In the Still Room: Wheat Germ Oil for Hair Care

05/02/2011

Wheat germ oil has been in my hair care starting line-up for almost a year.  I add a couple of teaspoons to my homemade leave-in.  I also add wheat germ oil to my deep conditioner mix. I believe that wheat germ oil is in part responsible for the length I’ve retained despite limited (ok, not much at all, really) protective styling.  Should wheat germ oil be a part of your hair care regimen? Perhaps…

Wheat germ oil is very thick, and pungent.  But don’t let the smell scare you away. I refer it as a “power oil” due to its high content of:

  • Vitamin A: antioxidant, moisturizing, encourages cell turnover.
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6: increases stimulation at the scalp, cell and tissue formation; B6 shown to prevent alopecia (“Journal of Dermatological Science”, June 2006).
  • Vitamin D: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory.
  • Vitamin E: antioxidant, moisturizing, easily absorbed; natural preservative.

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Wheat Germ Oil, Hair & Ceramides

Wheat germ oil also has a pH of 4.25, which is ideal for hair care by helping the hair’s cuticles stay closed and less susceptible to damage.  These are all wonderful attributes, but the reason why wheat germ, and other oils, are really winning is because of their hight percentage of ceramides.  Ceramides are the fatty material found inside the hair’s cuticle that acts as glue, binding the cortex and cuticle cells together.  Hair that has been damaged by chemical processing or heat styling has (in addition to protein) most likely lost some of its natural supply of ceramides. On the other hand, when the “barrier” that ceramides create remains intact, porosity is reduced.

While ceramides can be part of a regimen to restore hair’s health by guarding against protein loss, it’s important to note that ceramides are no substitute for protein—they cannot provide the reinforcement of proteins.  Other oils that are hight in ceramides include (percentages shown are that of linoleic acid)

  • Safflower oil 78%
  • Grape seed oil 73%
  • Poppyseed oil 70%
  • Sunflower oil 68%
  • Hemp oil 60%
  • Corn oil 59%
  • Wheat germ oil 55%
  • Cottonseed oil 54%
  • Soybean oil 51%
  • Walnut oil 51%
  • Sesame oil 45%
  • Rice bran oil 39%
  • Pistachio oil 32.7%
  • Peanut oil 32%
  • Canola oil 21%
  • Egg yolk 16%
  • Linseed oil 15%
  • Lard 10%
  • Olive oil 10%
  • Palm oil 10%
  • Cocoa butter 3%
  • Macadamia oil 2%
  • Butter 2%
  • Coconut oil 2%

Note that wheat germ oil is relatively unstable and begins to lose its vitamin-rich properties when heated. Refrigeration will extend its shelf life. It’s better to add wheat germ oil to a mixture (.1 – .5%) after the other ingredients have been heated separately. And about that smell—unless you are particularly heavy handed in adding wheat germ oil , the smell should dissipate after application.

Is wheat germ oil for you?

Wheat germ oil and other cermides are found to be most effective on hair that is damaged, and/or has encountered protein loss due to chemical processing or heat styling.  Are your tresses exposed to the sun for extended periods of time? Wheat germ oil is also helpful in temporarily guarding against damaging UV rays.

There are some fancy-schmancy hair care products out there with ceramides. You can certainly pay the extra dime for these, or you can invest in a bottle of wheat germ oil and use as needed.  Wheat germ oil can be purchased at many health food stores and vitamin shops. It can also be purchased online.