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How to identify protein and humectants in hair products

Hair is made up of protein and moisture, and the balance between them determines the elasticity of the hair. Every time you use a hair product, this balance shifts. Especially styling hair products can affect this. If you don’t pay attention to what your hair needs or to the ingredients of the hair products you use, it’s easy to throw your hair out of balance. Two ingredients to keep in mind are protein and humectants. In this article we’ll explain what they are and how to identify them in hair products!

Also read: The ingredients in hair products for curls: an explanation

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In this article:

What is protein?

About 95% of your hair consists of protein, which makes it strong and healthy. It ensures growth of the hair and determines its elasticity.

Elasticity gives an indication of the health of your curls. It’s the hair’s ability to stretch and return to its original shape. 

For strong and healthy hair, protein and moisture must be in balance. You can compare it with a balanced diet.


How to identify protein in hair products

The ingredients listed below are forms of protein that may be an ingredient in a hair product:

  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed hair keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed keratin/li>
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed silk
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Keratin
  • Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein

You can also recognize protein by phrases such as “restorative”, “strengthening” and “firming” on packaging of hair products. 

Because that’s what it does to hair: it fills up “gaps” on the hair strand temporarily.

Also read: What does protein mean for a curly girl?

What are humectants?

Humectants are ingredients that are able to retain and attract moisture to the skin and hair. Think of glycerine, propylene glycol, panthenol, agave and honey. 

These ingredients provide soft and bouncy curls. In short, a humectant attracts moisture from the environment around them. 

So if your hair is drier than the air, a humectant will help attract moisture from the environment and use it to moisturize your hair. The result is: better curl formation, better shine and less frizz. 

Ideal if you have dry curls that need to be moisturized!

However, products with humectants are not the best option for everyone. For example, curlies with a low or medium porosity can suffer from frizz. 

Especially in certain weather conditions, such as dry or extremely wet weather. If the air is drier than your hair, the environment will draw moisture from your hair. 

Then it’s better to avoid a product containing humectants. And if the air has a very high humidity level, it’s also better to avoid them. 

Because it does its job so well that it continues to attract and retain moisture from the environment. Your hair will get so packed with moisture that it swells and lifts the hair cuticles. 

The result: extremely frizzy hair!

So it’s important to understand your curls and know what they need. It’s also useful to check how the humidity is every day.

Fortunately, there are apps that can help you with that, such as Hygrometer.

Also read: Glycerin and humidity


How to identify humectants in hair products

Quite a lot of CG products contain humectants, because it helps to retain moisture. This is how to identify them as an ingredient in a hair product:

  • 1,2,6 hexanetriol
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Dipropylene glycol
  • Glycerin
  • Hexylene Glycol
  • Panthenol
  • Phytantriol — enhances moisture-retention, increases absorption of vitamins, panthenol, and amino acids into hair shaft, imparts gloss
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Sorbitol
  • Triethylene glycol
  • Polyglyceryl sorbitol
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Polydextrose
  • Potassium PCA
  • Urea
  • Hydrogenated Honey
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Inositol
  • Hexanediol beeswax
  • Hexanetriol Beeswax
  • Hydrolyzed Elastin
  • Hydrolyzed Collagen
  • Hydrolyzed Silk
  • Hydrolyzed Keratin
  • Erythritol
  • Capryl glycol
  • Isoceteth-(3-10, 20, 30)
  • Isolaureth-(3-10, 20, 30)
  • Laneth-(5-50)
  • Laureth-(1-30)
  • Steareth-(4-20)
  • Trideceth-(5-50)

Also read: This is how to treat frizzy hair

Hopefully it’s clear what protein and humectants are and how to identify them in hair products. Questions? Place them in the comments!


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