their styles, we tend to forget that moisture in the air does wonders for our hair, and it is difficult to reap those benefits if your hair is smothered in products. Erfrank23 from Q&A wants to know if all buildup is the same.

Question:
If the problem with silicones is that they aren't water soluble and can build up on hair, isn't this also true of natural oils, butters and waxes? I cowash, and have started adding some olive oil in my products and have used shea butter and other natural oils and butters, and like the result. But the only way to get them off my hands is to wash them off my hands with soap and water. Won't they build up as well? Should I start to use a sulfate-free cleanser? And if I'm doing that, I could just start using silicones, right?

The Curl Whisperer on Silicones


For our last article on product ingredients: silicones.

There are few product ingredient subjects that inspire as much debate as silicones. Silicones are polymers used used to coat the hair shaft to provide a smoothing effect. All silicones, however, are not created equal.

Many conditioners and styling products on the market, both professional and drugstore brands, contain non-water soluble silicones such as dimethicone, which lie on top of the hair, creating an impenetrable barrier into the hair shaft. They look like a quick fix for frizz since they temporarily smooth the hair shaft down and make frizz seem to disappear—but they also suck out the moisture from inside the hair, dehydrating curly locks and creating more frizz in the long run. Since they can't be rinsed away with water, they also build up on the hair shaft and generally require a surfactant (detergent)-based shampoo to remove.

Water-soluble silicones such as dimethicone copolyol, on the other hand, provide many of the same benefits but are generally considered safer to use on curly hair as they form a "breathable" film on the surface of the hair, allowing moisture to penetrate into the hair shaft. Additionally, they do not build up as non-water soluble silicones do, meaning any product containing water-soluble silicones will slide right off the hair shaft when you rinse your hair.

Some amine-functionalized silicones, such as amodimethicone, are not soluble in water, but have chemical properties allow it to repel further deposit, helping to prevent buildup although they will still lock moisture out of the hair and require a surfactant to remove, which may be an issue for those who prefer to solely do conditioner washes.

Incidentally, if you do an Internet search on amodimethicone, you will find quite a few sites (including mine, until recently) that list amodimethicone as a silicone that is "slightly" soluble in water as long as two additional ingredients are included in the formulation:

***Amodimethicone (and) trideceth-12 (and) cetrimonium chloride (as a mixture in the bottle)***

The assumption has always been that the inclusion of trideceth-12 (a nonionic surfactant) and cetrimonium chloride (a cationic surfactant) render the amodimethicone, non-water soluble on its own, slightly soluble in water and it could be considered fine for use.

Turns out that has been a completely incorrect assumption. What the trideceth-12 and cetrimonium chloride do is render the amodimethicone dispersible in water. Once the amodimethicone is deposited onto the hair shaft and dries to a film, however, it is not water-soluble, will prevent moisture from getting into the hair shaft and will require a surfactant to remove.


Tiffany has come to the end of the product ingredient classes, so next week, we will resume answering your most burning questions. Please submit your questions for the Curl Whisperer to [email protected] Please put "Curl Whisperer" in the subject line.

For more Tiffany, The Curl Whisperer, click HERE.

For other CN.com articles on Silicones, check out the links below:
To Cone or Not to Cone
Hair Tip of the Day
Another Cone Question
Can Split Ends be Fixed?
Friend or Foe?

Silicate & Silicone Hair Products: The Real Dirt


by Tonya McKay of NaturallyCurly

Recently, there have been a number of articles and discussions comparing and contrasting silicate and silicone hair care products. The similar sounding names have led to some understandable confusion regarding the nature and purpose of these ingredients in shampoos and conditioners. Both are common ingredients found in a variety of products such as skin cleansers, shampoos, creams, masques, and hair conditioners.

Many curly-haired consumers avoid silicones or attempt to minimize or restrict their use in their hair care routine. However, the use of silicate-containing products is occasionally advocated based on the premise that they are “natural alternatives” to synthetic silicones. Unfortunately, this information is not entirely accurate and stems from a misunderstanding of the chemical nature and structure of these two very different types of materials.

