You are going to Try a New Hair Product - Part One - Before you Obtain A Product

Some of my stock
With so many hair care products now available in South Africa and more to come - I use a variety of products and as a product enthusiast I am quite open to trying new ones...ALL THE TIME. In saying this, it can sometimes become overwhelming and one can lose track of what worked or what didn't work or what could have worked had you tried using it a different way. I also encourage all naturalistas to research and to not be afraid to try something new, try a new method, try a new hairstyle or try a new product. All of this sounds good and its great to try but how does one embark on trying something new and how does one note and  keep track of the results? (apart from just getting on and doing it (o:)

Well, I think if I picked just one aspect of trying new things and chose trying a new product, if its free then whoop whoop - you have nothing to lose (if its free and has good hair healthy ingredients) - but what if you want to fork out some hard earned money and want to buy a new hair care product. Firstly - what are you looking for? Do you want to something to soften your hair, or something to moisturize? Perhaps you just want something to seal in the moisture or maybe you just want something to enhance your curls? When you know what you want then you need to know what to look for - does the product do what YOU want it to do? How do you tell?
Free Products received from the 2014 Healthy Hair Indaba - I still read the ingredients and packaging before use and follow through with Part 2 of these things to think of when trying something new.
Well, looking at the packaging is a start. Most products will have some keys words clearly marked on it stating its capabilities and what it does. Great hey - but - don't always believe this. If we want what is good for our hair we need to go a step further and educate ourselves on what they put in the product to make it do what it says it can do.

Learn the names of a few ingredients and increase this knowledge as you progress on your hair journey. This step is optional but sooo worth it when you want to understand the science of your hair and understand hair retention, moisture/protein balance and hair health including how each ingredient works and what it does to your hair strands. For example: Cetearyl Alcohol - there are a number of resources out there explaining what it is and how it is used but I am going to go with the following from JC of The Natural Haven - a site I have listed on my go-tos when I am researching hair care.


What is it?A fatty alcohol ( meaning it is an alcohol which comes from fat). It does not behave like a 'real alcohol' for example ethanol or propanol .
Where is it derived from?Commonly coconut oil and palm oil
How is it made?Cetyl alcohol is made by heating coconut oil with a strong base (for example lye - sodium hydroxide). This process is the same process used to make soap (saponification)
What is the difference between cetyl, stearyl and cetostearyl alcoholCetyl and Stearyl alcohol are very similar. Stearyl alcohol is a slightly longer version of cetyl alcohol having two additional carbons (i.e Cetyl has 16 carbons while Stearyl has 18). Cetostearyl alcohol is simply a combination of cetyl and stearyl alcohol (did you guess from the name?).
Where will you find fatty alcohols in hair products?Hair conditioners (both rinse out and leave in).
What do fatty alcohols do in hair conditioner?Hair conditioner is a mix of water and oils. However oils and water do not mix...........unless you add a surfactant to them. When oil and water are mixed,  the resulting solution is known as an emulsion. Therefore you will commonly hear cetyl alcohol and the rest of the fatty alcohols being referred to as emulsifiers (i.e the things that help oil and water to mix)
How much cetyl alcohol is added to conditioner.Typically between 2 and 4% (can be lower or high)
Is cetyl alcohol a major component of hair conditioner?Yes for rinse out and deep treatments. It will normally appear within the first 5 ingredients after water.It is responsible for the creamy look of conditioners.
So does cetyl alcohol really do anything to hair itself?Yes it has some effect on hair. During conditioning, cetyl alcohol is responsible for allowing conditioner to spread easily over the hair. Without it, the conditioner would probably separate out in the bottle (into water and oil) and on hair would be difficult to spread.

Once rinsed off, some cetyl alcohol is thought to deposit on the surface of hair (i.e cuticle). This will create a feeling of softness(hair may not be soft but feels soft!).
Since it is a surfactant can it wash hair?Not really. It is large and non ionic (meaning it does not have a charge when placed in water). Small charged surfactants tend to be the best for oil removal (i.e shampooing)
Does cetyl alcohol penetrate hairThere are no published studies to indicate that it does. It is unlikely that it would as it is large (things that normally penetrate undamaged hair are 3-4 carbons in length - cetyl alcohol is a massive 16 carbons).
Is cetyl alcohol a major component of hair conditioner?Yes it is for rinse out and deep treatments. It will normally appear within the first 5 ingredients after water. Creamy leave ins may or may not have cetyl alcohol as a major components.
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Now I don't want to get carried away and lengthen this post unnecessarily so I will go on to the next few things to consider when trying a new hair product.

So you have read the product packaging, read what it says it will do which you feel will tie in with what you want from it and then read the suggestions on how to use it and have read the ingredients, especially the top/first five ingredients. Next thing I would say is to read up on reviews - what have others thought of this particular product. If you are standing in the shop aisle and had wanted to buy something new to try and the network is bad and won't allow you to google reviews, you can still go on and buy, no need to stop now you growing adventurer you. If on the other hand you just want to be a little sure, there's no harm in first doing your research and coming back to the store the next day. You can also search for products with certain properties or qualities that you are looking for and read reviews on each of them to get an ideas of which is better. (everyone's hair is different so everyone's experience is different).  The nice thing with online shopping is that you can do this all at the same time using the power of the internet to do all your research and read reviews and even ask some hair bloggers what they thought and then open another browsing page, go to where you can buy the product you are interested in and  press the add to cart button and buy. Can I just state that ultimately - only YOUR hair will tell you whether it likes something or not and in most cases only after you have used it (even if your hair knows what ingredients it likes there's always the content factor - how much of that ingredient  is in the product - which is something you rarely will know). So as much as its nice to know what others think and this is quite helpful to a degree - only you can know for you by you - by you using the product and then playing around with various techniques exploring the other ways that work for YOUR hair.
Some of my stock 
If testers/samples are available then ask for one. A great way to try before you buy even though the sample is hardly enough to properly try, it can still be quite useful.

Smell is key for me and it might be the same for you - so open and smell the product. (if you can and if allowed). If buying online check the size as well so you know what you are getting and won't be disappointed.

You have asked the questions, you have done the homework (time allowing) and you are ready to buy the product. Go on make your purchase. You are now trying something new in a constructive and well thought manner :o) (I think - what do you think?).  Read part Two to get a few more tips on what to note about your product as well as keep track for the next time you use it or the next time someone asks you about that particular product.

Listen to Your Hair