Click here for part 1:What is hair?
Hair nourishment is a strange subject. Let me start by defining nourishment.
From the Oxford dictionary
Nourishment : 'The food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition'
The living part of hair that is capable of growth is in the follicle. The external part of hair is not growing in actual fact it only gets progressively damaged by normal processes such as combing, styling and weathering (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, pp 96-201, 2002).
In my view, everything we do to 'maintain' hair is a temporary fix. For example when adding moisture, choices include one or a mixture of water, oils and conditioner. (Noting that conditioner usually just deposits on the outside of hair causing the cuticle to feel smooth)
Consider this though, most of us will moisturise daily or even more. Why is that? Well these products diffuse into hair and also can diffuse out which means that their effect is temporary.
A second scenario is damage to the cuticle (the outer scale of hair) perhaps leading to chipping or progressively loss of the cuticle. In this case a host of products do say that they can repair this damage through deposition of proteins or artificial chemicals onto the hair surface.
However if you read the small letters, there is usually accompanying advise on repeating treatments every so often. As I am not privy to patent secrets, I can only speculate and I would think that most wash off products to repair hair, do exactly that in the end – wash off.
So would you regard any of these processes as ‘nourishing’? It really is a matter of opinion, I prefer to call it by what it is – moisturising or temporary repair but ‘nourishing’ for me seems to imply a permanency that hair products are not capable of.
Going back to the original question – which is better refined or unrefined butters/oils. With the emphasis of nature most people prefer the unrefined oil/butter. Refining the fat really does not dramatically change its properties in terms of moisture or acting as an emolient.
For example with shea butter, some scientists suggest crude extracts may cause spots or allergies while other studies show no difference between refined and unrefined butters. (Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, pp 8-10, 2008 and Dakar Medica, pp 113-116, 2000).
I use a refined shea butter because I cannot stand the nutty smell. I find it just as softening as its unrefined counterpart. I use unrefined coconut oil because I love the scent.
Tomorrow is the final instalment where I will highlight advertising claims from cosmetic companies and ask some hard questions.
Stay Tuned - Part 3 of 3 : Questionable Advertising?