A closer examination of the chemical and physical properties of each category should be useful for anyone who is curious about the molecular nature of these ingredients and what function they perform when included in hair care products.

Silicones

The Bane of the Curly World

Silicone hair products have been discussed extensively on this website and others, so this will be a quick review rather than an exhaustive treatise. They are a diverse family of synthetic inorganic polymers based upon polydimethylsiloxane that can be prepared and modified in numerous ways in order to produce materials suitable for a wide range of applications.

Silicones used in hair care products are typically long, flexible molecules with a backbone comprised of thousands of repeat units of some variation of –(O-Si-O)- linkages with differing organic (carbon-containing) pendant groups attached to the central silicone atom. These are typically liquid at room temperature and are oily in their consistency. They are most often insoluble in water, but are sometimes modified with ethylene glycol groups or other atoms to render them water-soluble.

The physical properties of silicones cause them to adsorb onto the surface of hair and to spread out, forming a smooth film, which increases slip along and between hair strands and decreases combing forces. This renders them superior conditioner agents and detanglers. Additionally, they provide thermal protection, which reduces structural damage incurred from the use of heated styling tools. They have also been found to increase the longevity of color in dyed hair.

Silicone polymers have a high refractive index, which allows them to impart an extraordinary level of gloss to the hair, which gives the appearance of shiny, glamorous tresses. Clearly, despite their reputation in the curly community, silicone polymers provide many direct benefits to hair when used in shampoos, conditioners and styling products.

Common Silicones in Hair Products:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • PEG-modified dimethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Various copolymers

Silicates

Not a Silicone Replacement

Silicates used in hair and skin care products are inorganic minerals called clays, which are mined from the earth. Similar to silicones, these minerals are comprised of silicon and oxygen. However, the similarity ends there. Unlike silicones, these are not long chains of repeat units, but are rather small clusters of ionically-charged, crystalline platelets with various metal ions associated with them.

Silicates are extremely hygroscopic, meaning not only are they water soluble, but they will absorb large quantities of water. Due to this property, as well as their plate-like structure, these materials are used in shampoos and conditioners as viscosity modifiers (thickeners). They are also effective as exfoliating agents, humectants and slip agents. They act as emulsion stabilizers and help prevent flocculation of ingredients. They have been found to have some beneficial properties for hair because they can help remove impurities and improve the health of the scalp.

However, silicates do not provide significant conditioning, detangling, thermal or color protection, nor do they impart gloss to hair. Their primary benefit is to the physical properties (viscosity and shelf stability) of the formula in which they are included. They are not typically part of a formula for the same reasons as silicones at all. They are not silicone substitutes.

Common Silicates in Hair Products:

  • Aluminum magnesium trisilicate
  • Zirconium silicate
  • Calcium silicate
  • Sodium Silicate
  • Bentonite Clay, sodium or calcium bentonite
  • Montmorillonite clay
The Bottom Line
  • Both silicones and silicates have significant, yet extremely different benefits, when used in a formulation.
  • A person who chooses to avoid silicone hair products due to concerns about build up on the hair need not avoid silicates.
  • However, one should be aware that silicate clays do not act as substitutes for silicones, and excellent conditioning products need to still be used regularly.

Silicones and Other Sealants for Natural Hair


by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty

When compared to other hair types, African American hair is particularly fragile. That's because any type of curly hair is dry due to the bend or kink in each curl. The area where the curl bends has raised cuticle scales, which means it's porous and can't hold on to moisture well. The more kinks in a strand, the more porous and dry the strand will be. With that in mind, the #1 goal of a good regimen for African American hair is to keep the hair moisturized and therefore minimize breakage.

As you've learned by now, there's no point in applying moisture to porous hair, without sealing it in. When you apply an effective sealant to moisturized skin or hair, the moisture can stay in and benefit the keratin cells, instead of quickly evaporating away. If you don't apply an effective sealant, the skin or hair will become dry quickly and you'll need to re-apply moisture over and over again. African American women with natural hair often prefer natural sealants like coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter. Those oils are rich in nutrients like fatty acids and Vitamin E, so they can replenish what the strands may lack. Plant-based oils have many proven benefits for the hair, but they actually don't make the best sealants.

