Saturday, March 14, 2015

Medicated Shampoos and Conditioners For Itchy Scalp, Dry Scalp, Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is a list of medicated shampoos and conditioners for troubled scalps. If you don't see one you like here, or you see one which has been discontinued, please leave a comment so I can keep the list diverse and up to date!

Many of these shampoos have herbal ingredients which can either soothe, irritate (or even do absolutely nothing). Proteins may soothe a dry scalp, but can also be irritating for some people.
Essential oils like tea tree, rosemary, thyme, sage, (neem oil is going in small letters because it's so stinky) can be antifungal if used in adequate concentrations. But they can also cause sensitivity reactions or allergic reactions.
Sometimes detergents in dandruff shampoos can irritate your already irritated skin, however, there are some detergent-free options in this post and there are medicated conditioners at the bottom of the page for people whose skin or hair does not tolerate detergents. 
not everybody with itching will have flakes, not everybody with flakes will have itching. Some people get painful or itchy bumps instead - but the treatments are usually the same.

Lets talk about rotating treatments! If you are a frequent customer in the itchy or flaky or bumpy, scaling, patchy scalp department, there is a good chance you need to have 2 or 3 different medications that work on standby. Why? Because the fungus (Malasezzia) that is strongly implicated in scaling and flaking and itchy, unhappy scalps has many different variations, if not true sub-species, then like sub-species. For example, you might use a zinc pyrithione shampoo and it works now, but it may not work as well later on. It's possible that some fungi on your scalp that were causing the itch and inflammation were not affected by that medication - or they developed some resistance to it. Each medication has a slightly different method of "attacking" fungi and some methods work better on some fungi than others. So if that happens, you need a different medication to control these fungi the next time around. Some fungi will be controlled with zinc pyrithione, others will be controlled with ketoconazole or selenium sulfide. Sometimes sulfur will get the job done and sometimes salicylic acid (with or without sulfur) works best.
Some people need to rotate between different outbreaks or flare-ups. Some people need to rotate every time they wash their hair. It's not fun, but it helps.

If you need to use medicated shampoo often and your scalp is not oily, or all the shampooing dries skin and hair - consider using a medicated conditioner as a "shampoo" - it won't lather but it might provide some relief. If you have dry or curly hair - you might love it.

The Active Ingredients: Look for the listed concentration. If concentration is not listed on the bottle - be wary.
  • Zinc pyrithione: Antifungal, may reduce scaling, may relieve inflammation. Effective at 1%.
  • Tar: Slows proliferation of skin cells (skin cells proliferate too quickly with dandruff - so you end up with scaling and flaking). Effective as 0.5% active tar.
  • Salicylic acid: Anti-scaling (remove scales and reduce flaking), can be anti-inflammatory and anti-septic. Effective at 1% to 1.5% and greater.
  • Selenium sulfide: Antifungal, effective at 1%
  • Sulfur: Mild antifungal and antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, mild exfoliant. Effective at 2%
  • Ketoconazole: Antifungal. Effective at 1%, 2% is the most-effective, prescription dose (non-prescription outside the USA).
  • Tea tree oil: Anti-fungal, anti-septic when the concentration is adequate
  • Rosemary oil, thyme oil, cedar oils: Anti-fungal, anti-septic, may promote healing
  • Hydrocortisone: Inflammation is a critical part of the itchy-flaky scalp issue. Hydrocortisone reduces inflammation and relieves itching. Effective at 1%.

Note: This is organized by active ingredients. Also: Sulfate-free, silicones (when included). Sulfates ("sulfate detergents," a class of anionic detergents) and silicone emollients/detanglers are not necessarily bad for itchy or scaly scalps, but some people avoid them so I'm just trying to help you narrow the field. "Sulfate-free" shampoos are not necessarily milder or non-drying.

Medicated Shampoos
Mill Creek Dandruff Control Shampoo:  Tar 0.5%, contains sulfates
Neutrogena T-Gel: Tar 0.5%, contains sulfates
Denorex Maximum Strength: Tar 1.8%, Sulfate-free

Tea Tree
Jason Normalizing Tea Tree Scalp Normalizing Shampoo: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified: Contains sulfates
Nature's Gate Tea Tree Calming Shampoo: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified: Sulfate Free
Aubrey Organics, Scalp Rescue Shampoo, Tea Tree & Primrose: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified: Sulfate Free

