Friday, April 27, 2012

Oils And Access To The Hair

Much attention has been given to this study on coconut oil used as a pre-wash treatment for protection of the hair from protein loss and conditioning with good reason. It is clear that coconut oil can penetrate hair to the cortex level and by doing so, in addition to lubricating the hair surface, it reduces hair swelling from water, which makes combing less damaging. The results are defined by the lauric acid in coconut oil being able to penetrate hair that deeply and bind to protein in the hair's cortex. Note: Most fractionated coconut oils contain no to almost no lauric acid. They are not suitable to be used this way, to help prevent protein loss.

In order for coconut oil to penetrate hair in such a manner, it needs to be used on well clarified hair as in the study and the shampoo used needs to not contain any barrier coatings, that would restrict lauric acid from hair penetration during shampooing and build-up, also as in the study. Coconut oil did not do as well in the same study as a post-wash grooming aid because as it was later shown, lauric acid can only fully penetrate hair either during shampooing or with added heat.

Used on top of barrier coatings or in a product with them, coconut oil's properties are restricted to the hair's surface only. That is why when it is used on top of conditioned hair for example, it can often lead to dry hair and "crunchy" ends. The lauric acid cannot get past conditioner barrier coatings, which are mostly waxy or polymeric. This would also apply to any other oil that can penetrate more than the cuticle layers of hair. Barrier coatings would prevent them from doing so too and deep protein treatments are best used and often recommended to be used on well clarified hair for the same reason, to allow absorption.

Where all of this can be confusing is that oils often "disappear" after being applied to dry or damp hair as a grooming aid. They are in fact diffusing into hair cuticles, although on top of barrier coatings and residue, they can be visible and limited in doing so and in desired results.

Cosmetic mineral oil on can do very well used on top of conditioned hair, provided as with other oils, the hair does not have an excess of conditioner or treatment used at one time or build-up residue blocking access to the hair. It can fill in cuticle gaps missed by conditioners or treatments that have not coated hair well, smoothing and detangling hair more effectively. Although still primarily on the surface of the hair, small drops of mineral oil can be undetectable, other than by results. By reducing friction and tangling, mineral oil is preventing protein loss too by preventing abrasion. It is not necessary to use a shampoo that does not cause build-up before using mineral oil as its properties are restricted to the cuticles of the hair as a grooming aid and as a pre-wash treatment not fully washed out, it would still be able to reduce abrasion.

Mineral oil is a more effective moisturizer than vegetable oils, including coconut oil and spreads more easily without being sticky, heavy or greasy. It cannot replace coconut oil used as a deep treatment, or in oil shampoo using my methods, to yield the same results. Added to shampoo it does have possibilities and may work quite well depending on the shampoo and how it is used. Mineral oil does not have coconut oil's chelating properties.

Both oils have their place in hair care for different applications and both can enhance waves and curls. For coconut oil that means not using too much, as it is a heavy oil and it can easily leave hair greasy. Cosmetic mineral oil like baby oil is a lightweight oil. Of the two used as a grooming aid on damp to fairly wet hair for moisturizing, or on dry hair to maintain a good moisture level, or as a thermal protectant, mineral oil is more effective and versatile.