Sunday, 3 May 2009

Glycerin: Good Stuff in a funny form!

There is alot of buzz currently from forum readers which has now filtered down to my inbox. This buzz is about KY Jelly as a hair moisturiser and styling aid. I have to say, it was a little strange that someone thought about putting it in hair (What exactly were you doing to think that up?!!). However, it is not a half-bad idea lol. 

The main components of KY are water and glycerin (glycerine/glycerol) and both of these are good for thirsty hair. Water is of course the ultimate moisturiser but locking it in is the main activity that most naturals want to perfect. Glycerin is a perfect tool for this because  

1. It is hygroscopic - meaning it bonds to and retains water. (Hygro meaning 'moisture' and scopic in this case meaning 'seeking' - therefore moisture seeking) (Griffin, W. C. et al Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists, 1952)
 
2. It is a humectant (because of no 1) and therefore can be used to stabilise the water/moisture content in products (perhaps as in KY) (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists,pg 19, 1958)  

3. It makes hair softer (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists pg 251-263 1989)
 
4. For natural African hair, it prevents premature failure of hair - and therefore, premature breakage of hair when the hair is under stress (combing/stretching/pulling). However if your hair is relaxed, there is no such benefit (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists pg 39-52 1985)  

5. It offers some thermal protection to hair, preventing cracking of the cuticle on exposure to heat (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists pg 141-153, 1998)
 
I am guessing if you were thinking about KY, a cheaper option could be buying some glycerin and mixing it up with water to get a consistency that you like. Some words of caution though is that getting the water to glycerin ratio for your hair is probably easier said than done. There are well reported issues with some users saying it is too sticky or drying (not!!). Glycerin does have to be mixed with water before you use it as if you do happen to get pure glycerol, it will absorb moisture from the air and your hair if applied directly. 

However, provided you add some water to it and you should be ok. It may take some experimenting to get the right level for you.  

Do you use glycerin? What is your formula (water to glycerin for example 1 teaspoon to 50ml bottle?) and hair type (describe it as you like)?

43 comments:

  1. Hey there, K Y Warming Jelly contains Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Acacia Honey Type O, Methylparaben.

    My mom wants to know what causes the warming sensation and will it stimulate growth. LOL

    Of course we were on the phone cracking up about people using the stuff in there hair.

    Isn't propylene glycol used to make antifreeze and brake fluid?

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  2. I'm glad you pointed out the ratio thing and how too much glycerin can make a mix sticky. I had given up on glycerin b/c of this but after reading this, maybe I just was using too much glycerin. I think I'll give it a try again using less glycerin and see how it goes.

    What's the deal with honeyquat though? I hear it's supposed to be even better than glycerin. Is this true?

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  3. the things people come up with, lol I use glycerine and water mixed with a few oils and I'm good keeps hair soft and hydrated

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  4. right now i'm using a 2:1 water:glycerin ratio in a spray bottle - AGrlCanMac suggested it on her blog. it's not sticky, but feels a bit like hair gel right after I spray it on my hair. I have super kinky, cottony hair (aka i'm a cnapp) and my hair dries out really quickly. So far I've liked the results - my hair isn't mad dry and dandruff is minimal. however, it quickly builds up on my scalp, which is especially annoying as I'm rocking kinky twists (braid extensions) right now. Will have to see whether or not the results change if I use it with my hair out.

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  5. thanks for the info i did not know it prevented from the premature breakage of hair. I have avoided using it for a while bcuz i was afraid it will make my twist shrink. So what i do is i put some oil in my hair after i wash so that it '' seals '' in the moisture. I'm not sure if that methode is relevant or if it comes to the same. I also red about the thermal protection of the hair but then i'm thinking... it might protect the hair while using a hot comb but then it'll attract moisture back and the hair will curl back after hours. So i think there must be something i don't understand in this whole glycerin and moisture thing. I'm the only one ?

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  6. lol Kinky Rhonnie - No there is nothing in that can stimulate hair growth. I think for the warming jelly it is possible that the glycerin and propylene glycol are in a low state of water content, when placed in contact with skin, they absorb water and release heat (exothermic reaction) creating a warming sensation. This is just a theory though, I'm not privy to the patent secrets of KY :)

    @Milan - I haven't heard about honeyquat, I'll look that up :)

    @Nicole - Funny one isn't it lol

    @mellowyel - Glycerin is very soluble in water. If you rinse your hair, you will take most of it off so it shouldn't build up. As long as you are washing your hair once a week or so, you should be fine. That said, if you are adding some oils to your mix then that may be what is causing build up.

