Your Guide to Haircare Ingredients

The average person has no idea what to look for when it comes to haircare ingredients. On top of that, many hair product manufacturers formulate their products with harmful ingredients that are unsuitable for any human. Getting educated on haircare ingredients is one of the best things that you can do for your hair and your health. 

Why Do Ingredients Matter in Haircare?

A vast majority of hair products on the market harbor ingredients that are not only bad for your hair but detrimental to your health. 

Some products make your hair appear healthy but contain ingredients that increase your risk of developing asthma or thyroid issues. Other products may not contain the right ingredients to give you the results you’re looking for. 

For these reasons, you should figure out what’s in your hair products, what the ingredients do for your hair, and whether there are any health risks associated with applying them to your hair or scalp. 

Ingredients to Avoid in Haircare

Regardless of what a product label claims, the proof is in the ingredient list! You’d be surprised by some of the ingredients that you’ll find in haircare products in today’s market. If you read the ingredient list on some of your favorite products, you might find ingredients that are damaging to your hair and even some that are bad for your health.

Ingredients that are Bad for Your Health

Haircare products are not as heavily regulated as medications, even though many of the ingredients in these products can be absorbed into our bodies. However, until more regulation is put in place, we have to put our health first by becoming familiar with the ingredients to avoid. 

There are many ingredients that you should avoid in your hair products, and the list below will tell you about the most dangerous: 

  • Fragrances 
  • Phthalates 
  • Cyclosiloxanes
  • PEGs
  • Formaldehyde

You should avoid the above ingredients because they cause health issues ranging from endocrine problems to asthma and cancer. No product is worth putting your health at risk. 

Note: This is not an exhaustive list - there are many other ingredients that should be avoided. If you want to know about more ingredients to avoid in your hair products, check out

Ingredients that Ruin Your Hair

It’s good to avoid ingredients that are bad for your health, but you should also stay far away from ingredients that could be damaging to your hair! In the following list, we will explore some of these ingredients. 

  • Isopropyl Alcohol - This type of alcohol is extremely drying to the hair. Repeated use of products containing isopropyl alcohol may lead to brittle strands and breakage. Some other alcohols that you should avoid are Ethanol Alcohol and Propyl Alcohol. 
  • Mineral Oil - You may have thought that oils were a safe bet. Well, mineral oil is different. It is a by-product of petroleum and is not good for your hair. It has the tendency to build up on your hair strands, causing them to be dull and stiff. It could also stunt your hair growth.

Sulfates and Parabens are two of the worst ingredients to put on your hair. As such, these ingredients deserve their own sections. 

What are Sulfates? 

Sulfates are detergents that you’ll find in shampoos and some conditioners. They are also found in dishwashing detergent and laundry soap. The chemical is a very effective degreaser - it is able to lift the most stubborn dirt, product residue, and oils from your hair. 

The most common sulfates found in hair products include: 

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Why are Sulfates Bad?

Sulfates are damaging to the hair because of their harshness. They are fantastic cleaners, but when they are applied to your hair, they have the potential to strip all of the natural oils from the hair shaft. After washing your hair with a sulfate shampoo, your hair may be so dry that it feels like straw. Thirsty hair gets weaker over time, leading to breakage. 

While sulfates have not been found to cause cancer, they may be to blame for acne found along your hairline. Sulfates should be avoided whenever possible because of how drying they are to the hair and the effects they could have on your skin. 

What are Parabens?

Parabens are preservatives found in all kinds of hair care products. These chemicals keep hair products from going bad by preventing the growth of bacteria. 

There are three main forms of parabens that you’ll see in hair products: 

  • Butylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben

Why are Parabens Bad?

Some vehemently deny that Parabens are harmful, while others avoid them at all cost. 

According to Philippa Darbre, a world-renown scientist, parabens can cause endocrine disruption and may be associated with the development of breast cancer. Though no definitive causal link has been found between parabens and cancer, it’s wise to avoid parabens whenever you can to minimize your risk of negative health consequences. 

What Ingredients are Good?

Until this point, we have focused on bad ingredients, but there are great ingredients in some hair care products, and we will look at some of them below: 

  • Cetearyl Alcohol - Not all alcohols are created equal. Cetearyl alcohol is one of many fatty alcohols that is derived from plants. This alcohol is hydrating to the hair and can be used to lock moisture into your strands. You’ll find this ingredient in quality conditioners, stylers, and leave-in conditioners
  • Natural Oils - Natural oils like olive oil and avocado oil are great for your hair. They may be found in a variety of hair products and help to keep your hair moisturized. They can also be used alone to seal in your hair’s moisture.
  • Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice - This ingredient is a godsend, as it not only moisturizes the hair, but it conditions thirsty strands and soothes scalp irritation. 

How Can I Find Out What is Good and Bad For My Hair?

To find out what products are good and bad for your hair, read your product labels closely. If the product has any of the ingredients to avoid (mentioned earlier), it’s best to throw it in the trash and purchase a product that was formulated to be safe and effective. 

If there are any ingredients on a hair product label that you’re unsure about, an internet search for the ingredient is all it takes to find out whether it could be good for your hair. If you find out that the ingredients in the product are safe for you to use, try the product on your hair and see how your hair reacts. If your hair ends up dry, brittle, tangled, or lifeless, it’s not the right product for you.

Above all, reach for products that don’t have parabens, sulfates, petrolatum, or other ingredients that could endanger your health or the health of your hair. You’ll be glad you did! 

Author: Andrea Reyes

Andrea is a mother, wife, writer, and natural hair enthusiast of 15 years. Currently on her natural hair journey, she’s been trying countless products and techniques to understand and embrace her natural hair. She is the creator of, a new website featuring informative articles that share tips, tricks, and techniques aimed to help others learn to love their hair through proper hair care. She writes with the hope of making hair care easier to understand and implement.

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