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Knowing Your Ingredients, Part Deux

Photo on 2013-05-31 at 11.01 #2Photo on 2013-05-31 at 11.01Photo on 2013-05-31 at 11.01 #3Photo on 2013-05-31 at 11.21

Photo on 2013-05-31 at 11.23 #2

When we last left off, we were discussing the different ingredients commonly found in hair products: WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! Well, here we have one of the most unavoidable ingredients: silicone, which comes in many forms. Basically look on the back of the bottle and read anything that ends in “cone” as a silicone.Many will advise you to steer clear of such ingredients all together. This is not necessary if you know what you’re dealing with. (Yes, Mummy, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition.) Generally, you do not want too many silicones for the same reason you do not want too many petroleum products (grease, mineral oil). They cause build-up that is hard to wash off. (Those damn prepositions!) There are many lists of water-soluble silicones that you can wash away and many ‘cone-by-‘cone break-downs of which ones are safest to use. With all this confusing info, why would you not just avoid ‘cones all together? Wouldn’t that be easier? Because no matter  what anyone says, ‘cones are great for keeping your hair smooth and protecting your hair from heat. Many use oils as a more “natural” heat protector. This is a very bad idea, as I have discussed in previous posts. Here is some basic info on silicones. I use them in moderation…or like…never since I do not straighten my hair…one day I will!

Here’s another one: Alcohol. We are told alcohol can be drying and this is true– if they are short-chain alcohols. These are the quick-drying alcohols commonly found in hairsprays and some gels and include ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denat, Propanol, Propyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol. You probably see these names in common household products too. The good alcohols, the ones that hydrate are Lauryl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol and Behenyl alcohol. You see these in the more trusted, curl-friendly brands, especially Cetyl, Stearyl and Cetearyl alcohols. The way they act similar to lipids (oils and fats) so they moisturise your hair but be careful: If you have looser, thinner curls they can quickly make your hair look greasy.

Phthalates– WTF IS A PHTHALATE?! Don’t even ask me how to pronounce that word but apparently, not having them is a good thing. According to the FDA, they are used to make products more plastic: i.e. firm but flexible. They are used in everything from household products to hairsprays and are toxic in large amounts.  According to Web MD, “Two studies suggest phthalate exposure during pregnancy may lead to abnormal development in male infants, including low hormone levels and small genital size.” Products containing them include anything with the name “phthlate” (dibutylphthalate, dimethylphthalate, diethylphthalate, etc.) as well as butyl ester, or plasticizer. Generally, the amount in a drugstore product is negligible and there is no proof that they are dangerous for your health. This is not one of the more commonly spotted ingredients anyway, (hairspray is past its prime) so I would not worry about it.

Finally, let’s talk Parabens: They seem to be in everything but WHAT are they? Well, they do not do a thing for your hair. What they do is preserve the ingredients. This is the reason I do not use Hollywood Beauty hair oils anymore, they are filled with parabens and only so much of the oil advertised. Parabens MAY be linked to cancer but research is inconclusive. I avoid them because they dry the scalp. Safer preservatives include vitamins C and E (which, btw, is great for your scalp.)

There are tonnes of other ingredients that we are taught to avoid and like I say, everything in moderation. The best way to judge  a product’s safety is to see how far down the list an ingredient is. The closer it is to the top, the more concentrated. Next time we will get to the good stuff in your hair products: Yummy butters, oils and extracts.

Until next time!

D &A


About Daria-Ann

Daria-Ann Martineau was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She received an MFA in poetry writing from NYU. She is an alumna of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, The Saltonstall Arts Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her work has been published in The Collagist, Narrative Magazine and Kinfolks Quarterly, among others. In 2014, she was named one of Narrative's "30 below 30" and her poem, "Mine" was chosen as one of their "Top Five Poems of the Week" for 2013-14. She lives in Washington, DC.

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