Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hair: Moisture, Frizz And Build-Up

Moisture in hair is its water content. Moisture is what hair needs in the right amount to stay soft and supple and looking its best. Products that help keep moisture in the hair often contain emollients and detanglers and sometimes styling ingredients, or you can simply use USP/BP mineral oil.

Hair needs access to moisture in the air or water vapour, to help keep it soft. Too much water vapour in the air and hair can become frizzy because there is not enough moisture in it and it swells with the excess water vapour. Too little humidity can draw out moisture from hair and it can become frizzy too. Hair that is lacking moisture needs to be moisturized and have its access to high and low humidity restricted, whether the conditions are atmospheric, or artificial, like indoor climate control.

Genetics play a role in frizzy hair too but the remedies can be the same, moisturization and restricted access to humidity extremes. Do not try to seal hair from moisture in the air or seal moisture in the hair. That often has the opposite effect and dry hair becomes even drier.

Mineral oil used on its own can work very well to prevent frizz. It is safe to use. It keeps moisture in hair longer than silicones, vegetable oils and other products. It slows down or restricts hair access to humidity conditions. It can rehydrate dry hair, used on damp to wet hair. For hair with a good moisture level, used on dry as opposed to damp to wet hair, it can maintain that level. Small drops of it, evenly distributed throughout the hair are all that is needed.

As baby oil, fragranced or unfragranced, without extra ingredients, it is inexpensive, lightweight and available. It does not require a clarifying or sulfate shampoo to wash it out of hair and leave no residue. It is antistatic and protects skin. It is not sticky. It does not seal hair from water vapour and it does not seal water in hair. Oil does not seal hair from water vapour. That has been demonstrated in research.

Product build-up on the hair restricts access to moisture in the air which in some cases is not a bad thing. However, build-up also stresses hair because it eventually causes it to tangle and creates other problems. Too much build-up on the hair is never a good thing. Hair does not require multiple layers of residue on it to look healthy and be strong. Multiple layers of residue on hair can have the opposite effect.

The same products that can make hair "stronger or straighter or shinier in x number of days", based on frequent use, means that the hair is being progressively layered with ingredients that not only are not entirely removed with the shampoo that is part of the regimen but the shampoo itself can and usually does cause build-up. And after that time period? Build-up can dehydrate hair by restricting access to moisture in the air too much and not allowing products applied on top of it help keep moisture in the hair.

Enough dryness causes breakage and split ends. Cosmetic companies know that ingredients in many of their products cause build-up and often include a clarifying shampoo in their product lines. Hair should not need to be clarified too often. That can be harsh on hair. Products that cause build-up should not be used exclusively for extended periods of time without clarifying though.

Hair products need access to the hair to work well. When hair has build-up or residue on it, other products added sit on top of it, instead of being in direct contact with the hair. A detangler for example, used on top of build-up is not going to be that effective. It is designed to work on the cuticles of the hair, not on layers of residue. An oil used on top of a lot of residue is not going to be as effective either, as it can be with more or complete access to the hair.

Products that cause build-up, like all conditioners, styling aids, which include natural ones like aloe vera gel and juice and other botanicals, drying oils and many shampoos, need to be used in lesser amounts and less often than many people use them. Doing that cuts back on and delays build-up causing problems. For conditioner, using smaller amounts of a lighter one as opposed to a heavy, thicker one can be an option.

Added in response to an email inquiry: When you use something lightly on hair, it allows for natural volume. The reason many people get flat, heavy hair is from too much of the product they use or the wrong product. That adds weight to hair and build-up. Course hair benefits from moisture too and does not need to be weighed down by product, as many people think and attempt to do. 

Mineral oil can reduce or eliminate "poofy looking" hair or undesirable excess volume, because it smoothes hair and softens it, when it is used to moisturize, applied to damp to wet hair. It is the water kept in the hair that is doing the softening. Water, not oil, softens skin and hair. Mineral oil also restricts hair access to the humidity level which causes the hair to look that way. "Poofy looking hair" is an indication that the hair is lacking moisture. The hair is often frizzy as well. Any type of hair can become "poofy looking".  

Updated in reply to another blog email: If you washed your hair and forgot to use mineral oil to fight frizz and will not be washing your hair for a while, mist your hair to redampen or rewet it and then apply the mineral oil. Frizzy hair is lacking moisture. If your hair does not have too much product on it or residue, the mineral oil should help in two ways, one, by helping to keep the added moisture in your hair until you do wash it and two, by restricting your hair from the level of humidity that is causing the frizz.

Updated in reply to a blog email inquiry about baby oil and extra ingredients: Some baby oils contain added ingredients like vegetable oils and botanicals. These ingredients and others added can make the hair greasy and heavy easily and cause build-up on hair. They are intended for use on skin, where build-up is not the same issue. Some vegetable oils and butters are sensitizers and can clog pores. 

It is better for the hair and scalp, if it is just mineral oil and fragrance, or without fragrance for those sensitive to it. Tocopherol acetate or Vitamin E is sometimes listed as an ingredient. It is used to stabilize mineral oil and is often not listed separately. It is not a problematic ingredient in the amount used. USP/BP mineral oil is not considered to be a sensitizer or allergen and it does not clog pores. I added a reference regarding that statement. It is the mineral oil that can give the desired results, not the extra ingredients, some of which are added for marketing appeal but can have undesirable results used on hair and skin. 

Unfragranced USP/BP mineral oil without additives is usually available at pharmacies for laxative use and is often sold as "extra heavy" or "heavy" on the label. I compared a "heavy" one to a lightweight baby oil and it was not that heavy or thick to me. The "heavy" one worked well on my hair without any issues. Lightweight grades of mineral oil spread somewhat easier but there was no difference in the slip provided or results. My friends who have tried both kinds agree. None of us tried "extra heavy" laxative mineral oil on our hair.

USP/BP mineral oil unfragranced and without extra ingredients is also sold for use on wooden utensils and cutting boards and it can be used on hair and skin as well. 

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Happi Household and Person Products Industry, "Truly Natural"
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