For many years, the best personal care sealant available was mineral oil, a byproduct of petroleum. In scientific studies, mineral oil was shown to provide a better seal or protective layer than other oils. Since African American hair is known to be porous, mineral oil and petrolatum began to appear in most ethnic hair care products. Even though the products created back then were very simple, they provided two crucial elements: water for moisture and mineral oil as a highly effective sealant (and pretty good heat protectant too).

Fast forward a few decades and moisturized hair is not enough. African American women want their hair to be soft, but not greasy and strong, but not stiff. Customers also want their hair to be easy to comb, even if it hasn't been washed in days and thermal protection for flat irons that get as hot as 450°F. There is no natural oil that can meet all of those demands, which explains why hair care companies began using silicones.

Slicones are synthetic oils. They come from "silicon", the naturally occurring element that makes up glass and sand. The first commercially available silicone, dimethicone, has been used in skin creams and lotions since the 1950s, but about 20 years ago, the hair care industry began adding it to shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in products. In studies, dimethicone was found to condition the hair and protect it from dehydration better than mineral oil. Companies have continued to create new and better silicones over the years and now there are silicones that can help the hair dry faster (cyclomethicone), target the most damaged areas of the strand to provide deep conditioning (amodimethicone), and even strengthen the hair (aminopropyl phenyl trimethicone).

Despite the proven advantages of silicones, some women make a big effort to avoid them. These women are often choosing to follow the hair care method promoted by Lorraine Massey in her 2001 instructional book for curly-haired women, Curly Girl: The Handbook. Regarding silicones, Massey wrote:

I suggest that you avoid conditioners that use silicones. Although they do add temporary shine to the hair, I find they weigh down curly hair. (That means avoid using products with ingredients whose name end in -cone.) The ingredients you absolutely need in conditioner include emollients, humectants, proteins, and moisturizers.

Four years later, in a Q&A featured on naturallycurly.com, Massey admitted that her original book was written before she ever heard of more sophisticated silicones like amodimethicone. Unfortunately, misinformation had already spread across the Internet and to this day, silicones are wrongly blamed for drying out the hair due to build up when in reality the opposite is true.

Any oil, natural or synthetic, can build up on the hair, but you can easily avoid build up by using shampoo (not just co-washing). And, if you're concerned about damage caused by shampooing too much, simply choose a pH-balanced shampoo for your hair type. Hair care companies use words like "dry", "coarse", "fine", and/or "chemically-treated" on their labels to help you choose the products that they think you'll like best (and therefore continue to buy). So, if you're concerned that shampoo will make your dry hair even drier, instead of avoiding shampoo, choose a shampoo formulated for dry hair. That usually means a conditioning shampoo that's effective enough to remove build up, but gentle enough that it can be used every wash.

Silicones, especially dimethicone, are in many parts of our lives. You can find them in lotions, deodorants, skin medications, and even Chicken McNuggets. The reason thousands of hair products contain silicones is because they work extremely well to condition, soften, and seal the hair. If you've been following a "no cones" or "no poo" regimen and you aren't seeing the results you hoped for, it's certainly time to explore the other side!


Hair Liberty is a comprehensive resource for African American hair care information. We sort through the latest hair care advice and compare hundred of products to find the most accurate recommendations for our readers. Visit
hairliberty.org to learn about your hair and how to achieve your hair goals. And be sure to Like the Hair Liberty Facebook page for extra tips and info!

Are You Down With Co-Washing?


By Dr. Phoenyx Austin of DrPhoenyx.com

Hey ladies! One of the best hair practices I adopted after going natural was co-washing. I was actually years into natural hair and cleansing my hair with sulfate-free shampoos. I knew all about the harsh sulfates thing, but I had no clue that there was something even better than shampoo. Then one day, a fellow naturalista put me onto co-washing. And boy oh boy did this doc fall in love! If you aren’t hip to the co-washing game, I’ll give you a quick debriefing of what it is, why you should do it, how often you should do it, and what types of conditioners to use.

