Excessively Dry Frizzy Hair:
Treating it with essential fatty acids
Overview Do you have frizzy hair? What you need to look for in any product meant to rehydrate your hair is essential fatty acids (EFA). In this info file, you will understand the role that those substances play in the hair’s organic composition, and why their eventual deficiency makes the hair excessively dry. In terms of treatment, you will see that EFAs are found in most vegetable oils, although some are preferable to others…
Essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega 3) are said to be ‘essential’ because our system, despite vitally needing them, cannot produce them. At the hair system level, omega 6 controls the hair’s water loss, and thus its hydration, whereas omega 3 maintain its elasticity. It intervenes:
> On the hair’s growth zones
They blend into the dermic cell’s membranes that surround the hair follicle. Their role is to maintain the scalp’s skin at a proper level of hydration, and to give it elasticity and resistance. A deficiency in essential fatty acids in that zone leads to excessively dry hair, dandruff, and a forming keratin that is both under-hydrated and very vulnerable.
> In the cuticle’s ceramids
The cuticle is made of decked layers of scales (picture below), linked to each other by oily substances, the ceramids. They are mainly constituted of essential fatty acids, and their action is triple:
CIMENT FUNCTION. They shape the substance that seal the cuticle’s scales, in the same way that cement keeps together the bricks in a wall.
Thus kept together, the scales make for a smooth surface, which enables the hair to protect itself against external aggressions, and to reflect light (shine effect).
BARRIER FUNCTION. They prevent the water that is inside the hair from fleeing.
SPONGE FUNCTION. They can also absorb a certain quantity of water coming from the air’s humidity, in order to maintain a regular hydration of the hair stem.
2. And what about sebum?
Produced by the sebaceous glands, appended to each hair, sebum is another source of lipids, the function of which is to deliver a protective and lubricating layer, all along the hair stem. In fact, the natural protection of the cuticle is a hydro-lipid emulsion, which is a mix of sebum, water and ceramids.
Frizzy hair and lipids
Firzzy hair is naturally dryer than European-type hair, which means it is less rich in EFA and in sebum. That is due to the climate and hygrometric differences with the homeland, which did not require an important input of lipids (see Characteristics of Frizzy Hair).
But this constitutional characteristic is strongly amplified when the hair is straightened (or goes through colouring and decolouration). If the process is too often repeated, the insufficient quantity of natural sebum is dispersed, and the ceramids are destroyed.
By losing its double protection, the cuticle sees the cohesion of its scales and its ability to retain water disappears. The result is a chain of damages: the hair, without any protection, became rough, porous and extremely vulnerable, and loses all of its shine.
4. Treatment of the hair by vegetable oils
Selecting an oil
In order to build (or rebuild) the hair’s hydro-lipidic protection, there is a great variety of vegetable oils available today on the market. So how then to choose? They all claim to have a ‘hydrating’, ‘feeding’ and ‘repairing’ power… It is necessary to study the marketing arguments on the labels, in order to ensure that the selected oils (alone or mixed with other oils) really have the following characteristics:
- essential faty acids, in priority: linoleic acid to hydrate the cuticle, but also linolenic acid to make it supple > aloe, sweet almonds, argan, safflower, hemp, rape, wheat germs, cotton seeds, shea, melon, nut, grape seeds, wild rose, soy, olive, and sunflower…
- vitamin E (tocopherol), without which essential fatty acids are made ineffective by free radicals > aloe, sweet almond, avocado, borage, rape, wheat germs, soy, cotton seeds, corn, macadamia nuts, palm, olive…
- non-saponifiable. The term literally designates the fraction of some oils, which cannot be transformed into soap. Even if the fraction is often very weak, it is important because it guarantees a better penetration of the active ingredients > sweet almond, argan, avocado, jojoba, shea, olive, corn, castor, soy… .
