Hair Science P3: Best Ingredients For Hair

Hair Science P3: Best Ingredients For Hair

Welcome to the third installment of our  Hair Science series! In  Part 2 we learnt about the hair types and hair porosity (amongst other things), and this leads to the question, what ingredients are best suited to the different hair types?

If You Have Highly Porous Hair

Highly porous hair is easy to moisturise but it is difficult to stay moisturised, so it always feels dry or frizzy.

Highly porous hair is typically damaged in some way: chemically relaxed or permed, bleached or coloured, hair that spends a lot of time in chlorinated pools, salt such as the ocean, or under the sun, and even hair that is brushed a lot. Kinky hair types also tend to be more porous, although this is not always the case.

First, you need to hydrate and moisturise it. Make sure you are using a moisturising shampoo and conditioner, not one that is clarifying.

Use the leave-in, oil, cream method (LOC) to lock in moisture. This entails a leave-in conditioner or mask (containing lots of water and hydrating ingredients), then a hair oil to seal, then finally a hair cream for ultimate moisturisation to really soak in.

Use a weekly hair mask for extra hydration and conditioning.

Always use a heat protectant spray if you are using heat to style your hair.

If You Have Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair is difficult to moisturise, but tends to hold onto that moisture better once it's in.

First, you need to get the hair hydrated and moisturised.

Use the liquid, cream, oil method (LCO) to help low porosity hair absorb moisture better. This method differs in the order of the products used: first use water or a water based product, then a hair cream to help that moisture absorb in, then finally a hair oil to seal the moisture in.

If You Have Very Oily Hair & Scalp

Use purifying and detoxing products, such as those containing neem, nettle and peppermint botanicals.

Go easy on the daily conditioner, but do use a weekly scalp scrub to exfoliate buildup and impurities and keep the scalp clean, and you can use a conditioning mask once a week as well if you wash your hair frequently.


If You have Dry Scalp

Use moisturising shampoos and conditioners containing plant oils to help nourish the scalp.

You can use gentle hair masks with hydrating and moisturising ingredients such as honey, aloe vera, Irish moss, hibiscus, oils rich in Omegas 3 and 6, panthenol and even hyaluronic acid.

If your dry scalp is from dandruff, use products containing salicylic acid as well as white willow bark.

Hair Care According To The Hair Types

Type 1: Straight

A light salt spray to build some volume may be nice, but not too much or you can dry out your hair.

Honeyglycerinepanthenol and other humectants will hydrate and retain moisture in the hair without the need for heavy oils and butters (since straight hair is already more prone to oiliness).

Light conditioners such as hair gels and hair milks are best.

Use protein-rich shampoos and conditioners.

Type 2: Wavy

Use a lightweight oil such as  argan oil to add a touch of moisturising to wavy hair to prevent any poofiness or frizz.  Aloe vera is also great at conditioning.

Light conditioners such as hair gels and hair milks are best.

Use protein-rich shampoos and conditioners.

Type 3: Curly

Since curly hair can be susceptible to frizz and damage, we need a stronger moisturising oil such as  avocado oil, which also is rich in vitamins, to help condition the hair. 

Marshmallow root is also excellent as it provides a conditioning film over the hair to keep it protected.

Richer conditioners such as hair lotions are best.

Use protein-rich treatments such as weekly masks.

Type 4: Kinky/coily

Kinky hair loves rich emollients that keep it moisturised, smooth and shiny.

Try products containing  shea buttercetyl alcohol and  castor oil.

Use protein-rich treatments such as weekly masks.

Rich cream-style conditioners are best.

All hair types should make sure they are using sulfate-free products. Sulfates, parabens, synthetic dyes and fragrances and other less clean ingredients can damage hair and scalp.


Ok, we have an idea of what's best for the different hair types, but there are so many great ingredients out there that are highly beneficial for the hair. You’ll want to use ingredients that are already found in the hair and scalp: proteins, keratin (phytokeratin is a also good choice), nourishing oils, amino acids, minerals and vitamins.

Hydrolyzed proteins, including  keratin and collagen.

Building blocks for keratin include the following, which are also great for hair: biotin, iron,  Vitamin Cniacinamide and zinc.

Humectants (hydrating agents) such as honey, glycerine, propanediol and panthenol. Panthenol is great for all hair types

Rice water is ultra rich in minerals, vitamins and inositol. You can make it yourself by soaking rice in water, straining and then using that water as a hair rinse.


Omegas 6 and 9 (linoleic and oleic acids, respectively) soften and can help detangle, plus they’re great for nourishing the scalp. Fortunately many plant oils contain these omegas so look out for oils rich in omegas 6 and 9.

Marulaargan and  castor oil in particular are good for hair growth and moisture.

We want the cuticle cells to lie flat and be sealed (coated if you will, which is why silicones are popular additions in hair care products as they tend to coat the hair strands). Natural silicone alternatives are  hemisqualane and  broccoli seed oil.


Emollients such as  butters and fatty alcohols are great at moisturising hair, particularly types 3 and 4 as mentioned above. All kinds of butters are great but  shea butter and  mafura butter are particularly good. And fatty alcohols such as  cetyl alcohol and  cetostearyl alcohol can also be included for additional richness, slip and emolliency.


Salicylic acid has benefits for the scalp as it is exfoliating and purifying. If you have scalp issues you may want to try adding some salicylic acid to your shampoo or treatment.

Botanicals - I’ve made a list of all the best ones for hair here.


Clays, particularly  rhassoul and  bentonite are great for gently cleansing and exfoliating hair and scalp.


When it comes to surfactants, non-ionic, amphoteric and cationic ones are best for the hair (no charge, either charge, positive charge, respectively). Anionic surfactants (negative charge) can cause dryness, breakage and frizz due to their conflicting electrical charge with that of the hair shaft, so we avoid these.

So choose the glucosides (decyl, coco and lauryl glucoside) and the betaines (cocamidopropyl and lauryl betaine) wherever possible for your hair care products. The glucosides are non-ionic and the betaines are amphoteric.

And of course, like with the skin, you should also include microbiome friendly ingredients. The scalp is just skin after all, and a healthy, balanced scalp will lead to healthier hair.

You can read more about the microbiome  here.


We’ve mentioned protein quite a lot so far, what's the deal?

Hydrolyzed proteins help temporarily repair damaged areas in hair by filling in gaps in the cuticle. Protein also keeps hair hydrated by slowing the loss of water from hair.

Proteins have a weak positive charge which attracts and bonds to the negatively charged hair strands, reducing friction on the cuticle and making hair look more smooth and conditioned. Proteins are considered conditioning agents, and work best in acidic conditions (which is great because as discussed last week, a lower pH is better for the hair).

All hair types can benefit from proteins in various amounts. Less porous hair enjoys protein in shampoos and conditioners, while more damaged and porous hair can take lots of protein, hence protein rich masks and treatments are also recommended.

You now have all the tools and knowledge to formulate products for different hair types, and products that actually work on the hair!