Read More!!>>>

Silicone Hair Products: Not So Bad?

by IAgirl via NaturallyCurly.com

There is no single perfect recipe for hair care, products or styling. Not even all curlies who fall under one specific curl type need the same product or have the same miracle worker. One recent trend that’s taken the curly hair product world by storm, however, is to avoid silicone hair products. As smart, curly women we must first ask ourselves and get the facts: is this needlessly limiting, or even based in fact?

The purpose of silicone hair products are to coat the hair with a micro-fine layer of conditioners creating sheen, reducing friction for easier combing and to prevent tangles and breakage. Silicones also help other ingredients in conditioners and lotions to spread easily. Silicones are not water-soluble unless they are modified to be, so they also form a water-sealing barrier to prevent loss of water from hair and help retain dye by making hair more hydrophobic (water-repellent).

Healthy, undamaged hair is also hydrophobic. In skin products, this effect is desirable – silicones slow down trans-epidermal water loss by sealing in moisture and slowing dehydration. Unlike vegetable oils, silicones are not likely to cause skin sensitivity reactions.

What Do Silicone Hair Products Do?

Silicones are generally used at a rate of 1 to 2 percent in hair conditioners and skin lotions. If you add one drop of dimethicone to 99 drops of hair conditioner – that is 1 percent. Diluted silicones spread around, but cannot form a 100 percent solid barrier.

Silicones bond to the hydrophobic, or undamaged, parts of hair better than the hydrophilic, or damaged, areas. When added to a conditioner containing cationic surfactants (positively charged conditioners) such as behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride/bromide, the interaction of ingredients helps silicone bond to damaged areas.

Can You Remove Silicone Build Up?

It was reported in a 1994 article in the journal Skin Pharmacology that silicones deposited on hair by 2-in-1 shampoos can be removed by a single washing with a silicone-free shampoo. This removed 90 percent of silicone residue. Oils and proteins applied to hair can also be removed by shampoo, but cationic surfactants, which provide benefits similar to silicones, are resistant to shampooing because they bond more tightly to the hair. This effect has been demonstrated by several studies reported in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemistry.

You can remove silicone residue from hair or skin with cleansers containing Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Sodium C14-17 Alkyl Sulfonate (Olefin Sulfonate), or Cocoamidopropyl Betaine. Skin constantly sheds cells, so silicone build up is rarely an issue.

Silicone build up is not a problem for everybody. If you use silicone hair products and never use shampoo, silicone will begin to accumulate on your hair. But there is a limited amount of surface on the hair for the silicone to bond to, and it will not accumulate indefinitely. If you use shampoos containing the ingredients above, you need not worry much about build up from silicone hair products. If you never use shampoo at all, or have very fine, silky hair, silicones may weigh your hair down with repeated use.

Want More?

Our CurlChemist breaks down each silicone for you, letting you decide what works best for your hair type, texture, porosity and density.

Final Thoughts

Build-up of any product is only a concern if it causes your hair or skin to do something you do not want it to do. Be your own judge about what ingredients to avoid in hair care products. Consult the science, and most importantly ­­— get feedback from your own hair and skin.

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?

Fight the Frizz or Go with the Fro?- The Deets on Anti-Humectants


by Susan Walker of DrWalkerWellness

As the weather gets warmer naturals are finally letting go of their protective styles and being free with their hair. Wash n’ gos, twist outs, braid outs, bantu knots outs – you name it, it’s out!

And while we’ve done away with our winter hibernation styles and embraced the freedom of summer, there is a common issue that seems to come up time and time again.

Another “F” word that for some is not the desired style. That word is FRIZZ.

Read On!>>>

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!

 
PRODUCT INGREDIENTS

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:
Naturallycurly.com: Which Sulfates Are Safer Than the Others?
CurlyNikki.com: 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:
NaturallyCurly.com: The Real Scoop on Silicones (silicones explained)
NaturallyCurly.com: 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.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Everyone. 

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:
CurlyNikki.com: 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 CurlyNikki.com: 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.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Everyone. 

