Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Myth of Natural Hair Products

As a scientist, I am actually very liberal with the word natural and my view is that everything
has a natural origin. However, I am deeply aware that most consumers when purchasing a product from a company using the words for curly hair, botanical, natural or organic, there is an expectation of many natural unadulterated ingredients. Many consumers choose to trust companies but in truth it is often more about marketing rather than genuine differences in content.

Today is an exercise in learning to read product labels not as the manufacturer wants you to, but rather as they really are.

What are we doing?
1. Delete all extracts - often constitute 1% or less of the product
2. Delete all advertising words e.g organic, unrefined, raw, fresh, unnecessary wording
3. Focus on the top 5 ingredients only - often constitute 80-90%+ of the product
4. IF you are avoiding something specifically read the full list .

SPOILER ALERT - Whether the product is considered organic/natural/for curly hair or not, an almost uniform trend emerges and notably many of the ingredients chosen are made in the lab (marked with†)

Type of Ingredient
What it does
What is typically chosen
Emollient and Stabiliser Softens hair, helps oil and water in conditioner mix instead of forming separate fractions Cetyl alcohol†, stearyl alcohol† or the fusion cetostearyl alcohol†
Surfactant Smooth cuticle, softens hair and also helps oil and water fractions in conditioner mixbehentrimonium methosulfate† or behentrimonium chloride†
OilAdds Slip, softens hair Shea butter or silicone based oil†

1. Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 5/5)
Summary:  Clear list. Has a lot of alcohol, fragrance is high up on the list. 
Key ingredients - cetyl alcohol and shea butter

As you should read it: Aqua, Cetyl Alcohol, Alcohol Denat. (38B, Lavender), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Fragrance

As Listed: Aqua, Cetyl Alcohol (From Coconut), Alcohol Denat. (38B, Lavender), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Fragrance, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Glycerin, Rosa Rubiginosa (Rosa Mosqueta®) Seed Oil*, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil*, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil*, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Nut Oil*, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Calendula Officinalis Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract*, Melissa Officinalis (Balm Mint) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Chrysanthemum Sinense Flower Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Flower Extract, Magnolia Biondii Bud/Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Angelica Archangelica Root Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Seed Extract

2. Kinky Curly Knot Today
(Ingredient list clarity rating 0/5)

Summary: Ingredients list is not clear - no water on the listing, Question the listing!  
Key ingredients - cetyl alcohol and behentrimonium methosulfate
As you should read it: Cetyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate

As listed: Organic mango fruit extract, organic slippery elm, organic marshmallow root, organic lemon grass, cetyl alcohol, behentrimonium methosulfate, citric acid, phenoxyethanol and natural fragrances

3. Beemine BEEUTiFUL Moisturizing Deep Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 4/5)
Summary: Generally clear ingredient list except preservatives are not named.
Key ingredients - cetearyl alcohol , behentrimonium methosulfate, shea butter and coconut oil

As you should read it : Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium methosulfate, Shea Butter , Coconut Oil

As Listed: Distilled water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium methosulfate, Organic Unrefined Shea Butter , Organic Coconut Oil, Cupuacu Butter, Calendula Extract, Chamomile Extract, Organic Raw Honey, Paraben and Formaldehyde Free Preservative, Fragrance (Phthalate Free)

4. Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3/5)

Summary: Ingredient list has a lot of marketing words, extracts are prominently listed, contains quite a few silicones
Key ingredients - cetearyl alcohol , cyclopentasiloxane, stearalkonium chloride, behentrimonium chloride

As you should read it: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearalkonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride

As listed: Aqueous (Water, Aqua Purificata, Purified) Extracts: Hippophae Rhamnoides Extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Leaf Powder, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearalkonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, Phenyl Trimethicone, Quaternium-80, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Chenopodium Quinoa Seed Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Hordeum Distichon (Barley) Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Tocopherol, Babassuamidopropyltrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Behenamidopropyltrimonium Methosulfate, Dicaprylyl Maleeate, Dimethiconol Meadowfoamate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, Citric Acid, Sodium Gluconate, Methylcholroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

5. Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3.5/5)

Summary: Extracts prominently listed but otherwise a fair ingredient list
Key ingredients -behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, shea butter and avocado oil

As you should read it: Water, Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil

As Listed: Water infused with Equisetum Maximum Lam (Horsetail), Mentha Piperita (Peppermint), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), Laurus Nobilis (Bay Leaf), Ocimum Basilicum (Basil), Arctium Lappa (Burdock Root), Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow Root), Origanum Vulgare (Oregano), Cymbopogon Flexuosus (Lemongrass), Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme), Salvia Officinalis (Sage) and Urtica Dioica (Nettle), Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Soy Lecithin, Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

6. Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3.5/5)

Summary: Ok list, some marketing terms and emulsfying wax (which can be cetearyl alcohol or polysorbate) is not defined.
Key ingredients - shea butter, argan oil, coconut oil, behentrimonium chloride

As you should read it: Water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter), Argan oil, coconut oil, Behentrimonium chloride

As Listed: Deionized water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter)*, Argan oil, coconut oil*, Behentrimonium chloride, essential oil blend, vegetable glycerin, emulsifying wax, sea kelp extract, Panthenol (vitamin B-5), avocado oil, Lonicera Caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower and Lonicera Japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E) and Daucus Carota Sativa (carrot) seed oil. *Denotes certified organic ingredients

7. For arguments sake , here is what is considered a non natural product
 Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 5/5)

Summary: Clear list, some water soluble silicones included
Key ingredients -stearyl alcohol , behentrimonium chloride, cetyl alcohol, bisaminopropyl dimethicone

As you should read it: Water , Stearyl Alcohol , Behentrimonium Chloride , Cetyl Alcohol , Bis Aminopropyl Dimethicone

As Listed: Water , Stearyl Alcohol , Behentrimonium Chloride , Cetyl Alcohol , Bis Aminopropyl Dimethicone , Zea Mays (Corn) Silk Extract , Orchis Mascula Flower Extract , Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract , Fragrance , Benzyl Alcohol , Disodium EDTA , Sodium Hydroxide , Methylchloroisothiazolinone , Methylisothiazolinone , Blue 1

There you go, learn to eliminate marketing hype and read the ingredients that are actually working on your hair!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Midweek Gossip: Aubrey Organics now just Aubrey?

Does anyone have a link as to why Aubrey has decided to drop the Organics part of their label? Rumour* has it that this is a forced change as Whole foods in the US now has a requirement that in order for a product to be labelled as organic,  95% of the content must be certified organic. The alternative is that a product can be labelled as 'made with organic ingredients' but not plainly organic if  70% of the content is certified organic.

Therefore brands like Aubrey Organics, Avalon Organics or Giovanni Organic Hair Care are forced to drop the Organic part of their names as they do not meet the standard.

 I can see that Aubrey websites are still currently having the organics moniker (website traffic can drop with a name change) but all the products are currently just labelled as just Aubrey.

Anyone have some more details for us?

*Yes, I even cite my rumours lol - Now Toronto

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Soapnut: A natural fruit shampoo from a tree

One of my best friends who is from Thailand is responsible for this post. She first told me about this a few months ago as she was doing some research into making a natural shampoo as part of her Thai traditional medicine course.

Q: What are soapnuts?

Soapnuts are fruits from a shrub that grows in parts of Asia and the Americas. Alternative names include soapberry and sapindus. The fruits are dried and then boiled to release a natural detergent for washing (Ind. Eng. Chem.,pp712-713, 1939). The detergent is used not just for washing hair but also even more 'serious' tasks such as laundry.

Q: Really can you just boil a dry fruit and get shampoo?

For those of you who read my oat and bean water shampoo article, this will not come as a surprise to you. Soapnuts naturally contain a chemical known as saponin (sounds a bit like soap!). Saponins are detergent like in behaviour because they are amphiphilic.

