Glycerin is all the rage these days. If you read the label of the majority of curly hair products, chances are glycerin will be listed in the top ten ingredients. In this post I’m sharing Everything You Need To Know About Glycerin And How It Affects Curly Hair to help you understand this commonly used ingredient and how it plays a role in your curly hair care.
Early on in my curly journey, I read a few posts floating around about the affects glycerin has on your curls.
As a new curly girl, it seemed to be too in-depth for me to wrap my mind around since I already felt overwhelmed by all the information surrounding the curly girl method.
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After six months of seeing a good amount of success on my curly journey, I started to notice a change in my hair. As fall turned into a cold depressing winter here in PA, my hair started to lose moisture by the hour.
I would style my hair the same as I did months ago and it would look great but with each passing hour, it became more and dry. My curls were almost starting to go limp.
I spent a good amount of time researching what could be the cause and all roads lead to glycerin being the culprit.
Everything You Need To Know About Glycerin And How It Affects Curly Hair
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What Is Glycerin?
Glycerin is a simple polyol compound. It is colorless, odorless, and non-toxic. It is used as humectant in pharmaceutical formulations.
Glycerin can come from multiple natural sources because triglycerides can be derived from animals or vegetables. Some examples of vegetable sources would be coconut oil and shea butter.
So when it comes to your curly hair products, glycerin is used as a humectant.
A humectant is a hygroscopic substance used to hold in moisture.
Humectants are frequently used in cosmetics as a way of increasing and maintaining moisture in hair care products including shampoo, conditioner, frizz serum, and more.
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Truth About Glycerin
The Good: Essentially glycerin is a humectant that works to take moisture from the air and deposit it into your curls thus holding in moisture.
Sounds like a curly girl’s dream, am I right?
The Bad: What they don’t tell you about this amazing ingredient that magically takes moisture and adds it to your curls is that it will ONLY do so when the environment allows it to.
That is where dew points come into the picture.
A dew point measures the amount of moisture in the air. The higher the dew point, the higher the moisture content of the air at a given temperature.
Let’s break this terminology down into curly girl lingo….
Depending on the dew point in your geographical location will depend on whether or not glycerin will have good or bad effects on your hair.
Do you feel a little confused? Because I certainly did.
Let me break this down a little further for you so your brain doesn’t hurt…..
There are high, medium, and low dew points.
Keep in mind that glycerin works to pull moisture out of the air and put it into your curls.
At a high dew point, using products with glycerin can add too much moisture into your hair and make it super frizzy.
When the dew point is in medium range, glycerin typically does really well adding enough moisture from the air into your curls.
But when the dew point is low, it can have the reverse effect and rather than add moisture from the environment into your hair, glycerin actually takes moisture from your hair and puts it back into the environment.
Pretty crazy right?
This explains why so many curly girls struggle to keep their curls happy in the winter.
The air is already dry then to top it off we are using products that are sucking the moisture out of our hair and putting it back into the environment.
As always with curly hair, everyone’s hair is completely different. Some people have no problem with glycerin and can liberally use products containing it in any dew point. While other curlies struggle to keep moisture in their curls.
Especially in the winter months.
The Ugly: naturallycurly.com says “Many heat-styling techniques can generate sufficient heat to boil the water inside the hair shaft, which can cause terrible breakage.
One way to prevent or minimize this problem is to coat the hair with an emollient that seals in the moisture and that does not transfer the heat from the appliance to the hair as readily.
Unfortunately, glycerin conducts thermal energy pretty efficiently (it transfers heat readily to the hair), especially when compared to silicones, proteins, and polyquaternium conditioning ingredients.
For that reason, use glycerin sparingly and in combination with a more insulating and protective moisturizer when using any sort of heated drying or styling treatments.”
How Do I Know If My Hair Is Sensitive To Glycerine?
Warning signs that your curls may have a glycerin sensitivity are…..
- Excessive frizz
- Losing moisture quicker than normal
- Halo frizz
- Limp Curls
How To Care For Glycerin Sensitive Curls
Go Glycerine Free For 30 Days
If all roads lead to your curls being sensitive to glycerin, it’s time to go glycerin free for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, glycerin is not the devil. It has many amazing benefits.
But if you think it’s the culprit of your halo frizz, then it’s time to do a little experimenting to pinpoint what the cause is.
I recommend going glycerin free for 30 days, then slowly start incorporating back into your routine.
Keep A Daily Journal Of What Works And Doesn’t Work For Your Curls
If you are part of the large community of curly girls that have glycerin sensitive curls, it is imperative that you keep a detailed log of everything you put in your hair.
All you need is something to write on or something to write with.
But early on in your curly girl journey, make a habit of documenting how your hair responds to different products, treatments, and techniques.
As mentioned above, so many things play a role in how your curls are effected by what you use down to the very dew point in the weather.
Use the image below as an example of what you need to track each day. It will enable you to know exactly what works and what doesn’t work for your curls.
If you want to get fancy, you can purchase this customized curl tracker that will help you document every aspect of your curly journey.
Miracle Curls Daily Tracker is a customized, detailed, daily tracking system to be able to look back on and see how far you’ve come, and exactly what works and doesn’t work for your curls.
The My Miracle Curls Daily Tracker is complete with…..
- Curl assessment
- Before and after section
- A “how-to guide” on how to get the most out ot the My Miracle Curls Daily Tracker
- A 32-day reusable tracker
- A weekly curl schedule
- Detailed daily routine to track what products you used and how you applied them
- Daily inspirational quote
- Additional notes
- Dew Point Tracker
This daily tracker will enable you to keep a detailed journal of your curl journey as well as give you a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t work for your curls.
Glycerin Free Product Options
Below is a list of some really great glycerin-free products for curly hair
I personally use and LOVE The Jessi curl collection for glycerine free. It has a light fragrance and the perfect amount of hold and moisture without weighing your curls down.
- Jessicurl Llc. Llc. Gentle Lather Shampoo
- Jessicurl Aloeba Daily Conditioner
- Jessicurl Llc. Llc. Deep Conditioning Treatment
- Jessicurl Awe Inspiraling Spray, Citrus Lavender
- Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel
These are my results using all Jessicurl products.
These are other really popular glycerin free products as well.
- Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo
- As I Am Coconut Co-Wash
- Jessicurl Aloeba Daily Conditioner
- CURLS Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner
- Kinky Curly Original Curling Custard Natural Styling Gel
- Giovanni All-Natural Hair Styling Foam
- Giovanni LA Natural Gel
- Biosilk Rock Hard Hair Styling Gelee
This is a great video that talks more about the effect glycerin has on your curls.
In order to get the best results using products with glycerin, your dew point needs to be just right.
By becoming proactive in documenting how glycerin affects your hair and using product appropriately, you will be able to better understand your curls and have better results on your wash day.
NOTE: It’s important to remember that not all curls are the same. What works for your hair, may not work for mine.
That is why it is so very important to test different products and techniques and to be diligent in tracking what you are using and adjust accordingly. Check out this helpful post on how to track your curly girl journey.