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:
NaturallyCurly.com: Using Mineral Oil for Hair
NaturallyCurly.com: 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?

Curly Hair Product Ingredient Guide



So, how do you actually identify sulfates and non-water soluble silicones on product labels? The list of formal ingredient names below will help you to stay on track and avoid purchasing products that are not suitable for optimal curly hair health.

Please note that professional salon products especially formulated for curly hair will always give the best results; however, drugstore products containing no sulfates or non-water soluble silicones are always preferable to any product brand containing those ingredients.

My clients will tell you I am not in the least bit concerned about what "brand" you use. I care more that you commit to following the no-sulfate, no non-water soluble silicones guidelines than I do about what brand you buy, so always feel free to experiment and use the products that are best for you and your particular curls. I still experiment with different products myself, as I suspect almost every girl with curls will do for the rest of her life!

Sulfates

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 different types of surfactants, ranging from harsh to mild, with sulfates belonging to the class that is the most harsh.

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
Some 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

Silicones

Silicones generally end in -cone, -conol, -col, or -xane and are found in many hair products. If any silicone name has the abbreviation "PEG" or "PPG" in front of it, however, it is water-soluble and will not build up.

Silicones that are not soluble in water, will consistently build up on the hair and will require a surfactant-based shampoo to remove include:
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone
Silicones that are not soluble in water, but whose chemical properties allow it to repel further deposit, helping to prevent buildup (although they will still lock moisture out of the hair and require a surfactant to remove):
  • Amodimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone/Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
A note about amodimethicone: if you do an Internet search on amodimethicone, you will find quite a few sites that list amodimethicone as a silicone that is "slightly" soluble in water as long as two additional ingredients are included in the formulation:

Amodimethicone (and) Trideceth-12 (and) Cetrimonium Chloride (as a mixture in the bottle)

The assumption has always been that the inclusion of Trideceth-12 (a nonionic surfactant) and cetrimonium chloride (a cationic surfactant) render the amodimethicone, non-water soluble on its own, slightly soluble in water and it could be considered okay to use. Turns out that has been a completely incorrect assumption. What the Trideceth-12 and cetrimonium chloride do is render the amodimethicone dispersible in water. Once the amodimethicone is deposited onto the hair shaft and dries to a film, however, it is not water-soluble, will prevent moisture from getting into the hair shaft and will require a surfactant to remove.

Silicones that are slightly soluble in water, but can possibly build up on some types of curly hair over time, include:
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone
Silicones that are soluble in water and can generally be considered safe to use (in addition to those listed with "PEG" or "PPG" in front of them) include:
  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane
  • Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
Proteins

An additional note about proteins: some curly hair types, especially those with a coarse hair texture, are also sensitive to proteins, which can cause some curly hair to become dry and brittle. They are best avoided if any adverse effects are noted.

Common protein ingredients include:
  • Collagen
  • Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Silk Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Soy Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Keratin
  • Keratin Amino Acids
  • Silk Amino Acids
  • Silk Protein
  • Soy Protein
  • Wheat Amino Acids
  • Wheat Protein

The Real Scoop on Silicones

source: le coil

Tonya McKay of NaturallCurly writes;

Silicones have been a very popular ingredient in hair care products for several decades. One notable product was called “Sudden Date”, which was touted for its ability to add shimmer to the hair and to revive a tired hairstyle in the event that there was no time for a proper washing. Their popularity has grown due to their unique ability to condition the hair without the build-up associated with many of the more traditional oils and fatty alcohols. According to a recent publication by Dow Corning, 82% of new hair care products introduced in the USA contain silicones.

The reason for the popularity of silicones in products for the skin and hair lies in their molecular structure. Rather than being made up of a carbon-based backbone (organic), silicones (inorganic) are made up of a backbone of repeating units of silicon bonded to oxygen, with small organic molecules forming a sheath around the outside of the molecule. This unique structure allows the silicone molecule to be very flexible and also to spread very easily and evenly onto the surface of a hair strand. The flexibility of the molecule allows for the passage of gaseous molecules through its structure. This makes the films formed on the surface of the hair very “breathable.” The films that are formed are noted for their lightweight, emollient and silky feel, and thus these materials are used as conditioning agents in many products. Silicones also have a high refractive index which makes light reflect off the surface of the hair, making it appear shiny and glossy.

