Let's start to better understand the structure, condition and needs of the hair.
The hair has the basic function of protecting the head. Very solid, one hair can support a weight of 100 grams. The visible part of the hair has 3 main layers: medulla, cortex, cuticle.
The medulla is the core, a fairly empty, aerated area that contains a small amount of protein. It is not a solid material skeleton, as we would imagine it should be the support of the hair.
The cortex consists of strong keratin cells (the soft keratin cells are found in the skin and mucous membranes) joined in a matrix rich in sulfur proteins, held together by disulfide bonds. Here we also find melanin, a large molecule pigment, insoluble in water. Hair color is an optical phenomenon related to the reflection and refraction of light. Hair shine is also a physical effect and depends on the curvature of the hair: the more curly it is, the less shiny it looks.
The cuticle interests us most from the point of view of hair care. The cells of the cuticle, 6-10 layers attached to the cortex, are in the form of scales placed at 5° on top of each other. The cuticle is transparent and is covered with a thin layer of lipids, which prevents friction between the hairs and repels water to some extent. Lipids include: palmitic, stearic, oleic acid, wax esters. The mechanical properties of the hair are determined by the cortex, the optical properties by the cuticles. The cuticle protects the cortex, but its cells inevitably erode over time, break, rise. The conditioners help to seal the cuticle cell layer, preventing some damage and premature erosion.
The root is located under the skin and represents the living part of the hair. Implanted in the scalp, in a sac called the hair follicle which consists of a bulb, based on the papilla. Here are nerve fibers and blood vessels that carry nutrients. Above the bulb is the sebaceous gland, which acts to lubricate the hair. At the base of the follicle we also find the erector muscle that determines the phenomenon of the hair lifting, when it is cold or during some emotions.
The hair follicles are active between 3 and 6 years, after which they go to rest for 3 months. Each follicle develops up to 20 new hairs over a lifetime.
An adult's scalp contains approximately one million follicles, but visible hairs are only 120,000-150,000, hairs that grow on average 0.5 mm/day. We lose between 50-150 hairs a day, it is a normal physiological process. Hair growth is cyclical and depends on the season, age, hair type. It also depends on genetics or biological software, as we like to call it. Not all hair follicles are in the same phase at the same time, some are active while others are at rest.
Whoever was born with curly hair would want straight hair and vice versa. The thickness and shape of the hair are determined by the shape of the follicle (hair root). Beyond the mold at the root of the hair, there are also chemical factors that have an influence.
In case of straight hair, the disulfide protein bonds are evenly distributed everywhere and in case of curly hair, there are more on one side. This is how the permanent solution works, which loosens the disulfide bonds and rearranges them with a neutralizer. The ease with which the hair is styled also depends on these connections. Due to these disulfide bonds, the hair can change over time, for some people, straight into curly or vice versa, without changing the "mold" of the hair.
Chemical factors: dyeing, discoloration, permanent hair treatment application, washing with alkaline solutions. Chemically treated hair is more prone to friction and becomes hydrophilic – excessive water for the hair is not desirable compared to the needs of the skin. Hair gets weaker, becomes less resistant physically, degrades faster and is more fragile.
Physical factors: high temperature drying, styling with a straightener or curler, exposure to extreme weather conditions, chlorinated water in swimming pools, UV radiation
Mechanical factors: intensive combing, tension created by elastics, hairpins, hair kept in a ponytail. Friction - the hairs rub against each other too much, and those cuticle scales rise and the hair becomes tangled. The hair takes more water than necessary, the cortex is uncovered, the hair thickens and the friction increases
Nutritional factors: deficiency of vitamins, proteins, amino acids, poor diet, iron deficiency
Emotional and hormonal factors: a poor general condition, lack of sleep and chronic stress influence hair growth/loss and root activity; endocrine gland dysfunction
It is considered the hair that is not colored or bleached, permed or chemically treated in any way. The pH is below 4. Virgin hair is not necessarily healthy, and the one that is long is implicitly compromised, having a history of exposure to UV, cold, pollution, friction, styling, improper hygiene products, lack of protection.
Virgin hair does not require much work to be maintained in good condition: washing with a mixture of surfactants and suitable active ingredients, at the optimal time, conditioning with a suitable composition, regular cutting of the tips, avoiding excessive combing and styling.
Sebum is both a friend and an enemy. It is composed of triglycerides, waxes, fatty acids and squalane. Once it reaches the surface of the skin, it begins to transform: it oxidizes in the first place, on the scalp and on the hair, feeling that typical smell. Protects the scalp from infections, lubricates the hair to protect it from erosion and chemical aggression, but gathers dirt and charges the hair. These processes are inevitable and natural.
Sebum production is controlled by biological (genetic) software and influenced by external and internal factors. From the outside, sebum production can be stimulated by inadequate hair washing (too often or with too high a concentration of surfactants or with alkaline and stripping solutions) but can be balanced with specific cosmetic actives.
