I recently modified my hair care regimen and the results blew my mind. There was an incredible softness to my hair that I had never really experienced. My hair is not usually soft at all. So you understand my delight. And all from adding in one, relatively inexpensive products. And what was it?
Given all of the rules, regulations and restrictions of natural hair care, if you’re one of those women who has been taught and believes that glycerin dries out your hair and makes it hard then you probably should stop reading this article. Or maybe you should continue – to discover that truth, that is.
If your hair is incredibly dry and brittle then you’ll definitely want to keep reading.
Stop hating glycerin
I’ll never really understand why anti-glycerin campaigns are common among some naturals. You’ll read the blogs and view the videos of some women who state that glycerin shouldn’t be used or to look for products that are glycerin free and all sorts of “interesting” information.
And while I completely understand that each person’s hair is different and requires specific types of ingredients and products to look and feel it’s best, all hair types have one specific requirement that is a foundational requirement to looking and feeling its best: moisture.
If you hair is not “moist” then it’s dry, brittle, breaking, flaking. You name it, your hair experiences it when it’s not properly hydrated. A key set of ingredients in getting your hair to be moisturized is to humectants.
Why you need humectants
Humectants are used in hair and skin care products to promote moisture retention. They have the wonderful ability to attract water from the atmosphere. Many different molecules have the ability to be effective humectants and how well they do this depends on how many water-loving sites they contain for hydrogen bonding with water molecules. The strength of this bonding between the humectants and water improves moisture retention by slowing down water loss due to evaporation. Because of their water-binding abilities, humectants are ideal for dry, thirsty hair. That was so nice, I’ll state it twice.
Because of their water-binding abilities, humectants are ideal for dry, thirsty hair.
Humectants can be a curly girl’s best friend or worst enemy depending on the situation so you need to know when and how to use them. The most important influence of how humectants will behave in your hair is the climate.
While the topic can be quite complicated it’s important to note that for the sake of hair care and the use of humectants, there are two main weather conditions: low humidity and high humidity.
Low humidity conditions are those such as cold, dry winter air. In this case, if you use products that contain a lot of humectants, there is not a lot of water in the air for the humectants to attract to the surface of your hair. What can occur is that the humectants in your products may prevent the evaporation of water from the hair into the air. Ultra-moisturized hair from humectant use alone in this type of climate isn’t going to happen. In fact there is a chance that humectants may remove moisture from the cortex of the hair into the air. Moisture will move from areas of high concentration (in this case the hair) to areas of lower concentration – the air! This can result in dry, icky feeling hair. Not cool! Don’t panic. Humectants are still necessary but you’ll need to add something extra to ensure your hair lock in moisture as long as possible and feels soft and moisturized. You’ll need to use an oil to seal.
With high humidity conditions such as warm or hot summer air, there can often be a lot of moisture in the air. Some moisture is good; a lot of moisture – not so much. If your textured hair is dry, damaged and overly porous it can absorb a lot of water from the air. This can lead to swelling of the hair shaft, lifting of the cuticle, tangling and frizz. Combine this situation with a product that is high in humectants (especially glycerin) and you have a situation where a lot of water is attracted to the surface of the hair. This can lead to hair that always feels wet, takes forever to dry and is a sticky, tangled mess. In other words, cotton candy hair. Not hot at all! Again there is a way to tame the frizz.
Here is a list of several different types of humectants found in skin and hair care products.
- Propylene glycol
- Agave nectar
- Sodium PCA
- Sodium lactate
- Hydrolyzed protein
I’ve used various humectants and my absolute favorite is glycerin. It’s available, relatively inexpensive and extremely effective.
Here are a few interesting facts about glycerin:
- It can hold onto water helping to increase the water levels in the hair
- Natural hair with glycerin can sustain higher levels of force before it breaks
At high levels it’s effective; however it can get pretty sticky. So it’s typically mixed with other ingredients and oils. However the bottom line is that it is an extremely effective moisturizer and can make a huge difference in your hair care regimen.
So how do you use it? Here are a few tips:
Don’t use straight glycerin. Mixing 1 part glycerin with 4 parts water is a good formula to start with. You’ll need to find that glycerin “sweet spot” (no pun intended) for your hair, so experiment!
If your hair feels soft after you use the glycerin it’s adequately moisturized or you’ve used too much glycerin. If it feels sticky then you’ve definitely used too much. Glycerin can be washed off easily with water so you can just apply a little water to your hair to remove the stickiness.
If you have a moisturizer that’s not quite cutting it the great news is that you don’t have to go out and buy another moisturizer with adequate levels of glycerin in it. Use what you have and look for one that’s more effective later. In the meantime, add a glycerin and water mixture to your hair care regimen and note the difference in the way your hair looks and feels.
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So have you used glycerin? What’s your experience? Share!