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Thread: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the air?

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    Question How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the air?

    Saw a new video by Sarah Ingle just now. In short (in case you don't feel like watching it):
    - she just discovered that moisturising really means conditioning, not hydrating, and her mind was blown
    - she then debunks the moisture/protein-balance theory, thinking its about balancing protein with e.g. oils, silicones, etc
    - she mentions that "dry hair" is rarely dry, in reality it's damaged and the cuticles are roughed up, meaning that "dry" (i.e. damaged hair) can often be more hydrated since moisture from the are passes through compromised cuticles more easily
    - hair is usually at the same hydration level as the air humidity around it

    A side note: I thought I'd try to share this thread with her. That "moisturising" product aren't real hydrating products is old, old news for me at this point, and the way the conversation goes in both the video and the comment section is that this is some amazing new discovery... when it's really not. But I can appreciate that if you've never heard of this before, it really can be kind of game changing. Also, I think she does a great job breaking it down for newbies. So let's not be snarky about it, please?

    Questions for y'all:

    1) In my mind the protein/moisture-balance is just a bit of a misnomer, and it's really about balancing protein with hydration, i.e. humectants?

    2) If damaged hair is often equally or more hydrated than healthy hair because of its porosity, and most hair is just at the same level of humidity as the air anyway, why do we need humectants? (or at least see benefits from using them)


    My tentative answers:

    1) She misunderstood the concept of protein/moisture balance, or I did.

    2) Humectants work well *for me* when the humidity in the air is low, they really only work for me in winter when it's below freezing, the humidity has "frozen" and fallen to the ground basically, and the air therefore is very dry (BUT, I also know a lot of people in dry climates find that humectants draw water out of the hair, and I'm not sure how to deal with that lol)


    Any ideas? What do you guys think?
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    Member ArtOfNoot's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Another Sarah Ingle fan I see, haha. . I am also curious about humectants. Sadly I do not have any answers, hopefully, a more seasoned member of LHC can help
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    I watched that video right when she posted it* and found it very interesting. I wonder about the LOC method as well, what is it doing if not locking in the water from wetting hair as people talk about? Maybe it's not what makes it work at all, but instead it's conditioning hair and smoothing the cuticle? The bit about protein sticking to the hair shaft is interesting as well, since I thought proteins with smaller molecules would penetrate underneath the cuticle and cause the stiffness we talk about as protein overload?

    I do think that sometimes the way we perceive our hair's reaction to different things is partly placebo effect to be honest, or mis-attribution at least. Myself included at times! But I would like to see a study directly addressing some of these commonly held beliefs. (Which is likely a pipe dream since it would be for us hair nerds and not the beauty industry, who are perfectly content marketing things however works! Not that I really blame them.) Even Sarah mentioned that she couldn't find much. I also would have liked it if she had addressed practical applications of this knowledge a little more, so that would be on my wish list for future videos.

    *I'm a big fan of her hair science series and have notifications on LOL.

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    Member Mariekeeee14's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Iím glad Iím not the only one that found that video very interesting! Iím still mulling it over in my head and trying to wrap my head (hair ) around it

    Quote Originally Posted by Siv View Post
    Humectants work well *for me* when the humidity in the air is low, they really only work for me in winter when it's below freezing, the humidity has "frozen" and fallen to the ground basically, and the air therefore is very dry (BUT, I also know a lot of people in dry climates find that humectants draw water out of the hair, and I'm not sure how to deal with that lol)

    Counter question: you use silicones right? That means you seal in the humectants with an occlusive so doesnít that mean that the humectants act differently with the silicones?
    Last edited by Mariekeeee14; January 22nd, 2021 at 07:19 AM.

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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Quote Originally Posted by Zesty View Post
    I watched that video right when she posted it* and found it very interesting. I wonder about the LOC method as well, what is it doing if not locking in the water from wetting hair as people talk about? Maybe it's not what makes it work at all, but instead it's conditioning hair and smoothing the cuticle? The bit about protein sticking to the hair shaft is interesting as well, since I thought proteins with smaller molecules would penetrate underneath the cuticle and cause the stiffness we talk about as protein overload?

    I do think that sometimes the way we perceive our hair's reaction to different things is partly placebo effect to be honest, or mis-attribution at least. Myself included at times! But I would like to see a study directly addressing some of these commonly held beliefs. (Which is likely a pipe dream since it would be for us hair nerds and not the beauty industry, who are perfectly content marketing things however works! Not that I really blame them.) Even Sarah mentioned that she couldn't find much. I also would have liked it if she had addressed practical applications of this knowledge a little more, so that would be on my wish list for future videos.

