Thanks to modern hair care science, you'll need no lizards boiled in olive oil
How is your hair today? Tangled? Dry? Dull? Frizzy? Any of these less-than-desirable hair conditions can be solved with hair conditioners, which are preparations designed to make your hair healthy, smooth and shiny.
Men are notorious for thinking they don't need to use conditioners. That's probably because men generally have shorter hair than women. If you fry your hair with overblowdrying or too much sun, for example, you can simply trim it off and start over.
On the other hand, dry, frizzy, stiff hair – even if it's short – isn't very appealing to look at or touch. Conditioner makes men's hair supple, smooth and soft. If you use conditioner, you'll look better and feel better.
Man's search for the perfect hair conditioner has been going on for ages. If you had to come up with your own hair conditioner, what would you use? Let's take a look at some of the remedies our ancestors have formulated to fight the frizzies.
The history of hair conditioner
As early as 2000 B.C., Egyptians used animal fats and plant oils to condition their hair—and combed it out with dried fishbone combs. In the 1300s, hair conditioner for some Europeans was made by boiling lizards in olive oil.
Victorian citizens used Macassar oil, often made of coconut or palm oil, which was so greasy, householders regularly covered the seat backs of chairs with a special cloth to keep the oil from ruining the furniture.
At the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, French perfumer Ed Pinaud introduced a new oily product called brilliantine to soften men's hair, including beards and mustaches.
In the 1950s, scientists discovered some of the ingredients used in fabric softener also could help control flyaway hair.
In every era, the goal was the same: to make hair soft, shiny and manageable.
How conditioner works
Contrary to popular belief, hair is not dead. It's a living part of our bodies, and it reacts to conditions around it just as other parts of our bodies do. This includes both internal and external conditions: your body and your environment.
When hair experiences internal or external stresses, it can become unhealthy. In other words, its chemical and physical structure is compromised. It becomes increasingly vulnerable and it shows. Unhealthy hair looks listless, dull, limp and often frizzy and tangled because the scales on unhealthy hair shafts rise up, instead of lying flat against the shaft as they should.
Conditioners offer chemical and physical remedies for unhealthy hair. In particular, many are designed to smooth down the scales and return the hair shaft to its shiny splendor.
Different ingredients do different things in hair conditioners. The strategy is as follows:
1) Moisturize hair to keep the hair shaft from losing moisture and drying out
2) Reconstruct the hair, usually with proteins that penetrate the hair shaft and strengthen it through polymer crosslinking
3) Acidify the hair to maintain pH
4) Oil the hair with essential fatty acids to make it soft and pliable
5) Smooth the hair with surfactants that bind to the keratin in hair and create a new shaft surface
6) Lubricate the hair to keep it manageable
Today's conditioners also contain glossers, thermal protectants, antistatic agents and preservatives to help hair stay manageable and healthy.
Thankfully, there's not a lizard-and-olive-oil compound among them.