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Hair Care Ingredients 101
Silk Protein--My first encounter with silk protein in a hair product was probably 8 years ago. The product (now discontinued) quickly became my favorite. After using it, I would always notice how soft and yes, silky, my hair was. What I didn^t realize was that this silk protein was also providing my hair with resiliency. I am a teacher by trade and I was going over an article with some students in reading class about nature. One section was about spiders and the silk they spin. It said that scientists believe that a strand of silk the width of a pencil would be strong enough to stop a large airliner in flight! My brain began to make a connection between that information and the hair products I encountered that had silk protein in them. Another little story: Years ago, I sat in a college chemistry course, and the professor began to talk about the structure of hair and the differences in the chemical make up of naturally straight hair versus naturally textured hair. He talked about how straight hair didn^t have as many disulphide bonds as curly hair. He said that these bonds were made up of an amino acid called cysteine. He then went on to say that chemical straighteners work by eliminating some of these bonds. It was all fascinating talk to me! A couple of years later, I started using a hair conditioner that contained hydrolyzed protein. The conditioner bottle actually explained that the hydrolyzed protein contained amino acids, one of them being cysteine and the big light bulb in my head got really bright! I made the connection that any hair that is chemically processed NEEDS protein. This even applies to hair that is chemically processed into a curly state, because the bonds of the hair must still be broken before it can be formed into chemically induced curls. Hair that comes in contact with heating appliances also needs protein, because heating appliances also break bonds in the hair. Silk protein and keratin are great for adding cysteine back to the hair. Human hair is made of keratin. Silk protein closely resembles keratin protein (read below), but silk found in hair products is somewhat gentler on hair than keratin in hair products. What I now know about silk protein, from personal experience and research, is that it is a superb ingredient for the care and health of hair. *It closely resembles (under X-ray) the structure of human hair.*It binds and retains moisture.*It softens, silkens, and shines hair.*It strengthens and protects hair fibers.*It increases pliability of hair.*It increases hair^s ability to withstand stress by promoting elasticity.Silk amino acids are a key component to many products in this line. Silk amino acids are silk proteins broken down into small enough units to be beneficial to your hair.
Other Hair Care Ingredients
stearalkonium chloride--increases manageability, has anti-static properties
behentrimonium methosulfate--increases manageability, has anti-static properties, adds body to hair
cetyl alcohol--fatty alcohol
cetearyl alcohol--fatty alcohol
jojoba oil--excellent all-around, great for conditioning between shampoo/conditioning sessions, perfect for smoothing air-dried hair, makes a nice flat iron "serum", one of the few oils that can moisturize hair, composition is similar to the natural sebum produced by our scalp (and skin); I have found organic jojoba to be silkier than non-organic
shea butter--softening and moisturizing, has healing, protective, and reparative properties for hair; does have the potential to build up, more so with leave-in products but also with rinse-out products, remedy by using clarifying shampoo when build-up is noticed
avocado oil (and butter)--conditioning and softening, always makes my hair feel wonderful, use between shampoos for added benefit
apricot kernel oil--great softening, one of the few oils with molecules small enough to penetrate and moisturize hair
wheat protein--moisturizing, protecting, and moisture-binding
carboxylic acid/stearic acid--helps broken down proteins bind to hair and once the proteins are attached to the hair they help hold moisture in
honey--humectant, attracts moisture to hair
honeyquat--humectant, attracts moisture to hair
glycerin--humectant, attracts moisture to hair
Other proteins, briefly--collagen (great for elasticity), milk protein (great for moisture & softness), keratin protein/amino acids(major reconstructive protein, the same protein our hair is made of; silk is very similar but gives a silky and moisturizing quality to hair that keratin doesn^t)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------NOT SO FAVORITE INGREDIENTS
I^m not a fan of silicones in most products. However, on rare occasion I do use conditioners containing amodimethicone or phenyl trimethicone. These have some degree of solubility in water, and therefore don^t build up on hair as quickly as other silicones. Silicones are notorious for causing quick build up on the hair. This keeps moisture OUT of the hair. I really have a problem with silicones in hair products when I see them second, third, fourth, fifth (early) in the ingredient list. That means the product is mostly silicone. Silicone makes hair FEEL great, especially conditioners with silicone. But hair isn^t receiving many benefits from the product when silicone is high on the ingredient list. They do make hair manageable and wet hair manageability is important, but there are other products that can provide this without silicone. Watch out for cyclopentasiloxane. It^s a silicone even though it doesn^t have ^cone^ in the name. I^m more lenient concerning silicones in products like shine sprays and serums. But in products that are supposed to condition hair, I^d rather go coneless.
I can take or leave mineral oil. It doesn^t do a whole bunch for the hair, but I can^t say it does anything harmful either. I usually won^t purchase products with mineral oil, but there are times when I won^t pass up a product that is full of great ingredients that also happens to contain mineral oil.
Isopropyl Alcohol, Propyl Alcohol, Ethyl Alcohol, SD Alcohol, Denatured Alcohol
Besides holding sprays, I don^t understand what place these drying alcohols have in hair products. There are other alcohols you might see in products such as cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol. These are fatty, emollient alcohols. We like these. :D