Zinc Pyrithione
Jason 2-in-1 Shampoo+Conditioner:  Zinc Pyrithione (concentration unspecified), contains some sulfate
DS Laboratories Danderene High Performance Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione 2%: Sulfate Free
Redken Scalp Relief Shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione (concentration unspecified)
Neutrogena Daily Control 2-in-1: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfates, water-insoluble silicone, water-soluble silicone+wheat protein
Head and Shoulders Shampoos: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfates, contains silicones
Aveeno Nourish + Dandruff Control: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfatescontains silicones
Clear Scalp Therapy shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfatescontains silicones
DHS Zinc Shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione 2%, sulfate-free
Zincon: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfates
Noble Formula ZInc Shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione 2%, contains sulfates, fragrance-free
Derma Zinc Shampoo: Zinc Pyrithione 2%, contains sulfates
Suave Dandruff Solutions Anti Dandruff Shampoo Coconut and Shea Butter: Zinc Pyrithione, contains sulfatescontains silicones
Suave Dandruff Solutions Anti Dandruff Shampoo Mint and Eucalyptus: Zinc Pyrithione, contains sulfatescontains silicones
Suave Professionals Men 2-in-1 Classic Clean Anti-Dandruff: Pyrithione 1%, contains sulfatescontains silicones

Salicylic acid
Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo: Sulfur 2%, Salicylic Acid 2%: Sulfate free
Thicker, Fuller Hair Dandruff Sulfate-Free Shampoo: 1.8% Salicylic Acid: Sulfate Free
Giovanni Don't Be Flaky Soothing Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: 2% Salicylic acid: Sulfate Free
Mineral Fusion Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: 2% Salicylic acid: Sulfate Free
Neutrogena T-Sal: Salicylic acid 3%, sulfate-free
Pure & Basic Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Tea Tree and Rosemary: 2% Salicylic acid, sulfate-free, water-soluble silicone
Avalon Organics Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Salicylic acid 2%, contains sulfates
Home Health Everclean Shampoo: 1.8% Salicylic acid, contains some sulfate detergent, available in scented and unscented
Denorex Extra Strength: Salicylic acid 3%, sulfate-free
Sebex Shampoo (generic for Sebulex): Salicylic acid 2%, Sulfur 2% contains sulfates

Sulfur 8 shampoo: Sulfur, contains sulfates
Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo: Sulfur 2%, Salicylic Acid 2%: Sulfate free

Sebex Shampoo (generic for Sebulex): Salicylic acid 2%, Sulfur 2% contains sulfates

Nizoral: Ketoconazole 1%, sulfate free
Regenepure: Ketoconazole (concentration unspecified), sulfate-free, not suitable for vegetarians
Boots Anti-Dandruff Ketoconazole shampoo: Ketoconazole 2% contains sulfates- this is a UK brand, not a USA brand

Yes To Carrots Scalp Relief Shampoo: Contains sulfates,: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified, Salicylic acid, concentration unspecified
Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo: Sulfur 2%, Salicylic Acid 2%: Sulfate free

Sebex Shampoo (generic for Sebulex): Salicylic acid 2%, Sulfur 2% contains sulfates

Selenium sulfide
Selsun Blue Medicated Dandruff Shampoo: Selenium sulfide 1%, contains sulfates
Head And Shoulders Clinical Strength: Selenium sulfide 1%, contains sulfates, silicone

Dr. Marder's Total Relief Shampoo: 1% Hydrocortisone, Sulfate-free

Medicated Conditioners: 
Yes To Carrots Scalp Relief Conditioner: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified, Salicylic acid, concentration unspecified 
Nature's Gate Tea Tree Calming Conditioner: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified
Jason Normalizing Tea Tree Conditioner: Tea tree oil, concentration unspecified
Giovanni Don't Be Flaky Nourishing Conditioner: Salicylic acid 2%
Sulfur 8 Medicated Light and Original formula hair/Scalp conditioner: 2% sulfur - this is not a creamy hair conditioner, it is petrolatum-based
Head and Shoulders Conditioners: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains silicones
Avalon Organics Medicated Anti-Dandruff Conditioner: Salicylic acid 2%
Dr. Marder's Total Relief Conditioner: Zinc Pyrithione 1%, contains an "evaporating" silicone - less likely to build up
Suave Scalp Solutions Anti-Dandruff conditioner Coconut and Shea butter: Zinc Pyrithione, contains silicone
Mane N Tail Daily Control Anti-Dandruff Conditioner:  Zinc Pyrithione, contains silicone

Non-shampoo, non-conditioner and DIY treatments:
Scalpicin 2-in-1: Salicylic acid 3%
Scalpicin Maximum Strength: Hydrocortisone 1%
Noble Formula Zinc cream: Zinc Pyrithione 0.25%
Derma Zinc Cream: Zinc Pyrithione 0.25%
Psoriasin gel: Tar 1.25%
Miconazole nitrate creams (for the scalp is an off-label use, use at your own risk)
Tolnaftate Creams or liquid (for the scalp is an off-label use, use at your own risk)
Essential oil treatments, mixed into oil and left on for a little while before washing, or mixed into your favorite shampoo:
  • Mix 3-5 drops of tea tree oil or rosemary essential oil or thyme essential oil or cedar essential oil into 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil such as olive oil. Apply to the scalp, leave on 10-30 minutes and shampoo out. 
  • Mix 3-5 drops of tea tree oil or rosemary essential oil or thyme essential oil or cedar essential oil into 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of shampoo or conditioner and use as you normally would - allow the shampoo or conditioner to stay on your scalp for several minutes before rinsing.
  • 3-5 drops of essential oil = up to 1/16th of a teaspoon, 0.15 ml-0.25 ml

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What's Cookin' - Easy Humectant Curl Defining Jelly-Cream

This is based on my Easy Humectant Curl Boosting Jelly recipe and inspired by reader comments, and by the problem some of us have with glycerin in winter or dry weather. It's a light-hold curl and wave definer. This recipe is very easy to make. 

