The most common question we always get asked is, how do I know when a product is right for my hair. That is a simple but intricate question since everyone’s hair is as unique as their fingerprint. What might work for Jewel A, might not work for Jewel B; even twin sisters might find that they might not be hair-care compatible.
To start off, just understand that your hair needs two things essentially – moisture (water) and protein – because that is what it is made up of. All hair, regardless of type, needs both protein and moisture to stay healthy and strong.
Each hair strand is made up of 95% keratin, a fibrous helicoidal protein that forms part of the skin and all its appendages (body hair, nails, lashes, etc.). The keratin that makes up the major part of the hair is formed by amino acid molecules sourced from the food we eat.
Keratin is synthesized by keratinocytes and is insoluble in water, thus ensuring impermeability and protection for the hair.
The relationship between protein and moisture is, as stated above, is a synergistic one, like two sides of the same coin. Protein gives your curls and coils strength, shape, and structure, so without it, they’ll soon be looking weak, limp, and lacking definition. You can add protein to your hair by eating more of it or using a protein hair treatment to reinforce the strength of your strands.
A simple test you can do to see if your hair is lacking in protein or moisture is by stretching a strand of your hair down towards the ground and seeing how far it extends before breaking.
Balanced hair: the strand stretches a little and then bounces back to its original length without breaking.
Too much protein and not enough moisture: the strand stretches more than usual then breaks, and feels dry, stiff, and brittle.
Too much moisture and not enough protein: the strand keeps stretching without breaking, and feels weak, mushy, and limp.
If in doubt, remember that curly and textured hair tends to be on the drier side, so using moisture-boosting products is always a good idea. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your curls get twice as many moisturizing treatments as protein. If your hair is damaged from too much styling, you’ll need to up the protein and conditioning at the same time.
This basis is important because once you know your hair’s anatomy, you will be able to tell what is missing or needed when it comes down to it. In the same vein, you will quickly recognize what works well for your hair or what your hair loves.
For products, the first five ingredients are important after knowing exactly what it’s supposed to do. If a product, for example, claims to be hydrating, you need to understand that it’s not the same as moisturizing.
According to the handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology:
Hydrating substances are used in cosmetic products to reduce moisture loss from the product during use and to increase the moisture content in material that is in contact with the product (in this case our hair).
Moisturizers are considered to be substances that actively impair the evaporation of water (prevent water loss). So moisturizing the hair often involves the use of emollients like hydrophobic oils or butters that lock water content into the hair.
Hydration and Hydrators
True hydration comes on wash day, that is when your hair strands have the opportunity to become fully saturated and hydrated with water. Nothing can truly hydrate your strands quite like standing under the water for an extended period of time allowing the water to fully penetrate deep into your strands.
A hydrator or hydrating product will bring water into your hair increasing the moisture content in your strands. Such ingredients as humectants attract and hold water molecules from the environment into your hair strands, providing them moisture and leaving your hair feeling hydrated. However, hydration can be fleeting and that’s why a moisturizer is needed to help seal in the moisture.
According to the aforementioned definition, oils and butters are moisturizers; however, we need the hydrating aspect first because oils and butters are not enough for our kinky and coily strands. Every day from wash day, your hair starts to lose moisture. So when we think about a moisturizer, we want to think of it more as a temporary fix. This process can involve water, but often in much smaller amounts, meaning water molecules don’t get the chance to fully penetrate the hair strands but sit on the superficial layers. Think: spraying the hair with water and applying a refresher or moisturizer, for example. This is great to do between wash days, but without frequently saturating the hair with water (hydrating) it doesn’t do much for the health of the hair in the long run. That is why sealing or locking in the moisture with a moisturizing leave-in or conditioner can help prevent hydration loss over time.
Simply put, hydrating ingredients bring or add water to your hair while moisturizing products lock or seal in the water preventing moisture loss. Hydration comes before moisturizing.
Hope this has simplified your product search. For most people, a product works based on a positive difference they notice after the first use. We always encourage using products the way they were intended (information is usually provided at the back of the product or its website) for you to get the maximum value and intended results.