Reading Labels

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Understanding the fine print and choosing the right products

In my last article, I said that the ingredient that attracted you to the product may contain less of that item than other ingredients listed on the back of the label. Because the ingredients must be listed in the order that exists in the product. That statement may have been a little misleading because most hair-benefiting ingredients are so potent that it only requires a small amount to bring about the advertised results. For example, a cup of coffee is 96 percent water. Any more than that would render it too strong to enjoy. Most shampoos and dishwashing products are 85 to 95 percent water. Yet that is sufficient for its intended purpose.

So popular benefiting conditioners such as argan, olive, coconut, jojoba oils and vitamins, shea butter, biotin, keratin, aloe vera, lanolin, and etc. are in most products in the amount that would best benefit its advertised purpose. The other items in the product, such as gels, deionized water, creams, mineral oil and others serve as a base to support and encapsulate the advertised substance. Another good example of this is a hair relaxer. Less than 2 percent of the total product is the active ingredient that makes it work.

As an informed consumer, you should know how to read labels, and understand them. If you tried to use 100 or even 50 percent of an active substance, it would be too thick, too sticky, too potent, to be of any useful purpose as a hair conditioner. Too much of a good thing can be devastating. Not understanding the basic ingredients in a product can also be dangerous.

Beware of Products Labeled Protein
Many cosmetologists are attracted to products that claim to contain protein. Indeed they probably do contain protein but not the types that can best benefit the hair. Unless the product identifies the type of protein on its label, you should be suspicious of that item and even those that do identify the protein. You should be aware of what type of proteins best benefit the hair.

Chemistry and biology have identified the contents of varying types of proteins from many different sources, such as animals, plants and minerals. Actually, all matter that comprises this earth is derived from these three sources. The protein that can best be absorbed by the hair are referred to as keratin, amino acids, polypeptides (PPT) and animal hydrolyze. All of these terms refer to a protein from basically the same source, which is the hoof an animal such as a pig, horse, goat, cow, etc. The hoof of an animal is the same substance as the cuticle layer of the hair shaft, as well as some inner structures of the hair shaft. When they take the hoof of an animal and process it into the finished product that we know as liquid protein, the process is known as hydrolyzing, hence the term animal hydrolyze.

Many so-called liquid proteins on the market contain soy protein which is derived from a vegetable source. Although it is not harmful to the hair, the hair cannot and will not absorb it, because this type of vegetable protein is foreign to the composition of the hair. However, it can aid in grooming the hair, it cannot repair damaged hair. Many manufacturers are able to get away with this type of deceit because they know that many cosmetologists are not aware of the differences between one protein and another. This practice is misleading because soy protein is much easier and cheaper to obtain than the aforementioned animal proteins and yet many companies charge the same price or more for them because they make the product appear to be thicker and more concentrated in content.

While reading the back of a product label can be hard to understand, knowing just a little bit about the listed ingredients can go a long way in helping you help your customers with choosing a product that is right for them.

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