Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Conditioners: Humectants and frizz

I'm of the firm belief that humectants are a girl's best friend. They draw water from the atmosphere to our hair or skin to moisturize them. We use them pretty much every product we make - if possible - but some people are wary about using humectants in hair care products.

Humectants can be amazing inclusions in hair care products to help moisturize our hair without the use of oils. If you have dry hair, you know the value of more moisture. If you have oily hair, you know the value of moisturizing without oils. But if you're a frizzy haired girl, you probably avoid humectants at all costs because our hair doesn't absorb water uniformly, leading to the poofy poodle look!

Everyone can use humectants in their products - it's all about the dosage. Panthenol is a great ingredient for everyone's hair, and using it at 2% will offer you so many amazing benefits without tons of poofiness. Low molecular proteins like silk will penetrate your hair shaft to offer moisturizing from within and can behave as humectants (more about this in this next few days, or click on the link). Aloe vera can offer film forming and hygroscopic properties, but the frizzy girls might want to use it at 5% or less.

If you're buying hair care products, the amount of aloe vera you'll find is very small, probably not enough to actually do anything for your hair. You need at least 10% to make any difference to the moisturization of your hair and scalp. I know a lot of people avoid aloe vera in hair care products - in commercial products, it's probably a lot of work to avoid it for what probably isn't a big difference in your hair.

I've seen people avoiding glycerin in shampoo because of the belief that at certain humidities, the glycerin will suck the water out of your hair. There's not enough water in your hair - it'll go for the environmental water as it's simply easier to get that than to go to all the trouble of working on the moisture in your hair! We find glycerin in shampoo as both a humectant and a bubble enhancer, and the amount found is fairly low - probably less than 3% - and there'll be less than that left after you rinse. You may find glycerin in your rinse off or leave-in conditioners, where it will act as a humectant to offer extra moisturization without oils.

If you can find some information on humectants drawing water out of your skin instead of drawing water to it, please provide me with links or citations. I have found tables of water binding ability of various humectants showing that glycerin increases in its water binding abilities as humidity increases and decreases, but I've not been able to find that glycerin will draw water from your skin or hair. As my charts only go to 31% humidity, there may be more information out there and I'd love to see where this idea originates.

Sodium lactate and sodium PCA are awesome humectants, but they will wash off when you rinse your hair. When you see sodium lactate in shampoo or conditioner bars, they are there as bar hardeners.

If you're a dry haired girl, feel free to add 3% glycerin to any of the rinse off conditioner recipes you see on this blog in place of 3% water. I think everyone should add 2% panthenol to the cool down phase of their conditioner recipes - if I haven't included it, feel free to add it and remove 2% water in the water phase. And adding 10% aloe instead of water can help with moisturization as well!

Have fun formulating!


kontakt said...

I don't have any sources... what people in my nick of the woods tend to say, is that if you add more than a certain amount of glycerin - 5%, or possibly up to 15% - then it will suck water molecules from the hair cortex, to the humectant itself, which I assume is sitting on the outside of the hair, and from there it might leave the hair altogether. Both Swedish suppliers of cosmetic ingredients says "studies shows that..." but they don't say what studies, by whom.

Lots of people here percieve 5% as some kind of magical border that should not be passed. I have had my doubts and tried putting at least 15-25% glycerin in conditioners. Since I am a CO-er I massage my scalp with the conditioner too, and this much glycerin makes my scalp itch. My hair looked good, though. (I don't understand why people are so cautios about glycerin but not other humectants. I suppose they should all work in the same way.)

Anyhow, unless the data my suppliers refer to are invented or badly cited (which they very well might be), they should cover high amounts of glycerin combined with low levels of humidity in the air.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks, kontakt, but this is kinda my point. I keep hearing things like "everybody says..." but no one knows where it originates. And if glycerin behaves this way, it makes sense the other humectants should behave the same way, but no one says we shouldn't be using a certain amount of olive oil or honeyquat in drier environments. I'm starting to think this might be one of those things that everybody knows, but no one can cite studies or actual sources....

kontakt said...

