"The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?"

- Psalms 27 : 1

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Questions We Ask : No Glycerin During Cold Weather?

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Last September, when the weather started to change to a colder one, I sort of panicked. I panicked because I thought I would not be able to use my daily spritz. Well, why wouldn't I be able to you say? For one, my beloevd daily spritz contains glycerin and secondly, I'd heard so many natural divas say glycerin was a no no during  the colder months.




This was the theory : since glycerin is a humectant (attaches to water molecules with it's hydrophilic groups) by using hydrogen bonds) and draws water from the air during the warm season, it does the opposite during the colder months, that is, draw water from the hair to the air.

From the onset, I didn't really buy this idea. It seemed strange to me. Though I didn't just take to believe it from the beginning, it did get me concerned about using glycerin.

I did continue to research the topic and I was surprised at how so many naturals kept away from glycerin during the winter but only a few of them can actually say they had tried it and had bad results. Even the ones that can say so, there is no 100% proof it's glycerin that made their hair "hard" or "dry".

After all the searching I decided to lay back on what I've learnt and been learning in school. I can, in all modesty,  say to a certain degree that I do and have been doing quite a lot science in school these past few years and what I've learnt, especially this year, made me conclude that glycerin cannot just draw water from the hair. The nature of glycerin does not make this theory seem likely. When we use products containing glycerin in our hair, it not only traps the moisture in the product or our hair by bonding to water molecules, it also draws some from the air, depending on how saturated the bonds are. Now if there is no moisture in the air, it does not mean glycerin will suddenly dissociate itself from some of the water molecules it's locked with in our hair and draw them into the air...It does not really seem right to me.
Glycerin is hygroscopic, an hygroscopic substance draws water molecules from the air, they don't draw it into the air. For glycerin to draw water to the air it must evaporate itself into the air and it quite frankly an humectant does not do that.
Glycerin will not reposition itself, but rather stay where it has been placed but instead bond with surrounding water molecules.
The theory further goes on to link the phenomena with humidity levels. The truth of the matter is, the more the humidity, the more water molecules are available the more glycerol  (chemically active glycerin molecules) will bond to them but if there is little or no water molecule to bond to, glycerin will stay as it is and stay bonded to the few water molecules it has.

To test the theory stated above, I decided to do two experiments.

For a few days during the winter, I only moisturized with water and then I started using my water and glycerin mix again.

These are the results :

When I only moisturized with water, my hair felt moisturized at first but hours into the day, my hair dried out so badly.

When I moisturized with water and glycerin (nothing else) my hair felt so moisturized with only a little and did not dry out throughout the day.

I have been using glycerin in my products from the beginning of autumn  and I have experienced nothing but moisturized, soft hair. If you are using a product that contains glycerin and it is not working great, check out the other ingredients before pinning the blame on glycerin.

Do the test : weigh a bit of glycerin and put it in a open recipient outside when it's cold and dry and hours later, weight it again. The glycerin will either be a bit heavier or the same weight but not less heavier!!


This is what I have understood about glycerin and it's properties. I might have missed something but I don't believe glycerin can draw moisture into the air from our hair...

Please do share your suggestions, additions, experiences and love!

Stay blessed and funky!

10 comments:

  1. Great, GREAT point you just made! I too am familiar with naturals shying away from glycerin, assuming that it will draw moisture out of the hair if there isn't any moisture in the air. We really need to do our research!! Great experiment too with putting the glycerin outside and seeing that it does not release moisture. Awesome post!



    http://precious-curls.blogspot.com/

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  2. Thanks sis!! YES to researching!!! KNOWLEDGE is truly POWER! Once again, thanks hunny!

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  3. Great post! I always thought the "no glycerin in the winter" theory was hogwash. JC on the Natural Haven did a post debunking it as well: (http://thenaturalhaven.blogspot.com/2010/03/moisture-issue-glycerin-is-your-friend.html).

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  4. Yea, I figured there wasn't as much to that "myth" as people usually claim.

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  5. Myth indeed! Thanks for stopping by sis!

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  6. Girllllllllllllll, I am so glad that you did this post. I am going to share my experience as well. I have been using glycerin since the end of January but was afraid to share that since "you might die if u use glyecerin in the winter season"(that was pure sarcasm). I have experienced no dryness. As a matter of fact, my hair has been nothing but super soft since I added glycerin to my regimen. I only moisturize my hair two to three times a week. I have to make a post to spread the word. I got some information from natural Haven who exposed the false claims.
    It is so important to do your own research!!!. Good for you for making a bold step to make your claim. I am encouraged to do the same even on Youtube.

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  7. I agree with your theory. I'm a chemist and you're right about hygroscopic molecules. Thanks for thinking this through. I do wonder if the viscosity (thickness) of glycerin if affected much my temperature changes though. It may be that some have experienced a better result in summer because of the melting point of glycerin being 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature can definitely affect the physical properties of molecules so maybe there's some truth to this but maybe not in the ways first theorized...hmmm...interesting. In any case, thanks for the post!

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  8. Hi sciencegirl007! Thank you so much for your input, I really appreciate it! Your comment has really challenged my thinking! I understand what you mean about glycerin being easier to use in the warmer months because of it's melting point, but though it's physical characteristics are altered by temperature (high temperature decreases viscosity) it does not alter it's chemical properties. Glycerin will still bind to water during winter and keep the hair moisturized, so whether the temperature is at it's melting point or lower doesn't really matter because it will still get the job done. I do see your point of view and maybe glycerin works best during the summer because during the winter, we might need more of it to really get the job done (since it's spreadability would be less) but it still works great during the winter. You are certainly right, if there is some truth in the whole temperature vs glycerin thing, it's not at all in the way theorized! Thanks for the awesome input sis!!

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