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  7. @Kadiane - Yes if you use glycerin and water your hair will be moisturised and shrink. Shrinkage is a way of telling you that your hair has taken up some water.

    Your question on thermal protection is really good. It actually offers thermal protection because it holds on to water preventing the heating tool from drying out the hair completely. The hair is protected from drying out and this is where the thermal protection comes from. It does not help to straighten the hair, just prevents the heating tool from burning it.

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  8. Ok, I'm going to be the one to ask: Who is the original person behind the idea of putting KY Jelly in her hair?

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  9. lol Alice - because you asked - here is the link that was emailed to me lol

    http://www.naturallycurly.com/curltalk/showthread.php?t=55508

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  10. i use about 2 tbsp of glycerin to 160z of Aloe Vera Juice, to much glycerin makes my hair over moisturized

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  11. Interesting topic. However, not surprising (at least not any longer). Since becoming natural and spending countless hours on the internet I have come accross so many things I would never think to put in my hair (miconazole nitrate, crisco, cayenne pepper,crushed birth control pills, etc).
    My hair responds well to glycerin-I have yet to make my own mix (currently using CURLS curl quencher),but when I do I was recommended a 50/50 (glycerin/water) mix.
    Quick Question: Is there a significance or more beneficial aspect of using vegetable glycerin vs glycerin?

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  13. Yea I don't think im gonna be buying it for my hair though, way too embarassing for me.
    hmm, i can't believe you have to mix glycerin with water! i've been using it straight, and while its kinda ok, i was not planning on buying anymore. ok, guess im gonna have to try it with the water. thanks JC!

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  14. Hi Sheila - Most glycerin actually does come vegetable oil. Vegetable glycerin and glycerin are probably the same thing, one just specifying that it is purely from vegetable oil.

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  15. well i never even heard of the KY stuff til now but I guess it's no different from folks using Monistat to stimulate hair growth. I'll pass though. :)

    My use of glycerin is an equal ratio of vegetable glycerin and aloe vera juice. I have currently have short, tightly coiled (i.e. Afro kinky) hair and NOTHING has moisturized my hair in life like this combo. May not work for everyone but it's glycerin is a nice moisturizing option to play around with.

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  16. I don't plan to be buying the KY hahahaha. I do make a watery glycerin mix. I add about a cup of really warm to hot water, and maybe near but never over 1/4 glycerin *possibly a little less than that I never measured it I know it mentally* I then add maybe 1/8 cup of nasabb's kelechi hair oil*jasmine one* which contains olive oil, castor oil, almond oil, wheat germ oil and jasmine oil and I maybe 10 drops of jojoba oil. Shake it up really good and usually I saturate my hair when its in a puff. Makes it really soft, really moisturized and my hair seems to coil up really nice.
    My hair loves glycerin and water though especially if I baggie it.

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  17. I'm a little late, but I'd like to know how sodium lactate compares to glycerin. I opt to use it instead because I've heard that it's more hygroscopic with less stickiness.

    Are there other qualities that I don't know about? Are my assumptions true?

    Thanks.

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  19. Hi atrackbrown - I haven't heard of sodium lactate before! I have however found a book (Glycerine by Jungermann and Sonntag) which does say that sodium lactate is more hygroscopic than glycerine. They do report that moisture loss from the skin is however similar between sodium lactate and glycerine.

    They don't report on the stickiness factor but I would think as it is a salt, sodium lactate is likely to be less sticky.

    I have learned something new today, thanks!!

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  20. I´ve been using a mix of glycerine and olive oil. My hair is natural tighlty coilded and past the shoulders when stretched. Anyway, the mix moisurizes my thick hair very well. Only problem is shrinkage as you mention:)) I love my hair big, so I will have to naybe move on to something else, or maybe not...

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  21. KY in hair is nothing new. Ballerinas have been using it for years to slick down their buns...

    Seriously.

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  22. JC, if i use my glycerine water mix during winter time i feel like i have to add water to my hair every following day to ''water'' the glyrerine. Is glycerine realy able to keep the same level of water in the hair till i wash it? Won't it finally loose some water and then strip it from my hair ? ( Also Under 0 Celsius, water becomes hard. Do i really want water on my hair then ?)