What's new?
-Addition of your choice of emollient blend to make this creamy for softness and lubrication (oil+plant butter or oil+conditioner). 
-Increased acacia gum to keep the definition in waves, curls and coils. 
-Options for humectants for those who avoid glycerin.
-Adjust the amount of emollients (oils, butters, conditioners) to suit 1) your hair's needs and 2) the amount of "hold" you want (see below)

The ingredients:
-Water: Solvent, dliutent
-Xanthan gum: Creates a thick "gel," provides medium hold with humidity-resistance, may slow water loss.
-Humectant of your choice. Glycerin(e), or hydrolyzed protein, or panthenol or Hydroxypropylrtimonium honey (honeyquat) or a combination of these: Humectants bind water, boost curls, maintain hydration. NOTE: Panthenol is sold as a cosmetic additive, hydrolyzed proteins are sold as cosmetic additives but are also more widely available as products like Neutral Protein Filler and Green Beauty Products Real Protein. Hydroxypropylrtimonium honey is sold as a cosmetics additive.
-Acacia gum (gum arabic): Adds a bit of "crunch" for more hold, helps emulsify the oils. This powder is sold as a dietary soluble fiber supplement and also sold as a cosmetics ingredient.
-Emollient: Shea butter (or cocoa butter, mango butter or whichever butter you prefer) OR commercial hair conditioner
-Oil: Jojoba oil OR grapeseed oil OR any oil you prefer (avocado, olive, sweet almond, rose hip, etc.)

I use a double boiler to control the heat for this recipe. 
The gel, before adding any oils or butter blends or conditioner.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
The recipe:
  • 1 cup water (plus an extra tablespoon or 2 which will evaporate as you heat). 230 ml
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum (2% or 5g or 6.15 ml)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon acacia gum (gum arabic) - more for more hold or if you use more emollients (0.6g to 1.25g, 1.25 to 2.5 ml)
  • Shea butter and jojoba oil as your hair requires (see "How much butter blend to use" below) OR oil and commercial hair conditioner blend
  • Humectant options: 1/2 teaspoon glycerin - make this a scant half-teaspoon; more than 1/4 teaspoon, less than 1/2 teaspoon (1% or 2.5 g, or 2.5 ml)
    • Instead of glycerin: 1/2 teaspoon liquid panthenol or 1/4 teaspoon powderedpanthenol, or 1/2 teaspoon hydrolyzed protein or protein additive or 1/2 teaspoon "Honeyquat" (Hydroxypropyltrimonium honey).

1) Make the oil blend (If you are using oil and conditioner instead of butters, skip this step)
Measure out 2 parts liquid jojoba oil (or an oil of your choice) to 1 part solid shea butter. Either combine these in a bowl and place in a larger bowl of warm water to melt, or add to the heated, prepared gel to melt.

How much butter blend or conditioner/oil to use? 
  • To keep the most hold (or for silky, not-dry hair): 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 to 2.5 ml)
  • Hair that needs extra flexibility and does not get oily-looking easily: 1 to 3 teaspoons (5 to 15 ml)
  • Hair that really loves oils and butters: 3 teaspoons to 3 tablespoons (15 to 45 ml)

2) Make the gel
Put water, xanthan gum and acacia gum the double boiler over medium to high heat. When water boils, turn it down. Whisk the ingredients well throughout the heating time. The mixture will thicken right away, but it is not finished yet. Whisk until no more xanthan gum powder is visible and the gel goes from thick and heavy to smoother, less stiff and easier to stir. Turn off heat. 

3) Add the oil/butter blend or oil and conditioner
For oil/butter blend: Add the melted oils or liquid jojoba oil and solid shea butter to the warm gel and allow it to melt as you mix. Mix well with a fork or whisk to combine oil and gel. If you like, use an immersion blender. Once well blended, remove from heat and cool to a touchable temperature.
For oil and conditioner: Add equal parts oil and conditioner to the cooled (comfortable to touch the bowl) gel and mix well

4) Add humectant
Mix the glycerin or hydrolyzed protein or panthenol or honeyquat into the cooled gel.

