Most of us haven’t been in the habit of looking at product ingredients for our hair in the past, but it’s an important habit to pick up regarding the success of your hair goals. When transitioning the ingredients can all sound intimidating, so below I provided a quick explanation of some common ingredients on the back of hair product labels.
Ammonium Chloride: Is used in shampoos and other products as a Ph balancer. Ammonium Chloride is an alkaline salt which means for the hair can cause the cuticle to open potentially drying the hair.
Cetearyl Alcohol: I know the word “alcohol” is setting off alarm bells but cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol used as an emulsifying thickening agent used to suspend the other ingredients.
Dimethyl Ether: Is a gas used in aerosols such as in hairsprays, this substance has been shown to cause irritation
Glycerin: is a humectants which are used in products to draw moisture from the air to the hair.
Lanolin: Derived from the sebaceous glands of the sheep this is a thick substance used in many cosmetics as a moisturizing agent for the skin. There has been some information regarding sensitivities and allergic reactions to lanolin with people who have eczema. On the hair lanolin can act as a barrier preventing moisture from reaching the hair.
Mineral Oil: Is derived from petroleum and its used in many cosmetic products. Mineral oil acts as a barrier ingredient protecting the skin and hair from the environment, but if used ensure hair is properly moisturized prior to applying to hair.
Panthenol: Is an alcohol derived from vitamin B
Petrolatum: Also known as Vaseline is a natural ingredient derived from the earth and on the hair acts a barrier coating the hair strands. Barriers such as petrolatum aren’t dangerous, just take caution when using because if hair isn’t properly moisturized before using a product containing petrolatum can cause the hair to dry out.
Propylene Glycol: Is used in products to give that slip we love especially in our conditioners. The quantities presented in cosmetic products pose no harm according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
SD Alcohol 40: Is an alcohol that can be drying and irritating to the skin
Silicone: Is a derivitive of silica which is a naturally occurring mineral found in clays and sandstone. Silicones coat and offers slip when applied to the hair. In products usually represented as dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone.
Sodium Benzoate: A salt used in cosmetic products as a preservative
Sodium Carbomer: A blend of salt and carbomer used in products to stabilize and give a thicker texture
Sodium Laureth Sulfate: Is most often found in shampoos. The purpose of sodium laureth sulfate is to clean and remove oils. This is a milder version of sodium lauryl sulfate, but still has the ability to strip the hair of natural oils.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Is a cleaning detergent that suspend the oil allowing it be washed away. This is a very strong chemical that can strip the hair causing it to become very dry and even brittle.
Water: Really no explanation needed here, just want to mention that water based products are great for adding moisture to your hair, and should be a daily part of your hair care regime.
One thing that I will say is that I would stay away from expensive products made with inexpensive ingredients such as mineral oil and petroleum. There are less expensive products that contain these ingredients if that’s what you intend to use, so there is no need to shell out hard-earned money for good marketing and packaging, and just as in food labels the most abundant products are ranked first in the list.
This initial list is just a starting point. As I come across other ingredients that I notice popping up in many products I’ll add it here.