We’ve all done it. Spent a few beats too long staring at the rows upon rows of colourful haircare products, trying to tell which ones’ promises will ring true. We see words like ‘strengthening’, ‘shine’, ‘smoothing’, and ‘repair’ and hope against hope that, for the one we chose, it’s the truth, not just marketing.
November 29, 2023
Me? I’m a sucker for great packaging. Give me a minimalistic, pale pink bottle, and I’ll fall for it every time. That being said, I’m getting better at actually reading the ingredient lists on my haircare products! It’s the best way to gauge the effectiveness of a product.
I’ll let you in on three ingredients that will make a huge difference for your hair.
But first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Maybe you’ve got curly hair, and you’re trying to find the best elixir to manage it. Maybe you’ve bleached to high heaven and you need help returning to earth. My point is: we all have different hair goals, and there are different keys that will help us unlock them. The following advice is general only, and the ingredients are effective on most hair types. If you suffer from serious scalp issues, hair thinning or loss, it’s best to consult a dermatologist or trichologist to find your best solution.
Okay, let’s talk ingredients! You’ve probably heard that parabens and sulphates are bad, but do you know why? Allow me to explain.
Parabens are given the stink eye because, in high concentrations, they can disrupt hormone balances and have been linked to cancer. Their purpose is to preserve the product from bacteria or mould, but a lot of brands have now used alternative preservatives in order to go paraben-free.
Sulphates have been given a similar shunning, and this is for a few reasons. They’re a petrol product, so have negative associations with fossil fuels and climate change. They’re also the ingredient that creates an oh-so-clean lather, which actually strips your hair and scalp of healthy moisture.
Now we know what to avoid and why I’ll take you through my top three haircare ingredients.
You’ve seen it on the skin and you’ve heard it’s good for gut health - it’s also great for hair!
Aloe vera is an incredible soothing agent. Its anti-inflammatory properties can calm scalp irritation and itchiness, and it can also alleviate dandruff with its moisturising qualities. Aloe is also a wonderfully gentle cleanser, it removes excess oils without stripping the hair.
While aloe vera is rumoured to promote hair growth, this has not been clinically proven. It’s more likely that positive change stems from (pardon the pun) the roots - a healthy scalp grows healthy hair. A balanced, clean, moisturised scalp is going to positively impact the quality of your hair.
Aloe vera is one of those raw ingredients you can put directly onto your head, or you can find it in shampoos, masks and other hair treatments. Be wary though! If it says ‘soothing aloe’ on the bottle, check the back too! If it’s listed as the final ingredient, it’s likely to be <1% of the formation, which will not be truly effective. You want to see a relatively short ingredient list that features aloe vera somewhere in the middle.
The names Bond. Bond-ing agent.
You’ve probably heard of keratin as the ultra-smoothing ingredient in salon hair treatments. Hydrolyzed keratin is a broken-down keratin molecule (protein) that can better infiltrate the hair shaft. Its smaller size allows it to patch up cracks and weak spots to fortify your hair, increase elasticity and reduce frizz. It can also give hair a fuller appearance, as it bolsters the hair shaft.
This is a stand-out product for damaged hair! But be careful - it is possible to overdo it on the protein! You don’t want to use too many keratin or protein-loaded products at once, because this can make it brittle and vulnerable to breakage.
It’s a crowd favourite. The Reese Witherspoon of hair products.
We know we love it, but here are the details of why! Coconut oil is the herald of hydration - it is a wonderful moisturiser, detangler and shining agent. Similar to hydrolyzed keratin, coconut oil bolsters your hair with a protein influx. This protects your hair from breakage caused by environmental damage, like wind or sun (or a really heaving brushing). This means better elasticity and stronger shinier hair.
There are a host of ways you can use coconut oil as well! It might be in a coconut oil-infused shampoo or conditioner, a mask, or by directly applying it to your hair! If you go the direct route, less is more. You can always add more oil, but if you add too much, you risk over-shampooing to get it all out and stripping your hair further. For this reason, it can be best to go with a pre formulated product.
And again, as with hydrolyzed keratin, don’t go overboard on the protein products! You don’t want to seal up that hair shaft so tight it snaps (the horror!).
So if you’ve been looking for a soothing, strengthening or moisturising love match, you’ve now got my little black book. Happy hair days for all!
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