Dictionary for the Natural Hair Community
I’m creating this Dictionary/Recipe type of list to assist all my natural friends who are concerned about the products they are putting into their hair and onto their body. I’m just getting started, so new additions will be added daily. It’s in alphabetical order and I hope it helps.
Ceramides are lipid molecules found in the membrane of skin cells that are credited with helping to prevent moisture loss. “Natural or synthetic ceramides will help maintain and restore skin barrier function, so that moisture is sealed in,” explains Ava Shamban, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA. Studies have shown that people who have eczema and psoriasis have significantly fewer ceramides than people with normal skin. By using products that contain, you shore up the skin’s own moisturization defenses.
Essential fatty acids
Also known as healthy fats, essential fatty acids are the fuel that cells require to undergo biological processes, like moisturization, that keep skin healthy and glowing. The body doesn’t produce essential fatty acids on its own, so the nutrients must be absorbed from a person’s diet or from skin creams. “Olive oil, avocado, almond oil, and shea butter are all essential fatty acids that will help lock in moisture,” says David Bank, MD, president of the New York State Society for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in such foods as salmon, mackerel, walnuts, soy, flaxseed, and safflower oil.
Glycerin, glycols, and polyols
These three ingredients are members of the humectant family — they “cause skin to draw in and bind extra moisture,” says cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. For example, if you left glycerin out in the open, it would slowly but steadily absorb water from the air until it became about 20 percent water and 80 percent glycerin. That potent ability to pull in and retain water makes it a common ingredient in hydrating soaps and cleansers that are formulated to gently cleanse skin without stripping it of moisture. These humectants can appear in numerous variations on ingredient lists; two of the most widely usedr versions are propylene glycol and butylene glycol.
This is perhaps the most impressive of all moisturizing ingredients. “The hyaluronic acid molecule absorbs about 1,000 times its own weight in water,” Dr. Shamban says. That quick and effective hydrating action keeps collagen and elastin moist and functioning, and therefore helps skin look supple and youthful. And for oily skin that easily breaks out from the use of heavy humectants, hyaluronic acid is a lightweight, nonoily ingredient that is “safe” for even the most acne-prone complexions.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Talk to many health-conscious consumers today about personal care products and one of their main topics of concern is use of the allegedly dangerous shampoo ingredient, sodium lauryl sulfate. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology notes that this ingredient has a “degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.” What’s more, the journal adds, “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.”
- Carcinogenic nitrosamines can form in the manufacturing of sodium lauryl sulfate or by its inter-reaction with other nitrogen-bearing ingredients within a formulation utilizing this ingredient.
- Other studies have indicated that sodium lauryl sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, liver, lungs and brain from skin contact. This poses the question whether it could be a serious potential health threat from its use in shampoos, cleansers, and toothpastes.
- Still other research has indicated sodium lauryl sulfate may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. Skin layers may separate and inflame due to its protein denaturing properties.
- Although sodium lauryl sulfate is not carcinogenic in experimental studies, it has been shown that it causes severe epidermal changes in the area it is applied, indicating a need for tumor-enhancing assays.
- Additional studies have found that sodium lauryl sulfate is heavily deposited on the skin surface and in the hair follicles. Damage to the hair follicle could result from such deposition. Damaging effects of sodium lauryl sulfate on eye health are also of concern. In experimental, acute eye tests, a solution of 10 percent sodium lauryl sulfate “caused corneal damage to the . . . eyes if not irrigated or irrigation was delayed.” A solution of 5.1 percent “caused mild irritation.” This report is extensive, but all in all this chemical ingredient in our everyday products promotes a high hazard to our health.
Sodium palm kernate – This is a natural salt derived from palm kernel oil, which is in turn derived from the kernels (seeds) of the oil palm. Sodium Palm Kernelate is used in various commercially produced soaps and cleansers. It is a ‘surfactant’, which means it helps make the product have a smoother and more ‘spreadable’ consistency.
