Angelfire asks…I just bought a curl scrunching gel during a hair product shopping spree only to get home and notice “copolymer” listed fairly high up in the ingredients. When I was younger there were ads for pans or something that bragged about using some kind of “space age copolymer coating” which makes me think I should return this stuff. But a gardener friend told me that copolymers retain water, release it slowly throughout the day and help your grass and plants grow without being toxic. Obviously, I’m not trying to grow grass on my head, I’m just trying to find a way to define very tightly curly/ coily hair African American hair that is transitioning from relaxed to natural. Should I take it back or is it to my advantage to use it?
The Right Brain replies:
Without knowing exactly which curl spray you bought it’s impossible for us to tell you whether or not you should “take it back.” But we can tell you about copolymers and curly hair.
Space Age Polymers
As Divegirl pointed out in the Beauty Brains forum, copolymer is a generic name for two types of polymers mixed together. (“Polymer” is a chemical term referring to repeating units of a chemical structure. You can think of a polymer as a long chain of molecules.) Mixing polymers gives them different properties. For example, if you mix a very hard, stiff polymer with a very soft, pliable one you can create something with properties in between the two. This is an over simplification but you get the idea. Your gardener friend is referring to one class of copolymers made from chemicals known as “polyacrylates.” These are water absorbent materials used in disposable diapers. When added to soil they can hold water and slowly release it to the plants roots. But that’s not the kind of copolymer used in hair styling products.
Case in point: look at the ingredients in Living Proof Curl Spray. You’ll see the following copolymer listed: VP/Vinyl Caprolactam/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer. Whew, what a mouthful! But while the name is complicated, the purpose of this ingredient is quite simple: it sets up a film that provides hold and texture to the hair. And isn’t that what a curl scrunching spray is all about?
The Beauty Brains bottom line
“Copolymer” may sound like a scary space age term but it’s really quite down to Earth when you understand what it really means. And if you decide to try out the curl spray that you bought, write back and let us know how it worked on your hair.