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Quick notes on hair care

After successfully accomplishing my mission from last year, which was clear up my skin, I have recently decided on a new beauty goal I want to achieve: glossy, silky smooth hair.

I’d been so successful with my skin by really digging into the science of it that now I am convinced I can easily do the same with my hair and again get the exact results I want.

So for a starter, here a few quick notes on hair and hair care I wanted to jot down really quickly. Warning: This post will be random and riddled with links. It’s basically my ideas and bookmarks deposit on the topic. I’ll think about tying up loose ends later.

Coconut oil

After remaining completely unfazed by the coconut oil craze from the past years, I have finally jumped on the bandwagon too. Did you know it makes the skin crazy soft? Oh, you did. OK…

More importantly, I started reading more about how to moisturize hair, and learned that due to its molecular size and shape, chemical structure, as well as affinity to protein, coconut oil is one of the few oils that can really penetrate into the hair and strengthen it from the inside in contrast to just sit on top.

Now I’d been reading about people leaving coconut oil in their hair overnight, and in this context the practice began to make sense. Upon further reading, I also learned that coconut oil is a natural remedy against dandruff caused by dry scalp. So that settled it for me, and I immediately slathered both my scalp and my hair in two tablespoons of coconut oil.

By the way, “research (although small-scale and preliminary) shows that hair can absorb around 15% of its weight in coconut oil in an hour. An overnight soaking oil (six hours) increases absorption to around 20% or 25%.

I didn’t leave the oil on overnight, but for about three to four hours. My hair including bleached ends did feel incredibly soft afterwards. But the crazy shine I’d expected has yet to materialize, and my roots produced oil faster than usual after this wash. Could also be due to how I handled them this week, though.

Anyway, I’ve decided already to do this regularly from now on. For now twice, and later on once, a week.

Here’s how to rinse out oil, by the way: conditioner, shampoo, conditioner. The two rounds of conditioner are vital. Also did the same with olive oil once.

Olive oil

Speaking of olive oil: Besides coconut and avocado oil, this is another oil that is able to penetrate hair and nourish it from the inside.

Personally, I like coconut oil better for cosmetic purposes simply because I always associate olive oil very strongly with cooking as I use it in the kitchen a lot. It also feels heavier in the hair than coconut oil. However, it’s a cheap and still effective alternative, and at least in Germany really easily available just about anywhere. Olive oil mixed in with coconut oil might furthermore come in handy during winter when the latter tends to be more solid.

Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Conditioner

Since switching to Lush for my shower and hair wash products I’d not been in need of rinse-off conditioner. Yet I got this one anyway just for rinsing out the coconut oil.

Although in hindsight I don’t know why it had to be this one for almost 30 €…! *smh*

I’d been so amazed by how well my hair took my new no-silicones Lush regime that I was determined to finally cut them out for ever and good. So I came across the Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Conditioner which I initially liked the INCIs of:

Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Stearalkonium Chloride, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Silybum Marianum (Lady’s Thistle) Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui) Seed Oil, Ximenia Americana Seed Oil, Equisetum Hiemale (Horsetail) Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch, Butylene Glycol, Stearyl Alcohol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Polyquaternium-59, Vinegar, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, BHT, Linalool, Limonene, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hydroxycitronellal, Fragrance.

As I have learned now, the INCIs aren’t that impressive after all. Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride may form build-up on the hair, similar to water-insoluble silicones. And realistically speaking, the precious plant oils and extracts are probably 1.) present only in negligible amounts, and 2.) not chemically modified to stay on the hair and scalp and so will eventually rinse down the drain anyway. Bummer.

I still might like it, although I have yet to find out. For now, I’ve only used it in conjunction with pre-wash coconut oil.

Note to self: Could work as leave-in!

Melvita Gentle Conditioner

So another one I am currently highly interested in is the Melvita Gentle Conditioner.

Aqua/water, Glycerin, Cetearylalkohol, Hordeum vulgare extract, Jojoba (simmondsia chinensis) oil, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter, Carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil, Pentaclethra macroloba seed oil, Citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, Avena strigosa seed extract, Sunflower seed (Helianthus Annuus) oil, Soy bean (glycine soja) oil, Glycine soja (soy bean) sterols, Lauroyllysin, Cetearylglucosid, Phospholipide, Levulinic acid, Sodium levulinate, Lecithin, Lysolecithin, Glycolipids, Pullulan, Xanthan, Sclerotium gum, Sodium benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Tocopherol, Limonene.

Their shampoos seem very promising too as they contain no silicones either, only mild surfactants, and no alcohol! This is rare for natural beauty products.

It’s not that much cheaper than the Bumble & Bumble per 100 ml, but it’s… “cleaner”? More “natural”? Not that I fall for such catchphrases. As I already said, it’s possible plant oils in rinse-off products don’t do much for the hair anyway. But I will probably still order and try this sometime.

If all fails, this would definitely work as leave-in.


With all that being said, I’m not generally opposed to silicones – neither in skin nor hair care.

I get that similar to skin, hair too needs some sort of occlusive to seal in moisture into the hair shaft, or fill in gaps and breaks in the cuticle layer. An intact cuticle layer is what makes hair shiny after all – and that’s what I want, remember?

As already established, natural plant oils in shampoo or conditioner aren’t fit for the job as they would only rinse off. So I am OK with silicones and other ingredients with the same functions, like “Quats”, –ium chlorides, Polymers, and anything with “Guar” in the name.

I am, however, concerned about product build-up, as in theory this could prevent nourishing ingredients such as glycerin or coconut oil from entering the hair. Considering that some silicones only wash off with potent yet harsh detergents, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it follows that if I want to avoid those I better avoid silicones, too.