Silicones are used as conditioning agents in shampoos, where they have been found to deposit at high rates onto the surface of the hair, especially if combined in the product with a cationic (positively-charged) polymer (referred to on labels as Polyquaterniums). This mechanism of conditioning is known as “dilution deposition” or the “Lochhead Effect.” Due to this property, they played a major role in the innovation of two-in-one shampoos, and are still used in those formulations today.

Silicones are also used in rinse-off conditioners, intensive treatment conditioners and leave-in conditioners, where they reduce combing friction, provide an emollient effect, impart gloss and reduce static charge between hair strands. In styling products, their primary role is to add a softening effect (called plasticization) to the sometimes brittle polymers used to hold the style. Some forms have been found to aid in color retention, to boost foaming of shampoos and to enhance curl retention.

There are many different forms of silicones as the backbone lends itself to chemical modifications which can influence the final properties of the molecule. Also, the number of repeat units present in the molecule (known as the molecular weight) will affect the performance of the ingredient, depending upon the final application of the product. It should be mentioned for practitioners of the “Curly Girl method” that only the PEG-modified ones or the dimethicone copolyols are water soluble.

Read on...

Cyclomethicones: A Different Category of Silicones

Tonya McKay of NaturallyCurly writes;

Because of the high interest in silicones, we periodically take a closer look at some of the many silicones found in hair-care products. This month we’ll be looking at Cyclomethicone.
Cyclomethicone is the INCI (International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients) name for a category of silicones used in many personal-care products. Cyclopentsiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane, and cyclohexasiloxane are also designations for the same class of molecules. In contrast with linear silicones such as dimethicone, these molecules have a cyclic, or ring-like architecture comprised of only four to six repeat units of the dialkyl siloxane group. These are much smaller molecules than the polymeric silicones, such as polydimethyl siloxane (dimethicone) which may have hundreds of thousands of siloxane repeat units.

Cyclic silicones (or siloxanes) are frequently used as solvents for fragrance and essential oils, and also as carrier fluids for higher molecular weight silicones such as dimethicone and dimethiconol. This aids the formulator in preparing her final product because she can prepare her oil phase by combining cyclomethicone and the silicone and/or fragrance oil and add her emulsifier, prior to addition of the entire oil phase to the aqueous phase.

Cyclomethicones are also favored by formulators because they spread easily on the hair and skin, and the lubrication they provide isn’t greasy or tacky. Because of their low vapor pressure, they evaporate easily from hair or skin at room temperature, and therefore aren’t prone to build-up or an oily residue. For this reason, they are sometimes used as an additive in products such as spray leave-in conditioners to help speed drying time. Another benefit of their low vapor pressure is that it provides a way for the desired ingredients to penetrate into the hair shaft or skin. The cyclic silicone is too large to penetrate the skin or hair itself, but is small enough to dissolve the beneficial ingredient, deposit it onto the hair surface, and then evaporate, leaving behind the beneficial ingredient.

Read on...

CG Method and Natural Hair

A fellow NaturallyCurly.com forum member, and blog writer, Jillipoo, detangles the details of the CG method:


Once upon a time, a hair stylist wrote a book about how to care for curly hair. The information and guidance in the book were based mostly on her experiences with her own as well as her clients' hair. The book helped a lot of curlies, including me, and I'm forever grateful to have found it.

But let's be clear, people. It is a very big mistake to regard this book as some kind of bible.

I say this because it seems that a lot of people go to great pains to "get CG right." They agonize over whether a product is CG, ask as many CG followers as they can about the "correct" way to apply product, and they think that if they make a mistake, it's like being an alcoholic who takes a drink--and that they must "start over" again.

My view is that it's time to relax about being CG.

What is the CG method?


