Hair Product Ingredients: Who Do You Trust?

2011-12-06 09:32:28

Hair Product Ingredients: Who Do You Trust?

How to find reliable, accurate scientific information about ingredients in hair products.

What are the Resources?

As you can see, cosmetics chemistry is an extremely complex field. Billions of dollars are poured into research and development annually. However, for multiple reasons, the dissemination of information to the public is somewhat limited.

In this extremely profit-driven industry, much of the work done is with the specific purpose of creating a competitive market advantage. For this reason, the industry is extremely protective of its proprietary knowledge and resists publication of its findings. Also, a common complaint within the industry (especially in the United States and Europe) is that the scientists are highly focused on the creation of profitable products, which often leaves them little time for novel studies, experimenting with newer, more expensive raw materials, or writing academic papers.

Fortunately, there are papers being published, both by scientists here and internationally. Also, information about hair product ingredients can be obtained from a variety of other sources, such as patents, corporate literature, and trade journals. There is also the current trend of scientists or science-minded people who post blogs, columns (such as this one), and websites devoted to providing complex information in a readily-accessible format.

A Sampling of Relevant Academic Publications

Industry Specific Publications

  • Journal of Cosmetics Science (peer reviewed and published by the Society of Cosmetics Chemists)
  • Happi (trade journal, but good resource for finding about new patents and new ingredients)
  • Cosmetics & Toiletries (excellent source with a general survey of current trends in the industry)


These are often an excellent source of information regarding ingredients and finished goods, and also processes.

PhD Dissertations

These often contain a wealth of material, if one wants in-depth information on one topic.

Internet "Experts"

There are a number of blogs, websites, and columns devoted to educating the consumer about skin care and hair product ingredients. Generally, these are people with a passion for cosmetics science and solid backgrounds in relevant areas. It is important to remember though that in addition to their strengths and expertise, they all bring to the table their own personal biases and weaknesses. No single person can know it all.

When evaluating the credibility and reliability of information, it is imperative to utilize multiple sources. This will help you identify potential problems with information, give you comfort with consistency of information, or perhaps yield insight as to areas of controversy or hypothesis in the field.

Want More?

Tonya McKay, NaturallyCurly's own CurlChemist, publishes once a month. Follow her columns and get your curly scientific advice right here!

Final Thoughts

Just remember, skepticism is good. In this age where we are inundated with "facts," discernment is our best ally. A PhD does not guarantee that a person can tell you what is right for you, with your unique hair, weather, water, and preferences. As one poster very wisely advised, trust your own experiences. When it comes to your hair, there really is no better expert than you.


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Tonya McKay

Tonya McKay

Tonya McKay Becker is a curly-haired polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist whose academic and industrial research experience have provided her with expertise in the fundamentals and applications of polymer science and colloid chemistry. She has long had a fascination with the structure-property relationships of the complex solutions used in hair and skin care products, and how they interact with and impact these remarkable biological substrates. Ever curious, Tonya has dedicated herself for more than a decade to honing her expertise on the science of curly hair, how it differs from straight hair, and how product ingredients used on curly hair affect its health and beauty. Her passion for sharing this knowledge with others has led to her current career of educating people from all backgrounds who share an interest in this exciting field.

Good article, and a timely read!