Hair Product Ingredients De-mystified Part II
Hair product ingredients lists can be daunting and confusing to read. But most of the time those eye-crossingly long words fall into a few simple categories. In Part II of Hair Product Ingredients De-mystified we help you better understand what’s in your shampoos, conditioners and styling aids.
Laminates: These basically give your hair gloss and shine. Laminates are a new name as a concept, but are really leave-in conditioners that give extra sheen. Their active ingredients are mostly silicones, often with multiple combinations of them. Because laminates contain silicones, they are most effective when used sparingly. A small amount used on damp or dry hair spreads easily, and will give your hair a lovely sheen. But overuse can make your hair heavy and greasy looking. To learn more about silicones, please read Part One of Hair Product Ingredients De-mystified.
Mud and Waxes: Are mostly used by men and women with shorter styles for a fixed and spikey look. Muds and waxes are based on the old-fashioned pomades and are oily waxes (the old moustache wax used to twist long moustaches into shape was similar!) But now they have the addition of silicones with a variety of other ingredients. These include polymers, which are heavy thickening agents. Fixatives include PVP, Acrylamides, Acrylates, Butyle Esters, Karayagum, and Copolymers. The higher up on the ingredients list these are, the more fixative the mud/wax will be.
Dispersants: Often used to stabilize a suspension or dispersion of an ingredient that doesn’t dissolve. Dispersants keep the ingredients in a hair product separated, but evenly mixed into the smallest possible parts throughout the product.
Foaming Agents: Psychologically, good lather or foam is essential for a shampoo. But it doesn’t necessarily add to the cleansing effect. Some excellent shampoos produce little lather. As long as there are enough bubbles to lift the dirt from your hair and allow it to be rinsed away, then the shampoo will have cleaned your hair. There are three types of foaming agents – foam boosters enhance the quantity and quality of lather; foam stabilizers decrease the tendency of bubbles to disappear and foamers simply produce foam – an emulsion of air in water. Foaming agents also include detergents, emulsifiers and surfactants. A surfactant lowers the surface tension between two or more substances, enabling them to be emulsified and form a foam.
Plasticizers: Make film-forming ingredients more flexible and softer. They are also used to denature alcohol (methyl), making it unfit to drink!
Moisturizers: Increase the moisture content of your skin and hair. Water is in fact your hairs most natural hydrator! Moisturizers add softness and control to frizzy hair.
Vitamins: Some products contain vitamins as a marketing gimmick. There is no evidence to our knowledge, or any true scientific data to support the claims that they are absorbed into the hair. But they may be used to coat or smooth the hair shaft. Vitamins, like proteins, are best for you when eaten!
For more information on ingredients, their names, and what they do, take a look at Philip Kingsley: The Hair Bible – A complete guide to keeping your hair and scalp healthy, beautiful and at their best.