Relaxed Hair Product Ingredients: The Good Vs. The Bad

As mentioned in Common Ingredients Found In Hair Care Products, most hair care products include a typical set of ingredients such as Alcohols, Conditioners, Humectants, Oils, and Proteins.

So of all of these ingredients which ones are good and help our relaxed hair not only look but feel healthy? Which ingredients may make our hair look like it's healthy but are actually causing it some harm?

Good and bad hair product ingredients | A Relaxed Gal
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As I've been moving along in my healthy relaxed hair journey I started to get curious about the ingredients that were in the products I was buying. So I did some online research and have compiled the lists below of hair product ingredients to avoid and ones to ingredients to seek out.

Before we dive into the lists I do want to say that these lists are in no way exhaustive and are meant to be used as a guide. Because let's be honest, which ingredients work best varies from head to head.

Ingredients to try and avoid

1. Alcohols

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

2. Non-water-soluble silicones 

If you noticed, I was very specific about the type of silicones. Some are ok for the hair and some aren't. Non-water-soluble silicones keep your hair from getting moisture because they don't wash away easily. This causes them to build up on our hair strands to the point they are keeping any good moisture from getting to our strands leaving our hair parched and wanting for moisture.

3. Oils

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

4. Preservatives

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

5. 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

Hair Care Ingredients: The Good Vs. The Bad | A Relaxed Gal

Ingredients to seek out

1. Alcohols

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 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.

2. Conditioners

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 is the best, most natural moisturizer out there.
  • Glyceryl stearate is 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.

3. Humectants

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

4. Oils

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. 

5. Preservatives

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

6. Proteins

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 gentle proteins are hydrolyzed wheat protein, silk amino acids, and hydrolyzed silk protein.

7. Surfactants

While surfactants can overly dry out your hair it's not necessary to stay completely away from surfactants. The 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?