- greasy ‘filmogen’ substances, i.e., which create a mixture close to sebum, and are able to lay a lubricating micro film on the stem > coconut, jojoba, shea butter, macademia, oenothera, palm…
Crucial mentions The oil you are selecting must include three elements:
1) virgin oil 2) cold-pressed 3) organic
- Virgin oil means that the oil was obtained by mechanical processes, without industrial refinement or chemical additives.
- Cold-pressed means that the residues (approximately 30%) have not been heated to obtain more oil.
The organic label guarantees that there is has been no fertilizer, no herbicides or chemical pesticides in the culture’s environment. Because those elements are soluble in greasy substances, they end up in the raw product. Only industrial refinement can then enable to eliminate it.
Without those mentions, your product will be inert, deprived from its active ingredients (essential fatty acids and vitamin E): it will only be a fatty substance, with no healing effect. Finally, in order to avoid that your precious EFA disappear over time, keep your products in a cold place, away from light, and do not go beyond the ‘best before’ date on the label.
The mask ritual
Vegetable oils are only effective if they are applied according to a certain ritual… Here is how to proceed to optimise your mask:
Start by humidifying your hair, preferably with an atomizer and mineral water. The humidity will ease the oil’s penetration and spreading.
Apply the oil throughout the hair, but not on the scalp: it needs other treatments, and that would risk smothering it. Make the application penetrate well by kneading it and pressing your hair, lock per lock, and twisting and de-twisting it, and pressing it again. You must thus work through each lock, during several seconds, and insist on the ends.
Wrap you hair in a clean white cloth you will have previously been passed under hot water, and wringed. Then cover it all with a waterproof shower cap. This is for two reasons: 1) the mask’s humidity must remain in the hair, and not evaporate in the air; 2) the heat, when brought close to the body, makes the oil more penetrating and enables a better infiltration in the cuticle’s scales.
Leave the application as long as possible (in any event, no less than 30 minutes). Then have a soft shampoo (see Make you own shampoo).
Advice: Before applying the oil, mix in a bowl the quantity you need for an application, with some egg yoke. Lecithines, which are so-called tensioactive molecules, of which the yoke is made, enable a fatty substance to deeply mix with the water. You will thus obtain a more hydrating emulsion for your hair.
False friends ...
If you purchase a ready-made mask, made of several ingredients, make sure it does not contain one or several of the following ingredients: - Alcohol. It dries the hair.
- Silicone. It has seemingly magical side: it makes the hair shine, eases its untangling and smoothens it. But the magic is only temporary, and, very quickly, the hair is increasingly tern and loses all of its suppleness. The reason? Silicon shapes like an invisible plastic film that is not easily eliminated by shampoo (except from very detergent ones, which are thus very negative for the hair) and isolates the hair from the nourishing substances the cuticle needs.
- Glycerin. Its presents should not exceed 2 to 5% from the total content. A very good humidifier, it brings the cuticle an immediate but very short hydration. In fact, it “traps” the water the hair needs, and eventually dehydrates it.
WORTH NOTING. At Centre Clauderer, we offer healing masks especially designed for dry, devitalised frizzy hair. Their composition consists in associations of 100% natural vegetable oils, very pure and rich in EFA, vitamin E and non-saponifiables.
They are also rich in vegetable proteins (silk, soy or rice), in order to rebuilt the keratin
( see Clauderer Anti-hair Loss Treatments: Frizzy or Semi-Frizzy Hair).
5. Scalp treatment
In order to hydrate the scalp in depth and bring the forming hair the essentail fatty acid it needs, Centre Clauderer recommends two types of actions:
- Local treatments: Application of a hair emulsion with a strong hydrating power. Massage before the application, in order to make the scalp suppler, and afterwards, to enable the active ingredients to better penetrate the sub-cutaneous zone.
- Nutritional complements by oral intake: Essential fatty acids and vitamin E. In order to feed, in the long term, the skin’s deep layers, and act in synergy with the local treatment.