Common Ingredients Found In Hair Care Products

One of the main keys to having healthy hair, whether it is or isn't chemically processed, is the products that are used. With a plethora of products available, it can be hard to decipher which products have ingredients that promote healthy hair and which have ingredients that mask the evidence of unhealthy hair.

Hair products for relaxed hair that have different ingredient lists lying down..
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Before we can break down good ingredients versus ones to avoid, we have to first understand what the ingredients are. The best place to do that is to look at the ingredient list on the products we have in our bathroom cabinet.

When you look at the ingredient list on the back of that shampoo, conditioner, or styler it may be overwhelming. Several of the ingredients are technical words that probably aren't familiar. Which ones are good? Which ones aren't so good? Which ones on the list will be most effective?

When reading a hair care ingredient list here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Ingredients are typically listed according to their concentration. That means the ingredients with the highest concentration are listed first
  • The first five ingredients on the list tend to have the most impact because they have the highest concentration

When it comes to hair product ingredients there are different types that the ones you see on the back of your favorite shampoo or conditioner fall into. Knowing what those ingredient types are and the benefits they provide can be helpful when you're searching for a new hair product. 

Most hair care products contain these types of ingredients (please note the examples below are a mix of good ingredients and ones to avoid):


These types of ingredients are found in several different kinds of hair products like shampoos, hair sprays, hair treatments, and even conditioners. 

Getting a little sciencey here alcohols found in hair products are arranged compounds made up of carbon, water, and hydrogen. 

There are different types of alcohol so depending on which ones are used determines what their purpose is. Some alcohols are included in hair products to help keep the oils and water from separating. Some are used as a way to help lock moisture into the hair or give a product a creamy texture.

Some examples of alcohols that are found in hair products are lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, sopropyl, and propyl alcohol.


These ingredients help with softening the hair and detangling it. They may also provide some protection to the strands until the next wash. Some common conditioner ingredients found in hair products are silicones and behentrimonium methosulfate.


These ingredients draw moisture from the air and hold it in the hair.  Some common humectant ingredients are glycerin and glyceryl stearate.


This type of hair ingredient is used to add slip and even soften the hair. 

There are two kinds of oils that you commonly find in hair products they are natural oils like coconut or olive oil or minerals oil.


The purpose of having preservatives in your hair products is the same as having preservatives in food. They help to extend the life of the product by keeping bacteria and mold from growing and thus the product from going bad. 

Some examples of preservatives found in hair products are parabens, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and phenoxyethanol.


A key part of the makeup of hair. Helps strengthen areas of the hair and build the hair shaft back up that have been weakened. E.g. hydrolyzed wheat protein, and keratin.


These are cleansing agents or detergents that when dissolved in water they pick up and wash away dirt and oils on the hair and scalp. So it makes sense that they are usually found in shampoos. Surfactants are also used to help create the foaming or lathering in shampoos. 

Some examples of surfactants are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.
A breakdown of the common types of ingredients found in hair care products. |

Let's learn more!

Over the course of my striving for healthier hair, I've been reading up on hair care ingredients and would like to share with you what I've found. Hence a new series focused on the types of ingredients that we should look for in shampoos and conditioners, and which ones we should avoid.

What ingredients do you look for when shopping for hair products?

Hair products in my hair regimen