…by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals
Conditioners formulated for textured hair will typically contain emollients and oils in a fairly high amount. This is because curly and coily hair tends to be drier than other hair types. Now when it comes to conditioners, there are so many types available, and each one has its specific attributes and benefits to the hair. For the purpose of this discussion I’ll refer to moisturizing conditioners since this is the type of conditioner most curlies will be using. Moisturizing conditioners typically increase the moisture content of the hair, improve elasticity and manageability. They work to add and retain moisture in the hair. Now when we talk about your hair needing extra moisture that doesn’t mean oil. Hydration is a main characteristic of water so increasing water really means replenishing water to the hair, and preventing or minimizing it’s escape into the surrounding environment. So anything that is going to help improve water retention in the hair is ideal for dry textured hair. There are many ingredients that will help and emollients and oils are among them.
There are several opinions about which oils are best for hair and it’s really up to you which oils will work best for YOUR hair. However, there are some oils that seem to work better than others. Some oils with low molecular weights or shorter fatty acid chains can penetrate the hair cuticle. These oils include coconut oil, murumuru butter and babassu oil. Other oils may be too long to penetrate into the cuticle, and sit on top of the hair coating it increasing slip, improving softness and manageability, and adding shine to the hair. Additionally, using oils in conditioners can help nourish the scalp. All of these benefits can remain even when the conditioner is rinsed from the hair.
For dry hair, oils are important for another reason. Porosity is a key factor in the ability of your hair to maintain moisture. The more porous your hair is the more water it can absorb. Seems like a great thing but there is a flip side to this – it will lose a lot of moisture over time as well. Overly porous hair can be corrected with specific steps. Additionally, conditioners that contain oils can help seal moisture into the hair strand better than those without and this is important for help to keep moisture in the hair.
So what are some great oils for hair? The two oils that are commonly used are coconut oil and Shea butter. Coconut oil is fantastic and there is a lot of science behind its benefits to the hair. Some people have expressed that their often feels drier and tangled from coconut oil and the Natural Haven has this comment to make about this experience:
“The straw like feel some people find with coconut oil is usually related to using too much product because coconut oil is not as viscous as other oils . Hardening of the hair is related usually to temperature because coconut oil solidifies at a fairly low temperature so a cold winter breeze can stiffen hair very fast.”
I personally have no issues with using coconut oil in my hair, especially when it’s used with other conditioning ingredients in a formula. My hair is extremely soft, flexible and moisturized. If you’ve played around with coconut oil and have found no benefit to your hair then leave it out or try fractionated coconut oil instead. It’s coconut oil that’s had a number of fatty chains removed resulting in a very light weight oil that still offers great moisturization to the hair.
Shea butter helps to moisturize your scalp. It may be able to penetrate the hair shaft to offer moisturizing and can create a light occlusive layer to prevent further damage. It also contains allantoin that will help with reducing inflammation and increasing cell regeneration on your scalp.
Other oils that are beneficial include jojoba, avocado, macadamia nut, olive oil, etc.
The key to using conditioners with oils is really knowing why they are in the product and how they will benefit your hair. They are there to improve the condition of your hair, not make it worse.
How do using conditioners with oils affect your hair? Do you love them or loathe them?
Susan is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and the Founder and Creative Director of Canadian based haircare and bodycare line Earthtones Naturals.