Saturday, December 26, 2009

Penetrating the hair shaft, can oils really do it?

You may have heard this before, oils seal not moisturize. Use oils to keep in what you've put on the hair. The idea of using oil as a sealer made sense to me. When I applied oils on my skin, it would create a protective barrier far superior to that of my lotion alone. Everything clicked in my mind when I rationalized this logic. That is-until one day the internet told me that coconut oil had the ability to actually penetrate the strands.

What! How could that be?! If an oil actually had the ability to penetrate the hair strand, that would change everything. That would mean the oil could possibility work to benefit the hair while inside the strand. Which would make the oil more than just a sealer. It would now also become a strengthener and a nourisher. "Well," I thought, "before you get too excited missy, remember that you heard it on the crazy internet." "Oils penetrating the hair could be a pack of lies generated out of the evil hearts of malicious liars."

I didn't know who to believe. That is until I found proof! Yes, proof! I actually found the results of the published 2005 study titled the Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into the human hair fibers. In this study, various types of oils were applied to hair samples in order to observe and measure "the capillary adhesion resulting from the penetration of oil into the fiber." So what they did was measure the thickness of the oil film on the hair strand after some time elapsed. They also did the same observation with the use of heat on the strand.

 The theory was that the thickness of the oil film on the hair would diminish with time and heat as the oil was absorbed into the hair. Those oils that left a film thicker than a certain amount, actually masked the hair as it remained on the surface. During the study, a measurement tool was also used to view the hair's surface. Strands with the "non-absorbing" oils would appear to have a thicker film covering and masking the scale structure of the hair for extending periods of time even with the use of heat (blow dryer). Basically, this would mean the oil was just idly sitting there.

The oils used in this particular study were coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, mineral oil, sesame, rice brand, mustard, and olive oil. Scientists measure the "capillary adhesion," or amount of penetration of mineral, coconut, and sunflower with the use of heat. The higher the adhesion, the less the oil was able to penetrate the strand. It's no surprise that absorption levels of mineral oil was pretty much non-existent, even with the use of heat. The study found that coconut oil treated hair (with heat) looked close to untreated hair after 24 hours. That speaks to the high absorption rate of the oil. To further prove this theory, a second assessment was made on the hair fibers by studying the interior of the hair fiber with a specialized tool. Mineral oil was not detected in the hair's cross section. Coconut oil, however, "was found to penetrate partially or completely."

As mentioned earlier, other oils were also analyzed during this study. Unfortunately, the other oils tested did not demonstrate the high level of penetrability of coconut oil. Some of the oils partially penetrated through the cuticle layer but the scientists weren't able to determine if the penetration went down into the hair's cortex. The general consensus of the study was that monounsaturated oils penetrate or "diffuse" into the hair much more effectively than polyunsaturate oils.
I, for one, am excited about seeing this for myself in black and white. I've used coconut oil forever. You could see me using it during my pre-poo steam treatment video. It's even an ingredient in Gleau. Now that we've discussed, what I want each one of you to do is scour your hair product closest looking for anything with the word mineral oil on it. If you happen to find such a product, I'd like for you to immediately chuck it into the nearest trash can and never look back.

That's an order!
  1. I really believe that coconut oil can penetrate the hair shaft. Since I started using it in my pre-poo (after reading your blog) I have noticed that my hair has more moisture. Now I use it all over!!!I am looking forward to sampling your Gleau oil.

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  2. I am using coconut oil from last 6 months now my hair becomes more stronger day by day.

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  3. Just applied coconut oil to my new growth last night, glad to know I'm on the right track.

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