When starting out with the Curly Girl / Curly Hair Method many of us will find our hair acting totally different than ever before and are frustrated! So we turn to our Facebook groups, websites, YouTube videos.... and try to find out why. And the ingredient that frequently comes up (along with others) as potentially causing issues is aloe.
It is used in a LOT of hair products! Why? Well, it does contain proteolytic enzymes, which repair dead skin cells on your scalp, preventing itching and flaking, plus it is a conditioner. It cleans deeply, getting the sebum off, but it is gentle on your hair strands. The juice has a similar make up to keratin, which is the make up of our hair consisting of amino acids, oxygen and carbon.
There are some of us who will experience what is commonly called “flash drying” with some ingredients. Aloe is one of them that usually takes the blame.
Flash drying feels like all of the moisture is gone with contact of the product to your hair. It then becomes hard, brittle, and difficult to manage. So what is happening?
Our hair will take in water and also release water frequently while wet or perhaps in a dry/humid climate. Damaged or high porosity hair will do this even faster than medium or low. The ability of aloe to do this is because of the starch molecules and the protein molecules made of essential amino acids that can hold (and also release) a lot of water. Is it always aloe that causes this flash-drying sensation?
Nope! Humectants and polymers can do the same thing – glycerin, propylene glycol, and sorbitol are a few examples of ingredients that absorb water. In dry conditions or when used in large amounts, these may react in a drying way for some people.
Even the polymers in stylers (think polyquats, PVP VA Copolymer, hydroxyethylcellulose, and hydrolysed proteins) have the potential to do some flash drying or just make your hair feel hard and stiff because of their film-forming capabilities.
Let's not forget that hard water that creates the build up of calcium and magnesium on hair might not allow the products you use to actually work as well as they should. This might result in this feeling of instant dryness too.
Here are four easy tips to try for when flash drying happens to you!
1. First make sure you have a good clarifying shampoo, such as Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo. It is even better to get one with disodium or tetrasodium EDTA to get rid of hard water build up. Use this right away as soon as the instant dry feeling happens and then follow up with an aloe-free deep conditioner such as As I Am's Hydration Elation or Mielle Organics Babassu Oil Mint Deep Conditioner.
2. Check your products for heavy polymers with build up potential like polyquat 4 or guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, as well as heavy butters and oils. i.e., shea butter, coconut oil, etc. The build up caused by these products may also be the culprit so be aware of where they are in your routine. At this time you can also look for the other ingredients mentioned above, like PVP VA Copolymer, glycerin, or hydroxyethylcellulose. Your clarifying shampoo from step 1 will have helped you get rid of any product build up.
3. If you do think a product containing aloe is causing flash drying, try something underneath that product, for example a leave in conditioner that does not have it. Products like Frize Frize's Feeling Lush Leave In & Styling Cream or As I Am's Leave In Conditioner don't contain aloe. Then put your other product on top to reduce the likelihood of flash drying. This technique works for other ingredients that may cause flash drying too.
4. If you're still experiencing flash drying, the next step would be to try out some styling products that don't contain the ingredient you suspect is the issue. Products without aloe, for example, include Aunt Jackie's Curl Boss Coconut Curling Gelee, Curls Avocado Hair Mousse, Inahsi Naturals Coconut Avocado Curl Defining Custard, or Innersense Quiet Calm Curl Control.
So in summary… If your hair is not flash drying, it is not necessary to avoid aloe, a conditioning ingredient in many hair products. When flash drying does happen don’t panic – grab a bottle of a clarifying shampoo and wash your hair. Continue to check your ingredients and keep experimenting!
- Flash Drying. The Mestiza Muse Blog. Retrieved from https://themestizamuse.com/blog/flash-drying
- Becker, Tonya Mckay. The Science of Aloe Vera Gel (2019). Naturally Curly. Retrieved from https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/ingredients/the-science-of-aloe-vera-gel