Natural oils come from seeds, the very beginning of plant life, full of potential and precious plant nutrients to support the plant growth when the right conditions arise. The same nutrients that support plants life can help revive damaged hair making natural oils hair miracle workers. Our hair is constantly exposed to harsh detergents, shampoos, hair colorants, dryers and hot plates. These chemical and physical procedures can really cause a lot of damage making the hair dull and brittle, and the scalp inflamed and dry. To understand more what happens to the hair we need to go into its world and see what it is made of. Simplifying we find an external structure for protection, called cuticle (the hair cuticle looks like the pieces of bark on a palm tree trunk) and internal structure for strength, called cortex made of inner fibrous proteins that look like long spaghetti
So we can imagine the hair like a palm tree trunk containing long proteins spaghetti. The hair cuticle (or bark) is responsible for the hair appearance (shine and colour vibrancy) and feel including dry and wet combing. Scientists have found out that the cuticle does contain its own natural oils forming like an oil layer on the “palm tree trunk”. These lipids make the hair water resistant and elastic, giving it shine, smoothness and bounciness. Unfortunately this natural oil layer on the hair cuticle, responsible for the hair beauty factor, is quite a delicate thing. It can be easily removed by simple hair brushing and exposure to high pH products that strip it off (have you ever noticed how dry and brittle the hair feel after applying hair colour?). The hair natural oil layer is also affected by the use of dry shampoo which contains starch that can soak up the hair precious natural oil layer. You can literally see what happens thanks to trichologist Tony Maleedy ‘s hair research results. In a way or another, our hair ends up being starved of its natural oil, looking dull and brittle. This is where natural plant oils can come to the hair rescue, giving a shining look and a smooth feel. That is also why recently we are witnessing a revival or rediscovery of oils in haircare products, such as argan oil and other very interesting african oils. Another benefit of applying natural oils to the hair is to prevent protein loss caused by hair washing, making the hair stronger as well. In fact some vegetable oils have affinity with hair protein and the ability of penetrating into the hair cortex with a protective effect on the hair. For these reasons I like to think of natural oils as miracle hair workers, they make hair healthy and strong.
From a cosmetic formulation point of view, the challenge I see is to choose the vegetable oil/oils that have the highest affinity to the hair, stabilising the oil against oxidation and minimise the oily feel attached to the use of vegetable oils. Once overcome these technical challenges, you have an amazing haircare product to take to market.
From a consumer point of view you need to check the hair oil you are using is not cut or diluted with silicones as these would strip off your own natural lipid, neutralising the benefit of the natural oils hair miracle workers. Check the ingredients list before you buy, and watch out for pentasiloxane, dimethicone and so on..