Q: Amphi...what?

Amphiphilic means that on a single molecule you have both a part that is attracted to water and a part that is attracted to oil. Why is this important? It all boils down to the fact that oil and water do not mix, and in order for oil to be removed (i.e cleansing to occur), you need a molecule that can attach to oil and at the same time force it to mix with water so that it can be rinsed off. Therefore you need both a water loving and oil loving part on the same molecule.

If you are a visual learner, here is an old diagram, showing you how SLS behaves, the process with saponins would be similar in principle except of course that saponins from soapnuts are a little larger and can be extracted by you boiling the dry fruit. (If you want more details, read how surfactants work in full - here). 

Demonstration of how hair cleansing works from a chemical perspective

Q: What is the pH of the soapnut shampoo water?

I have not done any experiments myself but I have seen some commercially extracted saponin with a pH of around 4-5when dissolved in water.

Q: Ok, so you really are saying we can boil some dry fruit and use that water to wash you hair?

I am indeed, here is a helpful video guide!

Have you heard of or have you used soapnuts? What is your experience, does it clean well? Have you done a pH test?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Bad Ingredients Label: Kinky Curly Knot Today

So, you must know by now that I really dislike it when products are badly labelled. This is most common in the natural hair industry with small start ups who are keen to keep their ingredients as a trade secret. However, I am actually mightily surprised that a company as large as Kinky Curly is up to some  trickery creative labelling.

This is the ingredients label on Kinky Curly Knot Today

Organic mango fruit extract, organic slippery elm, organic marshmallow root, organic lemon grass, cetyl alcohol, behentrimonium methosulfate, citric acid, phenoxyethanol and natural fragrances   Q1. Where is the water?  If you have read previous instalments on the law of product labelling, you will have heard me harp on about why water should almost always be the first ingredient in a hair shampoo or hair conditioner. I am very perplexed as to how this apparently water based moisturiser has no water, when water can often constitute 80% or more in such a product and should be the first listed ingredient.     Q2. What if you (Jc) are wrong and this product is just concentrated and has little water?  Honestly, you should hope that I am right and the water has been omitted. Why? Cetyl alcohol and behentrimonium methosulfate are solid pellets that need to be dissolved. If that list as printed is correct then this is not a water based conditioner but an alcohol based one with phenoxyethanol as the only possible solvent on the list (To be clear, I think that water has been omitted and phenoxyethanol is a preservative).  Q3: But the Kinky Curly Website says their products do not contain alcohol or silicones 
 Sorry, but- phenoxyethanol which is declared on the label is of alcoholic origin **(please read the comments for clarity on aromatic ether alcohol/ glycol ether vs alcohol). Perfectly legitimate as a preservative and sometimes used as a solvent just as an alcohol.    Q4. But it has so many organic and natural ingredients  I don't think so (my opinion). I am totally against listings of herbal extracts in water at the top of the list. This is often because only small amounts are used (do note that if large amounts were used, the colour of the product would end up more along a brown or green colour - similar to the colour of bark/leaf). This product is white so my theory is that those herbal extracts have a very minor role on the hair but a major role on you as the consumer.   Q5: So what really is in the bottle?  In my honest opinion, I sincerely doubt that we have the full ingredient list. I am fairly certain that water has been omitted and additionally, I also think that oil may also have been omitted from this list.  Here is the breakdown of the declared ingredients:

