Innovations in haircare always pique our interest, from salt shampoos as the ultimate scalp-cleanser to co-washing that tames curls and fights frizz. Most recently, we've been seeing hair products that include ingredients typically used in skincare. Hyaluronic acid, the best hydration hit in our serums, is being applied to hair follicles, while clay – which we swear by in blemish-busting face masks – is being used to rebalance your scalp.
Why are brands focused on these ingredients now? "Just as the quality of the earth is important to grow a healthy tree, the quality of the scalp is important to grow a healthy hair follicle," a representative from Nanogen haircare tells me. "The scalp is made up of the same biology as the rest of the skin, and therefore benefits greatly from traditional skincare ingredients. The differences between the scalp and the skin are marginal – the scalp is generally thicker than the facial skin, and contains more blood vessels and more sebaceous glands, which produce oil to protect the hair shaft." This makes sense – we put effort into keeping our skin fighting fit, so why wouldn't we do the same for our scalp?
Christophe Robin also uses ingredients that are more traditionally found in skincare. "My products are mainly composed of natural ingredients such as rose extracts, pure rhassoul clay, prickly pear oil and sea salt. Natural ingredients are the best allies to clean, nourish and cure the hair since they don’t require sulphates and detergents to be effective,” he explains. "Clay works just as effectively on your hair and scalp as it does your face, for the simple reason that it’s a non-chemical-based product. The same can be said for aloe vera, argan oil and other natural ingredients. I believe natural skincare ingredients are superior for use on hair and scalp since they tend to have multiple benefits, unlike synthetic, chemical-based ingredients which are formulated to serve one purpose, targeting single issues.”
That's yet another argument for paraben- and sulphate-free haircare, then. Each year, we're moving further towards organic and natural ingredients in our skincare, and this seems to be mirrored in the haircare products we buy. "Traditional ingredients will naturally treat and nourish your hair, without causing more damage over time (like detergents) or simply masking previous damage (like silicones)," says Robin. "When hair is looked after in this way, it will be stronger and more resilient against breakage." Sounds good to us. So what should we look out for in our haircare, and what are the benefits?
"Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that exfoliates the scalp, removing dead skin cells from the upper layer of skin. It is also antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory," Nanogen's spokesperson explains. "Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning one molecule is able to hold 1,000x its own weight in water. This intensely hydrates the hair follicle and the scalp, helping cells to hold onto water and leaving the surface plumped and hydrated and hair nourished and shiny." Caffeine works wonders for hair growth, thanks to its stimulating properties, provitamin B5 is a great moisturiser and niacinamide a superb anti-inflammatory, removing dead skin cells and unclogging hair follicles.
Next time you're choosing your haircare, think about the ingredients list on your favourite masks, serums and cleansers, and find out what they could do for your hair. Click through to see our pick of the products keeping our hair as soft, clean and healthy as our complexion.