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Cosmetics Ingredients
The material selection platform
Cosmetics Ingredients
Fuction Ingredients for Hair Repair and Protection

Formulating Hair Care Solutions for Repair and Protection

No beauty kit is complete without a bunch of hair care products with multi-functional benefits. Moreover, due to the increasing awareness of styling and environment-related damage (UV light, pollution...), hair protecting and repair products are gaining traction these days in the personal care market. But, how to select the appropriate ingredients for the same?

Here’s the solution to get you off to a great start with what you need in your formula! Check out this guide to learn about the functional ingredients for hair protection and hair repair benefits and thus, find out the suitable material for your product.


Types of Hair Care Ingredients & Selection Tips

Types of Hair Care Ingredients & Selection Tips

Hair is an incredibly strong and resilient structure – a healthy head of hair, when wound together, could technically hold up to 12 tons of weight!

However, with chemical coloring and styling, heat styling on a regular basis and ongoing UV and oxidative exposure, our hair may not be the crowning glory it could be. So how do we fix the damage and repair the strength? How can we protect it from some of this damage in the first place?

Before we can address repair and protection, it is important that you first understand the impact that different materials have on the hair.

For example, it is a common misconception that oils will add moisture to the hair. But, in reality, high oil content only really assists type 4 hair; while high oil content on types 1-3 hair will just leave it looking greasy and feeling heavy and lank.

So, let’s take a look at the reasons for selecting different materials and the impact they have on the hair and in hair formulations. This will help you apply the right selections to the needs of the product you are formulating...

Effectiveness of Polyquaternium Agents vs Cationic Surfactants at Conditioning

Effectiveness of Polyquaternium Agents vs Cationic Surfactants at Conditioning

Polyquaternium materials are polymers that carry a positive charge; they are not cationic surfactants, emulsifiers, or as effective at conditioning the hair. They do provide some ‘slip’ and conditioning benefits to the hair, but aren’t able to reduce surface tension and spread through the hair like cationic surfactants can. So, they are not as effective at providing the slip and detangling benefits of cationic surfactants.

Polyquaternium agents are, however, very good additions to:

  • Anionic (shampoos) and cationic (conditioner) based products, as well as Leave in conditioning products
  • Spray products, and
  • Styling products

This is because, they are relatively weightless.

Polyquaternium Agents in Hair Products

Even though they are cationically charged, they are usually compatible in both anionic and cationic formulations – whereas cationic surfactants are NOT compatible with anionic surfactants (please make sure you understand this chemical difference!)

Related Read: Discover the chemistry of various emulsifier types here »

When choosing a polyquaternium material for your formula, read through supplier information carefully to pick the right polyquaternium material for the right application.

  • They all differ in molecular weight and their benefits, so choose the material specific to the product type you are creating.
  • They also come in various dilution ratios from different suppliers so use the trade name in formulations and suppliers input guides to ensure the right material is used in the right input in the right type of product for best results.
  • These materials are water-soluble so should be added in the water phase of the formula (hot or cold).

Importance of Hydrolyzed Proteins for Hair Repair

Importance of Hydrolyzed Proteins for Hair Repair

Our hair is protein. Protein is normally insoluble in water, but hydrolyzed proteins are proteins that have been broken down into their component amino acids (low molecular weight) or peptides (high molecular weight) and made water-soluble.

This makes it easy to apply the structural integrity of the protein in water-based products to our hair. Low molecular weight hydrolyzed proteins can penetrate within the cuticle for structural integrity and strength; while high molecular weight hydrolyzed proteins are relatively large (on a molecular scale!) and highly compatible with our hair to fill in ‘gaps’ where damage exists on the outside of the hair shaft.

By filling in these gaps, they restore structural integrity, strength, flexibility and can even smooth out damaged cuticles and fill in some of the gaps in split ends. Because they are water-soluble they are relatively weightless but provide significant repair to the hair. They are also a fantastic addition to your marketing story!

Impact of Adding Hydrolyzed Proteins to Damaged Hair

When selecting your hydrolyzed protein, make sure you read the suppliers information carefully, as materials vary significantly in molecular weight and dilution ratio which impacts on:

  • How much of a particular material should be used, and
  • Its most suitable applications

You can also get:

  • Quaternized hydrolyzed proteins – which provides the benefits of the hydrolyzed proteins with the positive charge for extra ‘slip’ and conditioning benefits.
  • Hydrolyzed proteins with starch – for extra film-forming benefits, which helps provide extra water protective benefits to the hair from its coating.
  • Hydrolyzed proteins with silicones/emollients – imparts the benefits of the silicone material, which includes emolliency without excess greasiness (read also the next section to better understand the use of silicones/emollients in hair care products).
  • Hydrolyzed proteins with PVP/crosspolymers/styling agents – these provide restructuring benefits with styling hold. The amount of protection depends on the hydrolyzed protein while the amount of hold depends on the styling polymer – this needs to be considered on an individual basis by referring to the suppliers’ information.
  • Other variants are also available – look at the chemistry of the materials they are companioned with as well as the suppliers’ descriptions to make the best selections for each particular product you are creating.

