It used to be that haircare meant shampoo, conditioner, a treatment (at a push) and maybe some sort of styling product. Simple times. But we do not live in simple times anymore and haircare offerings have expanded ten-fold. Now there are conditioning creams, pre-shampoo washes, wet hairsprays (did you know that a hairspray could be wet or dry?), gel-foams…the list goes on. And with this expansion of products you never knew you needed there has been a great leap in the ingredients found within them. Right now there are some serious must-have ingredients flying around the hair industry and these are names that you’re probably familiar with. Peptides are rife, collagen is on the rise and antioxidants are springing up everywhere. All things you’re used to associating with a skin plumping moisturiser or wrinkle plumping serum. Not your shampoo. Until now.
But lets take a moment to digest the facts. Our skin is a living, breathing organ. The largest one on our body to be precise. It makes sense that these ingredients, that have been scientifically proven to have a positive impact and can change the way our skin behaves, are packed into our face products. However, our hair is dead – or at least from the mid-lengths to the ends are. Pure and simple. So can fancy sounding ingredients really do anything of any worth, or is it just merely more a beauty buzz big brands conjure to get us to buy into hype?
Let’s start with the physiology of the scalp as that’s what powers up the growth of hair and can be the factor that affects good hair health. If you ever visit a trichologist, what you’ll probably hear is: ‘your skin doesn’t stop at your forehead’. Your scalp is exactly the same as the skin everywhere else on your body. It differs only in the fact that it’s not exposed to the same stresses as other areas of skin, but it has its own unique challenges to face such as product build-up, intense heat exposure from styling tools not to mention the impact that colouring, or any other chemical treatment, can have. When you think about it like that, it makes you wonder why you haven’t been using ingredients that are known to repair skin, improve barrier function and generally make skin behave the best it can be, sooner.
And what are the ingredients we should be slathering on our hair? Peptides are a great place to start. Peptides are amino acids, or protein, linked together and working pretty much in the same way on our scalp and hair as they do on the skin. Peptides can penetrate into the top layer of skin and send signals to other cells telling them how to behave. So, if you’re suffering from a flaky scalp, because the skin has become unbalanced and is letting too much moisture escape, products with peptides can help rebalance and restore the norm.
There is also a lot of research to show that copper peptide can help with hair growth. This is because it helps enlarge the hair follicle, allowing hair to grow through quicker. It also has healing properties so can repair damage to the scalp, again optimising the conditions for hair to grow to be its best. If there were ever ingredients that could anti-age your hair, then it would be peptides.
Then there’s collagen – the building block that your skin needs all over the body. It makes hair strong, bouncy and keeps it firm. However, there’s something you need to know about collagen and this behavioural issue is the same for the skin as it is for the hair and scalp. Collagen is a very large molecule. So large in fact that it can’t penetrate the dermis. Instead it sits on the top making the surface hydrated, plump and flexible. Now that’s no bad thing, it’s what we need for that instant feel-good factor. And this is exactly how it behaves on the scalp and around the hair. It will give hair that instant moisture boost and make it feel soft and manageable, but only until your next wash.
But while that sounds like a negative, isn’t that in fact what we’re all after? Plus the more you use it, the longer the collagen will be present around the follicle, which then allows the hair that’s sprouting from it to be as healthy, robust and able to grow quicker and stay stronger for longer.
Antioxidants are the ingredient to protect your skin, hair and scalp, from free radicals. Free radicals occur when the skin is put under stress from things such as the environment, pollution, too much heat. We’re used to discussing this in terms of our skin but funnily enough if your skin is being exposed to pollution, UV rays and general dirt and grime, so is your hair. Free radicals want to get to skin cells and break them down; antioxidants work as a protective shield to prevent this from happening. The most common antioxidants, and the ones you need to look out for on your hair products, are vitamin E and C, selenium and ingredients such as carrot extract or green tea extract. Antioxidants are also known, anecdotally, to help keep hair knot-free and detangled, so if for that reason alone, are a great option for your hair. Antioxidants can be absorbed into the blood stream if taken orally but are also very effectively absorbed into the very top layer of the scalp so a double-pronged approach by stocking up on supplements as well as topical products is no bad thing.
It’s important to end with a note of realism. There is always a limit to what hair products can do and this is predominantly down to the fact that our hair is not a living organism so the majority of the effect that products will have is, quite literally, on the surface. But as mentioned earlier, this is no bad thing. It’s what we want after all; to be able to transform our hair from drab to fab in under an hour.
Things like split ends will never be reversible, they can be concealed and temporarily disguised but to get rid of them, along with dry brittle ends, scissors are the only way to go. However, products with these skincare-inspired ingredients can make a difference to the integrity of the living environment new hair is growing from, which means it can become stronger and thicker at the roots. And who wouldn’t want that?
Your skincare-inspired haircare wonders
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Serum, Dh77
This cult brand that is known for hard-working products that really and truly create results without the hefty price tag have just launched their first haircare product. And it’s a good one. This peptide based serum contains procapil peptide complex, a miso-mash of different peptides that promote good scalp circulation. And the better your scalp can circulate all the good things it needs, the better the hair that grows from it is.
Vitabiotics Perfectil, Dh54
Filled with antioxidant selenium as well as other hair boosting ingredients such as zinc and niacin, this is a great supplement to help support the health and integrity of your hair and scalp. You may also find your nails start growing like champions too as nails need the same building blocks as hair. The key to seeing results with supplements is to be consistent. So find a way of making tablet-taking part of your daily routine.
Schwarzkopf BC Collagen Volume Boost Micellar Shampoo, Dh85
Not only is this a micellar based shampoo (recognise that concept from your cleanser collection? Micellars contain oil-based particles that pick up dirt and wash them away), which means it’s going to give a thorough and deep clean but the collagen also plumps up the surface of the hair making it look and feel fuller and more bouncy.
L’Oreal Professionnel Série Expert Volumetry Shampoo, Dh60
You may have heard of salicylic acid for treating spots and for rebalancing oily skins, and it’s a great option in shampoo for doing the same for scalps and treating dandruff. This one does just that as well as boosting volume at the roots.