Friday, October 12, 2018

Oils and Waxes

Tightly curled, afro textured hair grows from a curved follicle which makes it difficult for the body's natural oil (sebum) to travel down the strands to keep the hair moisturised. In contrast, straight hair grows from a straight follicle making it easy for sebum to travel down the hair lubricating the strands and locking in moisture. However, too much sebum can make hair limp and greasy so people with straight hair normally need to wash their hair more regularly. The opposite is true for people with afro textured hair who need to apply moisturisers to prevent their hair from being dry and brittle. Thankfully nature has provided a number of oils, butters and waxes to keep the hair in great condition. 

With all of the different carrier oils to choose from it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. I experimented with a number of different oils before figuring out that my hair prefers lighter oils that have a high linoleic acid content. I have found that oils that are higher in oleic acid tend to penetrate too quickly into my strands whilst oils that are higher in linoleic acid stay on the surface of my hair for longer. If an oil penetrates too quickly it will be difficult for it to trap in moisture and the water will evaporate out of the hair leaving it feeling dry.

Another thing to think about when choosing an oil is it’s comedogenic rating. If you have acne prone skin it would be best to choose oils that are less likely to make you break out. Studies have shown that oils that are higher in oleic acid are more likely to cause break outs. Sunflower oil is one of the main ingredients in some of my pomades because it has a zero comedogenic rating and it is naturally high in linoleic acid. Be cautious when purchasing Sunflower oil because some manufacturers sell a version that is higher in oleic acid. I made the mistake of buying the higher oleic acid version once and I noticed that it didn't keep my hair moisturised for as long as the high linoleic acid version.
When I'm wearing my hair in braids or twists I spray my hair with a water based moisturiser and then follow up with an oil or blend of oils. Hemp seed oil feels great on my hair and it has a zero comedogenic rating. However, it goes rancid quickly so it needs to be kept in the fridge and used within a few months of opening. You can extend the shelf life of Hemp seed oil by adding vitamin E at 0.5%. Sesame oil is another oil that works well on my hair. Castor oil and Jojoba oil are great for my hair, but I find that they work better when they are blended with other oils. 

When my hair is in a loose style I need something heavier to keep my hair moisturised so I normally use a home-made creamy moisturiser with detangling properties and a home-made pomade to seal in the moisture. Blending Beeswax with various oils produces a hair pomade which helps to keep hair moisturised for longer. Beeswax forms a light film on the hair which is easy to wash off with a sulfate free shampoo. I normally use approximately 10% beeswax in a formula to produce a light semi-solid pomade. During hot temperatures the mixture might turn to liquid so I store it in a cool place. You can use up to 20% beeswax in a formula if you want a more solid product, but too much beeswax can make the hair look dull and the more beeswax you use the harder it will be to wash off.

Carnauba Wax can be used alongside beeswax or as a replacement. It has a higher melting point than beeswax and it produces a harder product which means that you can use less in your formulas. It leaves your hair with a shiny finish and it has a low comedogenic rating. You will need to wash your hair with a sulfate free clarifying shampoo if you use this ingredient in your recipe. If you decide to experiment with Carnauba Wax be sure to purchase the cosmetic grade.