Imagine it’s washday tomorrow and you are currently at your favorite hair supply store to stock up on some natural hair staples. While walking through the aisles, you stumble on a new hair product and you reach out for it. Like a typical naturalista, you search straight away for the ingredient list and while browsing through, you notice a few “alcohols” on the list.
Now pause! Just before you walk away from that product, did you consider if the alcohol is bad or maybe even good? Naturalistas have long been cautious of nasty sounding ingredients and alcohol is no exception!
It’s important to understand our particular hair needs with regards to alcohols. Alcohol is not a dirty word. There are many types of alcohols. Here’s a quick guide to identifying the good, the bad and everything in between…
• First off, it is important to remember that short-chain alcohols are considered bad for us while fatty alcohols (long-chain alcohols) are essentially good for our natural kinks, coils and curls. This implies that good alcohols are fatty alcohols derived from natural sources while bad alcohols are usually short-chain alcohols, they are very drying and some are denatured alcohol.
• Good alcohols give conditioners their thickness and slip for detangling and are emollients hence they tend to give our hair that soft and moisturized feel that we all love. Bad alcohols, on the other hand, dry quickly and in the process depleting the hair of moisture.
• Bad alcohols are small enough to penetrate the hair shaft and are often the culprit for frizz which is why they are more suitable for looser wavy hair textures and not for us curlies.
• While good alcohols give a smooth, soft feel to the hair shaft, it is important not to use them in excess as it can combine with the natural sebum found on the scalp making the hair look greasy with a sticky substance.
• Bad alcohols are often used in some hair styling products because of their drying effect. This ensures proper spreading of the products onto the hair but that same drying effect can whisk away the moisture that your hair needs.
• Good alcohols include Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Behenyl alcohol and Cetearyl alcohol while bad alcohols include Ethanol, Ethyl alcohol, Propanol, Alcohol denat, Isopropyl alcohol and Isopropanol alcohol. You can learn more about these ingredients’ properties here.
Always remember that ingredients located within the first 5 of an ingredient list make up the bulk of the product so when it comes to bad alcohols, try to keep them at the end of your ingredient list for all of your natural hair products.
However, our hair might respond to certain ingredients differently so sometimes, it is always best to use trial and error as a method to find what gives you the best results.
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