Magnesium Sulfate For Your Hair
I first heard about using magnesium sulfate for your hair back in 2001 when I tried John Frieda’s Ripple Effect Wave-Maker Styling Spray.
The Ripple Effect Wave Maker promised to deliver sexy, loose, wavy S-curls to chemically relaxed hair, without curling irons or similar heat styling tools.
This promise was included in the manufacturer’s product information.
The key ingredient in Ripple Effect Wave Maker, which is no longer manufactured, was magnesium sulfate, which is basically Epson salt.
Locking In Textured Shapes
Magnesium sulfate was a key ingredient in Ripple Effect Wave Maker because of it’s ability to penetrate the protein chains in the hair, locking it into a textured shape.
Famed New York hair stylist Mark Garrison told Allure Magazine that Ripple Effect Wave Maker gave “great waviness” with some caveats.
Garrison told Allure the product “doesn’t make hair curly unless it has already been relaxed.”
The product was designed to be sprayed into towel blotted hair before being finger scrunched dry with a diffuser.
A Key Ingredient For Locking In Texture
It’s not surprising magnesium sulfate was a key ingredient in John Frieda’s Ripple Effect Wave Maker.
Hair experts have discovered that when rinsing and neutralizing agents made with magnesium sulfate were used with curly perms to re-form the disulfide bonds, the curl pattern was greatly enhanced.
Not only did curls have greater stability, hair was stronger and curls resisted humidity better that products without the magnesium sulfate.
While it sounds like a wonderful solution for creating amazing texture for hair, magnesium sulfate is a double edged sword. It may work well on some types and textures of hair, but it also may not work at all for others.
What Is Magnesium Sulfate?
Magnesium sulfate (or magnesium sulphate) is an inorganic salt (chemical compound) containing magnesium, sulfur and oxygen, with the formula MgSO4.
It’s often referenced as heptahydrate sulfate mineral epsomite (MgSO4·7H2O), much more commonly called Epsom salt.
Epson salt takes its name from a bitter saline spring in Epsom in Surrey, England.
The salt was produced from the springs that arise where the porous chalk of the North Downs meets non-porous London clay.
The monohydrate, MgSO4·H2O is found as the mineral kieserite.
The overall global annual usage in the mid-1970s of the monohydrate was 2.3 million tons, of which the majority was used in agriculture.
Epson salt is often used as a drying agent.
How Does Magnesium Sulfate Work?
Magnesium sulfate, when applied to hair impacts the physical crosslinks formed by hydrogen bonds. It tightens the texture pattern of the hair by increasing the number of hydrogen bonds.
It also forms large crystals on the surface of the hair which roughs up the surface. The result can be a dry, crunchy texture which feels unpleasant to the touch. Hair may be more prone to tangling and breakage.
Most hair experts suggest pairing a magnesium sulfate hair product for the curl forming with a hydrating leave-in conditioner.
Regardless of the known benefits of magnesium sulfate, the disadvantages often outweighs the advantages.
Some products have switched to a softer type of magnesium sulfate in the form of an oil.
These oils tend to be supersaturated and tend to be much less drying and tangle inducing.
If you wish to test whether epson salts work for your hair, add it to your rinse-out hair conditioner. Many report it will make your hair brighter and shinier. The ratio of epsom salts to hair conditioner is 1:1. Apply to wet cleansed, rinsed hair and leave it in the hair for up to 15 minutes before rinsing.
Unfortunately the softer version of magnesium sulfate tends to be less effective in producing strong textures.
Summary – Magnesium Sulfate For Your Hair
Magnesium sulfate, which is basically Epson salt.
Some hair products designed to encourage curl and wave formation rely upon magnesium sulfate.
It can be a double edged sword. The magnesium sulfate salts chelate and roughen hair, as well as wicking moisture from the shaft.
While some people find curl and wave enhancing products to be a great product for their hair, others find it only works on a limited basis, if at all.
Will texture making products work for your hair type and texture? When in doubt talk to your hair professional. If you decide to buy hair products with magnesium sulfate, buy the smallest portion possible so that you can test whether the ingredient work for you.
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