Ingredients to Avoid in Hair Products – Your Guide for Choosing Products

Hair Product Ingredients

Whenever you purchase hair products, always remember to look at the ingredients! Unfortunately, many of the hair product companies available in stores use harmful ingredients that can damage your hair and overall health. This one rule can be the difference between you having luscious locks and stringy strands.  Nevertheless, when you see ingredients like “adfjdlagidga acid”, this can be extremely confusing and frustrating! Let me take some of confusion out of the process. Here’s a list of some key ingredients to avoid when choosing hair products.

ALCOHOLS: There are two kinds of alcohols commonly found in hair products: short chain alcohols and long chain alcohols. The short change alcohols are extremely drying and unless you want hair that feels like a brillo pad, you should be avoided them at all costs. Long chain alcohols on the other hand, are fatty alcohols that are moisturizing, lubricating, and lock in moisture, which are good for the hair.

Here are some drying alcohols to avoid:

  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Isopropanol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Propanol
  • Propyl Alcohol
  • SD Alcohol 40
  • Witch Hazel

Here are some fatty alcohols that are OK to use:

  • Behenyl Alcohol
  • C30-50 Alcohol
  • Cetearyl Alcohol
  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Isocetyl Alcohol
  • Isostearyl Alcohol
  • Lanolin Alcohol
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Myristyl Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol

MINERAL OIL: Mineral oil is a non-natural oil and derivative of petroleum that is commonly used as an emollient, sealant, and lubricator. There’s some controversy regarding mineral oil (on it’s own) being bad for the hair because there are benefits to using it; such as it creating a protective barrier against elements. The problem is that its such a film forming oil that it acts almost like plastic wrap – allowing no moisture or air to penetrate that hair. Plus, it’s commonly paired with ingredients like petrolatum, which cause build up on the hair. My suggestion for this ingredient is to proceed with caution.

PETROLATUM: Petrolatum is commonly used as a sealant. Although it acts as a protective barrier against elements (similarly to mineral oil) it is sticky and heavy, clogging the pores, creating build up on the hair and also attracting dust and dirt to the hair (yuck!).

PARABENS: Parabens are preservatives that extend the shelf life of products. Recent studies have shown that these ingredients can be hormone disrupters (like chemical estrogen) and may even be carcinogenic. Although the jury is still out on this one, my advice is to stay away.

Here are some common parabens to avoid:

  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben

PROPYLENE GLYCOL: Propylene gycol is a liquid commonly used as a solvent in anti-freeze (yikes!). It’s pharmaceutical grade (less concentrated) form is what is used in hair products. This active ingredient can deteriorate the protein and cellular structure of hair, making it a big no, no.

PROTEINS: With proteins the idea is that too much of anything can be bad. Hair definitely needs protein to be healthy but it doesn’t need it in large doses. If you aren’t careful, you can feed your hair too much protein which can lead to days of dry and brittle hair. You don’t want “protein sensitive” hair, meaning hair with a protein overdose. Therefore, when finding ingredients with protein, make sure to use them very sparingly.

Here are common proteins to look out for:

  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin/hair keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed silk
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Keratin
  • Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein

SILICONES: Silicons coat the hair in a slippery substance that makes the detangling process a lot easier. However, they are almost always water insoluble (with a few exceptions) and can cause build up on the hair that over time will prevent any moisture from entering the hair shaft. Typically, ingredients ending in -cone, -nol, or -xane, are code for silicone.

Here are some common silicones to avoid:

  • Amodimethicone
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Bisaminopropyl dimethicone
  • Cetearyl methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Phenyl trimethicone
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone
  • Stearyl Dimethicone
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone

Here are ingredients that are either water soluble silicones or confused for being silicones but are OK to use:

  • Benzophenone-2-10 (sunscreen)
  • Dimethicone Copolyol (water soluble silicone)
  • Emulsifying Wax
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane (water soluble silicone)
  • Lauryl methicone copolyol (water soluble)
  • Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone
  • PEG-Dimethicone, or any other ‘cone with “PEG-” suffix (water soluble silicone)
  • PEG-Hydrogenated Castor Oil
  • Methychloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone

SULFATES: Sulfates strips the hair of necessary moisture and oils which can ultimately lead to breakage.

Here are some common sulfates to avoid:

  • Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate/Ammonium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Xylenesulfonate
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine/Coco Betaine
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
  • Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt)
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Sodium Xylenesulfonate
  • TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate

What other ingredients have you discovered are bad for your hair? Add to the list and leave a comment below! 

About author


Angie is the founder & Editor-n-Chief of, a natural hair site and brand encouraging naturals to embrace the hair that God gave them. Through creating a platform where other naturals can shine and also sharing her journey, she hopes to help unveil the unique beauty of natural coils. You can connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.


  1. justin 17 March, 2015 at 15:21 Reply

    This post makes me want to go thru the products i have for my hair & cross reference them with this list lol , thanks for this post! i think its vital for people to be informed about what we are using on our bodys

    • Angie 17 March, 2015 at 15:33 Reply

      Yes, I definitely felt like doing the same when I researched this! There are soooo many ingredients that companies try to slip into your products. Its important to be informed. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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