How hair works - a few facts you may not have known
I get a lot of emails from people having ‘bad hair days’ for want of a better phrase, with both their horse and their own hair. I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this page into helping people achieve a better understanding of hair, what it needs & what it doesn’t. A lot of people I speak with use products like Baby oil and Silicone based sprays on their horses and then ask why their mane is loosing thickness and not as long as it once was. This page holds the information as to why these products can cause damage to the hair shaft.
Moisture (conditioning the hair)
Hair is porous meaning that certain molecules can pass through the outer shaft and into the inner shaft of the hair. Without moisture your hair will not have that soft silky feel to it, it will loose its elasticity properties. The shaft is prone to damage when over dry and brittle. Prolonged dryness results in splitting and breakage. A good moisturiser which is water based will rejuvenate the lost moisture. Only use a moisturiser that does not contain petrolatum, mineral oil, or lanolin (these products are sealants and will restrict the hair getting moisture)
Strength (Protein treatments for hair)
To keep hair healthy & strong use a product that has protein in it. Protein will give you hair strength can come in many forms, one being Keratin, you can also get Hydrolyzed Keratin. The Hydrolyzed part means that the molecules are small enough to pass through the layers of the hair shaft. Hydrolyzed Keratin will pass through all 3 layers of the hair to where it is needed. The many types of protein include rice, wheat etc. Protein can also help retain the moisture in the hair, and work hand in hand with moisturisers
Hair damage can not be repaired, but it can be prevented. If the hair is damaged, then the hair will have to be cut to prevent further damage. There are many factors that can damage hair; heat, sunlight & environmental damage (If you have seen black horses with an orange tint to the ends of the mane and tail then that is damage from the sunlight.) Using hair products with UV protectors are good, or keeping the mane / tail covered is also another way to prevent black hair turning orange.
Use of oil
When you put oil on her hair then it makes it shine, but it is only giving you the illusion of health. Oil molecules are too large to penetrate into the hair, hence it sitting on the outside of the shaft. Oil does not moisturise hair. We all know oil and water don't mix, so what you have done is create a seal (waterproof) on the hair. So now no moisture can get into it. The oil works great if you already have moisture rich healthy hair and you don't want any moisture to escape (hence a lot of African women using oil on their hair to prevent moisture loss), but in most horses (ones that I have seen) their manes and tails are dry so crying out for moisture and not wanting to be blocked from it.
Over time you will find that you have to use a strong shampoo to remove the oil and then you will find the hair in its true state, very dry and dull. If you put oil on then you are starting the cycle all over again. The hair even though it has oil on will start to dry out and you may get some damage through breakage, another product that will cause the same problem are silicones. These fall into two groups - water soluble and non water soluble. Theses can form a buildup on the shaft and then you have created another seal to prevent moisture and nutrients from getting in. To name one non water soluble silicone 'Cyclomethicone' .. this is used a lot in detanglers. It does a wonderful job of removing knots, but long term use is not recommended, as it is not water soluble.
Some horse owners use 'Pig Oil' (Mineral oil) in the winter months on horse’s feathers to prevent mud fever, keeping the skin soft and the hair free from mud. During winter time the hair will not be dry so a little oil then is not as much as a problem as it is in the summer months. You would not want to use oil on the coat or skin in the summer months as it can result in the skin getting burnt. A lot of show horses will have oil applied to their eyes and noses in the summer for a horse show. I don't think an owner would want to stand out in the sun for 6 hours in a temp of 90 degrees with oil on their skin.
Ingredients in products
Just some things that are good for your hair, or your horses hair :
If you can do a protein treatment at least 3 times a week. you wouldn't want to do it more than that as too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing. (so for human hair that if you wash every day use a moisture rich conditioner on the other days)
DEIONIZED WATER - Purified water that has had all minerals and chemicals removed.
hydrolyzed keratin protein - Protects hair shaft and helps retain moisture this is actually one of the ingredients in Mega-Tek
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and Wheat Oligosaccharides: this vegetable derived complex exhibits a unique and powerful moisture-balancing action that enables protein to control the moisture content of the hair.
Panthenol - It enhances the strength of hair and increases the resistance to breakage. It conditions without buildup and prevents damage caused by overheating and over drying of hair and scalp. Panthenol nourishes hair by replenishing its level in the hair and imparts long lasting moisturization. Panthenol can also thicken hair by up to 10% (try and get a conditioner with this in)
CITRIC ACID - Fruit acid that adjusts Ph and tightens hair cuticle, adding brightness to hair color
Mucopolysaccharides - used to add body, moisture and shine to hair.
Things to avoid
Petrolatum/ Petroleum oil based
Mineral oil oil based
Lanolin oil based from the sebum of sheep
Cetearyl methicone not soluble in water
Cyclomethicone not soluble in water
Cyclopentasiloxane not soluble in water