Scoop into a sterilized bottle and refrigerate immediately - or add preservative according to manufacturer specifications. Xanthan gum is anionic; check that preservatives are compatible with anionic ingredients.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
Recipe Variations (other additives and ingredient substitutes)
  • Magnesium sulfate (1/2 teaspoon) - this is a humectant and curl enhancer but it can be drying to hair.
  • Aloe. Replace up to half of the water with aloe vera juice - the edible/drinkable kind, not a pre-thickened gel.
  • If shea butter makes your hair look dull and waxy, skip the butter and use liquid oils only. 
  • Agave nectar - provides hold, especially in dry weather. Adds shine. Use 1/4 to 1 teaspoon.

Need more hold?

Mix equal parts of this curl definer with your favorite stronger-hold styling gel. It has mixed well with the gel I mixed it with, which is a basic hair gel similar to Ecostyler or LA Looks or Salon Care gels.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Glycerin and Humidity

Cindy asks a winter inspired question from frigid Wisconsin where humectants are making the winter of 2014-2015 even more frustrating. You need to know that here in the Midwestern U.S.A. (like Wisconsin), winter tends to be very cold and very dry. So even when we see the outdoor humidity is, say, 50%, if the temperature is 10°F (-12°C), the air is still extremely dry and the dewpoint - that temperature indicating how much water the air could hold if it was fully saturated - could be below 0°F. That is desert-dry air.

I zero in on glycerin because it can be a curly or wavy-haired person's dry-air nemesis. But I didn't leave many out, so read on. "Humectant" is a very broad category including salts, glycerin, plant gels like aloe vera or flax gel, algae extracts, hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed proteins, sodium PCA, lactic acid, urea, witch hazel (without alcohol) and other ingredients that attract water. Not all humectants are "created" equal - different humectants behave differently in hair. I think when people complain about humectants, they are having the most trouble with simple humectants like: glycerin, propylene glycol, sorbitol.

Humectants attract water to themselves. Humectants like glycerin are great at grabbing water vapor out of the air. When you have a hair gel with glycerin in it, when there is ample water in the air (humidity) - the air is going to be hydrating the glycerin in the product, which is going to help your hair stay hydrated. Well-hydrated hair has more bounce and definition. A second benefit of glycerin in products (when there is ample water vapor in the air) is that glycerin keeps hold-providing ingredients that would otherwise create a brittle, candy-like finish from feeling brittle and candy-like. Glycerin (and sorbitol and propylene glycol) take water vapor from the air to hydrate the dry gel in your hair and keep it more flexible.

When there isn't enough water vapor in the air (low humidity and/or low dewpoints), the gel loses that benefit from the glycerin and the gel becomes more brittle, creates friction and that means hair that feels dry and crusty and looks dull.

Whether humectants actually dehydrate the hair - pull water from the hair is not well-studied. And it is an "it all depends" sort of question. It is based on a reasonable hypothesis; that if glycerin attracts water from the air, when the air is drier than your hair, water will move from your hair to the glycerin. For that matter, when the air is less humid than the inside of your hair - the water will tend to move from your hair to the air around it - glycerin or not. So does glycerin create a stronger "pull" (water gradient) than dry air alone? It probably does exert a stronger pull on the water in your hair than dry air alone. But not all humectants do that. Think of glycerin like brown sugar. In humid air, a bag or tin of brown sugar absorbs moisture and forms clumps. But it dries out quickly too and the clumps become hard as a result.

Don't discount the effect of that dehydrated gel sitting on your hair because 1) glycerin can't pull enough water out of your hair to keep a gel from getting brittle and 2) brittle gel creates friction - that means rough, tacky hair that frizzes when it contacts other hairs and objects and snags at cuticle edges. A crusty, dehydrated product in your hair is bad news for how your hair looks and feels.

Mitigating circumstances
If you used oil or leave-in conditioner under a glycerin-containing product, that layer of emollients would slow down water loss from hair. If there are other humectants that are not a ready to give up their water as glycerin in the same product, the effect might be reduced. Oils and conditioners act as "occlusives" - the layer of oil or leave-in conditioner is not water-soluble and that helps slow the movement of water in and out of hair.

Why glycerin, why must you be so fickle?
To get to the heart of why glycerin can be a problem ingredient for some people in some weather, one big issue is the size of the molecule. The smaller the molecule, the less water it can bind and hang on to when exposed to very dry air. Glycerin, sorbitol and propylene glycol are "sugar alcohols" - not alcohol like the kind used in hairspray. They are small molecules. There are not a lot of places on the molecule to bind water. Think of glycerin as a "simple sugar" as you would think of candy. Sure, glycerin and sorbitol and propylene glycol aggressively pull water to themselves, but they also lose it fairly easily. Emollients (oils and conditioners) can slow that down, but not stop it. So when the air is very dry - glycerin is a much less effective ingredient. Glycerin is a fair-weather friend. When the humidity is just right, glycerin can help your hair look and feel great. When the weather gets too dry, glycerin can't pull enough water to itself and it loses it's effectiveness. When the air is very humid and glycerin pulls lots and lots of water in - poof - your hair loses definition. 
Glycerin is a small molecule and not
very complex.