Hairstory New Wash

Bumble & Bumble’s founder Michael Gordon has recently launched a new brand named Hairstory. (Used to be Purely Perfect.) Their proclaimed star product is something they named New Wash.

Water/Aqua/Eau, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Stearyl Alcohol, Dicetyldimonium Chloride, Gluconolactone, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Panthenol, Rosa Canina Seed Extract, Equisetum Hiemale Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Menthyl Lactate, Ceteareth-20, Isopropyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate.
Fragrance/Parfum: Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Leaf Oil, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Myroxylon Pereirae (Balsam Peru) Oil, Guaiacum Officinale Wood Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Oil, Citronellol, Geraniol, Linalool, Trisodium HEDTA, Calcium Gluconate, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Alcohol.

Basically what they wanted to achieve with New Wash is gentle cleansing without detergents and harming the hair, thus eliminating the need for conditioner. Instead, New Wash supposedly contains essential oils that “distinguish between the good and the bad, only removing what is necessary.

The copywriters seem to have written this for three year olds..

Although Michael Gordon has emphasized this is not a co-wash, a.k.a. a cleansing conditioner, really it is. For comparison, read here about a similar product from WEN on The Beauty Brains, and all taken together, the Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Conditioner would easily work the same way as well. Maybe better even, since according to the aforementioned link, Stearalkonium Chloride is a better cleanser. The idea behind it is appealing regardless.

All shampoo, from $2.99 to $100, is essentially water and sulfate and stuff. The ‘stuff’ is meaningless, it’s fragrances. Detergent is bad for your hair and bad for your scalp and it is the cause of why you need to use conditioner and why you need to add stuff to give it some body… It’s this cycle. […] We have oils which gently remove accumulation, and then your hair feels fantastic without the conditioner because you didn’t do the damage in the first place.

What do you think?

How to interpret hair care ingredients

Here’s a really helpful post on how to read an ingredients list and see past the “greenwashing” so prevalent among “natural” beauty brands nowadays: The Myth of Natural Commercial Hair Products. This was truly enlightening, and has helped me put all of the products above into perspective. For example:

“Many companies list extracts first as they give the product a perception of being more natural – it is much more attractive to read ‘organic peppermint extract, organic chamomile’ than it is to read ‘C14-C16 olefin sulfonate’ yet it is the latter that is actually the key ingredient and that you should really know about to assess whether the product works.”


Extracts are typically “not more than 1% in content within the product […]. I have learned to completely ignore the extract list and just read it as water.”

So her tips for reading the ingredients of water-based hair care products are:

  • Water must be first (because emulsions or lotion-type products are basically always around 80 % water)
  • Delete all extracts that appear in the top 5 ingredients, for example “Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice,” “Hordeum vulgare extract” or “Fresh lemon infusion”
  • Delete all flowery descriptions like “coconut derived,” “organic,” etc.
  • Pay attention to the top 5 ingredients and read the rest later if you are avoiding certain ingredients or are sensitive

If you do all these steps, you will inevitably notice that the main ingredients in products are almost always about the same – doesn’t matter whether drugstore, high end, or natural cosmetics.

Interesting, no?

Here, have another really insightful post about Hair conditioning myths on The Beauty Brains!

My sources

In case anyone’s wondering, I predominantly rely on the Truth in Aging Ingredients Index and Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary for both skin as well as hair care ingredients.

So what I do is Google single ingredients, and hope a link from either or pops up in the results. However, I ignore links from EWG, (German) or organic/natural/ecological beauty websites. I’ll be frank, I’m interested in the functions and irritant-level of ingredients on the body, not the earth. As for organic and natural beauty proponents, I read a lot of simplistic scare-mongering among them and straight up false info. Baking soda or lavender essential oil on skin are not good for skin, and Parabens at the amounts found in cosmetics are fine! So yeah, not a fan/believer.

As you may have noticed, I’ve also learnt a lot from The Beauty Brains on the topic of hair care, while another surprisingly insightful source has been natural hair websites. OK, not all of them are automatically accurate of course. But if a link from The Natural Haven either on her own blog or on Black Girl, Long Hair pops up, I’ll click isn’t bad either.

Sure it’s obvious that my hair is almost the complete opposite to curly. But if it’s about hair and moisture, curly haired women are incredibly knowledgeable.

Besides, the The Natural Haven blogger is a chemist, as are The Beauty Brains. That’s already all the credentials I need.


So, what does all this mean for me?

I will continue to use coconut oil on my scalp and hair, unless I notice my scalp reacts to the high oleic acid content with irritation – which I pray it will not!!

I will continue to dissect my hair care using The Natural Haven’s tips above, and select products accordingly. And I do hope to find truly different formulas eventually.

I will probably buy this conditioner with two fatty acids and two “Quats” as main ingredients just for rinsing off my coconut oil pre-wash treatments. I was stupid to get something as expensive as the Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Conditioner for this particular job, and will find better uses for it.

I might switch my shampoo to one without Sodium Laureth Sulfate in the future. Although I’m not sure whether that’s really necessary. SLES is considered an irritating surfactant in cosmetics, but then again it is at least not as irritating as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – if that makes any difference. What’s more, I have been using SLES in shower and hair products probably all my life and seen no reaction on my scalp or my skin. And yet, I cut it from my facial cleansers completely and never looked back. So……? Well, we’ll see.

Feel free to add your random thoughts on hair care to this post in the comments. It’d be interesting to read your take and ideas. Maybe you have tips?

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