Why is Wax in Hair Products?

Why is Wax in Hair Products?

Ever wonder why wax would be in hair products? What is this wax and why are manufacturers of hair products including it in their products?

In general, most hair care products are designed to moisturize or to keep the hair strand moisturized. Waxes are a diverse class of compounds that are generally malleable at ambient temperatures. Waxes can be derived from a wide variety of origins, plant, animal, and petroleum.

Waxes are long chain carbons similar to oils and are used to coat the hair creating a smooth polish look to the hair strand. Potentially the wax will coat the hair fully preventing moisture from leaving the hair shaft. Waxes have thickening capabilities and can be used to thicken a formulation.

A common issue with waxes is that it contributes to product build-up on the scalp. The following ingredients should be avoided if you don’t want synthetic coating agents on your hair shaft because these ingredients typically cause build-up.

Dimethicone

Cyclomethicone

Acrylates

Copolymers

Methylchloroisothiazolinone

Methylisothiazolinone

Paraffin Waxes


Wondering why Dimethicone is listed as a wax? Isn’t it a silicone?
Yes, it’s a silicone, however this particular one is used as a wax because it is so rigid and bulky structurally. Like other silicones it does coat the hair and smooth the cuticle but it “links” together in a tacky manner. So it’s a silicone technically but behaves like a wax.


Animal-derived waxes like beeswax coat the hair shaft but eventually absorb into the cuticle sealing in moisture gradually over time. Beeswax is a powerhouse of natural ingredients because it provides protection and essential nutrients. The key with this ingredient is moderation; too much can lead to build-up and attraction of dirt.

But when it comes to following “Curly Girl” Method, all waxes should be avoided. Here’s a list of waxes to avoid if you are following strict “Curly Girl” Method:

Bees wax
Candelilla wax
Cera
cire
Dodecane
Isododecane
Isohexad
Isohexadecane
Isohexanedecane
Lanolin
Mineral oil
Paraffin
Paraffinum liquidum
Petrolatum
Shellac

Waxes can play pivotal roles in your favorite hair care products. Plant and animal-derived waxes can provide less build-up on the scalp in comparison to petroleum-derived waxes like paraffin. Hair porosity and type can also play a huge role in providing protection and moisture to the hair.

Floros, Michael C.; Raghunanan, Latchmi; Narine, Suresh S. (2016-11-01). "A toolbox for the characterization of biobased waxes". European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. 119 (6): n/a.  doi:10.1002/ejlt.201600360. ISSN 1438-9312.