A brief introduction to hair conditioners

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Hair conditiong is a common practice, largely done after hair washing, in order to improve the texture and appearance of human hair. Hair conditioners are used in order to improve manageability, provide glossiness, and softness to the hair texture.

Apart from conditioning the normal fibers, the conditioners can take care of the hair that have undergone various chemical treatments like waving, straightening, coloring, etc. Most of these chemical treatments adversely affect the hair quality. This means the chemically treated hair needs extra care and conditioning. Lack of conditioning often leads to decreased tensile strength, brittleness and porosity.

Harsh combing or brushing of the hair makes the individual hair shafts negatively charged creating static electricity and preventing the hair from flowing smoothly. Fine hair is more prone to static electricity than coarse hair because of the greater surface area of the cuticle layer in coarse hair.

Active ingredients of conditioners
The ingredients in conditoners that have a conditioning effect on hair are comprised of cationic agents, film formers, and proteins.

Cationic agents (quaternary ammonium compounds) are positively charged, and so they are attracted by the negative charges of damaged hair.

Film formers are conditioning agents which are composed of polymers (like polyvinylpyrrolidone). These polymers are helpful in treating various hair shaft defects and smoothing the hair fiber. Apart from smoothing the hair fiber, these polymers are positively charged ions. They help in reducing the negative charge of static electricity which is induced in hair by combing or brushing.

Role of protein element

The protein element in conditioners are linked with the keratin protein. They helps in restoring the damaged protein of the hair fiber.

Types of conditioners:
Hair conditioners are of many types but there is an underlying similarity in their composition. Some of the common types of conditioners are:
  • Instant conditioners
  • Deep conditioners
  • Blow drying lotions
  • Hair Glazes

Instant conditioners
Instant conditioners are the most common among hair conditioners available in most stores and are applied immediately after the application of shampoo. They are left for a short period of time and then rinsed off. They are composed of water, conditioning agents, lipids, and thickeners.

Deep Conditioners
Deep conditioners are similar to instant conditioners in their compostion. These hair conditioners are more concentrated as they are available as creams instead of lotions or liquids.

Application tips for deep conditoners
After the application of deep conditioners they are usually left for 20 to 30 minutes before being washed off. Exposure to heat may be necessary as it helps the deep conditioners to penetrate the shaft adequately.

They are usually used for extremely dry hair and are a particularly beneficial product for hair that has undergone curling.

Blow Drying Lotions
Blow drying lotions contain the same agents as that of instant conditioners, but they do not contain oil and therefore can be left on the hair. They are applied after toweling dry the hair and before styling.

They easily penetrate the hair shaft and, since they are not rinsed off, the lotion ingredients gets more time to work in the hair shaft. They can also be used in dry hair in order to give it a detangling effect.

Hair Glaze
Hair glazes are also known as hair thickeners and they are available in liquid form. They usually contain protein elements and are applied on towel dried hair before styling. Hair glaze coats the hair shaft and thus enhances the diameter of the same which gives the illusion of thicker hair fibers.

Application of hair conditioner may not be enough if there is a severe hair loss, but this will make the hair appear thicker and fuller by providing body and volume to thin hair. Also nowadays, both women and men have chemically processed hair where the problems like dry scalp, dry shaft and split ends are common. Formation of severe split ends leads to weathered hair, a severe hair shaft defect. Hair conditioning agents can help reduce or prevent dry hair and split ends.

Cleansing and conditioning processed hair is a challenging task, you need to use the right hair care products like the shampoos and conditioners that are correctly formulated for chemically treated hair like (curled hair, bleached hair, straightened hair with procedures like chemical relaxing or thermal reconditioning)

Chantal Bolduc, Jerry Shapiro, "Hair care products: Waving, Straightening, Conditioning, and Coloring", 2001, Clinics in dermatology; 19:431436

John Gray, "Hair care and Hair care products", 2001, Clinics in dermatology; 19:227236
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