I realised that was your point, yes. I just figured I might have a clue for continued search, if someone feels like performing it. Many of the things that "everyone knows" has some truth deep down although distorted.

Fire Fox said...

Frizzy hair is not a hair type, I assume you mean wavy/ curly. Frizz is just waves or curls that have been subjected to the wrong products or haircare techniques. I appreciate you don't mean anything by it but subtly negative comments like that help perpetuate the myth that wavy/ curly hair is always poufy or frizzy and needs hardcore 'taming' (AKA straightening) to make it pretty.

Plenty of curly girls use humectants to tame pouf and frizz depending on the dew point and the porosity of their hair, also to help the hair hold moisture. Ingredients commonly found in curly hair products or used in DIY include glycerin, aloe, honey and propylene glycol.

You may find the 'Curl Chemist' Tonya McKay's articles on Naturallycurly interesting, see what ingredients are relevant to us curly girls.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi FireFox. I'm a frizzy haired girl, not a curly girl. My hair hasn't been subjected to the wrong techniques or products and it isn't curly - it's frizzy. It absorbs water causing the hair shaft to swell, which causes the frizz. It is not curly hair and I do not benefit from the suggested ways of treating that hair type. I have no idea where you arrived at the idea that I suggest any type of straightening or "taming" because I don't advocate either, although I'm not really sure what you mean by taming. I suggest using anti-frizz products to keep one's hair from being too poofy. (I have a feeling you've only ever read this post or very few posts on the blog based on a few of your assumptions. I encourage you to read further to get a sense of my writing style and philosophy.)

If a frizzy haired girl wants to use humectants, that's her choice, but they aren't advised for our hair type at all. Using these ingredients can cause damage to the hair strand that can lead to breakage. If you look at any product intended for frizz, you will see a dearth of the ingredients you mention. They are counter indicated for frizzy hair due this hair shaft swelling, which leads to increased friction and damage. Humectants are not a frizzy girl's best friend!

Frizzy hair is not curly hair, so the suggested methods I have found in my research for caring for it are quite different than what you suggest. I appreciate the suggestion to read the Curl Chemist. I shall take a look at her writing. My information cam be found in a few different textbooks, including the Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology. I wold be happy to send along the posts in which I reference my sources if you are interested. Thanks for writing!

SarahB said...

What a great blog! You write well, you are funny, you are generous with your knowledge, open minded, and best of all, you provide detailed accurate information. I love you! Thank you for writing about frizz taming products! I have wavy, gray, dry, virgin, frizzy hair that is best described as "crazy cat lady hair." I live in a very humid climate and my scalp itches at the least provocation. Virgin coconut oil will make my scalp itch - lots of other things too. So i decided to try formulating a conditioner using your recipes. My first try at a conditioner used your "intense conditioner" recipe, leaving out the glycerin as not appropriate for frizzy hair. It worked pretty well, but I still have lots of frizz. i wonder about not including the glycerin. For years, glycerin has been my anti frizz weapon. I rub a little on my hands and smooth it on, and it works better than the expensive anti frizz serums. I think i'll try making a silicon spray, and try tweaking the conditioner too - maybe with the glycerin in?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sarah! If it works for you, then use it! For every ingredient that doesn't work for someone, it works for someone else. I definitely encourage you to add silicones to your products as they will de-frizz and add shine like crazy!

SarahB said...

It took a few months, but I finally got some cyclomethicone and IncroquatCR. Now that I have all the ingredients for the intense hair conditioner recipe it came out great! I think my mistake was to assume that dimethicone was the important anti frizz element, and that cyclomethicone was less important, since it's more of a spreader / fragrance depositor and that I could leave it out. I also made the anti frizz silicone serum - that was ridiculously easy to make, and came out great, makes curly hair shiny and keeps the frizz down for one day. I think I will try to adjust some percentages in the conditioner recipe for more anti frizz. Probably not the oils - they make my hair lovely and soft, but still frizzy. Maybe the silicones...