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Curly Chemistry

Written by Tonya Lane – Youtube Channel: Curly Chemistry

Are You Aware of The Revolution That Is Taking Place In The Natural Ethnic Hair Community? 

Women of color are becoming more aware of what they’re using, understanding ingredients, and are expecting a level of performance that meets their unique needs.  Ethnic hair is the most unique and versatile hair with over 6-9 different types sprawling from wavy, curly, to kinky. As a YouTube content creator, I have a front row seat to the challenges and requests that are made; which usually includes a product that can provide moisture, strengthen damaged hair, and can promote hair growth.  Maybe not an all in one product, but something that delivers on performance and can provide an experience.

Interestingly enough, when consumers are looking for products that perform, they’re also purchasing based on what their hair type falls under including the area of porosity.  For example, a typical hair type can look something similar to: “4b thick high porosity hair”.  At this point with this information, the ingredients that seem to fit with their type will ultimately be the product they choose.

In this article, I would like to share information that I have gathered from my viewers on ingredients and product concepts that have helped them the most.  The purpose of this article is to help guide your formulations based on the top three needs of ethnic consumers.

Challenge # 1: Dry hair. 

Solution: Ethnic hair has the tendency to become much drier than other hair types due to the curly shape of the hair cuticle and lack of sebum along the hair shaft.  To create moisturizing water based formulations to help combat dryness in ethnic hair, I recommend using a combination water phase system.  At times, water alone is not enough, however water partnered with another hydrophilic substance can prove beneficial.  For example; a water phase containing water and aloe vera juice.  Depending on the percent ratio, this combination will provide moisture, hygroscopicity, and an acidic environment compatible to ethnic hair.  The combination water phase will provide an added moisture boost that is important for obtaining moisture within the natural ethnic hair care community. 

Challenge # 2: Hair Growth. 

Solution: Though hair growth can be achieved by using a penetrable active that will stimulate blood flow or activate hair growth receptors within the scalp.  There is still the issue of not retaining the growth or length of the hair due to dryness resulting in breakage.  In this case, formulating a product that will help seal in the moisture that has been added to the hair will be ideal.  Natural ethnic hair that falls in the high porosity category will have lifted cuticles which can allow water to easily escape the hair resulting in dry hair. 

A suitable “sealant” will be a product with high lipophilic content; ideally a complete anhydrous product.  For example, a combination of butters or a range of low and high viscosity carrier oils, or dare I say…petrolatum.  This has been a curse word in the natural hair community for the longest, however with hope I believe the tide is turning due to consumer education from reputable cosmetic chemistry resources, including

Challenge #3: Weak Hair. 

Solution: Protein treatments have been the go to for years, yes they work, yes hydrolyzed proteins are great, however when you teach a man to fish he will have food for the rest of his life.  In this case, creating products that help and prevents hygral fatigue which ultimately creates weak hair despite the amount of protein treatments a person uses can be beneficial.  The hair can resemble a sponge, when the hair becomes wet, the hair expands, and when the hair becomes dry it shrinks.  However, this constant yo-yo effect of the hair can literally stress the hair out and make it “fatigued” resulting in lifted cuticles that become a playground for frizz, tangles, breakage and dull dry hair.  Wash/shampoo days expose the hair to the most amount of water in one setting, and if not careful can bring about hygral fatigue.  To solve these issues, a pre-treatment prior to the use of a shampoo would be ideal.  Similar to a hot oil treatment, but more strategic.  An anhydrous product with a combination of oils with a high saturated fatty acid content.  These unique oils have the chemical makeup to penetrate deep within the hair to help block out any excessive amount of water to help prevent damage.  These oils can include coconut oil, babassu oil, and murumuru butter. 

As ethnic women and men continue to explore the beauty and mystery of their hair, their questions will need to be answered with science in mind.  It is my hope that more research and development can be uncovered to ultimately provide more efficacious products that cater to this unique hair type, that said, may the revolution be televised.


About the author

Tonya Lane is a cosmetic chemist specializing in natural hair care and the creator of the # 1 go to resource for understanding ingredients in the natural hair care industry! She teaches women and men how to get results with their hair care regimens from a science perspective and understand ingredient labels based on their hair needs so they can save time and money!

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