It's Just Science | Hair Care Ingredients 101

hair ingredients | Nikki's Have Station

I wanted to share what I have learned about the general ingredients that are found in our hair care products. This has helped me better understand what is going in my hair, what works for my hair, and also why my hair reacts a certain way to products during different times of the year. I hope this helps all who are looking for the same answers I was once looking for. Surfactants: This is basically a fancy word for a "surface active agent". This makes the surface tension reduce, which makes it easier for water or oil based products form a more stable mixture. This is only a temporary stable mixture.  Examples would be: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate.

You can find them in many things around your house:

  • Detergents - for cleaning
  • Foaming Agents - to make those lovely suds we all lust over
  • Conditioning Agents - to "help" improve the surface of skin and hair
  • Preservatives -  to make sure cosmetics are microbe-free

Emulsions: Emulsions is a fine dispersion of one insoluble liquid in another. Basically this what helps oil disperse in water. To create this you will usually see a surfactant used. The ingredients for this are mixed to create creams and lotions.

Silicones: Silicones are compounds that have a molecular backbone of –[-Si-O-]x- surrounded by hydrogens or methyl groups. They are manufactured from silicon dioxide taken from sand or other minerals. Examples would be: Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Amodimethicone, Silicone Oil.

Silicones make things more slick or slippery, which can make the surface look shiny. Some things you can find them in are:

  • Conditioning Agents - to improve the surface of skin and hair
  • Opacifying Agents - to make formulas look more fancy/luxurious
  • Shine Agents - to increase the shine of hair and give the skin more of a glow
  • Occlusive Agents - to help moisturize the skin
  • Hair Detangling Agents - to make hair easier to grow

Polymers: A large molecule it is composed of many repeated subunits, known as monomers. They have a very broad range of properties, both synthetic and natural polymers play an essential role in everyday life. Polymers can range from familiar synthetic plastics, to natural biopolymers such as DNA and proteins. Examples would be: (Synthetic) Polyquaternium-7, PVP, (Natural) Cellulose, Starch, Xanthan Gum. 

Here are some of the things that polymers do but this is not everything:

  • Thickeners - to modify the consistency of formula
  • Formula Stabilizer - to help keep emulsions stable
  • Occlusive Agents - to make hair easier to grow
  • Styling Agents - to hold hair styles in place