The science behind healthy hair

Introduction
What does healthy hair look like?
What is the structure of hair?
Shampoo and conditioner go hand in hand
Demand for natural and sustainable products
References
More information


What is healthy hair and what science is behind it? Here we discuss the structure of hair and its tendency to show a healthy look or otherwise. Why can our locks look pale?

Healthy hair. Image credit: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

A better understanding of the natural properties of our hair has led us to use conditioning procedures to better manage and improve its appearance. In recent years, we have witnessed a growing demand for natural and sustainable hair care products. Here we will take a closer look at the use of plants in hair care.

What does healthy hair look like?

Healthy looking hair is usually considered smooth and shiny, as opposed to dull, coarse and curly. The advantages of smoothness and shine are related to the properties of the hair surface. Clean cut or pointed ends are additional signs of health and are associated with the hair follicles.

Reasons why a person may be left to struggle with a less-looking set of locks include excess style and cosmetic procedures such as the use of chemical dyes or bleaches. Chemical damage can occur here, which can contribute to dull, curly and shiny hair. In addition, age-related changes such as natural graying or androgenic alopecia (hair loss in older men) can lead to loss of shine and smoothness.

To keep our hair healthy involves the coordination of a complex set of elements; interaction between medical and biological factors, scalp care habits, hair care procedures and environmental factors. Cosmetics are used to change the physical and mechanical properties of hair, which in turn depends on the internal structure and protein constitution. Hair surface, when viewed as “structured” at the molecular level, is important for the design of environmentally friendly and sustainable ingredients and formulations for both shampoos and conditioners, and these products have witnessed an increase in consumer demand in recent years.

What is the structure of hair?

The structure of the hair consists of the outermost hydrophobic layer together with the bark. Taken together, these layers give the desired physical properties of shine (shine) and volume (body) needed to label hair “health”.

The hydrophobic lipid epicuticular layer includes flattened overlapping cuticle cells. The normal cuticle is smooth in appearance and allows light to be reflected. Meanwhile, the inner cortex is made up of tightly packed spindle-shaped cells filled with keratin fibers. Permanent changes occur in the bark when the hair is exposed to treatments such as coloring or procedures such as curling or straightening.

Shampoo and conditioner go hand in hand

The shampoo acts as a cleanser to remove excess oil, sebum and dirt. However, when used alone, it leaves wet hair tangled, difficult to manage and prone to wilting when dry. Poor combing technique can cause mechanical stress and lead to the removal of the outermost covalently bonded lipid layer, leaving the hair surface hydrophilic and ionized.

The solution to this problem is the application of conditioning procedures on the hair after shampooing or combining shampoo and conditioner in one application – a well-worn maneuver to save time. The challenge in both cases (shampoo + conditioner or a formulation in which both are combined) is to maintain the conditioning ingredients on the surface of the hair after removing the cleansing formula. The most common conditioning ingredients consist of cationic surfactants, cationic polyelectrolytes, lipophilic balms (such as oils, natural waxes, fatty alcohols) and silicones.

Shampoo

The shampoo acts as a cleanser to remove excess oil, sebum and dirt. Image Credit: Mr.Cheangchai Noojuntuk / Shutterstock.com

Demand for natural and sustainable products

The cosmetics industry strives to meet the requirements for more natural and sustainable products. The big challenge here is to be able to replace traditional cheap surfactants with new biosurfactants at a similar price. Great strides have been made in this direction, using the principles of green science, and many new ingredients are environmentally friendly today.

In search of more natural solutions, the recent development of hard shampoos that contain some new and interesting ingredients. They are based mainly on clays, herbs or flours, as an alternative to traditional detergent bases, combined with the usual synthetic surfactants and other common ingredients.

There are several advantages of hard shampoos over traditional formulations, such as susceptibility to easy transportation and improved microbiological stability (the presence of water in the composition of traditional shampoos requires the use of additional preservatives). Here we will turn to the use of herbs.

The use of herbs for cleansing hair has been known since time immemorial. Recently, there has been a resurgence in the use of herbs in connection with the growing trend in favor of natural raw materials. Herbal products are also preferred because they offer additional benefits such as low cost as well as low risk of side effects.

It has been found that many plants are good for our hair. The benefits are provided through such sought-after components as vitamins, amino acids, sugars, glycosides, bioflavonoids, phytohormones, fruit acids and essential oils. The challenge is in the selection of these natural ingredients, along with the emergence of new formulation techniques.

Although these new formulations consist of natural components from which we can indicate a sense of protection, it remains imperative that they are in fact safe and effective for long-term use. Many available herbal shampoos still rely on synthetic ingredients, although it is known that the formulation of “pure” shampoos using only natural ingredients competes with traditional shampoos in their much-desired foam characteristics, mild cleansing ability and solid content.

References

  • Gubitosa, J. et al. 2019. Hair Care Cosmetics: From Traditional Shampoo to Hard Clay and Herbal Shampoo, Review. Cosmetics. Doi: 10.3390 / cosmetics6010013.
  • Luengo, G. et al. 2020. Surface science for cosmetic substrates, cleaning active substances and formulations. Advances in the science of colloids and interfaces. Doi: 10.1016 / j.cis.2021.102383.
  • Sinclair, R. 2007. Healthy hair: what is it? Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. Doi: 10.1038 / sj.jidsymp.5650046.

More information

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.