If you don’t know what humectants are, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But whatever, it doesn’t matter! Today you’re going to know alllll about it! I’m here to show you just how beneficial these ingredients are to the HEALTH of your hair.
So to keep it as SIMPLE as possible (because I don’t know about you, but I run away at the sound of science-y terms and names) humectants are just a specific group name of ingredients that carry out a specific function in contrast to other ingredients. So to be more specific, humectants are the ingredients that provide and attract water to the hair. And that’s their primary purpose in our hair products.
Do YOU know the difference between moisturizing and hydrating?
If you’re having trouble answering that question that’s a sign that you’re ready for a quick lesson and here it goes:
Hydrating is moisturizing and moisturizing is not what you think. Seriously.
I explain that concept more thoroughly in this article.
But if you’re experiencing dry hair more often than not, you need to be hydrating your hair with humectants FIRST!
Humectants promote moisture retention as they allow water molecules from your local environment to bind to specific parts along the hair’s structure (just like how protein does the same thing). This is because the science-y makeup of humectants (I won’t go into details) is extremely cohesive with H2O (water).
This is why you may have heard warnings of using products with humectants when there’s a lot of humidity outside. Because your “local environment” has an increase of water molecules in the air and they’re attracted to the humectants in your hair and if they bind to it (undesirably) it can actually give your hair too much moisture which will cause your hair to revert. And if you have a certain style you’re trying to hold, it will be difficult.
And fortunately that’s something that’ll never change because this is EXCELLENT when you do want all the moisture you can get right?
FYI: You may have been sort of lead astray on the core difference between moisturizing and hydrating your hair. In fact, leave-in conditioners are actually meant to seal in the moisture you already have, NOT provide more. For the longest I didn’t realize that was the case and was always perplexed on why my hair still felt dry! Leave-in conditioners (and many regular conditioners) are not known to carry humectant ingredients that hydrate.
So let me give you a short list of some go-to humectants that can work for all hair types:
Honey Propylene Glycol Butylene Glycol Sorbitol Sugar Cane Panthenol Aloe Vera
My plan is to never overwhelm you with ingredient names. I believe less is more! And it’s easier to tackle a mouse than an elephant right (in terms of size)? So with each new read that includes a new batch of ingredients, I courage you to tackle one ingredient at a time and see how it works for you!
And it’s important to be aware of how humectants are listed on the ingredients tab of the products you purchase as well. I’d say a humectant MUST be listed FIRST (after water) if you really want to get the hydrated results you want. The ingredient listed first always contains the highest percentage of all other ones; which means it usually takes the lead of how your hair will react with the product as a whole.
I hope you learned something new today! If nothing else, remember the word humectants and that they’re a hair’s best friend! Get to hydrating! 😉