Knowing that our curls and kinks relish moisture, I think it’s important to know what moisture is and how we can get it into our thirsty tresses! First, we all know…or at least we should all know by now, that the primary moisture our hair and body needs is WATER. In addition to good ole H2O, we need to know of ingredients that will help to add nourishment and conditioning, draw in true moisture (water), and seal in that moisture. Today, I want to talk about those ingredients that help to draw in true moisture…humectants!
A humectant is a substance that has the ability to attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding environment. This is accomplished by the humectants ability to absorb (in contrast to adsorb which only draws water molecules to the surface of an object) moisture (H2O) and draw it into or beneath an object’s surface. This becomes important when we go back to the paragraph above and understand that true moisture comes from life giving water!
Examples of common humectants include:
1) Sugar alcohols which contain 3 hydroxyl groups that are responsible for its solubility in water and ability to attract and hold moisture from the environment. Typically called “Glycerol” or “Glycerin”, it can be synthetic or derived from plants (such as vegetable glycerin) or animals. It is typically found in medical, pharmaceutical, and personal care items to improve smoothness, add lubrication, and act as a humectant.
2) Aloe Vera is a succulent plant, meaning it is a type of plant that typically has fat or fleshy parts (leaves, roots, or stems) that help it to retain water, especially in very dry climates. “Gel” is used to describe the mucilage from the interior of the leaf. Up to 99% of this viscous material’s make-up is water! It also contains various polysaccharides (long chains of sugar, monosaccharide), which have many of those hydroxyl groups mentioned earlier. This makes it water-loving and gives it the tendency to draw water from the environment. It also contains protein which can add to the structural integrity of the hair but caution with hair types that become brittle or dry with too much protein.
3) Honey is a sweet product made by bees from nectar through a process of regurgitation and evaporation. It’s a supersaturated compound, containing more sugars (monosaccharides fructose and glucose) than water. The high sugar content of honey makes it an excellent humectant, drawing in moisture from the surrounding air!
As with all humectants, its ability to draw in moisture will depend on the humidity found in the environment! If your environment tends to have a high humidity, then your humectant will be able to draw in plenty of moisture from the air for your hair and skin. If, however, your environment tends to be dry, with a relatively low humidity, then your humectant will not have much moisture to draw from. In fact, you likely suffer the loss of moisture from your skin and hair to the environment. Especially in this later case, it’s important to have a daily routine of adding in moisture (H2O) and finding quality ingredients to help seal in that moisture so it’s not lost to the dry surrounding environment.
Hope this helps with your DIY projects and product shopping!