Formulation can be a problem
Often, a problem with a glycerin-containing product is that it uses only glycerin for a humectant and "flexibilizer" and does't use any emollients or film-forming humectants at all. Well-balanced products avoid this pitfall. Different humectants have different actions and a combination of different size and molecular weight humectants might be okay for a person who finds that just glycerin and no emollients or film-formers is a mess.

Is it just me?
There are people who live in climates that are dry year-round and use glycerin with no problems at all. And there are people who can only use glycerin when the humidity is "just right." There is no simple rule to determine how your hair will respond because it's not just a porosity issue. It's an issue of climate and weather, what other products you use in your hair, how sensitive your hair is to increased friction, how often you go outdoors. Trial and error. As usual. 

Is there a winter-proof (dry-weather-proof) humectant?
A great big molecule like the complex carbohydrates in flax seed gel or hydrolyzed proteins behave differently in hair than glycerin. These ingredients don't rely heavily on water vapor to work well. They don't have aggressive water-grabbing force. They're more subtle. There are many places to bind water in these molecules. Not only that, but they also form clear, flexible films over your hair. Water-hugging films that tend to slow water loss from the hair. If these large, moisture-retaining humectants which I call "film-forming humectants" are combined with oils or conditioning ingredients in a styling product, the humectants and oils and/or conditioning ingredients combine to actively attract and hold water and slow water loss, providing longer-lasting hydration and lubrication. The link in the previous sentence takes you to a list of film-forming humectants.
One of the many complex carbohydrates
in flax and other plant gels. It is a larger
molecule and more complex, capable of
forming water-hugging films.

Hair that cannot tolerate simple humectants like glycerin or propylene glycol may still do well with film-forming humectants in styling products. What we want from styling products is extremely personal. If you are looking for hold or definition, these are some styling products which may work:

AG Weightless Volumizer
AG Mousse Gel
AG Re:Coil
Aussie Real Volume Mousse
Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
Camille Rose Aloe Whipped Butter Gel
Curl Junkie Curl Queen
Curl Junkie Pattern Pusha
Biosilk Rock Hard Gelle
Darcy's Botanicals Curling Cream Gel
DevaCurl Set Up and Above
Goddess Curls Gel
Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel
Herbal Essences Set Me Up Gel
Herbal Essences Naked Volumizing Souffle
Jessicurl Confident Coils Styling Solution
LA Looks Nutra Curl Moisturizing Gel
Salon Care Aloe Vera Styling Gel
Pantene Pro-V Stylers Max Hold or Strong Hold Gel

For products that are based on film-forming humectants, including many natural and plant-based gels, go to  this page on this blog and scroll down to the list of products including film-forming humectants. Some contain glycerin - check the ingredient lists. Most are light to medium hold and can be topped with a gel with stronger hold, like Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee (from the above list) if necessary.

Why are plant-based, film-forming humectants less "fickle?" Stuff about plants.
Flax seed is an example. The gel comes from water contacting the seed. Seeds do this so that when they are in the soil and the soil is moist, the seed can attract water, form that gel which assures the seed will stay moist enough to sprout. If a seed gets wet, begins to sprout and then dries out, it dies. So this is a brilliant adaptive strategy to assure seeds sprout to create new plants and more seeds.

With aloe vera, that is a desert plant. It has thick, leathery leaves with spines on them to discourage animals from eating the juicy leaves and to prevent water loss. The gel in the inner leaf does not dry out quickly, a good strategy for a desert plant.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Why Does White (or gray, light blonde, highlighted) Hair Turn Yellow: And what to do about it

This applies to white or gray, highlighted and blonde or light brown hair that may tend to become brassy or develop an unnatural color tint - yellow, red, orange or greenish.

White hair has no pigment. Although sometimes that's not entirely the case as a hair turns white. And sometimes there's a dark medulla to add color. The lighter your hair overall, the more likely discoloration from any source will show.

