Hair care – Crowning glory

A wide range of sophisticated ingredients have been developed that help to protect and improve the health and appearance of hair, including conditioning agents, esters, silicones and silicone alternatives, styling polymers, natural hair care ingredients and materials that provide thermal protection, aid curl retention, stimulate hair growth or protect hair from colour fade

Much work has been done to develop sophisticated ingredients that will protect and improve the health and appearance of hair, as John Woodruff discovers

Healthy hair is naturally coated with protective lipids, in particular 18-methyl eicosanoic acid (18-MEA) plus palmitic and oleic acids. These lipids are responsible for giving hair its natural hydrophobic properties and coat the surface of neighbouring cuticle cells to maintain and restore the visual appearance of healthy hair, giving it shine, smoothness, bounce and elasticity. 18-MEA is the most abundant lipid on the hair surface and thus is most susceptible to depletion by mechanical attrition of the cuticle and UV exposure. High pH products such as cold waves, hair colouring and hair relaxers also tend to remove 18-MEA from the cuticle.

Areas of damaged cuticle expose a greater concentration of the amino acids in the hair which renders it anionic. They are a target for cationic materials such as most conditioners and for proteins and peptides. Although the majority of mass market conditioners have changed little (traditional conditioning lotions were benzalkonium or cetrimonium chloride with cetearyl alcohol), improved systems are available. . . .

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