Ingredients that Fight Hair Shrinkage
Through any general observation, it is apparent that there are several different hair types, or more succinctly put hair texture types, and they range from straight hair shafts to coiled and kinked hair shafts. People with any curled or coiled hair texture often have to guess at what is the actual length of their hair due to the common hair conundrum known as shrinkage.
Shrinkage can commonly make 90% of the hair length to disappear into tight densely packed coils.
The curly hair strand has a different shape as it protrudes from the scalp via the follicle. Straight hair shafts are circular and symmetrical whereas the curly hair shaft is asymmetrical and oval in shape. This shape and asymmetry allow the hair shaft to fold over itself producing the coiled effect of curly hair. Genetics of an individual usually drives the tightness of the coil which is why some people have loose waves versus small compact coils. Additionally, the hair shaft of a curly strand typically has a raised cuticle which can leave the hair strand vulnerable to loss of moisture. However, when excess water enters this environment the hair can become over moisturized and the tightening effect gets triggered causing the hair shaft to coil over itself repeatedly dramatically reducing the appearance of length.
To combat shrinkage the hair shaft has to be uncoiled to elongate the hair strand. Elongating the hair shaft to reduce the tightness of the coil can be done physically through braiding, binding, or heat; however, to achieve that goal through hair products revolves around controlling moisture in the hair strand. Not enough moisture and you get frizzy hair; too much and you lose your length. There are several products in the commercial market that boast claims of stretching the hair for ‘maximum length’. Just what are those extraordinary ingredients that reveal the actual length of hair?
● Natural ingredients like flaxseed, shea butter, or bamboo milk coat the hair allowing the hair shaft to uncoil without breaking when pulled straight by fingers or combs.
● Waxes might be in an ingredient list, this ingredient whether plant, animal, or synthetic will coat the hair strand and elongate the shaft.
● Gels are designed to provide flexibility to the hair. A moisturizing gel can provide moisture to the hair shaft and allow enough flexibility to overcome coiling.
Many commercially available hair products make claims of reducing shrinkage or stretching of the hair shaft have been specifically designed to target the curling of the hair shaft through two primary methods; sealing the cuticle and/or adding weight to the interior of the hair shaft. Ideally, the products cause the hair to be slippery and heavy resisting the ability for it to coil over itself.
Let’s compare a few popular (commercially available) curly hair products that claim to be curl stretchers and elongate curls.
DevaCurl’s Super Stretch is an example of a product using both methodologies to elongate the hair. The most prominent ingredients, water and glycerin, are indicative of the intentions of this particular product.
Water, the ultimate moisturizer and glycerin, an amazing slip agent in combination with the heavy oils like shea and castor will give the strand weight counteracting the hair’s tendency of coiling. Other ingredients like the fruit extracts and lighter oils coat the cuticle giving the hair a shiny appearance. The crosspolymer feature in the ingredient list above provides the same function as the other ingredients by covering the hair shaft this compound seals in the moisture and also allows for slip preventing breakage as the hair is untangled.
Aunt Jackie’s Elongating Curling Gel follows the same functional pathway as the Deva Curl product.
The usage of items like the carbomer, a bulky sugar derivative, the phenoxyethanol, the polymer polyvinylpyrrolidone, and polysorbate-20 are present to coat the hair strand and provide weight to the hair assisting in elongating the strand.
Moisture is a double edge sword and the inclusion of moisture encapsulating compounds leads to an environment that is optimal for microbial growth.
Cosmetic manufacturers have used natural derivatives of formaldehyde to control microbes but with the inclusion of tetrasodium, EDTA consumers should be concerned because tetrasodium is used as a skin enhancer meaning that the formaldehyde compound is being driven into the skin because of the skin penetration capabilities of tetrasodium EDTA.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen at higher levels however the amount used in these products most likely only causes skin irritations. However, over usage of this product could cause significant damage to the hair follicle overall health.
Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding is a product that has been around for a decade in the natural hair care market. This product contains ingredients that are very similar to the other products mentioned but focuses on coating the hair. The additions of mineral oil, silicone copolymers, and vinyl copolymers suggests that the formulators wanted to cause swelling
in the hair shaft. Some preservatives are a presence but the positioning of the ingredient in the listing suggests that very little of the product is present.
FYI: This product is not “CG” Friendly as it contains silicone: AMODIMETHICONE and drying alcohol: ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL.
This product utilizes aloe vera and lighter oils to give the hair slip and moisture. Some polymers are present to assure that there is stability and thickness to the product. Aloe Vera introduces water to oils so the polymers are needed to create an emulsion for uniformity of the products.
Garnier takes the more traditional approach for hair products bucking the trend of recognizable natural products only in the formulation. They utilize many polymers and silicones to coat the hair after introducing excess moisture. Artificial fragrances, colors, and preservatives are included as well.
Controlling moisture is important with maintaining healthy and manageable hair. Hair products
that will allow for the hair to unravel and elongate allow the true length to be seen. Finding the
right balance of moisture is a part of maintaining personal health.
Sources: Bone, Gabrielle. “Hair Shrinkage Tips You Cant Live Without.” NauturallyCurly, 10 Mar. 2016, www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/hairstyles/hair-shrinkage-tips.
Ingredient listing of selected product procured from the websites of product manufacturers.