If you were to distill the Curly Girl book down into a few sentences (and believe me, you can), here are its tenets:
1. Avoid sulfates
2. Avoid silicones
3. Treat curly hair gently (no brushes, no rough towels, no blow-dryers)
4. Gel is your friend 5. A good conditioner contains a blend of moisturizers, protein, emollients, and humectants
5. Don't touch your hair before it's completely dry

There's also a bunch of silliness about "typing" one's hair, none of which is terribly helpful but a delightful little exercise that helps give the book some substance and allows the author to use celebrity photos to demonstrate her points. People love celebrities. So do publishers. Celebrities help make everything sell better.

The book asserts that silicones coat the hair and starve it of moisture. It goes on to say that shampoo (at least the kind that contains sulfates, which is pretty much all that existed when the author wrote the book) is what's needed to remove the silicones, but the sulfates strip hair of its natural moisture, thereby forcing us all to reach for silicones to give us the shine we crave. And hence, a heinous cycle of interdependency ensues.

And that, along with the hair typing and a plethora of curly confessions, is the sum total of the book.

Points of confusion


Sulfates
. Not all of these are created equal. What's more, not all shampoos have the same amount of them. And finally, there's not a single silicone in existence that requires the use of sulfates to remove it. Surfactants, no sulfates, are what's required to remove silicones (and most products in general). (So-called harsher sulfates include sodium laurel sulfate, sodium, laureth sulfate, and ammonium laurel sulfate. Milder surfactants that will do the job for you include sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate. Still milder are non-sulfate anionic surfactants, including sodium laurel sulfate, sodium, laureth sulfate, and ammonium laurel sulfate. Least harsh are the amphoteric surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate.)

Silicones
. These come in many guises and have many names. Some adhere to hair (dimethicone), some evaporate in a few hours (cyclomethicone), and others are extremely mild (dimethicone copolyol). Not all of them evil. In fact, many would argue that none of them are. In 2009, we have many more cleansing options than were available in 2002 when Curly Girl was written. There is no reason to be draconian in your avoidance of any ingredient ending in "cone" unless you have discovered that your hair really despises all silicones. And even if it does hate silicones, maybe if you found a way to remove them that your hair doesn't hate, that peaceful coexistence of cleansing and silicone could work for you. You never know unless you try.

Gel
. Have you ever tried using the amount of gel recommended in the book? Fuggedabowdit. I use about five times as much gel as the book would have me using. It took me a few months to figure out that the quantities (of conditioner as well as gel) Curly Girl suggests simply are too skimpy for me. And in case you haven't noticed, amazing advances have been made in the formulation of gels, and now you also need to watch for certain polyquats. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security about a gel just because it doesn't contain any 'cones. What's more, some people's hair doesn't respond at all well to some of the most common (and seemingly harmless) gel ingredients such as propylene glycol, PVP, acrylates, and others. Just because something is technically CG doesn't mean your hair will thrive with it.

Conditioner
. Another aspect of CG that required trial and error for me was conditioner selection. First, not everybody likes protein. (The author has done a rather abrupt about-face on this point herself: her products no longer contain protein and she preaches an anti-protein approach to her followers.) I adore protein and need more of it than I ever would have expected, but coarser haired curlies don't need and don't want protein. Humectants are good in theory, too, but depending on your hair's porosity and the climate you live in, you may not need humectants in the same quantities that somebody else would. Excess humectants result in frizz for some of us. So, when you read that a good conditioner must contain all these ingredients, proceed with caution because your hair may not want them all and it may not want them all in equal proportions.

How much conditioner you leave in your hair is also a huge variable among curly-headed people. Some people like to just not rinse it all out. Others like to rinse it all out and then add a bit more so they have more control. Still others use a curl creme instead of a conditioner. Some like no conditioner left in at all. You are the best judge of what your hair likes. The guidance in the book should only be used as a general suggestion about the need for curly hair to have some moisture left on it somehow. You can figure out for yourself what that moisture should look like for your hair. (And yes, figuring that out can take a while. But it's better to experiment than to blindly follow the advice of one stylist who has never seen your hair.)