What causes yellowing of light-colored hair?
  • Water chemistry: Hardness or natural minerals, chemicals used for water treatment, seasonal water chemistry changes all impact whether or not your water discolors your hair. For example, if your water source comes from lakes and rivers, it varies greatly (within drinkable limits) with changing seasons and the treatment needed to make the water safe to drink. Some water is high in iron which can give hair an orange, red or yellow cast. Other things in water (metals) can cause green or brown discoloration. Alkaline water can be also problematic (hard water that feels slippery). It's not just minerals that vary, it's nitrates and nitrites, the amount of chlorination required, use of chlorine vs. chloramines for disinfection and whatever your water picks up from pipes on the way to you. 
  • Hair products. Some oils and emollients, preservatives, and colorings can leave a yellowish cast on hair.
  • Scalp oils. Sometimes you own sebum can give your hair a yellowish cast. And your own sebum can vary with seasons - sweat, heat or cold, activity level, microbial activity on your scalp. Natural sebum is a good thing. Don't panic over one. But if you have oily scalp and you are not forcing it to produce lots of oil by over-washing it, wash it regularly - just don't dry it out. If you wear a hat often - wash the hat regularly or put in a hat band or liner that you can remove and wash.
  • Smoke, pollution. Your hair can pick up these things. Especially close-up smoke like that from smoking cigarettes.
  • Swimming pools and ocean water. Minerals in pool fungicides can cause a greenish or yellow tint, chlorine can increase hair porosity. Salt water dehydrates hair and causes porosity-increasing friction.
  • Sunlight: UV light tends to make hair become more porous and it may also induce yellowing in some hair.
  • Chemical processes: Perms, relaxing can make hair more porous so it is more easily discolored.
  • High-heat styling. Heat from hair dryers on the "high" setting or much higher heat from curling irons or straightening irons tends to make hair more porous so it is more easily discolored. 

What to do?

1) Purple shampoos or conditioners - usually made for grey, blonde or silver hair. Purple is meant to cancel out the yellow shade - to deposit a tiny bit of purple to trick your eyes into not seeing the yellow. A purple additive such as "Ardell Red-Gold corrector" is a commercial product which can be added to shampoo, hair gel or leave-in conditioner so that it is a light shade of purple if you prefer not to use an unfamiliar product.

2) Bluing. Mix a few drops of liquid laundry bluing into shampoo or conditioner - or just a little into a leave-in conditioner or hair gel so it is "sky blue." This color of blue is very effective at canceling out yellow shades in white hair and also in toning down brassiness. It especially enhances cool shades of brunette and dark brown hair and can give blonde and light brown hair an ash (cool) tone. If purple doesn't help - blue (bluing) may work better.

1 and 2: a) Use food coloring instead. You can use a few drops of blue food coloring in shampoo or conditioner, or blue + red to create purple. If this mixture, or a purple shampoo almost works, but you still have some reddish shade appearing, add the same number of drops of green food coloring to the mixture (example: 1-2 drops each of blue, red, and green). Have a mirror handy. If you over-did the color additives, wash your hair a second time.

3) If minerals or metals (copper, iron for example) in water are discoloring your hair, try a distilled water wash. Warm some distilled water and use it for your entire wash and rinse. This can help diagnose whether water chemistry is a problem for your hair. If you notice a benefit from doing this, you might try combining it with one of the suggestions from #4 or #5 below to remove minerals from the hair, or with a purple shampoo or a bluing-added product from #1 or #2.

4) Hard water shampoos and treatments (commercial). Ion Hard Water shampoo, Ion Hard water treatment, Malibu Wellness Hard Water Weekly Demineralizer or Malibu Wellness C Blondes Weekly Brightener. These treatments can remove hard water minerals (calcium, magnesium) and other problem minerals from your hair. But if you have more white hairs than colored hairs or you have very light blonde hair or light highlights, you must do a test section first to be sure you will not get discoloration from the treatment.  These treatments combine mineral chelators such as EDTA or citric acid with mineral dissolvers and detergents to remove product build-up. Hard water can exacerbate product build-up.

5) Lemon juice treatment (Do It Yourself). This is shampoo-free. It may help remove mineral deposits and it may brighten blonde and light brown shades. Mix equal parts lemon juice (strain out any pieces of pulp) and distilled water. Apply this to your hair (put it in a squeeze-top bottle for easier application or mix with some xanthan gum to make a gel). Work it in well and cover your hair with a shower cap, treatment cap or wrap your hair in plastic. Leave this in your hair with some heat for 3-5 minutes, then rinse well and follow with cleanser/shampoo and conditioner.
The pH of this treatment is very low, so you may want to do a test-strand first to assure it is not too drying for your hair. The combination of citric and ascorbic acids help dissolve and trap (chelate) minerals and remove them from your hair. 

You can make mock lemon juice with 1.5% each citric acid and ascorbic acid in distilled water. This will also have a very low pH and need to be used on a test-strand to make sure it does not dry your hair.

6) If you notice yellowing after adding a new product, the product may be the problem. Discontinue use of the product for a while. If it is more than one product causing the problem, scan the ingredients of the offending products for ingredients they have in common. Those ingredients may be potential offenders. Oils, some preservatives, herbal ingredients and colorings can discolor hair, for example.

7) If you began using oils in your hair, or if you have been sweating more than usual - you may need to shampoo your hair more thoroughly. You may find that some plant oils cause yellowing and others don't. Or some parts of your hair may be more inclined to yellow than others.

8) Treat any scalp disease you may have (seborrheic dermatitis, for example) so the oils on your scalp have the right composition and are not over-produced. You may want to avoid tar shampoos (unless that is the only thing that works) because they can cause discoloration.

