Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emollients vs. Moisturizers…What’s the difference?

Every day, I tend to see the two being used interchangeably. When reading over routines, I notice some naturals stating that they “moisturize” using an array of butters and oils. Many of these same naturals later discuss concerns over dryness issues.

Know why?

Because oils and butters are NOT moisturizers(or humectants). Oils and butters are considered emollients. They impart softness to the hair and can help in sealing in moisture. On the contrary, they can also block them out if there is buildup.

Let me give an example.

Think about when you rub oil or butter(not butter butter, but natural butters…lol) on your arm. If you spray water on it, you’ll notice that the water droplets do not penetrate because the oil has created a protective barrier on the skin. Eventually, the skin soaks it up but with the hair, it can only absorb so much. What it SHOULD absorb are nourishing moisturizers that keep the hair pliable, elastic, and healthy.

If you’re going to use oils and butters, your routine should also include moisturizers that keep the hair as healthy as possible. This can be in the form of leave in conditioners that are water/moisturizer/humectant based. Of course, humectant usage is reliant upon the current condition of your hair and locale(highly porous hair, high humidity and humectants don’t work well together).

Below are some leave ins(or rinse out conditioners used as leave ins) that have given me some of the most consistent results:

*Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner (CG friendly)

Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner (CG friendly)

Paul Mitchell, The Conditioner (CG friendly, w/water soluble and peg-modified silicones)

Cantu Shea Butter Leave in (Not CG; includes silicones that would require an ionic surfactant)

*rinse out conditioners

In addition to leave ins, I layer a good moisturizer overtop; sealing my ends with an oil blend. Over the years, what works and doesn’t work has changed just as often as the seasons. The warmer the weather, the less product I generally have to use, as I can mostly get away with just using a leave in when wearing a wash n go. But when I wear my twists (which is about 90% of the time), I like using the following products (not all at once, lol):

Darcy’s Botanicals Avocado and Wild Plum Twisting Cream (CG friendly)

Elasta QP Olive Oil & Mango Butter Moisturizer (the new version is actually better than the older one. Consists of silicones that can be removed with an ionic surfactant)

Afroveda Curl Define (formally called “Curly Custard” and also CG friendly)

As you can see, my list is pretty small. After spending the last 7 years, or almost 7 years experimenting with products, I’ve tried A LOT. Many of them I considered "staples" (that I likely can't even name anymore, lol), some were more expensive than others, and some were more economical. While many of them are still great products that I wouldn’t hesitant to use again, overall cost effectiveness keeps me using the above products; all of which I can stretch to at least around 3 months of usage PER bottle/container. Sometimes I can get more usage depending on how often I use them. I JUST finished off my 16 oz container of the Curl Define that I’ve had since July. It was mostly used it as a daily twist moisturizer.

So all of this to say that if you want healthy hair, don’t just use oils and butters. Make sure there’s a good balance of moisture and sealants/emollients.


Shawnystheone said...

I agree, I cring everytime someone says shea butter is their moisturizer.

Now if their hair was wet prior to adding it , then the shea butter sealed in the moisture but if youre adding globs of shea butter on dry hair expecting good results, thats a nogo!

great post

KP said...

YUP! But it doesn't register for many because they haven't truly done the research. Just decided to go with a routine because it worked for everyone else.

You can't do that without doing the background. I mean, you can but you'll end up being out of ALOT of money and frustrated as hell!