Hair Care Ingredients: The Good Vs. The Bad

As mentioned in Common Ingredients Found In Hair Care Products, most hair care products include these types of ingredients:
  • Alcohols 
  • Conditioners 
  • Humectants 
  • Oils 
  • Preservatives 
  • Proteins 
  • Surfactants 

A lot of these types of ingredients can be good and bad for your relaxed or natural hair. So which are which?

The lists of ingredients provided below came from extensive online research. They also came from researching ingredients listed on the hair products I use on my relaxed hair. While these lists do contain several ingredients they are no way exhaustive and are meant to be a guide. Which ingredients work best vary from head to head.

See which ingredients in hair care products are good and bad for your hair. |

(This post includes affiliate links. Should you click an affiliate link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.) 

Ingredients to try and avoid


Particularly what is called short chain alcohols. They have small molecules and quickly evaporate which can result in dry and frizzy hair. The alcohols with "prop" in the name tend to be the most drying and should be avoided by those with relaxed hair and hair that tends to be naturally dry.

Here are names of some alcohols to avoid:
  • SD-alcohol 40
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Propyl alcohol
  • Propanol


Yep. Not all conditioners are good for your hair. The ones to avoid are those that are non-water-soluble silicones because they cause buildup on hair strands and block the penetration of moisture.


The not so good oils are ones derived from crude oil. They tend to suffocate the hair by coating and blocking any oxygen or moisture from getting in or out of the strands. Not so good oils include:
  • Miner oil
  • Petrolatum


The not so good preservatives are parabens and include propyl, methyl, butyl, and ethyl.

Surfactants or sulfates

While there are some surfactants that are mild there are several that are harsher. The harsher surfactants can cause over-drying of the hair and can irritate the scalp and skin. Some of these harsher surfactants include:
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Ammonium xylene sulfonate

Ingredients you want


Yes, there are good alcohols. These are fatty alcohols that are emollients. They help condition the hair and provide the much-desired slip. The names of these types of alcohols typically start with a 'C' or 'S'. Such as
  • Cetyl or ceterayl alcohol which is a non-sticky and non-greasy ingredient. It's typically used in conditioners for dry hair. This alcohol makes the conditioner creamy and thick. It's made from vegetable oils such as coconut and palm oils.
  • Stearyl alcohol is an emollient made from stearic acid (animal fat), cocoa or shea butter.


These conditioners help to close the hair cuticles. This helps with eliminating frizz and tangles. It also adds shine to strands. These types of conditioners include:
  • Water which is the best, most natural moisturizer out there.
  • Glyceryl stearate an emollient that makes hair products smooth and creamy. It also helps with locking in moisture.
  • Behentrimonium methosulfate is a hair detangling ingredient that is gentle in nature and doesn't coat the outside of the hair shaft but penetrates it.


They absorb moisture from the air. Some humectants include are glycerin, vegetable glycerin, honey, and panthenol.


Natural oils are the best type to use because they are the most beneficial. They also have multiple uses not just for the hair, but also for skin and cooking. Here is a short list of natural oils that are commonly listed in hair product ingredients.
  • Coconut oil penetrates the cortex making it a unique oil because it can help with moisturizing and strengthening strands from the inside out.
  • Jojoba oil is unique in that it closely resembles the sebum the scalp produces.
  • Arian oil moisturizes and has antioxidants that are beneficial for weakened hair. It helps fight frizz and provides shine.
  • Avocado oil is a nourishing oil that helps with the softness, smoothness and ultimately health of the hair. 


If you choose to skip the paragons, here are some more natural alternatives.
  • Potassium sorbate is a natural preservative that can be found in may foods.
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Cedric acid which provides short-term preservation.
  • Tea tree oil which can preserve products for a short time.


They help to repair the structure of the hair strand and thereby strengthen it. Proteins can be strong/heavy or gentle.
  • Strong proteins include keratin which strengthens the hair shaft reducing breakage and collagen which increases hair elasticity.
  • Commonly used gently proteins are hydrolyzed wheat protein, silk amino acids, hydrolyzed silk protein.


While surfactants can overly dry out your hair it's not necessary to stay completely away from surfactants. Ones to look for are mild or subtle cleansers that don't over dry the hair. Some of the milder surfactants are
  • Sodium lactate
  • Sodium PCA (this is also a humectant)
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate
  • Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate

What ingredients do you make sure are/aren't listed in your hair products?


Hair Care Ingredients: The Good Vs. The Bad Hair Care Ingredients: The Good Vs. The Bad Reviewed by Leah | A Relaxed Gal on 26 September Rating: 5

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