Sodium PCA, another type of humectant, is found naturally in the proteins of human skin and binds water to cells. “Sodium PCA has excellent water-absorbing properties,” says Hammer. While water weight may otherwise be the last thing we want to hold onto, it’s exactly what you want in a moisturizer to guarantee the longest-lasting hydration. Sodium PCA is commonly found in moisturizers for the skin, though it’s also an excellent ingredient to look for in hair care products if you suffer from static — the hydrating molecule soothes hair and prevents fly-aways.
Silicones – According to a recent publication by Dow Corning, 82% of new hair care products introduced in the USA contain silicones. The reason for the popularity of silicones in products for the skin and hair lies in their molecular structure. Rather than being made up of a carbon-based backbone (organic), silicones (inorganic) are made up of a backbone of repeating units of silicon bonded to oxygen.
This makes the films formed on the surface of the hair very “breathable.” The films that are formed are noted for their lightweight, emollient and silky feel, and thus these materials are used as conditioning agents in many products. Silicones also have a high refractive index which makes light reflect off the surface of the hair, making it appear shiny and glossy. Silicones are also used in rinse-off conditioners, intensive treatment conditioners and leave-in conditioners, where they reduce combing friction, provide an emollient effect, impart gloss and reduce static charge between hair strands. In styling products, their primary role is to add a softening effect (called plasticization) to the sometimes brittle polymers used to hold the style. Some forms have been found to aid in color retention, to boost foaming of shampoos and to enhance curl retention. There are many different forms of silicones. It should be mentioned for practitioners of the “Curly Girl method” that only the PEG-modified ones or the dimethicone copolyols are water soluble. Cyclomethicones – These are low molecular weight silicones. They have been found to provide very light conditioning effects as well as to speed drying time after a wash. These molecules are volatile and will thus evaporate from the surface of the hair, leaving behind no residue. This volatility may perhaps make delicate, curly hair feel drier, but that is the opinion of the writer. Dimethicones – Dimethiconols – Phenyl Trimethicones – Amodimethicones –
Penetrating Oils – Put simply penetrating oils are oils that have the ability to enter the cortex of the hair shaft
1. Coconut Oil – Once coconut oil enters the hair shaft it actually has the ability to patch and protect the hair from the inside out. It is light in weight and non greasy and one of the highest recommended oil for promoting healthy hair. It’s an excellent conditioner, helps prevent dandruff and is wonderful for scalp massages
2. Olive Oil – A light oil that also penetrates the hair shaft. Main benefits include sealing, reducing split ends, strengthening hair from the inside out, and conditioning. Olive oil can be added to shampoo to protect the hair from getting stripped it is also great as a pre conditioning treatment before shampoo (prepoo).
3. Avocado Oil – Comprised of beneficial nutrients such as vitamin A, E and D, protein, copper, magnesium, iron, folic acid, and amino acids. All these nutrients are vital for hair growth and health; it also conditions the hair and helps with moisture retention.
Coating Oils– These oils Do not have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft, however they sit just outside and ‘seal’ whatever the shaft has in it, this could be water or hydrolyzed protein. These oils are high in polyunsaturated fats which cannot be absorbed by the hair shaft
4. Castor Oil – This is heavy oil that is one of the best sealants because of its structure. It conditions the hair giving it the strength and resilience it needs to stand up to daily care. It promotes hair growth, moisturizes the hair, hair appears thicker with consistent use, and helps tames frizz.
5. Grape Seed oil – Also known as a carrier oil for other essential oils, in other words you can add any strong essential oil that may need to be diluted to grape seed oil. Grape Seed Oil is used to nourish the scalp, prevent against dandruff, it contains Vitamin E and linoleic acid and can also be used as a natural heat protectant due to its properties.
6. Jojoba Oil– the structure of jojoba oil is the closest to the makeup of the sebum that is naturally produced from the scalp. This makes the oil highly superior for nourishing the scalp; it has anti bacterial properties which keeps the scalp and hair healthy.