Understanding ingredients in natural hair products

Ingredients to avoid in natural hair

Ingredients to avoid in natural hair products

So you’ve decided to go natural, congratulations!

Welcome to the curly lifestyle of unapologetic afroliciousness accompanied with behind-the-scenes experimentation, frustration and confusion but a whole lot of self-love! The first thing to get sorted, however, is your curly-girl arsenal; your go-to products to keep your hair at a standard level of health and moisture so that you can do all the experimenting you want from a safe playing field. The last thing you want to do though is become a junkie and buy all the products without real consideration for the ingredients and the long-term effects of your strands and, trust me, I learned this the hard way!

The first natural hair product ingredients is key

Reading the list of product ingredients is a key skill to keeping yourself in the know so that you can navigate easily across product ranges. You want to see what the first ingredient is as the contents are listed in ascending order of quantity – if you’re looking for moisture for your curls, the first ingredient should be water. Beware the products that list the first ingredient as petroleum because this material is perfect for coating and suffocating the scalp!

Avoid mineral oils

Shea butter is a frequent contender for our hair products due to its nourishing and restorative qualities as is coconut, and these are often referred to by their scientific alias Butyrospermum Parkii and Cocos Nucifera respectively. Look out for the oils that are included in the list as we want to avoid mineral oils that simply sit on the hair shaft and instead we want nourishing and penetrative natural oils such as coconut, jojoba, and Vitamin E. A good idea is doing some research on the scientific names for some of your favourite natural oils. This will make it a lot easier to understand what is in your recently purchased bottles before applying it as soon as you get home!

Are alcohols damaging for our tresses?

Another myth you may hear on the grapevine is that alcohols are damaging for our tresses. Whilst that is true for isopropyl alcohol, some fatty alcohols such as Behenyl, Cetearyl and Isostearyl are great at giving natural slip for detangling. Vegetable glycerins are more than okay for our curls, but this is not to be confused with Glycols which are irritant to the skin and stripping of moisture. Moreover, although Silicones make the hair look shiny and moisturised like in the Head & Shoulders advert they in fact sit on the cuticle of the hair and block moisture from penetrating it.

It’s a no to sulphates

Would you use kitchen detergent or hand soap on your delicate curls? If the answer is no, then you also want to be aiming for hair products that are sulphate free as these ingredients are extremely stripping and cause strands to become brittle, thus increasing breakage.

Stay away from parabens too

Many products also use parabens (which are preservatives) and these release Formaldehyde which have been investigated for causing cancer tumours. To avoid these, keep an eye out for Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM hydantoin, Glyoxal, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Polyoxymethylene urea, Quaternium-15, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate.

I know this list may seem daunting to remember, but over time you will learn to spot the words that will instantly send you red flags. Let’s just say that in this industry there are a lot of bad eggs. Rather than feeling defeated when discovering that all those tempting products in pretty bottles contain suspicious substances, why not start off by searching for organic natural hair products. There are plenty around and in doing this the path will feel a lot less narrow, giving you an easy start to your lifelong natural hair journey! Happy travels!

Jessica Walker

Otherwise known as #AfroIsMassive, Jessica is a Natural Afro Hair enthusiast with a YouTube channel that reviews products and gives advice and tips on how to manage long 4C afro hair. She is ambassador for leading UK natural brand Afrocenchix and has done panel talks and events on hair care and societal issues.

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