The purpose of a hair conditioner is, as the name implies, to condition the hair. Hair conditioners are used to give the hair extra care and nourishment, especially after a thorough shampooing. The prime function of a conditioner is to replace the sebum, which is lost from the hair by shampooing. Conditioners are fortified with vitamins, proteins, lipids, and fruit extracts that give shine, thickness, and nourishment to the hair. It is always recommended by the hair stylists to choose the conditioner based on the hair type. Every conditioner varies from others in composition and function because of several kinds of ingredients added to it. Some of the essential ingredients of conditioner include:
Moisturizers– Their role is to maintain the appropriate level of moisture in the hair. Moisturizers added in conditioner are usually water based or contains humectants and sealants. Humectants draw water from the atmosphere and sealants help keep water in the hair.
Thermal Protectors– They protect hair from excessive heat caused by hair styling tools.
Anti-static Agents– They eliminate the buildup of static electricity that is caused by dry hair rubbing. These agents make the surface slightly conductive. Cocamidopropyl is an anti-static agent that helps in combating fly away hair.
Lubricants– Fatty alcohols, dimethicone or panthenol are used as lubricants that smooth the hair, reduce friction, add weight and shine to hair.
Acidifiers– They maintain the acidic pH of the conditioner: they provoke more hydrogen bonding, which helps the hair cuticle to lie flat. Organic acids—such as citric acid—are usually used to maintain acidity. A low pH provides the hair with a positive charge, thus creating more hydrogen bonds among the keratin scales. The hydrogen bonding helps hair cuticle to lie flat and gives hair more compact structure.
Surfactants– Hair consists of approximately 97% of a protein called keratin. The surface of keratin contains negatively charged amino-acids. Hair conditioners usually contain positive charge surfactants, which don’t wash out completely when the hair is rinsed.
Sequestrants– It is water softener that is used to remove heavy ions from water. Disodium EDTA is used as water softener that forms complexes with calcium, magnesium and iron that provides better foaming and better cleaning. It also prevents metals from being deposited on the hair and scalp.
Glossers– Glossers are light reflecting chemicals that bind to the surface of the hair. Silicone is a polymer that is used to provide shine to hair.
Detanglers– Acidifiers such as citric acid modify and smooth the hair surface because low pH functions as a detangler. Coating hair with polymers will also help the hair to remain detangled.
Oils and Essential Fatty Acids– Oils make dry or porous hair soft and more manageable. The scalp produces a natural oil called sebum, and EFAs are the closest thing in nature to sebum.
Reconstructors– Reconstructors penetrate to strengthen the structure of hair through polymer cross-linking. They contain hydrolyzed protein and collagen that repairs damaged hair.
Preservatives– Their use in conditioners is essential to prevent product damage caused by microorganisms or oxygen. Anti-oxidants and parabens are commonly used as preservatives.
Sunscreen– Sunscreen in conditioner protect against keratin breakdown in hair and loss of hair color. Sunscreen absorb and dissipate UV radiations that protect the hair from harmful effects of the sun. Benzophenone-4 and Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate are usually used in hair conditioners.