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  23. Kadiane: I use rosewater and glycerine mix with a bit of oil in it. I chose castor as that's what I had on hand. Olive oil, almond, jojoba are others that can also be used.

    There's no problems whatsover. I also live in Northern Ontario. So winter weather can be pretty scary at times. A fine mist to refresh the hair in the morning while you get ready should not hurt you. That means not wetting it down!!!! Use a very fine mister (ex: an empty Fructis spray gel bottle). Just a few spritz is all you need and I do that on the ends only where I need it the most.

    Of course not knowing the true condition of your hair, the products you use etc etc is not telling the entire storyline of your hair.

    Play around with ratio amounts and you'll find something that works for you.

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  24. Very interesting about the KY jelly, I get my glycerine for the cake section in Tesco (my local supermarket) and I mix mine with water.

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  25. I didnt know Tesco sold glycerine! Nice one!

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  26. wow this has changed my thoughts on glycerin... in more ways than one!!! ;) thanks

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  27. Had a quick question, if I mix bottled water, glycerin and a bit of peppermint essential oil, do I need to add a preservative? Do you know if it doesn't have a preservative what the shelf life would be?

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    1. Essential oils have very long shelf lives. Depending on the oil, from many months to two years. You definitely would not need preservative in your product.

      Aside--I believe Peppermint Oil is drying. Unless you are prone to excessive oiliness, I would check first on your need for it.

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  28. I am a new follower of the blog. Great info here!! But I have a quick question. I see and hear about a lot of naturals using vegetable glycerin over regular glycerin. I know that vegetable glycerin is plant based and regular glycerin is supposedly fat derived. But do these have different effects for hair?

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  29. Hi Aaliyah - Glycerin is just glycerin whether plant derived or from soap making or from diesel. The structure is exactly the same.

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  30. I have heard that it isn't good to use glycerin in the dryer months because it could dry out your hair? Is there truth behind this? Would I just need to add water daily? I'm worried about the dry,dry winters where I live.

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  31. I was waiting to find someone who posed a question regarding the possibility that glycerine (when used in a dry climate) would turn on the hair itself and suck out the moisture LOL. I finally scrolled down past Zee's question to find no response :-( JC, do you have an answer to this question, or perhaps a suggestion for effectively using glycerine to moisturise hair in a very dry climate? Since moving here, LA weather and hard water have ruined my once smooth manageable hair.

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  32. Anon I generally do not answer questions which can be searched on the blog. There are plenty of posts about glycerin which address this question. Use the search button to find the discussions :)

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  33. Can you suggest a brand of glycerin that would be good for thinning, dry natural hair?

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  34. I usually use organic vegetable glycerin. I have 4b/4c hair. Oh my!!! this has been my holy grail!!!! I keep it simple...two parts water to one part glycerin.

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  35. Hi, hope you do not mind me disagreeing with your point that glycerine and water will not work on relaxed hair. I have long BSLrelaxed hair and that mixture is the truth! Found your blog through one of my readers and I agree on almost all you are saying except that point.

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    1. The science shows that relaxed hair is not strengthened by glycerine. So it is only specifically the strengthening that is not a benefit. In terms of moisture and acting as a humectant, it does that on all hair.

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  36. I wonder if glycerine and other humectants are the solution to the problem of hair which feels 'dry yet greasy' with certain oils and conditioners. When I started regularly using water mixed with glycerine and aloe, I no longer had this problem. I could up my moisture level and reduce the amount oil in my hair.

    - grace

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  37. When your hair feels slightly dry when using water/glycerin, should you add more glycerin or more water?

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    1. Water. Glycerin, in dry weather, has the habit of stripping your hair of moisture. If it is highly humid (70% humidity or higher) add more glycerin, but still a little water so it has something to soak up and give you soft, shiny hair!

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  38. What should be considered dry weather?

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  39. I love glycerin, it's the only product I have as a staple for my 4 a/b hair. I buy the drugstore pure one and use it weekly or as needed in a 250ml homemade spray bottle (1/4th glycerin, 1/4th oil[olive, marula or argan] and the remaining half water. I add 4 drops of tea tree essential oil and 4 drops peppermint EO). The elasticity I get and moisture are absolutely fantastic, no other product can do the same thing to my hair. BUT you do need to get your ratio right, whenever I pour anything more than the 1/4th I talked about, my hair gets sticky and it's very unpleasant, especially if you have braids.

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