Humectants and Hair: A Cosmetic Chemist Breaks Down the Science

“Droplets On Purple Background” by BJWOK

Humectants are substances or ingredients with specific molecules that syphon water from the environment. They’re different from oils because they attract water molecules to bond with them so they penetrate and stay in and on the hair or skin. In fact, they’re common ingredients in skin and hair moisturizers and conditioners, among other things.

No two humectants are alike. According to Naturally, some adhere to the surface. It’s called adsorption. Humectants that penetrate the cuticle layers and diffuse throughout the skin or hair have absorption qualities.

That’s as simple an explanation as I can come up with. But, the minute I try to break down the molecular shenanigans that go on between humectants, water and your hair, I get a headache. So, rather than getting too immersed in the science of it all, I’ll let Naturally’s resident cosmetic chemist Tonya McKay do it:

The Ultimate Guide to Humectants and Hair

“The Science Behind Humectants,” Naturally,