What is it?
How much would typically be found in a hair product?
Organic mango fruit extract, organic slippery elm, organic marshmallow root, organic lemon grass, Herbal Extract (Normally drop a few herbs in water or oil or alcohol as the solvent, wait for a few minutes/hours, sieve out the herbs, use the water to make the product) Generally less than 1%
Cetyl alcohol Emollient (softens hair), Thickener (makes conditioner more gloopy instead of it being overly liquid)Around 5%
Behentrimonium methosulfateSurfactant (Smooths down cuticle, reduces static, softens hair) Around 5%
citric acid, phenoxyethanol Both act as preservatives - citric acid is a weak fruit derived acid  that stops products going rancid, also adjusts pH slightly and phenoxyethanol is an alcohol which can also be a solvent. Depends on the formula - can be effective from as little as 0.1% but sometimes much more is added to improve shelf life or kill more microbes
Natural fragrances Could really be anything! Manufacturers are not required to define what the fragrance is Should not be much (under 1%) but can be e.g when some manufacturers use fragrance to disguise other ingredients

So if you total up the percentages of expected amounts of the declared products - you get to around 12%. If you even decide to be generous and make it 20 or even 30%....what is the undeclared 70-80%?

The thing I fail to understand is that kinky curly knot today is by all accounts a very much loved product by many naturals, why does the manufacturer feel inclined to have a very poor and even possibly misleading label?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

What do you want to see next on the blog?

Given the success of the last set of posts which were basically your is another ask the reader set!

The last series of microscope pictures brought out a lot of ideas for future experiments. So far I have

1. Retest on hubby's hair (white/caucasian)
2. Apply silicone serum to hair and see if cleansers remove it
3. Test on scalp cleansing
4. Test with HH (silicone containing conditioner), shampoo bars, castile soap, oat/bean water, soapnuts

What do you want to see most or do you have more test conditions to suggest?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Alicisms : A Week in Review

I have seen many blog round ups in my time but Alice's Weekend Photo is by far the best. I think with its eclectic mix of hair, music and other interests, it just keeps springing up new discoveries. This is a totally stolen idea although with permission! I am calling my series Alicisms in honour of where the ingenuity started.

Here we go!

1. Etsy - I spend an extraordinary probably verging on a little too much time on etsy. The gem today comes from Sharp Tooth Studio (love that name) and is a mini banner telling you it is ok to be 'weird'.....and it really is.
2. Hair blog feature of the week- Check out the girls at  Kurly Kichana with a feature of  Nicola Okero, a Mauritian based Kenyan model who has a stunning head of natural hair. So far the natural hair is her calling card and no one has asked her to change it.
3. Tweet of the week -  I am not a fan of love and hip hop but I pretty much know all that is going on in the program because of the sheer number of comments on my twitter timeline. This particular one from Elle of Quest for Perfect Curl had me in stitches.
4. Song of the week - The song of the week is a mellow tune from Kenya (again, you say........yes again!). Just a band define themselves as a nerdy electro-pop African band. I cannot think of a video that has ever featured such happy people......enjoy Probably for Lovers from the album Sorry for the Delay.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

#teamnatural is for everyone

If you don't already know the story you have been living under a rock. However, if you don't here is the bite sized version. A white reader featured on curly nikki, some black readers raise hell saying she should never have been featured and the piece was a mockery, ebony mag writer says #naturalhair spaces should be kept free of white people, 1 BGLH writer essentially agrees explaining why exclusivity is not racism, I as another BGLH writer disagree and say all people should be welcome because the principle of excluding a race is exactly what apartheid supports.

On BGLH the vocal majority was and is clearly for exclusion. I dance to the beat of my own drum and there is a small yet clear voice who do agree with me that we should not exclude anyone. Having the loudest voice does not mean it is the most applicable, most intelligent or makes the most sense. It just means x number of people agree with you while y either disagree or have no opinion either way.

Some regular cross readers have left many comments on my own blog that I have chosen not to publish, not because they are not publication worthy but because they are being left on posts that have nothing to do with the subject. I am therefore creating this post for the purpose of those who feel that they want to comment on the issue.

Honestly in my view, this issue has been beaten to a pulp! Why are we subscribing to the Dubya mentality of, 'You are either with us or against us?' The truth is much more genteel.... Everyone is entitled to their opinion. We can agree to disagree.

So if you have something to say, say it, if you are bored already, go check out some older posts :)