Ingredients for Healthiest Hair
What is in the conditioner you use on your hair? Do you choose your conditioner by how it makes your hair feel, or do you look for ingredients which will help improve your hair’s health, texture, structure, moisture and shine? Both are important.
I study ingredients that improve hair strength, texture, moisture retention and elasticity and are proven to be non-toxic.
Here is my short list of favorite ingredients. Most of these are included in my own conditioning hair cleanser.
1. BTMS which is a combination of Behentrimonium Methosulfate (which is not a detergent or sulfate, despite its name) and Cetearyl Alcohol. BTMS is a conditioning compound that has myriad positive effects for your hair. It has a positive charge which helps it to stick to our negatively charged hair adding substance to fine hair. It mimics hair’s natural lipids in the hair cuticle (outside) which helps to lock moisture as well as strengthen the hair by “gluing” the cuticle scales together and flat – which also imparts substantial shine. BTMS helps to give hair a slippery feel, making it easier to comb for many users.
2 Panthenol. This vitamin B 5 derivative acts as a humectant – binding water molecules from the atmosphere to the hair adding moisture. Panthenol itself creates a smooth film on top of hair, giving it extra sheen and slip.
3. Avocado Oil has high penetration of hair shaft making hair stronger and lubricated. It protects hair from environmental pollutants and stimulates growth. It is also high in antioxidants to keep scalp healthy.
4. Raw Honey – a great humectant and light cleanser. Raw honey is packed with nutrients to benefit your hair and scalp.
5. Hydrolyzed Protein. Protein molecules are too large to benefit our hair when applied topically – like in a conditioner. Protein needs to be hydrolyzed, which means broken down in a chemical reaction with water molecules. The result are smaller protein molecules that can be absorbed by the hair. Different hydrolyzed protein have different properties, so it may help to experiment with products which have individual proteins to determine what works best for your hair. Hydrolyzed proteins that have been proven beneficial to hair are the following:
• Hydrolyzed wheat protein increases hair’s ability to retain moisture, adds volume, and reduces porosity and increases smoothness.
• Hydrolyzed silk protein Because silk is among the strongest natural fibers known, it significantly improves hairs elasticity, resiliency and increases shine because it forms a crystalline protective barrier on hair.
• Hydrolyzed soy protein increases hair’s ability to hold moisture while adding shine and smoothness. This protein can strengthen and mend the hair fibers.
• Hydrolyzed keratin protein revitalizes hair’s natural protective layer while rebuilding strength and increasing elasticity. Damages from harsh chemicals can be significantly reduced. Hair is made from keratin protein, so many believe that this protein may be superior to others.
Look at the ingredients list on your conditioner and cleanser bottles. The ingredients listed first are those which the product has highest concentration. Look for these ingredients in the first quarter of the ingredients list.
ANATOMY OF HEALTHY HAIR
I am a huge proponent of conditioning hair cleansers, or, as the Wen product calls them, cleansing conditioners. I personally use only non-lathering conditioning hair cleansers instead of traditional hair shampoos and recommend the same to all my friends. Scientific evidence reinforces the benefits of using non-lathering, detergent free cleansers. Here is why:
Our hair is healthier and looks more beautiful when the outer layer of each strand is intact. Called the cuticle, the outer layer surrounds and protects the hair cortex – which is the middle, bulkier portion of each hair strand. The cuticle is made up of multiple layers of overlapping protein “scales” that look like shingles on a roof, or scales on a fish. Like roof shingles these protein scales are most effective when they lay flat, all in the same direction.
The scales are held together by a lipid (fatty/oily substance) scientists have labelled 18-MEA. The 18-MEA lipid acts as “cement” keeping the scales properly aligned and sealed together so that they protect the inner part of hair. A healthy amount of 18-MEA keeps hair healthy by repelling water from entering the cortex. When water is easily able to infiltrate the inner hair shaft, hair becomes weak and damaged. Maintaining a strong well-sealed cuticle is vital to the health and look of hair.
The 18-MEA lipid is also crucial in making hair look shiny and vibrant as the lipid itself creates shine, and, because it smooths and seals the scales of the cuticle to lie flat and reflect light better – more shine.
Washing hair with detergent shampoo breaks down the 18-MEA lipids by bonding to them and flushing them away. While it is good that cleansers bind with excess grease and grime in your hair and whisk it away, -strong detergent and sulfate shampoos also bind to and remove natural lipids that are necessary for healthy beautiful hair. The result is a disruption of the smooth line up of cuticle and less of the shine-enhancing natural lipid that bind the scales together. Styling hair with heat and chemicals further break down the lipid layer. Damaged hair is more vulnerable to further damage – it has a cumulative effect. This is why it is a MUST to keep your hair healthy in the first place.
Because of the vital importance of the natural 18-MEA lipids in the cuticle of hair, detergent shampoos degrade the exterior structure of hair making it dull and weak. Non-lathering detergent free conditioning hair cleansers, keep lipids and cuticle intact and are a HUGE benefit for maintaining and achieving beautiful and healthy hair.
A Better Way to Clean Your Hair
I use only conditioning hair cleansers to clean my hair. They truly are a superior way to clean hair – far better for hair and scalp, on a daily basis, than regular shampoo. Although, once a month or so, I will use a foaming shampoo with sulfates, like Pantene Damage Detox to lift any excess residual proteins, dimethicone, or natural oils. The key here is the word “excess.” Conditioning agents like proteins, dimethicone and oils are very good for hair and keep a healthy moisture barrier on the scalp – all very important for healthy (and healthy-looking) hair. But once in a while I like to “strip” most of these conditioning agents away with regular shampoo, so that I can start fresh. Below is the hair cleanser I use.
The Wen cleansing conditioners are good too; however, there is a class action lawsuit against the company due to alleged hair loss from several hundred users.