Dear Miss Beauty Nerd,
I’m looking into hair care more closely these days and I’m getting confused about all the different ingredients particularly with respect to hair serums. What are the pros and cons of ingredients such as silicone, alcohol and argan oil (just to name a few) in selecting the best serum for my hair? Frankly I feel quite lost looking at all the options. Not sure if this is one of your areas of expertise but would love your input if you have!
Fabulous question! I don’t blame you for being confused – how do you decipher between whether an ingredient actually works versus if it’s all just marketing hype? Well let me break it down for you according to the 3 specific ingredients you are inquiring about:
Silicone – The beauty industry loves using silicones in hair products because it creates an incredible glide that allows people to comb through their hair easily. Silicones can also lessen the porosity of the hair shaft, resisting the tendency for hair to absorb humidity (think about what humidity does to curly hair individuals!). Finally, because silicones forms a protective coating around the hair, it can reduce the natural loss of moisture from inside the hair. The cons, however, are that some types of silicones are heavy, not very water-soluble and may build up in your hair over time. Dimethicone is one such example. BUT, not all types of silicones have these characteristics – cyclomethicone on the other hand, evaporates quickly and has minimal build up. Personally, I don’t think silicones are bad for you (although I know many others may disagree), but just make sure you are using a clarifying shampoo once a week to remove silicone buildup. Doing so will prevent your hair from looking greasy or weighed down over time.
Argan Oil – Argan oil, harvested from the kernels of the argan tree, which is indiginous to Morocco, contains a nourishing blend of fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenes. Due to this rich concoction of goodies, argan oil can provide nutritional benefits to your hair. People have been raving about the Moroccanoil Treatment, which I have not tested out yet, but keep in mind that the Moroccanoil Treatment does not contain only argan oil, but it is also blended with a number of other silicones. So while you may be getting the benefits from argan oil, remember that the silicones can build up in your hair over time as well.
Alcohol – Alcohols can be drying to your hair, but it’s important to note that not ALL alcohols are drying. Alcohols with lower molecular weights or ones with short-chain molecular structures tend to evaporate quickly. Translation? Well this could lead to dry, frizzy hair. Examples of such alcohols include ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, alcohol denat, and isopropyl alcohol. Be wary if one of these alcohols are listed near the top of the ingredient list because it could mean that it is used in higher concentrations. On the other hand, fatty alcohols such as lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol will actually moisturize the hair. Key takeaway: Don’t get scared off by the word alcohol – just make sure you know what type of alcohol you are looking at!
In terms of actual product recos, I’ve still yet to find a hair serum that I really love because I find that most of them end up weighing my hair down. If my hair is frizzy, I do like Aveda’s Brilliant Spray-On Shine which I mist at the ends of my hair. However, I avoid using this spray at the roots of my hair because I find that my hair looks too greasy as a result. What I do use instead of a serum, though, is Fekkai’s Coiff Defense Pre-Style Thermal/UV Protectant. I mist it onto my hair immediately after washing and then I blow dry it. It’s meant to condition the hair and protect it from the heat of your hairdryer, but I also find that it gives my hair the perfect amount of shine and glossiness without being heavy or greasy. Better yet, I find that I don’t need to use a hair serum afterwards! Yes, the bottle is a little pricey ($27.50), but it lasts me a REALLY long time so I think it’s well worth the investment.
Hope this helps – let me know what you end up trying!