9) Manage porosity in your hair by using conditioners, protein as your hair tolerates it, handle your hair gently (don't brush vigorously, don't rub and scrub it with a towel - just blot and squeeze dry), use oil pre-wash treatments to prevent "waterlogging." See this post for more about managing porosity.

10) Wear a hat, scarf of "UV buff" in the sun or use a UV protectant in hair products such as Cinnamidopropyltrimonium chloride, Quaternium-95 and Propanediol (they need to be together),  Polysilicone-15 or Benzophone-4.

11) For swimmers, use one of the mineral-removing treatments from #4 and #6 occasionally. If your pool allows, apply a little coconut oil or conditioner to your dry hair and wear a swim cap. The oil or conditioner protects the hair from pool water and the swim cap doesn't allow new water to constantly flow past and through your hair.

12) Other commercial products: 
  • Manic Panic "Virgin Snow" is a conditioning "white hair toner" (it's purple in the bottle) with no peroxide that is left on the hair for 15-30 minutes to correct discoloration. 
  • L'Oreal Colorist Secrets 'Brass Banisher" is a product that does contain peroxide for removing unwanted brassiness (red and yellow colors). If all else fails...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hair Porosity: The Float Test Part Two

It's time to examine the float test for hair porosity more fully. I began looking into how the float test could give you an inaccurate result in the previous post. Elsewhere on this blog I have mentioned that this test is not very accurate. This post will show you why.
© Science-y Hair Blog 2015
The really, really short story:
If your hair floats: It probably tells you nothing about the porosity of your hair.
If your hair sinks: It probably tells you nothing about the porosity of your hair.
The "float test" is irreconcilably flawed thanks to having too many variables working at the same time, including how you do the test.

The idea behind the float test follows this line of thinking: If hair is porous, it takes on more water than if it is not porous. Therefore, porous hair might sink because it takes on water and becomes heavy. That is - the weight of the water the hair is absorbing overwhelms the power of surface tension (between water molecules) that keeps the hair suspended on top of the water.

And in a sense this is not wrong but it is incomplete. But there are too many other variables in play to make this an accurate assessment of how porous your hair is by simply grabbing some hair and dropping it in a glass. Your experiment needs to be designed with far more care than you might think to get anything close to an accurate result. Given time and enough dunking - all hair will sink in water and stay sunk.© Science-y Hair Blog 2015

I used some hairs which are low porosity, porous, kinking and porous and mixed porosity (lower near the roots, porous at the ends). I tested the hairs when clean (no products), with conditioner added, with coconut oil added and with hair gel added (homemade flaxseed gel) because these additions can change the floating behavior of hair.© Science-y Hair Blog 2015

In most cases I put some hair on the water's surface and also dunked another of the same hair because some people dunk their hair (push it under the water) for the float test and it tends to give a different result, at least at first. Captions are below each chart. Click photos that follow to enlarge.© Science-y Hair Blog 2015

Oil (All dunked)
Hair gel
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
5 minutes
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
No change
Floating, Dunked: Partly floating
10 minutes
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
Nearly all floating, dunked and un-dunked
Partly floating, dunked and un-dunked
Porous, coily/curly (Type 4) hair which has been lightened (highlighted). When untreated, it did partly sink over time. But at least half of the hair was on the surface. With oil, it initially sank when dunked (all hairs were dunked in this case), but then floated as the coconut oil repelled water. With conditioner, the un-dunked hair floated until the end of the test when it was partly sinking but the dunked hair sank initially, then floated as the weight and specific gravity of the hair vs. water and the waterproofing of conditioner got the better of it. Hair gel in this case was similar to un-treated hair - though hair gel can make hair more water-attracting.

Hair gel
Floating, Dunked: Floating
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
Floating, Dunked: Sinking
5 minutes
Floating, Dunked: Floating
Partly floating, dunked and un-dunked
Partly floating, dunked and un-dunked
10 minutes
Same as at 5 minutes.
Same as at 5 minutes.
Same as at 5 minutes

Mixed porosity hair (lower porosity at roots, porous at ends), loose curls with kinking. The untreated hairs all floated (none were dunked). The oiled hairs also floated. With conditioner, the wet-ability of the conditioner encouraged sinking, whether the hair was dunked or not. With hair gel, the wet-ability of the hair gel encouraged sinking.

Hair gel
Floating, Dunked: Partly sinking
Floating, Dunked: Floating
Floating, Dunked: sinking
Floating, Dunked: sinking
5 minutes
Floating, Dunked: Partly sinking
Floating, Dunked: Floating
Partly floating, dunked and un-dunked
Floating, Dunked: Partly floating
10 minutes
Floating, Dunked: Partly sinking
Floating, Dunked: Floating
Floating, Dunked: Partly floating
Floating, Dunked: Partly floating

Low Porosity, coily (Type 4), kinking hair. This hair floated as expected when untreated and simply placed on top of the water - but it seems the shape of the hair pulled it down when dunked. It floated when oiled both dunked and un-dunked. Conditioner's wet-ability encouraged some sinking with time, as did hair gel.