    *I'm a big fan of her hair science series and have notifications on LOL.
    The main new thing I learnt from the video was about the hydration of hair being the same as the air humidity, and I don't think that counters the "protein overload" idea. She says there's nothing like "protein overload" but, like, if I applied to much lotion to my skin and it didn't absorb well, I'd call it "lotion overload", and what she's describing as "not protein overload" (i.e. build up of crusty protein on the hair) sounds just like what I'd call protein overload...

    As for LOC - I've tried it a couple of times and my hair took about 12 h to air dry so yes, I'm wondering about that too!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mariekeeee14 View Post
    I’m glad I’m not the only one that found that video very interesting! I’m still mulling it over in my head and trying to wrap my head (hair ) around it

    Counter question: you use silicones right? That means you seal in the humectants with an occlusive so doesn’t that mean that the humectants act differently with the silicones?
    You mean like if I didn't use silicones on top of the humectants in dry climates, they would draw the moisture out of the hair?
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    Member Mariekeeee14's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Quote Originally Posted by Siv View Post
    You mean like if I didn't use silicones on top of the humectants in dry climates, they would draw the moisture out of the hair?
    Pretty much yes! I make sure I don’t use glycerin when the dew point is too low since ive experienced it WILL draw moisture out of my hair, and that happened less when I still used silicones.

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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Quote Originally Posted by Siv View Post
    Saw a new video by Sarah Ingle just now. In short (in case you don't feel like watching it):
    - she just discovered that moisturising really means conditioning, not hydrating, and her mind was blown
    - she then debunks the moisture/protein-balance theory, thinking its about balancing protein with e.g. oils, silicones, etc
    - she mentions that "dry hair" is rarely dry, in reality it's damaged and the cuticles are roughed up, meaning that "dry" (i.e. damaged hair) can often be more hydrated since moisture from the are passes through compromised cuticles more easily
    - hair is usually at the same hydration level as the air humidity around it

    A side note: I thought I'd try to share this thread with her. That "moisturising" product aren't real hydrating products is old, old news for me at this point, and the way the conversation goes in both the video and the comment section is that this is some amazing new discovery... when it's really not. But I can appreciate that if you've never heard of this before, it really can be kind of game changing. Also, I think she does a great job breaking it down for newbies. So let's not be snarky about it, please?

    Questions for y'all:

    1) In my mind the protein/moisture-balance is just a bit of a misnomer, and it's really about balancing protein with hydration, i.e. humectants?

    2) If damaged hair is often equally or more hydrated than healthy hair because of its porosity, and most hair is just at the same level of humidity as the air anyway, why do we need humectants? (or at least see benefits from using them)


    My tentative answers:

    1) She misunderstood the concept of protein/moisture balance, or I did.

    2) Humectants work well *for me* when the humidity in the air is low, they really only work for me in winter when it's below freezing, the humidity has "frozen" and fallen to the ground basically, and the air therefore is very dry (BUT, I also know a lot of people in dry climates find that humectants draw water out of the hair, and I'm not sure how to deal with that lol)


    Any ideas? What do you guys think?

    As a non native english speaker: Is there a difference between to moisturize and to hydrate? Because I always thought they were synonyms.

    I thought the part about the protein interesting. I have been using a conditioner again lately who is high in protein and silicone and I was worried about overload. So far I haven't noticed any unwanted side effects, even though I've been using it twice a week for several weeks (as a last step). When I tried to find information online I also wasn't able to find much. On the Science-y Hair Blog I read the protein can "fill in gaps created by broken cuticles" whereas on lower porosity hair it only coates the surface: https://science-yhairblog.blogspot.c...formation.html
    I asked a hairdresser once about using too much protein and she said they recommended products with a high amount of protein to clients with damaged hair, and that there is no such thing as too much protein (question pertained to shampoo/conditioner/mask, not other protein products).
    So I don't know, but yes, there's definitely not enough evidence based information out there.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    @Mariekeeee14: I've honestly never had a bad reaction to humectants, either they work or they don't do anything. But products with a lot of it tends to make my hair sticky. So I'm not sure I can answer your original question based on my experience haha!

    @Finda: As another non-native speaker I don't know exactly, but my impression is that moisturising products tend to mean: silicones, oils, other emmolients; while hydrating products: humectants. I hope someone else chimes in!
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    New to me. The person & video I mean. Never heard of her. May check her out, may not, depends if I have time.
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    Default Re: How do humectants work if hair *in reality* is just at the humidity level of the

    Moisturising ... tricky one. SHB says moisture = water, which it is. Well-conditioned hair will be hydrated, have enough lubrication and elasticity ... I think many of us say 'moisturised' when we mean all-round 'conditioned'. But also hydrated hair has to stay hydrated, which is what other ingredients help with. I'm not sure we'll ever unify the semantics even in our little corner of the internet, so I don't expect that to happen within the wider world of haircare either
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