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Cholesterol—that scary word that gets thrown around from time to time in medicine commercials and by your aunt worried about her salt intake. It gets a bad rap. However, using cholesterol in hair treatments is one of the most common DIY treatments for hair for a long time. Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fat-like component of the keratinocyte membranes, as in the cells that make up the hair. When using cholesterol in your hair, its lipid-heavy ingredient can help repair chemical, color, or heat damage, or damage caused by overmanipulating the hair, leaving your hair soft, healthy, and as shiny as a hair commercial.
We asked BosleyMD-certified trichologist Gretchen Friese and Sheila Farhang, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics, how this ingredient can help your hair reach its full potential. Read on for what the experts have to say about cholesterol for hair.
Meet the Expert
- Gretchen Friese is a BosleyMD-certified trichologist.
- Sheila Farhang is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics.
Cholesterol for Hair
- Type of ingredient: Hydrator or moisturizer.
- Main benefits: Hydrates and softens hair, repairs over-processed or damaged hair, helps the hair cuticle lay flat.
- Who should use it: Cholesterol has actually been used for textured hair types for many years. Those with dry, thick, and coarse hair may benefit from cholesterol treatments; it can make fine hair limp or weighed down. Anyone with hair that is damaged from chemicals or heat is also a great candidate for cholesterol treatments.
- How often can you use it: Depending on the amount of damage, at least once a week, if not once a month—as often as you feel your hair needs extra conditioning.
Benefits of Cholesterol for Hair
- Repairs the hair: Cholesterol treatments are typically are rich in lipids or fats designed to repair the hair.
- Rehydrates the hair: Adding lipids and fat to the hair gives it more moisture.
- Helps the hair cuticle lay flat: The three types of lipids found in the hair’s cuticle, ceramides, cholesterol, and 18 MEA, are what helps the cuticle to lay flat by keeping the hair cuticle in place.
- Softens hair: Most cholesterol treatments have nourishing oils and cholesterol in the ingredients, which help soften hair.
- Helps define curl: Waves and curls usually lack sebum, or natural oil, in the middle and ends of the hair cuticle and shaft—the oils in cholesterol treatments can help build sebum.
- Gives the hair shine: The lipids in cholesterol treatments make the hair look luxurious and healthy.
- Great for over-processed hair: Heat, color, or chemical damage is caused by damage to the lipids in the hair; cholesterol treatments are designed to counteract that damage.
- Cost-effective: Most cholesterol treatments on the market are less than $5.
Hair Type Considerations
Everyone strives for long, shiny, luxurious hair—and cholesterol can help. While protein can strengthen your hair, cholesterol serves to make the hair soft and moisturized. "Anyone with hair that is damaged from chemicals or heat is a great candidate for cholesterol treatments," Friese explains. Most commonly, cholesterol treatments are found in the beauty store's textured hair section—meaning for us with thick, coarse, and dry hair will find cholesterol to be one of our favorite ingredients.
How to Use Cholesterol Treatments for Hair
Homemade Cholesterol Hair Treatments
There are several topical cholesterol treatments to make your hair look silky. First and most familiar: a homemade cholesterol mask using mayonnaise. The egg yolks in mayonnaise are heavy and rich in cholesterol, and the vinegar helps with the hair's pH levels. The queen of hair envy, Blake Lively, whose hair always looks thick and shiny, is a fan. We even wrote about why you should consider putting mayonnaise in your hair (and on your sandwiches) a little while back, and we stand by our statements.
Cholesterol Hot Hair Treatments
It's nearly impossible to find a head of thick, coarse-textured hair that hasn't been touched with a Queen Helene product, but the brand's Cholesterol Hot Oil Hair Treatment ($2) is a popular lifesaver. There are plenty of Black people in the world who have experienced the joy of having their mother apply a warm oil treatment to their scalp with love and tenderness, only to wake up with hair that feels brand new. Hot oil treatments are perfect for those who do a lot of chemical or heat styling and need to have the moisture restored in their hair follicles and making their hair look strong, shinier, and healthier than ever before. It's also great for post-bleach when your hair might be feeling dry and fried to rebuild the lost moisture and retain the moisture already in your hair.
Cholesterol Deep Conditioning Treatments
Looking for something a little less do-it-yourself, or just afraid of winding up with scrambled eggs in your hair? Fortunately for you, there are plenty of cholesterol treatments on the market for purchase that won't make you smell like salad dressing, including Camille Rose's Buritti Nectar Repair Cholesterol Treatment ($17) and Strength 'n Silk by Silk Elements Mega Cholesterol Conditioning Treatment ($7). Use these treatments like a deep conditioner—apply the product to wet or damp hair after shampooing, cover with a plastic cap, using heat if desired, and rinse out after 15-20 minutes. Cholesterol treatments haven't hit the mainstream salon market in the same way that protein treatments such as keratin have, so if you want to infuse your hair with some cholesterol, that'll be a home treatment, rather than something you can ask a professional to do for you.