Touching and being gentle. This is some of the best advice ever. Make sure your hair is totally dry before you scrunch out your crunch. It does make a world of difference! I have also found that towels with no nap make the best choices (I avoid terrycloth and even microfiber towels, which act like velcro on my hair, even when it's wet).

The Curly Girl book is a great introduction to the needs of curly hair. After you read it, loiter at the naturallycurly.com discussion boards (do NOT believe everything that's posted there, however!) to get some new insights, and read some of the blogs I've got listed in my favorites. Acquire information.

If there were one right way to handle curly hair, everybody's curly hair would be perfect and beautiful. But the sad truth is that there is no surefire way that applies to everyone's hair. All you can do is learn what you can, talk to people, and experiment. And when you experiment, you may discover a trick or two that will help someone else.

**Love this article? Find more from No-Poo Jillipoo on her BLOG!

Your Questions Answered...


Several questions came up in response to yesterday's post on silicones by our Resident Curl Chemist Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty. She addressed them in an email and I thought I'd share them with you!


Q. Okay, so I'm using silicones again... which shampoo, or better yet, which type of surfecant removes them?

A. The answer is that any shampoo can mitigate build up. Build up is a term that's been defined and redefined by the Internet and I think people are really just saying "how do I keep my hair from getting really dirty?". Answer = Wash it with shampoo!

The surfactant discussion confuses people because "sulfate-free" is a marketing term. Even if a "harsh" surfactant is used in the shampoo like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, the product maker can mix it with a really mild surfactant like Cocamidopropyl Betaine to make a gentle, but effective shampoo. Effective enough to remove excess silicone, but not so strong to strip the hair. So, you can't analyze a shampoo based on the sheer presence of the ingredient, the amount and combination of surfactants is critically important.

To give you a little more insight, my worst hair setback was caused by an organic shampoo targeted to naturals.. It is "sulfate-free" and only uses a very mild surfactant, Decyl Glucoside. The problem was that it was not pH balanced and my hair got totally stripped. Clean, clean, clean...no cones left on the strand whatsoever. And you know what? My hair looked Awful. Fly aways, feather-light, completely uncontrollable. I suddenly realized how much progress my hair had made because after one week with that shampoo, all of the progress was literally washed away.

Also, we don't want to remove all of the silicones, most silicones (amodimethicone for example) are attracted to the damaged areas of the strand (like two magnets). If it doesn't come off with shampoo, that's because the damaged area won't let it go. It is the closest thing we can get to permanent repair.

For more information on 'gentle' surfacants, see THIS ARTICLE.


Q. Which shampoos do you recommend? Nikki likes Elucence Moisture Benefits Shampoo,
CURLS Curlicious Curls Cleansing Cream, and Giovanni.

A. Those are all good. The Giovanni shampoos are all pretty similar, but Smooth as Silk looks like one of the better options there.

To assess a shampoo at a glance, see if it has more than 1 surfactant (there's usually at least 1 ingredient ending in -ate, and coco betaine). If they have a combination of surfactants and they are marketed as gentle or for curls that's a good bet. Elucence and CURLS cream stand out from Giovanni because they also contain polyquats. For all intents and purposes, polyquats are the same as silicones, but with more humidity protection. I'll definitely talk about them in the ant-frizz post coming soon! Polyquats are often used as the "conditioner" in conditioning shampoos.


Q. I've always wondered– after you seal, can you moisturize and seal again in a few days? I would think that the moisture can't get through the layer of oil on the hair.

A. Yes, you can re-moisturize after using a silicone. The water may absorb more slowly if you've used a serum, but it will still absorb, just moisturize as usual and let it be. With regard to silicone in conditioner, re-moisturizing is not affected at all. People co-wash with Herbal Essences all the time and don't worry about the silicones in that affecting their moisturizing routines. Silicones are not extra thick (serums are usually lighter than castor oil) and they are not glue-like. Most of the time you can't feel them on the hair at all, and if you do, it translates as softness.

**Got questions for Nicole? Shoot me an email [email protected] and use 'Nicole the Chemist' as the subject line!**

In the meantime, check out her site Hair Liberty for more information!

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