Webinar - New Conditioning Booster for Damaged Hair Repair and Protection

Volatile Lipids for Emolliency without Residual Greasiness

Volatile Lipids for Emolliency without Residual Greasiness

Application of Lipids While lipids provide emolliency, they can leave the hair feeling heavy and lank. In type 4 hair, the application of oil beyond the scalp can be beneficial. As with this type of hair, because of its many kinks, scalp oils rarely travel far down the hair shaft, leaving most of the hair dry and lacking in oil/emolliency.

Compare this to type 1 hair, by comparison, where oil can travel much more freely down the hair. Even with type 4 hair, however, applying heavy lipids will leave the hair feeling greasy – excess scalp oils are one of the materials we purposely remove from our hair when we wash it!

So, to apply emolliency without excess residue, volatile lipids are used. When a volatile lipid is applied to the hair or skin, varying amounts of the material will evaporate shortly after application, depending on its molecular constituents and their vaporization point.

  • You can consider volatile lipids in either water or oil-based products as being emollient ‘carriers’. Depending on their rate and extent of volatility, they can be used to ‘carry’ very small amounts of residual lipid to hair or skin (where > 90% of the formulation is volatile within a few hours); or to provide an initial emolliency that dries to little or no residue within a short period of time.

  • You would purposely select the type of volatile lipid and input amount based on how much residual emolliency you want in the finished product. For example, in typical anti-frizz hair oil, you may want as much as 95% of the product to evaporate within a few hours. So, in this case, 95% of the formula would be volatile lipids, and the remainder would be your chosen:
    • Non-volatile lipids
    • Fragrance, and
    • Potentially a cross-polymer or silicone/oil gelling/stabilizing agent

    Or, you may want as much as 50% of the product to remain after 8 hours. so, in this case, you would combine fragrance and other lipids with either:
    • Fast evaporating lipids with non-volatile materials, or
    • Use a combination of volatility profiles with/without non-volatile materials

Superfatting Agents for Washable Emolliency

Superfatting Agents for Washable Emolliency

Superfatting Agents for Washable Emolliency These are partially hydrophilic (partially water loving) lipids – in other words, non-ionic surfactants. They are composed of a water-loving portion and an oil-loving portion, making them ideal to use in wash-off products.

Normal lipids added to cleansing/foaming products reduce stability, foam and cleansing power; but superfatting agents, because they are partially hydrophilic (partially water loving) do not negatively impact stability, foaming or cleansing ability.

They provide some emolliency and skin or hair conditioning benefits, but, are largely washed off so there is no greasy residue. They are therefore most suited to wash-off products. Because these are modified lipids, there are multiple variants with different performance characteristics based on the extent of oil or water-loving portions.

Heat Protective Materials

Heat Protective Materials

These materials are resin polymers combined with a hydrophilic portion. The hydrophilic portion of the material is strongly attracted to the hydrophilic portions of the hair – the damaged portions of the hair – while the resin sits as a coating on the hair.

When heat is applied, the resin effectively ‘melts’ over the hair, providing a protective layer. You can get heat-protective materials with or without styling polymers present – your selection would depend on whether you want styling hold or protection only. You can also use simple heat protection materials (without styling properties) in combination with styling polymers to get protection and styling, if desired.

Heat Protective Materials Providing Protection during Styling
A diagrammatic representation of how heat-protective
materials provide repair and protection during the heat styling process

So, when formulating your repair and damage protection product:

  • Start by selecting the form of the product: is it to be liquid (sprayable or spreadable?) or cream?
  • Then, think about whether its water or oil-based and the type of hair it needs to be applied to – this will impact how the product will perform significantly; for example, the needs of sun-damaged, bleached Caucasian hair will vary significantly to untreated African hair
  • Does the product need to be leave on: think carefully about oil content and whether this needs to be mostly volatile or not; or does it need to be wash off, with no residue?
  • Does it need to also hold a style?
  • Does it need to provide color protection, UV protection and/or heat protection? Look for those functionalities as specific descriptions in supplier documents or use them as search terms to find the right materials in the first place!

Remember to keep the application of your functional ingredients relevant to the required functionality of your formula, and in a compatible base.

Researching and choosing from the ever-growing amazing materials is the fun part of formulation…

Ingredients for Hair Care Formulations

View a wide range of ingredients available today for hair care formulations, analyze technical data of each product, get technical assistance or request samples.

Polymer Processing Check All Latest Updates from Hair Care Industry

Polymer Properties Explore Various Starting Point Hair Care Formulations

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6 Comments on "Formulating Hair Care Solutions for Repair and Protection"
QƏHRƏMAN Y Jul 10, 2022
hello. super
Ghassan Y Sep 2, 2021
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the preparation of this wonderful and useful page
Ghassan Y Sep 2, 2021
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the preparation of this wonderful and useful page
Ghassan Y Sep 2, 2021
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the preparation of this wonderful and useful page
Ghassan Y Sep 2, 2021
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the preparation of this wonderful and useful page
Naoaki I Dec 4, 2020
What is the hair type 1-4 ?

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