What's hot and what's not when it comes to hair care ingredients for curly strands? When it comes down to it, says Veronique Morrison, director of education for Mizani, all hair structure relies on a balance of protein and moisture. Protein binds to the hair to build weakened areas. Moisture gives it shine and flexibility. Adds Kevin Kirk of Pedestal Salon in Birmingham, Ala., the most important thing is to strike the right balance between the two. Too much protein can make hair rigid. Too much moisture will make strands feel soft, but they will lack strength. “Protein makes hair structurally sound,” Kirk explains, “and moisture adds the fine-tuning."
So it's no surprise that the best ingredients for curly hair contribute either protein, moisture or both to the mix. What are the latest ingredients to look for in hair care and styling products?
Here are some top picks from curl pros, along with some extra "natural" ingredients gaining popularity in textured hair products and treatments:
Acanthe Extract: Acanthus (Acanthus mollis L.) is a perennial plant that is know for its oftening, emollient and protective qualities.
Açaí: The combination of acai berry’s vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, EFAs and chemical constituents come together to greatly benefit the hair and skin. Açaí oil is said to deeply moisturize hair, add luster, and enrich hair color. Açaí also helps eliminate frizz.
Almond Oil: An excellent natural moisturizer, almond oil also contributes protein to hair strands. It gives hair a smooth, silky texture and it’s rich in fatty acids that not only nourish hair, but protect from stress, deterioration and damage, according to Dimitrios Tsioumas of Mizu Salon in New York, a finalist in the North American Hairstyling Awards Texture category.
Aloe Vera: Aloe vera has been popular for centuries for its healing and soothing properties says Tsioumas. When used in hair care products, it offers natural conditioning, and at the same time, stimulates blood flow to the scalp. As a result, many pros believe that aloe vera can actually help prevent hair loss.
Apricot Oil: Rich in essential fatty acids and high in Vitamin A, apricot oil is a lightweight smoother that absorbs easily into hair and scalp, says Jill Leitz of Salon Salon in Boulder, CO and an international platform and education artist. That means that it moisturizes without build-up, making it an ideal, natural hydrating ingredient for fine, thin textures.
Argan Oil: This newly-discovered oil, produced from the kernels of the agran tree found primarily in southwestern Morocco, has been one of the biggest buzz-builders among beauty professionals in recent times. Touted to contain twice as much anti-oxidant as olive oil, this non-greasy oil repairs hair with proteins and moisture, controls frizz and enhances shine and elasticity weightlessly, according to Kirk.
Avocado: Used in hot-oil treatments and for deep, hair conditioning.
Bamboo: Fast-growing and sustainable, bamboo does double duty -- it combines incredible strength and incredible flexibility says Tsioumas. Bamboo extract adds gloss and vitality to curly or frizzy hair, enhancing both strand integrity and elasticity.
Ceramic: Curly girls often rely on thermal tools to provide loads of styling alternatives, and when discussing straightening and curling irons with her clients, Chaune Hurt-Fitzgerald of Salon Remedi in Tri Cities, WA, who is also a trainer for Farouk Systems, recommends ceramic tools. True ceramic tools distribute heat evenly, which prevents hot spots on the surface of flat iron plates and curling iron barrels that can burn the hair strand. Ceramic plates are smooth and won’t chip or peel. They also help prevent static electricity, smooth and seal the hair cuticle, eliminate frizz and add shine.
Chocolate/cacao: Savoring cacao's numerous health benefits is a nourishing treat for skin and hair -- adding shine, vibrancy and improving the general health of both. Clients can enjoy the chocolate aroma and reap the benefits of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Grape seed: Grape seed extract is a very strong antioxidant, used to stimulate the scalp and to combat dryness.
Horsetail: Adds silica to the hair, and is known to help strengthen and restore shine.
Jojoba: Jojoba acts as a humectant on the hair and scalp by sealing it to prevent moisture loss. All hair types will benefit from jojoba, but hair that is dry and damaged will benefit the most, as jojoba coats and seals the hair cuticle. This maintains moisture balance, essential for healthy hair. Jojoba extract is also said to remove buildup.
Keratin: Nearly 97 percent of hair is made up of keratin protein, and Cutler Salon's Rodney Cutler of New York, who is also a Redken artist, notes that keratin-infused treatments have a tremendously restorative effect on frizzy, unmanageable hair. This ingredient actually helps to temporarily fill the "holes" in damaged strands, making hair smoother and more reflective.
Macadamia nut: Macadamia oil is a natural moisturizer and emollient (emollients attract and trap moisture from the air). Light and non-greasy, it is easily absorbed and contains proteins and vitamin E. The high count of mono-unsaturated fatty acids makes the oil mimic the sebum (naturally produced oil on scalp and skin which protects it from damage).
Murumuru: Murumuru is especially useful to people with kinky, curly or wavy hair because of its softening ability. Murumuru coats coarse curls, making them more supple and manageable.
Pomegranate: Pomegranate oil is used for hot oil treatments or pre-shampoo soothing for frizzy, over-processed hair and for general conditioning for kinky, curly and wavy hair.
Seaweed: Seaweed is an emollient, defining and softening curls. It has been said that the thick, black, lustrous hair of the Japanese is partly due to their regular diet of brown sea vegetables such as arame. Research has shown that minerals are important to healthy hair growth, and arame has a high mineral content.
Shea Butter: Extracted from shea nuts and used for centuries as a natural moisturizer, shea butter remains one of the most effective ingredients for restoring extremely dry, brittle hair, according to Morrison. It's rich in Vitamins A, E and F, and it absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue or build-up. This powerful emollient moisturizes and helps improve hair elasticity. Shea butter also contains natural sunscreen properties to protect hair from sun damage.
Silk: Silk protein is one of the most powerful elements in the world--it’s credited with the ability to retain 10,000 times its weight in water. It adds add luster, body, and manageability to hair, restores moisture balance and improves elasticity. What’s more, says Hurt-Fitzgerald, silk is actually activated by heat, making it an ideal thermal protectant.
Sunflower: Sunflower oil contains vitamin A, D, and E and a good amount of protein for skin and hair; also a high-quality source of zinc. Protein is very good for most types of hair, vitamin E is a great antioxidant and zinc is protective against the sun’s rays.
Tamanu: Tamanu oil’s anti-inflammatory and regenerative traits make it a welcome addition to the curly hair care arsenal, particularly in protective and healing formulas for those who use heat or chemical formulas on their locks.