Ah, the eternal quest for haircare products that make your hair luscious and manageable. It’s a long road of twists, turns, and curly Q’s, but rarely do we ever pull over to learn about the chemistry that makes it all possible. For most of us, the long list of ingredients on a product label might as well be written in hieroglyphics, though there are a few that you’d probably recognize. Silicones, maybe? Or sulfates, perhaps? Oftentimes, the reason certain ingredients like these stand out is because there’s an element of controversy attached to them. But do you ever wonder about the actual reason they’re in your shampoo or conditioner in the first place? And are they actually harmful, or just trendy to hate?
There’s a ton of misinformation out there, so we’ve tapped our own uber-experienced product gurus for an interview about common hair care ingredients and what it takes to brew magic-in-a-bottle at Gemmist.
Q: Hey there! Thanks for taking a break from the chemistry to speak with us today. Let’s just dive right into it: Tell us all about your experience in the hair care field, and the product development process at Gemma Labs.
A: Well, there’s a small team of us that collaborates heavily on both research and development. Our lead chemist has over 50 years of experience within the professional hair care industry. The team’s formulations follow a guiding principle of using strictly functional ingredients that are proven to provide solutions (i.e. no BS). And our product developer has been responsible for all aspects of personal care product creation, including designing and testing, for over three decades. From ideation to execution, we work together every step of the way until the product ends up in your hands—or on your head!
Q: Wow, that’s nearly a century of collective experience. So what is it about the science of hair care that continues to fuel your fascination?
A: Hair care is incredibly dynamic and presents challenges that sometimes keep us formulators up at night. The latest endeavor? The “clean” movement. It’s a good one. We are talking the continuing search for effective and safe ingredients while satisfying the ever-growing state and federal regulations. Finding the balance that is based in science is key. Another factor that keeps our interest is exploring the environmental impact of an ingredient after it is rinsed out of your hair. The chemistry does not stop once the product is bottled, and it is up to us to anticipate that. Combining “up-front” performance and the fate of the product after use is one of the major challenges that keeps us noodling.
Q: It sounds like you really know your stuff. So, let’s get to the hot topics: I don’t know what to believe about sulfates. Are they bad? Are they harmless? Give me the juicy scoop on these guys, because I’ve heard opinions on both sides.
A: Here’s the deal. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) has been criticized in many ways, from being a possible carcinogen—which is still a totally unsubstantiated claim—to being generally harsh on hair. Many large companies still use SLS despite the ingredient being a bit of a Pandora’s Box when it comes to bad press. But as a result of the controversy, this theory has prompted the development of new shampoo technologies that are entirely “sulfate free.” In general, sulfate-free surfactants are considered to be less irritating and more gentle on hair. That’s why, at Gemma Labs, we chose to be completely sulfate free.
Q: Sweet. So now that we’ve gotten scandalous sulfates outta the way, how do we feel about silicones, the other buzzword in hair care these days?
A: Silicones have gotten a bad reputation as well over the years, but they are actually quite helpful in hair care formulations. Remember 2-in-1 shampoos? Well, silicones were used at an especially high level in those products. And that’s what gave silicones a bad rap because they dried out hair, blocked moisture and created buildup.
Q: Interesting… Possible to elaborate a bit more on that?
A: How you use an ingredient is very important. In other words, it’s all about the formulation techniques and an understanding of the different types of silicones. To put it simply, silicones help add “slip” to alleviate breakage during wet-combing. They can also be thermal protective, which can help add a barrier of protection while using hot tools like blow dryers, hair straighteners, or curling irons. In a nutshell, there have been many studies that show how silicones can help with various hair issues.
Q: Hmmm, well, that makes total sense. Glad to hear that’s not a total red flag if I see it on a product label. Now let’s move on to the good stuff. What ingredients are you absolutely LOVING for your hair these days?
A: Okay, it’s not a new ingredient per se, but we’re still loving panthenol. It’s a sugar-based derivative that helps add moisture to the hair. We’re also kinda obsessed with natural conditioning polymers that are guar-based. They’ve been shown to add many attributes to formulas that can help with shine, smoothness, and softness to the hair. We’re also really loving the brand new technology we used for our Scalp Balancing Bar.
Q: Oh yeah? What’s that one all about?
A: Well, the bar itself is completely “soap-free,” but we’ve engineered it to give a creamy, rich lather. It might be counterintuitive, but we promise it works! We used efficacious levels of essential oils that help to calm, soothe, and balance the scalp.
Q: Now, that sounds like something I might need. My hair has been pretty flat and dull, and depending on the season, my scalp can get irritated. Balanced would definitely not be a word I’d use to describe it! So I took the quiz and was recommended Shampoo 6 and Conditioner 12. Can you share why those specific products were fed to me?
A: Ah, yes. Formula 6 Shampoo effectively and gently lifts sebum (naturally occurring oils from your scalp) which directly addresses your want for volume. Pair that with Formula 12 Conditioner, which is lightweight and contains Jojoba Oil and Panthenol, and you have added shine without sacrificing volume.
So there you have it folks: the official download from our product experts. Reach out to us if you’ve got more burning questions about specific ingredients, and our geniuses will return to set the record straight.