Why does hair lose color? The answer can be found again in the biological software. Melanin loss comes with age, but young people can also experience the first white hairs from the age of 20 +. This affects people with certain diseases (vitiligo) or who experience an emotional shock. Stress, even if considered cliché, also plays an important role here.
Chemical dyeing can be permanent, semi-permanent or temporary. The permanent one is based on an oxidation process, replaces or completes the melanin and modifies the hair structure. The semi-permanent one does not involve oxidation, the dye is stored at the level of the cuticle scales and resists on average 5-6 washes. Temporary coloring is deposited on the surface of the hair, it rather gives reflections or improves the existing color and washes at the first shampooing. The colors obtained are quite predictable, especially for permanent dyeing.
Dyeing with vegetable preparations is a tone-on-tone coloring, the pigments are fixed to the surface of the hair, in the scales of the cuticle. It does not involve the opening/lifting of the scales nor the oxidation of one's own melanin. Moreover, the pigments strengthen the hair and give it shine. The colors are not as predictable as in chemical dyeing, which is why a test on a strand is recommended beforehand. Durability depends a lot on the condition of the hair and the quality of the coloring powders.
It is not recommended to mix chemical dyes with vegetable dyes, especially those chemical dyes that act by oxidation.
Vegetable hair dyes are herbal powders, simple or mixed. One of them is Henna (with the botanical name Lawsonia inermis) which gives a reddish-copper color, the rest are similar to henna and can be: black, brown, blond, different shades in combinations. Neutral henna is not a dye, it is a powder that is applied in the form of a mask to give vigor, shine and volume to the hair.
It is characterized by excess secretion of sebum. Overproduction of sebum is influenced by certain internal factors: unbalanced diet, stress, hormonal imbalance, and external factors: pollution, large temperature fluctuations, excessive or too aggressive shampooing, hair drying at very high temperatures.
It is characterized by broken and raised layers of the cuticle. Sebum can no longer flow properly along the hair. The hair loses its elasticity and becomes dull, fragile, brittle, with split ends. Triggers can be both external: wind, sun, salt, and physiological factors: the amount of sebum is too small to cover the hair and give it shine, protection, fineness and elasticity. Dyeing and permanent treatments must be mentioned, both damaging the hair. The cold also dries the hair.
It is characterized by lack of shine and is a fairly common condition. The cause is given by the layers of the cuticle that rise and prevent the reflection of light. Dull hair can also be dry or loaded with conditioners. Tips: rinsing hair in abundance, applying nourishing preparations along the hair, using slightly more acidic shampoos and acidic rinsing solutions. Ingredients to consider: AHA fruit acids, fruit powder (acerola), aloe vera gel, protein, Hairbond.
Fine hair is most often associated with a genetic predisposition. The medulla is almost non-existent and the cortex is very thin, which determines the fragility of the hair. Fine hair also means lack of volume. It is less firm and rigid, it tangles more easily, it does not "hold" after styling.
Most of the time this type of hair is also dry, low in sebum, which determines its fragile appearance. Emphasis will be placed on hair nourishment and lubrication.
Chemically dyed hair is often dry and requires special attention. It is prone to breaking. Hygiene and care is similar to dry hair.
Dandruff is defined as excessive scaling of the scalp. The factors are many, the general consensus is that dandruff derives from an inflammatory process. The oily scalp has an excess of oleic acid, which provides a favorable environment for certain microbes that process this fatty acid, and the horny layer responds with inflammation. It can also have pathological causes: fungal disease, psoriasis. Dandruff is characteristic of oily hair but can also occur on dry hair. Dandruff is aggravated by internal factors: stress, fatigue, or external factors: the use of shampoos with high washing power, inadequate hair drying, repeated dyeing, the use of products containing irritating, aggressive ingredients. Dandruff is often accompanied by itching and irritation of the scalp.
Hair loss is a natural physiological process, we lose an average of 70-80 hairs per day. Especially during autumn and spring we lose more hair. The factors that negatively influence this process are many: hormonal disorder, stress and chronic fatigue, genetic predisposition, infections and inflammation, various medical treatments. It is very important to know the causes of excessive hair loss in order to act effectively.
In some cases the problem can be successfully treated only through external applications, but in most cases it is necessary to take action internally, both physically and emotionally.
When formulating hair care products, we focus on removing sebum and dirt, and repairing and maintaining the cuticle in good condition.
Many people use a lot of randomly selected products, regardless of their hair type or condition.
We must first consider the type of hair and it is necessary to pay special attention to the scalp, which needs care just like the skin of the body.
Why is pH important for hair products?