Oil (All dunked)
Hair gel
Floating, Dunked: Partly floating
Floating, Dunked: sinking
Floating, Dunked: sinking
5 minutes
Same as at start
Floating, Dunked: partly floating
Floating, Dunked: partly floating
10 minutes
Same as at 5 minutes
Floating, Dunked: mostly sinking
Floating, Dunked: partly floating

Porous, wavy hair, which has been lightened (highlighted).
The porosity of this hair encourages sinking when the hair was dunked. The hairs floated when oiled but conditioner's and hair gel's wet-ability encouraged sinking in the dunked hairs.

Do you see any trends? © Science-y Hair Blog 2015
  • Porous hair does indeed tend to sink somewhat reliably: 1) if the hair is clean - no products 2) over time, 3) if the hair is dunked under water first.
  • Conditioner and hair gel on hair tend to encourage hair to sink if it has been dunked under water first - but it may float after a little while. 
  • The curl of hair or lack of curl or for that matter if you have hairs touching other hairs, may change the result, especially if you dunk hairs.
  • Oiled hair tends to float - especially coconut oil.
  • Dunked hairs vs. hair placed on the surface may produce a different result. And that result may change if you leave the hair for a few minutes. As you can see from the charts - whether or not a hair that sinks at first may float later on is not predictable, so I don't want to encourage you to try to predict a result based on whether it sinks and then floats. That's not accuracy.
Can you get an accurate result with the float test?
I am inclined to say no. If your hair is very porous like the porous hairs I selected and if it is very clean, then you might get a "porous" result. But if there is oil or conditioner or hair gel on your hair, or if it is just a little bit porous - you will not get an accurate result.

If your clean hair is low porosity at the roots and normal or porous near the ends, your hair will probably float, or sink partly - but if it does sink - is that because you dunked it, because there was some conditioner residue, because it came into contact with the side of the container? What other forces are acting on the hair? How porous is it really? More information is needed!
Untreated, low porosity hair floating after 10 minutes. Talk
about water surface tension!

So how do you test porosity? This post goes into depth. In general, lower porosity hair doesn't have damage. It also doesn't dehydrate easily - and that means it doesn't get dry on the inside and brittle. Lower porosity hair doesn't soak up a lot of oil and conditioner. But sometimes hair won't "soak up" those things because you've used henna, or because your hair is coarse (wide) and not very flexible (lots of inner support). Lower porosity hair doesn't tend to "take" hair dye or permanent waves or chemical relaxing easily. Normal porosity takes hair dye normally and porous hair takes hair dye very quickly. If your hair is generally very tolerant of just about everything, it's probably low to normal porosity. Most hair is more porous on the ends than near the roots. If your hair always seems to dry out easily and get brittle and break, it's more likely to be porous. If your hair is dyed or highlighted, it's more likely to be porous (but some hair will resist becoming porous with dye and bleach). If you spend a lot of time in the sun or swimming, your hair is probably porous - though it may or may not be as "dry" as you might expect porous hair to be.

Powers of observation
At top left, lower porosity curly hair and in bottom, center,
porous, wavy hair with conditioner applied. Blue
arrows indicate where hairs has sunk beneath the surface.
Bubbles tend to appear when products are applied.
Of all the tools and products for hair, your eyes, hands, ears and mind are the most important. If oil and conditioner just sit on top of your hair, if you've never dyed it nor handled it especially roughly, it's probably lower or normal porosity. If your hair doesn't soak up loads of oil and conditioner, but can tolerate whatever a normal amount is for your hair length and thickness and curl pattern without getting greasy immediately and sometimes gets a little dry or lighter-colored, frizzy or flyaway or the ends start to look light (or invisible) - you're probably lower porosity at the roots, normal in the middle and more porous on the ends. If your hair soaks up lots of oil and conditioner and never seems greasy or weighed down and tends to be dry and brittle and always breaking - higher porosity.

You decide how to treat your hair based on your baseline observations and how it responds to what you do to it. This post has recommendations for keeping lower porosity hair or hair that is difficult to moisturize feeling good. This post is about hair that is low/normal/porous and porous hair can use protein (if it's not coarse) and oil pre-wash treatments and deep conditioning to your heart's content. If you use a heavy-handed oil application and see a glimmer of improvement, but you needed to wash your hair 3 times to de-grease, don't swear off oils. Just use less. Maybe a lot less. Observe, make a plan, experiment, observe again, adjust as needed. © Science-y Hair Blog 2015
Mixed porosity, curly and kinking hair, untreated. Still floating
after 10 minutes.
A porous hair (top, lighter brown, coiled up) and low porosity hair
(bottom, more elongated) with hair gel applied. Both are partly
sinking due to the product and having been dunked under the
water. Bubbles tend to form when products have been applied.