Home Hair Knowing Your Ingredients: Which Alcohols Are Good Or Bad For Natural Hair

Knowing Your Ingredients: Which Alcohols Are Good Or Bad For Natural Hair

by Evenes Ruth Mafupa

Are you losing the battle with dry hair? Are the ingredients in your hair products sabotaging your efforts to healthier hair? Here is the deal. The products you may be using could be having drying agents in the form of alcohols. Wait a minute. Not all alcohols are bad for your hair. They are some good ones which actually condition our hair and there are some bad ones which dry out our hair and even other alcohols which do not affect our hair much and all these often grace the ingredients list of  hair care products we use. This is what I want to share with you so let us get started by discussing the different types of alcohols that are found in hair care products.

Long chain (Fatty) Alcohols.

These include: Lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol.

These alcohols are the good type because they have a long chain of carbons per molecule which makes them oilier than their short chain counterparts thus the name “fatty alcohols”. They are typically derived from natural sources and are mainly used as emollients in hair products. They tend to give a smooth and soft feeling to the hair as they encourage the hair cuticles to lie flat along the hair shaft. However, when used in excess, products containing fatty alcohols tend to make hair look very greasy. Besides being used for their conditioning properties, they are also used to thicken shampoos and conditioners and as nonionic surfactants and emulsion stabilisers. Good stuff.

Short Chain Alcohols

These include: ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, denat alcohol, propanol, propyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol.

These are generally bad for our kinks but it also depends on what hairstyle you are going for. These have a short carbon chain making the molecules similar to those of water. So they can mix with water and dissolve oils and other ingredients which do not mix in water. Because of their light molecular weight, these alcohols evaporate very quickly and that is when they cause trouble for our thirsty kinks. They often leave the hair together with the oils and the water lgiving us a frizzy mess that leaves the cuticle open and the hair feeling very dry. You might be wondering why such alcohols are still used in hair care products. Well, they help to ensure even distribution of the product on the hair strands, which is a good thing. And also, for those who have cuticles that lie flat naturally and would like to help their hair dry much quicker, these alcohols are great. But for us kinky heads the cons outweigh the benefits so it will be more beneficial to stay away from such.

Other Alcohols.

There are other alcohols which do not change the texture of the hair or add much benefit to the hair, neither are they harmful and these are:

  • Benzyl alcohol: This is a non volatile alcohol used as a preservative in many cosmetic preparations.
  • Propylene glycol: this alcohol is often used as an emollient to attract water and keep it on the hair.

In conclusion, it will be beneficial to stay away from products with drying agents like short chain alcohols in order to combat dry hair. So next time, when you go hair product shopping, make sure to read the ingredients list and make a good choice. You may as well be on your way to healthier, better moisturised hair.

Do you make it a habit to check the ingredients list on your products? Which other ingredients do you try and avoid? Waiting to hear from you…



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