Spend some time learning the chemistry behind the products you use every day.
Walking through Target yesterday, I was struck by the truly incredible amount of hair products they carry — six aisles full! And even though there are products for every hair type and texture imaginable, it seems like each year more and more curl-specific products appear on the shelves.
While admiring all my options for new shampoo, I counted 37 curl-specific products before the guy who was stocking the shelves started to look at me funny. And those 37 products don’t count the ones that treat the “symptoms” of curly hair! Tons of products say they’ll increase moisture, reduce frizz, and even “weather proof” your hair.
To the dismay of my hairdresser, who swears I’d have better hold if I just added some hairspray and a diffuser to the mix, I’m completely attached to the styling product I use. (I’m at college so the fewer products I have to schlep to my floor’s shared bathroom, the better.) While I refuse to relinquish my favorite styling product, I change my shampoo and conditioner almost every time I finish a bottle.
And that’s what had brought me to Target. I was fresh out of conditioner, which is up there with “out of deodorant” for reasons to head to the store ASAP. Since I fit the stereotypical “broke teenager/college student” mold, I want to get good quality hair products without spending an arm and a leg. So how do I know I know that what I’m spending my money on is “the good stuff?” When I got home I decided to explore this site and see what I can find to help me out.
I decided to start by picking up my empty bottle of conditioner, flipping it over and taking a good long look at the ingredients. Wow, they have some weird names: Cylopentasiloxane, hydroexythylcellulose. Some ingredients sound weird but really are pretty mundane. Tocopheryl Acetate is a scientific term for Vitamin E, and Aloe Berbadensis is Aloe Vera.
The CurlChemist column on this site is a great place to start when you’re wondering about a particular ingredient in your shampoo or conditioner. Tonya’s columns can be found by searching the name of her column in “search” box in the upper right hand corner of the webpage. Most of the top 10 ingredients in my conditioner were addressed in one of Tonya’s columns. Reading her columns, I learned that Propylene Glycol (the seventh ingredient in my conditioner) is a humectant, which means it promotes the retention of moisture in your hair. This lead me to investigate her article about humectants, where I learned that they are especially effective in protecting your hair in very low humidity. But allowing too much moisture into your hair in high humidity makes it look rough.
As curly girls, we’re taught to “condition, condition, condition,” but depending on where you live there may be such a thing as too much moisture! I really enjoyed delving into the chemistry behind the products I use every day. The CurlChemist column is a great resource for those who want to know how to best care for their hair.
I’m familiar with the ingredients that are in my food, so why should the ingredients in my conditioner be a mystery?
Email your questions/comments to Julia.