When you cross over in the land of natural hair, you’re promptly greeted with the mantra that sulfates are a no-no and top the hit list of banned shampoo ingredients. But what else might be lurking in your hair products that’s hindering your hair growth?
When choosing products for natural hair, it’s wise to give the ingredient list a good long look over. There are some ingredients you do not want to see listed on the back of your natural hair products.
Why? Some of these products can be drying, stunt growth and make your natural hair unmanageable—all which factor in to maintaining healthy hair and retaining length.
Knowing all the ingredients to avoid can be overwhelming to say the least, especially if you are not a chemist nor accustomed to remembering complex technical names.
We often go by the rule that if you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your hair. But of course things aren’t always so neatly summed up. So, here’s a handy checklist you can save or bookmark so that you don’t miss a beat the next time you get hit with a bad case of product junkieism.
You can confidently leave any products with these ingredients securely on the shelf.
Is Isopropyl alcohol bad for your hair? Alcohol in products are damaging to natural hair because they dry out the hair. Natural hair needs moisture to thrive, the last thing you want to do is apply something to your hair that does the opposite.
Some of these alcohols can be found in gels and hair sprays and they include; Isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat, ethanol, SD alcohol 40, propanol alcohol. On the bright side, not all alcohols are bad. Some like cetyl, stearyl, and behenyl alcohol increase slip in products like your conditioners. [Source]
But why, sway? Petrolatum is derived from crude oil. It is used as a lubricant in hair products. However, being heavy, it can clog pores, preventing your hair from breathing. If used at all, it should be used as a sealant, not a moisturizer because it is definitely not a moisturizer. [Source]
But why, sway? Formaldehyde is a chemical often used in Keratin treatments to straighten the hair. Although it’s effective in straightening your hair temporarily, formaldehyde has been labeled a carcinogen. In addition to this, it could cause a number of side effects including nausea, breathing difficulties and burning eyes, among others. [Source]
4. Synthetic Colors
But why, sway? Hair growth primarily begins at the scalp, and synthetic colors could cause scalp irritation, therefore, hindering growth. They are usually listed as FDC or DC followed by a number on the product’s label. Some are also known to be carcinogenic. [Source]
Why are sulfates bad for your hair? When cleaning your hair on wash day, you want it clean, but not stripped of the natural oils on your hair. Completely stripping the hair of its natural oils dries it out. Harsh sulfates include Ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, sodium alkylbenzene sulfonate, TEA lauryl sulfate, Myreth sulfate, TEA dodecylbenzene sulfate. These strong detergents rob your hair of moisture, making it brittle and frizzy. [Source]
6. Diethanolamine (DEA)
But why, sway? This chemical which improves lather, balances pH, improves the creamy feel of products has the potential to be harmful. DEA reportedly forms nitrosamine in the long run if the product with DEA also contains amino acids. [Source]
7. Diazolydinyl Urea
But why, sway? The Urea used in cosmetic products are artificially made with ammonia and carbon dioxide. It is used as a moisturizing agent. However, it is also known to be a formaldehyde releaser. [Source]
But why, sway? A product with a good smell is great, however, numerous chemicals are used to achieve this smell. The downside is, all these chemicals don’t get listed on your product’s label. ‘Fragrance’ listed at the bottom of the list may not be as harmful as compared to products with ‘fragrance’ as one of the first five ingredients. [Source]
But why, sway? Silicones act as a smoothing agent in products, giving your hair great slip. Although they are good at sealing in moisture, if you plan to stay free off sulfate shampoos you would have to avoid silicones. Some silicones used in hair products are not water soluble, meaning they require harsh detergents to be cleaned. The silicones to avoid are dimethicone, dimethiconol, cetearyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone, stearyl dimethicone. If you want to avoid all silicones, keep in mind that they end in –cone, -conol, -xane, and –col. [Source]
10. Methylene Glycol
But why, sway? Methylene glycol is a form of formaldehyde, sharing the same side effects as formaldehyde and exposing your risk to cancer. [Source]
11. Parabens (Butyl, Ethyl, Methyl and Propyl)
Parabens are used in shampoos and cosmetics because they keep bacteria from growing. The problem is that parabens are xenoestrogens, which means that the body is fooled into thinking they are the same as natural estrogen in the body. Parabens have been linked to cancer cell growth and for this reason, should be taken off the ingredient list for hair and body.
12. Retinyl Palmitate
According to the EWG Cosmetic Database, this ingredient is listed as a “known reproductive toxicant” by the FDA. Although all humans have reason to be alarmed, this should be especially alarming to women because circle of life rests in your womb. Enough said.
So in conclusion, let’s not be swayed by the sweet, tropical scents and big bold promises of the latest ancient hair secret blazoned all along the beauty aisle shelves. Now that you have the 411 on the back of the label as well as the front, you’re armed and ready to do you hair justice and give it the best possible chance to flourish and thrive.
Fortunately, more and more companies (usually small, independent ones) are growing sensitive to the harmful ingredients used to mass produce hair products and have put in the extra work to use only organic and natural ingredients that benefit the hair.
If your hair is not growing at a healthy clip, or thinning and breaking and you suspect your hair products are the cause, use this handy hit list during your next visit to the beauty supply store. Turns out that Hakeem of Coming To America was not too far off track in limiting his haircare maintenance routine to the use of juices and berries. And you saw how long his braidtail was, right? Perhaps we take our cue from him…things that make you go hmmm.
If you’re interested in learning more about product ingredients, a helpful resource is the Cosmetics Database which can be found here.