Hair Product Ingredients De-Mystified! What they do and how they work.
Have you ever looked at the back of your shampoo/conditioner/styling product and wondered what all of those words on the ingredients list mean? And what they are actually doing to your hair and scalp? Here we de-mystify some of the most commonly used product ingredients.
SILICONES: Over half of all hair and skin products contain silicones. When used correctly, silicones work very well. They can be excellent emollients, softeners and protectors. However, their use in shampoos should be kept to a minimum. Look at your shampoo label carefully and either do not use one containing silicone or make sure that it is far down on the ingredient list. It is also important not to put too much of a product containing silicone on your hair when styling. This can give you something Philip calls ‘silicone burn’ – an unpleasant brittleness of the hair.
Other names: Amino bispropyl dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Behenoxy dimethicone, Cyclomethicone-Mimethicone, Cyclopentasilaxane, Dimethicone, Dimethiconal, Phenyl Dimethicone, Phenyl Trimethicone (gives shine), Phenylpropyl Dimethicone.
ANTI-OXIDANTS: Are used to inhibit oxidation, which causes colour changes and rancidity in products.
ANTI-STATICS: Reduces your hair’s static charge. They work by neutralising electrical charges your hair gathers from environmental sources or products.
BOTANICALS: Are extracted from plants through various chemical and physical processes. There are a large number of botanicals, but not that many are used in hair products. And when there are, it is in very small quantities. Their appearance on a label usually means that the manufacture is trying to appeal to your ‘green’ leaning. However, these products often will have extra preservatives, which almost defeats the purpose. Some botanicals, such as witch hazel, capsicum, camphor, cloves, eucalyptus and other essential oils, can be very beneficial in certain circumstances.
BUFFERS: Are used to maintain the PH balance (acidity/alkalinity) of your product. Although they do not necessarily affect the behaviour of your hair, they can affect the way your product looks.
COUPLING AGENTS: These help to make ingredients more soluble and easier to mix/emulsify. Many ingredients are chemically or physically incompatible, but some manufacturers still combine them for specific reasons.
DENATURANTS: Used to make some alcohol-containing products unfit and unpleasant to drink.
DETERGENTS: The mere name, somehow or other, has become synonymous with ‘strong, drying, lethal-for-hair, should only be used for dishwashing or laundry’. Detergents, however, are defined as purifying or cleansing agents. They cleanse the hair by emulsifying oils and suspending dirt particles in your hair and this allows them to be rinsed away!
FIXATIVES: These are not hair fixatives. They ‘fix’ or set fragrances and perfumes in a product, giving products a long-lasting aroma.
For more information on ingredients, their names, and what they do, take a look at Philip Kingsley: The Hair Bible - A complete guide to preserving and enhancing the health and appearance of your hair.