BeautyBear says…There has been a lot of talk about this “NEW” hair conditioning agent which is supposed to replace the natural lipid barrier found on the hair surface. Many people are trying to find products with this ingredient in it. I can tell you that the conditioner is known under different names (behentrimonium methosulfate) and (C10-40 Isoalkylamidopropylethyldimonium Ethosulfate) There are other trade names as well and depending on whether it is in a shampoo or styling product or rinse-out or leave-in type conditioner determines which type is used. If you are interested, REDKEN’s New EXTREME haircare line has it in it as well as a protein restructurizing system, ceramides and cuticle / lipid restoration system called IPN.
The Right Brain responds:
It’s true that this ingredient’s claim to fame is that it restores your natural hair lipid. The ingredient is called 18-MEA (short for 18-methyleicosanoic acid.) It’s not really all that new, in fact I remember hearing about it for the first time about 10 years ago.
What does 18-MEA do?
This chemical is a natural component of human hair, it’s the “glue” that holds the cuticle layers together. It’s embedded in the then membrane that surrounds each cuticle cell. (For a more detailed explanation on the chemistry of 18-MEA, you can review this PDF data from the manufacturer.)
A cosmetic ingredient manufacture has figured out how to extract 18-MEA from wool lipids, chemically modify it to be substantive to hair, and then blend it it with a more traditional conditioning ingredient (that’s the “behentrimonium methosulfate” part of the ingredient.) Benhenyl-based ingredients tend to be very good conditioners because they provide a lot of lubricity and slip. As you can see if you read the the supplier’s data in the link, they’ve proven that this ingredient mixture has multiple benefits on hair such as decreasing combing force and increasing water resistance. However, it’s unclear that the 18-MEA itself is responsible for the improvement versus the rest of the ingredient blend. In other words, it’s like mixing milk protein with fluoride, adding that blend it to your toothpaste and then saying the milk protein complex reduces cavities. While the milk sounds good, it’s really the fluoride doing the work. That’s kind of what’s happening with 18-MEA in this case.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
There is real science behind 18-MEA: it is a natural component of your hair that helps keep it soft and shiny. However, just adding it to your conditioner doesn’t mean it will make your hair healthier. If you like the feel of Redken extreme you might look for other conditioning products with behentrimonium methosulfate for a similar effect at a lower cost.
If you’ve got $30 bucks burning a hole in your purse, you can buy Redken Extreme Shampoo and Conditioner here
If you want to learn more about which cosmetic ingredients really work, download our FREE guide.