Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sulfates, Silicone and Protein: Forewarned is Forearmed

Okay… so one of my curly haired night owl friends just informed me I had some explaining to do. My last post included a bit about my very dry hair and some allusions to how it got that way. She said if you didn’t know me- which most of you don’t - you wouldn’t know what I was talking about… that the information was confusing. She’s right of course. In my effort to keep things succinct I left out important facts. I’m going to fix that right now.

Here it is - to the best of my ability anyway - a list of the ingredients responsible for really stripping the life out of my hair.

You might see these called detergents or surfactants. They hold a place of honor in hair care products because they do a really thorough job of removing dirt. Check out your shampoo bottles, your dish washing detergent, and those big jugs in the basement full of Tide. They all use sulfates to eradicate dirt. Sulfates range in strength from mild to harsh. Because I’m a wavy, curly haired person with very porous hair even the mildest sulfates get right into the shafts of my hair, dry it out and rip it up.

The lists that follow were taken from a really informative and useful website, Live Curly Live Free. Their URL, so you can look at all they have to offer is: Live Curly Live Free

Here are the really harsh sulfates: 

·       Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
·       Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
·       Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate
·       Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
·       Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
·       Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
·       Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
·       Sodium Laureth, Myreth, or Lauryl Sulfate
·       Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
·       TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate

These are milder surfactants. Although they’re still too harsh for my hair, in general they dry hair out less and might be tolerated by some people:

·       Cocamidopropyl Betaine
·       Coco Betaine
·       Cocoamphoacetate
·       Cocoamphodipropionate
·       Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate or Cocoamphodipropionate
·       Lauroamphoacetate
·       Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
·       TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate


This is the ingredient I demonized in my last post. Silicones are easy to spot because most of the time they end in -cone, -conol, -col, or –xane. When you see any of those 4 endings on an ingredient you are looking at the non-water soluble silicones. These are about as omnipresent in hair care products as sulfates. They coat your hair and make it look and feel smooth and shiny.

But before you sign your soul over to the devil know this: non-water soluble silicones will consistently build up on the shaft of your hair and dry it OUT. Like that over-shiny waxed apple at the supermarket your hair will look great on the outside while is rotting from within. To completely eradicate built up silicone from the shaft of your hair you’ll need a hardy scrubbing with one of the damaging surfactant-based shampoos covered earlier in this post.

The list of silicones is long and complicated because there are some silicones that are more water-soluble than others. And there are some silicones that are water-soluble. I’m going to you the lists in descending order: non-soluble to soluble.

 Completely non-water soluble silicones:

·       Cetearyl Methicone
·       Cetyl Dimethicone
·       Dimethicone
·       Dimethiconol
·       Stearyl Dimethicone

Please note: Live Curly Live Free reports that any silicone name with the abbreviation, "PEG" or "PPG" in front of it, IS water-soluble and will not build up. That provision applies to all the non-water soluble silicones on this list.

The following silicones are a little less damaging. They still aren’t soluble in water, but their chemical properties allow them to repel ongoing deposit so there’s no buildup on your hair. But they still lock out moisture out so you’ll have the “one two punch” -your hair’s going to dry out and you’ll need a harsh surfactant to remove them:

·       Cyclomethicone/Cyclopentasiloxane
·       Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
·       Amodimethicone **

**About amodimethicone: amodimethicone is "slightly" soluble in water as long as two additional ingredients are included in the formulation as a mixture in the bottle: Trideceth-12 and Cetrimonium Chloride. For a more in depth discussion of this go to: Live Curly Live Free

Although slightly soluble in water, there is the possibly with the following for build up on some types of curly hair over time:

·       Behenoxy Dimethicone
·       Stearoxy Dimethicone

Last on the list, generally considered the ones to look if you insist on silicones:

·       Dimethicone Copolyol
·       Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane
·       Lauryl Methicone Copolyol 

Curly hair types with coarse hair texture can be sensitive to proteins. This manifests with the hair becoming dry and brittle. If that sounds like you here’s a lists of musts to avoid:

·       Collagen
·       Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein
·       Hydrolyzed Silk Protein
·       Hydrolyzed Soy Protein
·       Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
·       Keratin
·       Keratin Amino Acids
·       Silk Amino Acids
·       Silk Protein
·       Soy Protein
·       Wheat Amino Acids
·       Wheat Protein 

If you've actually been able to hang on to now... that's it:  "the good (not much), the
bad (pretty much),  and the ugly ... 

As always I'd really love to hear how you deal with ingredients, and/ or any advice, 
what's worked for you or what hasn't...

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