Thursday, 18 September 2014

Science Experiment in Progress

Guess what! I chopped off some of my hair. I was tired of the length and was getting very lazy on taking care of it so I cut off 6-7 inches. I was initially just chopping it off randomly when my hubby told me, 'Are you going to keep that for your hair science experiments?'

Ah, what a good man! I then decided to braid it up and chop the 'tails' off and keep them of course.......for science! I am right this minute running a scientific experiment on some of that hair!

Braided sections from the crown area

Experiment currently in progress!

Some housekeeping

1. Yes the porosity post is coming up, it has been a lot of work because I am taking a different angle but it will be great....or at least I think it is great :)

2. I have seen the numerous requests for max hydration hair under the microscope. I honestly do not think there will be a visible difference but since I have these hair swatches I will do it if not to just test my theory that there will be no visible difference.

3. I now have hubby's hair for the hair cleansing experiment on Caucasian hair!

4. Side note: No I am not bald, I still have 8-10 ish inches after that cut. Speaking about bald, I love love love this hair cut, it made me so ridiculously happy. Yes I do have sufficient amount of crazy to consider it as a hairstyle.......a coily iguana :)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Triethanolamine TEA in Gel - Is it a bad ingredient?

Since I put up my analysis of the max hydration method, several of you have sent me additional links to questions that you have about the scientific analysis of ingredients and why they are drying.  One of the pages sent to me was this one about triethanolamine. There are numerous inaccurate statements within that article which I cannot tackle. I will therefore try instead to tell you about the ingredient itself and the research I have found about it.

1. What is triethanolamine?

It is a base which does contain three alcohol molecules but it is not an alcohol. 

2. Why is TEA found in gels?

It is used to adjust the pH to a neutral region so that the gel can actually form. Most often you will find both TEA and carbomer listed. These two are the backbone of most commercial gels. The TEA is added to water to adjust the pH and carbomer (a polymer) helps to turn the liquid phase (aloe vera or water or both) into a gel.  I found a video showing exactly this. Do note how little TEA is required!

3. Does TEA form sodium hydroxide in gel?

Honestly the chemistry when you have 5 or more ingredients is quite complex and it would be highly inaccurate to speculate on this without having done lab tests. Suffice it to say though that even if you directly added sodium hydroxide (which can be done as it too is a base and we need the base to bring the pH to neutral!), this does not mean that your hair will be relaxed. The bottom line is that bases are used for pH adjustment for hair lotions, conditioners and gels which are not intended to relax hair.

4. IF there is sodium hydroxide in the gel, can it  give you cancer?

Currently, sodium hydroxide is not classed as a carcinogen. I say currently because information may change but so far, it is not known or listed directly as a carcinogen. This does not mean that it is safe and can be used willy nilly! In high concentration (e.g relaxers), it most definitely is dangerous and associated with skin damage but again not everyone who uses a relaxer ends up with burns, with proper precautions it can be used.

5. Does TEA contain nitrosamines and can this give you cancer?

TEA can indeed contain nitrosamines and nitrosamines are known to be carcinogenic, this is widely accepted. However, cosmetic grade TEA from Dow Chemical Co. has previously been analysed independently and there was no detectable nitrosamine across several batches (J Soc Cosmet Chem, pp 237-252, 1980). The word 'detectable' is important because the instruments used can find nitrosamines if there is at least around a nanogram (1 billionth of a gram) present......yes really that little! Therefore if cosmetic grade TEA of a similar standing is used for the gel, it will probably have no detectable nitrosamine.

6. Is TEA safe?

It is up to you to decide for yourself. In the same way that it is up to you to decide whether parabens are safe or not. I only provide the information  :)

If you are worried about nitrosamines then do read up more on frying meat, eating smoked and preserved meat e.g bacon etc as if you have these regularly, your hair gel should be the least of your concerns. 

7. Do I (me, Jc) use TEA?

Yes, I am currently liking aloe vera gel (a commercial one) with TEA and preservatives. It would be nice to use the plant leaf directly but that is filed under too much work for me. I also have no issues with parabens or formaldehyde precursors as preservatives..........I say this just so you can see where I lie in the spectrum :)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Stay Tuned - Porosity post coming

I will be back this week with some extra information on hair porosity plus answering some questions on MHM e.g is the daily repetition necessary, do you really have to follow the recommended ingredient and does it really work?

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?