Natural Hair Products: What Ingredients to Avoid


When going to Wal-Mart, Target, Sally’s or your local beauty supply store and looking for “natural hair products” it is very easy to become overwhelmed. Most of the companies from our relaxed days (Pantene, Motions and Dark and Lovely) have product lines that cater to naturals. Upon closer inspection of the ingredients listed on the product labels you will find all sorts of alcohols, colorants, mineral oils, sulfates. The majority of those who are natural actually try to avoid these ingredients to prevent damage to their hair.  

      Now there are also many product lines like Essential Joy  Natural products which contain simple ingredients that are not harmful to your hair or body. Personally I stick with Essential Joy and Shea Moisture product lines.

Below is a list of ingredients commonly found in many hair products we use or have used in our life:

  1. Alcohol – Alcohol is found in many hair products and depending on the kind, can be very drying for the hair.  There are two categories of alcohols:
    • “Short chain” Drying alcohols: SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denatured, Propanol, Propyl alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol which should be avoided.
    • “Long-chain” Fatty alcohols: Behenyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, C30-50 Alcohols and Lanolin alcohol which are lubricating, moisturizing and “film-forming” in order to lock in moisture.
  1. Mineral Oil and Petrolatum – These are both derivatives of crude oil (petroleum). Petrolatum is used in products to seal in water, provide a barrier against heat and chemicals and add sheen to the hair. It is non-water soluble. Petrolatum is sticky, which can attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. It can cause build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Petrolatum is found in many traditional hair “greases.” Avoiding mineral oil is a matter of personal preference. Mineral oil is used in products as an emollient, to seal in moisture, block humidity and enhance clumping/curl formation. It is non-water soluble. Mineral oil does not penetrate into the hair shaft to moisturize on its own. It simply aids in sealing in water/moisture. Mineral oil has received bad reviews, because it is often used in products with other ingredients (like petrolatum and lanolin), which are sticky and/or greasy. These ingredients in combination can cause build-up thus requiring a person to have to shampoo their hair.
  1. Polyethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol – These ingredients are used in making products such as oven cleaner and antifreeze… and also in hair products because the polyethylene can be used as a thickening agent and the propylene can quickly penetrate the skin or hair shaft. Basically these are toxic substances.
  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – These are detergents used mostly in shampoos to create the lathering effect but can be harsh and strip hair of necessary moisture and oils They are also used in car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreases… wow. In addition to just being very drying to the hair, scalp and skin, they are just toxic and unhealthy for your body.
  1. Dimethicone and other “cones” – there is much debate about silicones. Below is a link to a site that provided the pros and cons of silicones and natural hair: 
  2. Parabens– Preservatives used to extend the shelf life of products by protecting against a wide range of microorganisms. The most common parabens found in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.  Those who want to use all-natural and/or organic products exclusively may want to avoid this preservative due to concerns about toxicity and studies that indicated that parabens disrupts hormones and were detected in breast tumors.

More info:

This is by no way a complete listing but just some info I have learned along my natural journey…

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