Saturday, June 28, 2014

Key Ingredients For Curlies: Sulfate Free Cleansers

Most of you parents and caregivers know by now that sulfates can ruin your child's curls - leaving a stripped dry mop begging for revival to its full, moist and bouncy potential.  You may also becoming hip to the fact that you really want to minimize shampooing, even with the gentlest of cleansers and defer instead to using conditioner or a co-wash for most cleansing procedures.

However, there are just times in your kid's life that a thorough sudsy head cleansing is required - especially if you have been using styling and conditioning products that promote build-up.   Sulfate free cleansers are all the rage, even for straight haired folks.  Here is a cheat sheet to help you better recognize the gentler surfactants (cleansing agents) when the label does not clearly indicate that the product is  sulfate-free.

Common Sulfate Surfactants

Ammonium lauryl sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate
Sodium dodecyl sulfate
Sodium laureth sulfate
Sodium lauryl ether sulfate
Sodium myreth sulfate.

Common Sulfate Free Surfactants

Sodium C14-17 alkyl sulfonate
Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Sodium cocoamphoacetate
Lauryl glucoside
Sodium cocoyl glutamate
Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate
Decyl polyglucoside
Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate

Friday, June 27, 2014

Key Ingredients for Curlies: Marine Botanicals and Bamboo

I thought that I would explore some interesting botanicals that are great for curly hair.

Marine Botanicals

Simply put plants that grow in the ocean are excellent for hair and skin in general, and great for curly hair in particular.  Various kinds of seaweed and algae are highly mineralized so always strengthen the hair follicle from root to tip, thus preventing breakage and adding necessary nutrients that aid in growth.

Frequently, sea plants have a gelatinous quality when macerated and filtered, so they are great natural alternatives to conventional hair gels, providing soft hold without tack or crunchiness.

Additionally, seaweed and algae have humectant properties, meaning they attract moisture to the hair strand, from the environment or from the scalp itself - so they make an excellent vehicle for moisture retention for curlies that are sensitive to glycerin.

Marine botanicals also have film-forming properties - meaning they coat the hair strand - which in turn means that they prevent moisture loss and encourage curl definition and clumping.

Marine botanicals frequently show up under the following INCI names in your hair products:

  • Sea Kelp Bioferment
  • Kelp Extract
  • Algae Extract
  • Seaweed Extract
  • Chondrus Crispus (Irish Moss)


Bamboo has been around for a while in the eco-world and used for clothing, flooring, housewares and fencing.  It's appearance in the beauty industry is relatively recent.  Even though bamboo extracts are great in skin products as well (usually for adult facial products), I will be focusing solely on their value in hair products.

Bamboo is rich in silica, which really strengthens the hair shaft, in addition to coating it and fortifying it.  Bamboo adds a slippery and sleek look and feel to the hair, thus promoting shine, aiding in detangling and giving a more polished look to your curls without the crunch or greasiness usually associated with moist bouncy curls.

Bamboo also volumizes thin or fine hair without creating bulk for those already blessed with a lot of hair.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Key Ingredients for Curlies: Behentrimonium Methosulfate & Ammonium Salts

It is all well and good to look at the ingredients of your hair products, checking for things that might be bad for your family, but in the absence of the usual suspects- parabens, fragrance, sulfates etc - what should you make of the ingredients that remain?

This month we will be focusing on some key ingredients that make a product potentially great for curly hair.  This will help you in your search for the perfect cleansers, conditioners and styling agents - even if the product is not marketed as being customized for your kid's particular hair type.

I will limit each post to no more than 2 categories, with examples so as to avoid overwhelm.

Behentrimonium Methosulfate

This is a conditioning agent that helps with wet combing and detangling.  It is great for all hair types and is wonderful for tight curls and coils.  It is the mildest of all the synthetic conditioning agents on the market and is gentle enough to use on babies and children.  It is also suitable for leave-in products so even if the conditioner is not marketed as such, it is worth trying it as a leave-in on dripping wet hair.  It is derived from the Colza plant from which rapeseed oil is produced.

Ammonium Salts

The most common ammonium salts that you will see in hair products are centrimonium chloride, stearalkonium chloride, behentrimonium chloride, honeyquat and a variety of polyquaternium and quaternium salts.
They vary in how friendly they are towards small bodies, but most of them are quite safe. ( A quick look at the skin deep scale should let you know how comfortable you feel putting the said product on your child's hair or scalp.)  The presence of ammonium salts in a list of ingredients suggest the possibility of the following properties
 - superior wet and dry combing
- antistatic properties
- strong detangling properties
- superior curl definition.

The downside of these ingredients are that they do tend to build up in the hair - particularly the polyquaternium and quaternium salts.  This however may also not be the case if used in really low percentages.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

EWG Skin Deep Scale and Whole Foods Premium Body Care Standards

These, in our opinion, are the web's 2 best places for understanding whether the ingredients in your favorite shampoo are friends or foes.  Just because something has a long scientific name, it does not necessarily mean that it is toxic.  Even with that said, it is more than wise to stick whenever possible with an ingredient list that is basic and simple to understand.

If you come across cosmetic chemicals (or even food grade chemicals) that you are unfamiliar with, the EWG Skin Deep scale is the place to go to ascertain how toxic or friendly it actually is.  You just type in the chemical compound of choice in the allotted space and their little search engine will churn out a number for you, between 0 and 10 - with 0 being not harmful (e.g. olive oil) and 10 being highly toxic.

The numbers are based on decades of scientific research and EWG will actually give you the necessary reference information should you need it, that supports it.

EWG also has many food and cosmetic brands in its database that you can check out in a similar way.

Generally speaking - you should not use anything with a rating higher than 4 on babies or children.  This is just my opinion.

Whole Foods deserves big kudos lately for really narrowing down what they will allow in their personal care aisles.  This was not always the case.  In recent years, they implemented their Whole Foods Premium Body Care Standards and published a list of hundreds of chemicals that they will not permit on their shelves.  This list of "ingredients unacceptable for skin care"
, in concert with the Skin Deep scale is also a good way to ascertain whether your children's (or your own) body care products are safe to use on a regular basis.

Bear in mind that the Whole Foods List also includes a few ingredients that are actually safe like willow bark extract and cocamidapropyl betaine, but which are irritants to a small segment of the population. So that might not make the product concerned a throw away for you.

Either way, these two resources are great for parents or caregivers who are pressed on time but want to be sure they are doing the right thing for their child.  It shaves off quite a few minutes from having to slog through your Google search results.