Remember—a little Dippity-do gives you a lot of hold.
In the beginning, there was wax.
Not the modern-day waxes found in hip tins stacked on salon shelves. These were waxy, soap-like substances invented thousands of years ago by the ancient Gauls to style their hair.
People have been experimenting with natural compounds to hold their hair in place since antiquity. Thanks to technology, the offerings available today are dramatically different than the gums, clays and shellacs once used to hold hair in place.
"Now, with products like Hercut Curly Catalyst, there's a lot of movement, softer hair and more control," says Maria Laguardia, senior vice president of product development of Hercut, who has spent more than a decade developing products for haircare and skincare companies. "The raw material companies come up with new polymers, and it's our job as product developers to design technologies that are new and different and do what they say they'll do."
At Hercut, the motto is "if it's not innovative, it's not launching."
"We think long and hard about every new product, with lots of testing," she says. "If it's been done, we're not going to make it."
Laguardia reflected on some of the most significant innovations in styling products—from film-formers to macromolecules.
"Innovation is available to all of us," Laguardia says. "The mastery of your chemist is knowing how to put all the right ingredients together."
Although styling products have been around in some form for hundreds of years, modern-day styling products got their start with the creation of resins and fixatives—products like Dippity-Do—a thick, translucent setting gel created by the Gillette Company."Remember—a little Dippity-do gives you a lot of hold," read the original label.
Frizz-Ease by John Frieda
While these products were a major advance, they often created a "helmet-head," and they often contained a lot of drying alcohol.
"They controlled the hair, but they weren't touchable or pleasant," Laguardia says.
Film Formers: Gels began to evolve in the '70s and '80s thanks to the creation of film formers created by companies like ISP, Dow Corning and Croda.
Hair fixative polymers such as polyquaterniums generally function by forming films that spot-weld and seam-weld the hair in the desired style. These tiny welds suffer enormous stresses due to the natural movement of the hair. Therefore, resilient, tough polymeric materials are required for this purpose.
"Imagine Seran Wrap shrinking tightly around each hair," Laguardia explains. "These polymers are ultra-lightweight and completely shiny."
In recent years, more modern polymers have emerged that are based on a resin, but are more lightweight.
Glycerin: Glycerin is a coveted ingredient when it comes to feeding our curls the moisture they crave. Glycerin is a sweet-tasting, colorless, thick liquid that comes from animal or vegetable fats in the soap-making process. Most beauty products now use the vegetable source as the emollient. Glycerin is one of those ingredients that plays well with others and can also fairly easily be compounded in most products.
Silicones: The 1980s also saw the development of silicone by Dow Corning. These silicones played a major role in product development for curlier, kinkier textures, providing the ability to condition, soften and manage the hair as well as to add shine. The amino-functional polymers and fluid emulsion silicone forms first appeared in products such as John Frieda Frizz-Ease and Pert Plus.
More recently, silicone elastomer dispersions were introduced to the market and gave formulators the ability to create new types of products. Today, silicones are found in all types of personal care products, and are available in a wide variety of formulas, including lightweight varieties that flash-off with heat.
Hair Mousse—not related to Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Hair Mousse: Hair mousse first hit the scene in the mid-1980s, with the creation of Free Hold by L'Oreal. Although many mousses were designed to create volume, they provided curlies with a lighter, softer hold. Water and alcohol are typically the primary ingredients of mousses, although additional ingredients may include polymers, oils or smoothing agents such as dimethicone.
Aerosol mousses hold the liquid contained inside under pressure. When released, the liquid reacts with the air and is no longer under pressure, creating a foaming action. Non-aerosol forms typically utilize a specialized dispenser that encourages the foaming action when released into the hand.
Products specifically for curly hair: Curly Queen Ouidad is credited with first creating products for curly hair, with the creation of her Deep Treatment. The evolution of curly hair products got a boost in the 1987, when Bob Salem, then brand manager for L'Oreal's new Pumping Curls Line, walked into a Duane Read Drug store. Salem overheard a conversation among two women discussing their hair, with the curly-haired customer lamenting the fact that there were no styling products designed for her curls.
"This reality and marketing insight led to the creation of the Pumping Curls brand product and benefits never before experienced," Salem says.
From Pumping Curls, Salem discovered that there were many curl styling needs for girls—and guys—with curls, and soon he developed the Studio Line Gelling Curls, Springing Curls and Curly Mousse.
Salem, creator of the Hercut line, now is working on a new generation of curl styling products designed to style curly haircuts.
Check out other HerCut products here.
Macromolecules: Salem and Laguardia designed their own macromolecules for the new Hercut Curly Bob and Curly Long Layers Catalyst styling products using molecules and polymers. A macromolecule is a very large molecule, which helps provide the functions need to support different haircuts. Each Catalyst contains a gel-like component and a cream component that combine to control, repair and smooth the hair. Curly Catalyst Bob contains the Elevate-Ion Polymer, a macromolecule that wraps around the hair like a corkscrew.
"When the hair and polymer starts to dry, the hair springs up," Laguardia says.
The Long Layers Curly Catalyst contains the Attract-Ion Polymer, a macromolecule that creates a mesh-like matrix that provides control.
"The curl looks more cohesive rather than frizzy," she says. "With this technology, you have control in the hair, but it's touchable."
Laguardia believes the future holds great possbility for new, innovative styling products.
"We'll see softer hair and more control with lots of movement and fluidity—even with hairspray," she says. "We're continuing to move that way at Hercut. We want the hair to look alive. There's a lot of opportunity."