Expert's Opinion

The Mystery Of Antioxidants

By Philip Pelusi, Internationally recognized stylist and product artist | January 7, 2013

What role do they play in hair care?

Vitamins A, E and C, beta carotene and green tea are just a few of the antioxidants that are popularized in personal care products.Antioxidants have become commonplace today among marketing slogans for everything from multi-vitamins to anti-aging creams.Claims such as “contains healthy anti-oxidants” or “fight wrinkles with age-defying antioxidants” fill advertising pages and commercials.Interestingly, as the usage of antioxidants expands and they become more commonplace, the enormous benefit of these miracle molecules gets lost in the sea of marketing jargon and hype, and this is especially true when it comes to our hair.
As a non-living entity, hair is only able to be replaced in the follicle deep within the scalp.Unlike living skin that is constantly renewing itself and can incorporate and benefit from antioxidants, hair must be protected from the ravages of our environment, the sun and of course, harsh chemical treatments and styling practices.As a stylist for many years, I have personally observed the damaging effects of these forces on hair and the hair fabric.One of my personal passions in creating product formulas is to utilize as many protective factors against damage as possible to create a cocktail of protection.But to explain this we first need to go back to the original use for these transformative ingredients, the benefit of the body internally.
The primary job of all antioxidants is to fight against the damaging effects of free radicals on the very cells that make up our bodies.Free radical oxidation damages and can kill every living cell, as well as damaging our hair.Exposure may be from many sources including smoking, and environmental factors such as exposure to the sun or pollutants.We counteract many of these problems by including antioxidant-rich foods in our diet such as green leafy vegetables like Kale or highly colored fruits such as blueberries.The rule is to eat highly colored fruits and vegetables.We can also boost this protection by taking supplements containing herbal antioxidants as well as antioxidant vitamins.Additionally, antioxidants taken internally are thought to have anti-aging and anti-illness benefits, protecting our immune system, promoting healthy cell growth and protecting the skin from UV damage.So you can see how beneficial antioxidants are to the body.But now let’s move onto to the impact antioxidants have on the hair and scalp.

The oxidation process for hair is fairly similar.Of course, our hair does not contain living cells while the scalp is a living component of the largest organ in our body, our skin, and so everything we know about the role of antioxidants in the skin translates directly to the scalp.In recent years it has been shown that the keratin of the hair fiber is degraded by the effects of free radicals.Hair can also contain nature’s most potent free radical neutralizer, Melanin.Melanin is the color we see in darker skin tones and in the natural color of our hair.It traps free radicals, protecting us from the ravages effects of the sun.However, natural processes such as greying of the hair and salon practices such as coloring and bleaching, lightens hair by degrading its melanin content, making the use of antioxidant supplementation of treatment formulations highly desirable.
Hair actually experiences the damaging effects of oxidation in 2 ways.The first is by the processes of hair coloring and bleaching.In coloring the hair, oxidation is needed to produce a permanent hair color.Only a small amount of hydrogen peroxide is required for this step.However, if lightening or “lifting” color, much more peroxide is required to alter hair’s natural melanin and produce a lighter shade or level of lightness.When the appropriate amount of processing time has passed, the hair is rinsed and shampooed, stopping the color from processing but not completely stopping the oxidation process.Residues can remain in the hair that contain free radicals that may result in color fade and continued damage to the hair fabricby eroding hair’s cuticle and damaging the cortex.

The stronger the exposure to peroxide the hair experiences, the more severe the oxidative free radical damage there is to the hair fiber.Therefore, bleaching, a highly alkaline and strongly oxidative process results in far more oxidative damage than permanent coloring.

The second way the hair is exposed to oxidation is by free radicals in our environment.Sunlight, pollution and other environmental factors alter a small portion of the oxygen we need to survive into the “singlet oxygen” family of free radicals.There is no escaping them as they float around in the air and may even be deposited thru our water sources.They attack our hair and scalp, creating similar oxidative damage as a color service and resulting in color fadeage and diminishing the tensile strength of our hair.While not as strong as the chemistry of permanent color, exposure over time adds up to a significant amount of damage.So the negative result is the same.

However, the hair fiber does undergo many other chemical and physical changes that take place in it every day maintenance and styling operations.In fact, we as stylists create our hair art by manipulating hair’s properties.Common ones are blow-drying or heat styling where we alter the physical properties of the hair, taking it from wet to dry or physically and temporarily changing the hair’s configuration.Others are more complex such as chemical changes we make to the hair such as by permanently altering the texture or color of the hair.And this is also where oxidation comes into play.The damaging chain reaction of free radical pollutants creating oxidation that occurs in the body also takes place in the hair.And although there are no cells to damage or kill, there is still damage.
But there is a way to help circumvent oxidation’s negative impact on our hair.Choosing protective shampoos, conditioners, and styling products can have a substantial positive effect on the condition of our hair.Formulations containing ingredients rich in antioxidants and utilizing Micro-emulsion technology to deliver those actives deeply into the hair on a continuing basis help neutralize free radicals.
This is one of my personal passions, to always strive to maintain the health and integrity of the hair and scalp at all times.That’s why antioxidants play a major part in my Tela Beauty Organics line.Antioxidants are critical in today’s market place, not only to meet the demands of an “antioxidant-driven” consumer, but also to meet the ever growing demands for today’s natural and healthy looking hair trends.The hair has to be kept in great condition, period.We infused this product line with the most effective and unique antioxidants delivered as micro-emulsions to meet this goal of healthy hair and a healthy scalp.
The line is centered about several proprietary micro-emulsion blends of a wide variety of the most effective antioxidants from around the world.The proprietary ingredient base blend of 35 ingredients, most of which are antioxidants, plus an overall formula base of 3 of the most powerful antioxidants teas—oolong, white and green tea.In addition we also created 4 independent proprietary micro-emulsions to target specific hair problems and they also contain many antioxidants.Reishi mushroom, also known as the mushroom of immortality in folkloric Chinese medicine, is plentiful throughout the line.Other unique antioxidants include a wide variety of super-fruits, plants and herbs such as Chinese foxglove, Fo-Ti, water celery, sea buckthorn berry, Chinese giant knotweed, fig, wolfberry, lemon grass, forsythia, kiwi, pine bark, plum and rhodiola.Plus many other that weightless hydrate in addition to their antioxidant virtues such as milk thistle, sunflower, argan, cinnamon oil, acai, rice bran and olive.The bottom line for me as a product creator is to have the stylist and the client experience better performance and results on the hair.


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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, 2 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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