Expert's Opinion

Humectants Critical for Hair and Scalp Health

By Philip Pelusi, Internationally recognized stylist and product artist | October 24, 2012

Water-retaining ingredients are ideal for wintertime products.

Ingredients known as humectants play a critical role in keeping hair and scalp hydrated all year round, but especially in winter. As we begin to head into fall and winter, the air around us becomes drier, especially as winter weather calls for us to turn up the temperature on our home and office heaters. The level of moisture in the air drops and pulls essential moisture out of the hair and scalp, causing a variety of seasonal problems such as static and “seasonal” dandruff.

Humectants are moisture binding ingredients that are key to keeping hair and scalp properly hydrated during these drier winter months. Humectants may be sugars or glycols such as glycerin or propylene glycol that attract and hold moisture from the environment or the moisture that is present as the water contained in most conditioners, binding it to hair and skin. Other ingredients, which I will detail further on in this article, also exert an even more powerful moisture binding effect.

Humectants are important because most hair conditioning products contain quaternary conditioning agents or “quats” that contribute to softening and manageability of the hair but don’t have a substantial effect on hair or scalp’s critical moisture content. Being water based, moisture is delivered in a temporary manner if humectants are not present. Other hair conditioning agents commonly employed such as polymers and silicones can coat the outside of the hair with a hydrophobic film that blocks moisture absorption, further compounding winter’s environmental effects. It is interesting that these agents can create the illusion or feel of properly hydrated hair but in reality are only the icing on the cake and with repeated use can build up and produce negative effects on hair and scalp.

Humectants are substances that can be derived from many sources in nature, especially plants that we incorporate into all of our hair care formulations. Although hair and scalp is at its most hydrated level when hair is wet, most people would say they don’t want to walk about living their lives with their hair soaking wet all for the sake of having highly moisturized hair. This is where humectants come in. By selecting the ideal combination of humectants and employing our Micro-Emulsion Technology, we optimize the molecular volume of ingredients for rapid penetration, depositing them deep inside the hair shaft. Selecting humectants that are substantive to the damaged keratin sites in the hair, essential moisture is bound to the hair and resists the drying effects not only of dry winter air, but also heated styling tools such as blow dryers and the intensely hot flat and curling irons so much in use today.

Thus, the hair pretty much maintains its necessary 9-10% level of moisture even after the hair feels physically dry. This will help ward the problems that winter air brings because these humectant molecules are in the hair and on the scalp holding onto moisture molecules. Static is kept at bay, hair has more luster and shine, and scalps are more resilient and less dry, lessening the possibility of “seasonal dandruff.”

In addition to natural glycerin, our philosophy has always been to use plant-derived humectants that mimic the natural moisture binding abilities of the skin. We are careful to choose sustainable sources that do not deplete natural resources, balanced with the requirement to have the most positive impact on the hair and scalp. One of our newest humectant ingredients is our Patent Pending proprietary blend called Hydro-charged Pelusi Ceramide Complex. This was something I felt a passion to create to meet the demands of today’s market place, especially in light of the problems associated with the overuse of “silicones.”

Our Pelusi Ceramide Complex is a unique blend of cosmetically weightless plant-derived ceramides that penetrates deeply into the cortex of the hair and scalp, helping to trap moisture. These positive effects not only benefit the hair and scalp in winter but also hydrates porous, color treated, chemically treated and heat styled hair all year round. Also, this blend is cosmetically weightless, meaning that doesn’t weigh hair down, benefitting any hair texture no matter how fine it may be. This beneficial complex is so versatile in that we have been able to put it in every shampoo and conditioner formula as well as both of our Keratin Blow Out Smoothing Treatments plus our longer lasting Ultra Blow Out version.

Switching to or alternating with a slightly more hydrating shampoo and conditioner in winter weather will help lock in moisture. Here is another place we were able to create an organic proprietary blend of Certified Organic Herbal-based humectants which has aptly named the Tela Hydrating Blend. It combines the organic, weightless moisturizers Marshmallow Root, Plantain, Mountain Ladybell and Solomon’s Seal. Again, applying our Micro-Emulsion Technology, these unique humectants penetrate rapidly and deeply into the hair shaft, resulting in a long lasting substantive effect on the hair for less static and great shine while also being highly beneficial to the scalp, helping keep the scalp hydrated with less flaking.

Additionally, because static is a big problem for winter hair, we recommend clients apply a daily groom for extra moisture but without making the hair or scalp greasy. The formula must include an ingredient blend that allows the groom to also be applied throughout the day, spot treating dry scalp and also whenever static acts up during the day. Our master organic ingredient blend contains 35 weightless organic ingredients such as humectants Fig, Plum and Pomegranate. These will help instantly hydrate the hair and scalp and smooth and eliminate static.

Finally, because conventional cleansing is not always possible or convenient, we recommend our Dri Shampoo containing certified organic humectant conditioners to combat static and create shine on dull winter hair. Organic bergamot, sunflower and lavender add weightless hydration to help eliminate static, add shine and protect from thermal styling tools. Because our philosophy is to protect the environment wherever possible, Dri Shampoo is an ozone-friendly, non-aerosol spray.

About the Author
Philip Pelusi is an internationally recognized stylist, photographer and product artist. Having gone from one salon to 13 locations as well as a magnificent industry centerpiece in New York City, Pelusi has created a philosophy, two product lines, P2 by Philip Pelusi and Tela Beauty Organics by Philip Pelusi and systems for success. Philip created and trademarked, within the industry, the phrase “A Cut Above The Rest” to coincide with his creation of the registered Volumetric haircutting technique around which he built his empire.

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