Conditioners are vital to the hydration of hair. Some are better than others. This article will discuss how they work and what to look for in the ingredients list.
What Is A Conditioner And How Does It Work?
Conditioners are a hybrid form of oil and water. The technical terminology is emulsification of oils/ butters and water. The result is either a cream or lotion with droplets of oil dispersed in a water matrix AKA oil in water emulsion. They are important because they bring moisture (water) to the hair shaft along with a sealant (oil), which is needed to trap water in the hair cortex to reduce evaporation.
The third critical ingredient to add to the conditioner is a humectant. Humectants have the capacity to bind water in the product and slow down evaporation. Typical humectants are Glycerin, Sodium PCA, and Sodium Lactate and each of them have a different capacity to bind moisture.
|Water Holding Capacity of Common Cosmetic Moisturizers|
It’s the combination of the conditioner’s emulsion and humectant properties that will actually drive hydration in the hair.
What do I look for ingredients list of a conditioner?
- You want to see oils and butters present in the formulation. Mango Butter, Coconut Oil , Palm Oil are great emollients for trapping moisture into the hair shaft. I would expect them to be within the first 5-6 ingredients.
- You want to see the humectant within the first 7 ingredients on the list. See Table 1.
Moisture Tip: If the product has too much water and very little oils/butters and humectants, it will not add moisture to your hair.
You can’t give what you don’t have and the same holds true for hair conditioners. If they don’t have oils/butters and humectants, your hair can’t receive them. Period!
Skin Tip: Hair and Skin chemistry is very similar. If you want to test a hair conditioner apply it to your skin. If it feels watery and drying on the skin, it will most likely perform the same way on your the hair.