Virgin hair has a pH below 4. Washing the hair with a solution that has the wrong pH causes the cuticle not to settle on the cortex, which leads to friction between the hairs. The hair gets physically damaged and looks dull. If you choose to wash your hair with soap, ensure the water is as soft as possible and rinse with acidic solutions. The most suitable soaps are oily ones, they also contain free fatty acids, the oils being added after saponification.
The shampoo has the noble task of cleansing the hair and scalp. We expect it to be foamy, non-irritating and pleasantly fragrant at the same time.
Sebum on the scalp and hair stores dirt and all kinds of particles from the environment. Fresh and clean sebum is our friend, but the loaded, hardened and oxidized one is sticky, unaesthetic and smells unpleasant. The shampoo, a mixture based on surfactants, softens the water, reduces the surface tension and disperses the accumulated dirt in much smaller particles; they form a colloid, the particles disperse in the water and become "washable", so they come out with the water.
Shampoos are prepared cold, except for the 2 in 1 kind and solid ones which are prepared hot or by emulsification.
Remember: overloading your hair can result from intensive use of styling products, which do not wash easily. A "build up" is also formed from the use of silicone shampoos, after which a conditioner without rinsing is applied. There should be a break in the intensive use of conditioners so that the hair can get cleansed.
Balm is the name used in Romania for compositions that have a conditioning function. In many countries balm means ointment. There are conditioning ingredients that do not form a balm, but a balm always has the function of conditioning.
A conditioner must contain a positively charged ingredient (cationic compound). Substantivity (hair attachment) can be increased by using additional ingredients, such as cetyl alcohol, protein, vegetable oils/butters. Compositions (creams, masks, solutions without rinsing) that do not contain cationic compounds can be formulated; by definition they are not conditioners, but they give shine, make the hair easier to handle, more flexible and hydrated.
Provides substantivity molecules for the hair, which by having opposite polarity, attaches to the surface of the hair strand by attraction. The layer resists rinsing and will be removed the next time you wash it with shampoo.
Interesting: the more damaged the hair, the more conditioner it will absorb, having a negative charge and a higher pH. Virgin hair will retain less conditioner.
The classic hair conditioner
It depends on the type and condition of the hair. Several formulas must be tested, then the option that gave the best results should be used.
Remember: we do not recommend frequent/daily washing of the hair only in situations with solid motivation. We do not recommend over-conditioning the hair; it can become too loaded, and the layer attached to the hair is more difficult to remove with a shampoo.
What are they and what do they consist of?
Hair creams are prepared by emulsification, and those that do not contain water (few) are prepared in the same way as any anhydrous composition.
Hair masks can be prepared by the minute and applied fresh. Hair masks can also be prepared by emulsification, practically we can also call them hair creams.
Hair serums are usually prepared cold by simply mixing the ingredients. They can be in the form of oils or biphasics.
How are they be applied and what function do they have?
Masks and creams are applied to hair that is not too dirty, leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then shampoo and rinse the hair. Hair serums (other than those that do not require rinsing) are applied as described above. Masks that contain little or no oil can be applied on clean hair and do not necessarily require shampooing, only rinsing. Some serums are recommended to be applied in the evening and washed off the next morning, others should be applied before shampooing, left to act for 10-15 minutes after which should be washed off.
The benefits they bring, depending on the ingredients used in the recipes:
What do they consist of?
They are simple preparations, formulated from water, floral waters, aqueous macerates (from fruit or flower powders - acerola, hibiscus ...), AHA fruit acids, fruit vinegar (cider).
How are they applied and what benefits do they bring?
They are acidic solutions that help to rearrange the cuticles, the hair becomes smoother, more shiny. When washing the hair, after a first rinse, apply on slightly damp hair with your hands. No rinsing needed after.
What do they consist of?
They can be creams with/without conditioner, they can be oily serums and in particular cases butters (solid anhydrous preparations), they can be gels and solutions for styling, they can be lotions and aqueous solutions. Oily serums are mainly formulated with special "dry" oils.
Ingredients used: special oils, certain vegetable oils and butters, squalane, vitamins, proteins, essential oils, and rarely conditioning and fragrant ingredients. In case of aqueous solutions floral waters, fruit acids, some macerates, water-soluble active and essential oils (with solubilizer) are used. For styling solutions: waxes, gums and collagen are taken into account.
How to apply and what functions do they have?
Apply to the entire length of the hair when protection is needed (weather, UV) or when the hair is dry, damaged or rough. Some formulas that contain coconut oil/butter or Monoi oil/butter are applied for UV protection, or on curly, unruly or very rough hair.
Compositions that are intended for styling, respectively the aqueous compositions are applied on the entire length of the hair.
Creams and oils are applied only on the tips, in cases where the tips are brittle, split, including people with greasy scalp and hair but dry tips.
Only formulas intended especially for the scalp (lotions, rubs) are applied on the scalp.