A Curly-Haired Girl's Guide To Product Ingredients

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Do conversations about hair product ingredients sound like a foreign language to you? Product information can be overwhelming, leaving many of us to simply judge our beauty products based solely on how they make our hair feel, which may mean tress damage is going undetected.
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It’s essential to have at least a basic understanding of the best and worst ingredients for your hair — because putting that knowledge to use might mean the difference between bad hair days and your best ones. Ahead, we shed some light on the ingredients curly haired women should be looking out for and why.
Worst Ingredients for Curly Hair
Harsh Sulfates
For many curlies, sulfates completely dissolve the oils on your scalp and hair, leaving your scalp dry and itchy. Continuous use could lead to dryness, which leads to breakage, especially if it’s not followed up with a deep conditioner. Sulfates typically end in "-ate," making them easy to remember when you’re out shopping. Ammonium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate are two common examples to watch out for.
Harsh Alcohols
All alcohols are not created equal. These harsh alcohols (witch hazel, ethanol, and propanol are all good examples)lack moisture, so there's a good chance they'll leave your hair dry and frizzy. With low molecular weight, these alcohols evaporate quickly from the hair, which makes them a popular choice for hair products because it means hair dries faster. When used on the skin these short chain alcohols act as an oil-dissolving astringent. Naturally curly hair already tends to be dry so it is best to avoid these common alcohols in your product arsenal.
Non Water-Soluble Silicones
Non water-soluble silicones will cause buildup on your hair, which can only be removed with sulfates, making these a less desirable choice. If you are a curly who avoids sulfates or does not cleanse often, you may want to forgo products with those silicones. Silicone ingredients typically end in "cone," "conol," "col," or "xane."
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Best Ingredients for Curly Hair
What is BEST for your hair really depends on how your hair responds to individual products. Even though a product may be good for one curly, that does not guarantee it is great for all curlies. As you go about choosing your products, keep an eye out for some of the following ingredients:
Fatty Alcohols
Nourishing alcohols are typically derived from natural sources. Their oily base is good for softening, thickening, and smoothing the hair. Some good ones to look out for are cetyl alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, and lauryl alcohol.
Water-Soluble Silicones
Water-soluble silicones don't necessarily make hair healthier, but they can aid in manageability and style. These silicones, lauryl methicone copolyol for example, coat your cuticle and must be removed with water before any additional moisture can be added.
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Ceramides
Ceramides hold the cuticle together, strengthening the exterior of the hair and can be derived from natural ingredients like oils — safflower and grape seed oil are ones to keep in mind — but the synthetic ceramides more closely act like those inside the hair cuticle.
Nadege of Gleau Hair Care has this to say: “Women who've incorporated ceramides in their regimen often say their hair feels stronger but without that stiffness that protein gives. Does this mean your hair no longer needs protein? Nope. While ceramides do help reinforce the strand, they aren't as effective at strengthening the inner layers of the hair like protein does."
Protein
Look to proteins (keratin, collage, and soy) for strength, elasticity, and structural aid.
Natural Ingredients
Finally, organic hair care products typically contain natural ingredients derived from the earth — minus suspicious chemicals found in some non-organic products. Some excellent moisturizing oils are olive, argan, coconut, and avocado, but other natural oils can be used to seal and protect your hair.
You can begin supporting healthy cell production by eating nutritional foods, which supply the necessary protein to the hair follicle. Equally important is receiving adequate exercise and rest, which promote blood flow; it’s this blood flow that provides a nourishing agent to the hair follicle and sebaceous gland connected to the follicle. These work together to produce and condition the hair, but the hair must be topically treated as well in order to maintain its strength, which is where this hair ingredient primer may come in handy. Above all, be consistent in your hair regimen so that when you do make corrective adjustments, you know where to attribute your results, good or bad.
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