The Best & Worst Ingredients For Your Hair Type

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
When it comes to hair, a lot of people just slap on any ol' shampoo and conditioner (mostly whatever's on sale) and hope for the best. Well, Jacquelyn Walent, senior stylist at Devachan Salon, thinks you should treat your mane like the most expensive item in your closet. "Hair is a very delicate fabric that can be easily damaged and destroyed," she says. "It really needs to be treated as such, [but] people are treating their cashmeres nicer than their own hair — and it’s kind of sad."

Walent stresses the importance of paying attention to the products you put on your strands and the ingredients in them. But ingredients aren't a one-formula-fits-all situation. A product you may gravitate toward for its smoothing qualities could be super-drying for your best friend's tresses. It all depends on hair texture, density, and porosity.

Cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson says you should also pay attention to the physical form of a product. Is your hair on the fine side, but you're using a ton of heavy creams? Is your hair thick and curly, and you're mostly using sprays? This might be doing more harm than good. Ahead, we break down what you should — and shouldn't — be putting on your hair, depending on your hair type.
1 of 9
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Fine Hair
Oils like argan, coconut, and olive are super-popular, but they're not well-suited for those with fine hair. "If you’re looking for volume, you definitely want to stay away from any oils that are going to add weight to the hair," says Walent.

Hairstylist Derek Yuen agrees: "These [oils] are miracle workers, extra-moisturizing, and give hair the slip you want, but for fine hair, [they] may do [their] job too well. They are too heavy and can coat fine hair, leaving it flat and limp."
2 of 9
Aloe-vera juice is a great moisturizing alternative to those heavy oils, says Yuen. "Aloe-vera juice can help remove dead skin on your scalp [that clogs] your hair follicles," he says. "Healthy hair follicles help promote new hair growth, giving you the fullest head of hair possible."

Even if you're using the correct product, you never want to overdo it. "A good rule of thumb for fine hair is 'less is more,'" says hairstylist Lacy Redway. "You typically should look for products that add volume... When conditioning, use a lightweight conditioner, and you definitely want to keep the conditioner more toward the ends of the hair." She also recommends dry shampoo in-between washes to help lift oil from the scalp.
3 of 9
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Thick Hair
"Mineral oil is often found in beauty products for its slippery effect, helping detangle thick hair," says Yuen. "However, I find that over time mineral oil — which is a byproduct of petroleum — can easily cause a heavy, waxy-feeling buildup on hair."

If you use a product that leaves a coating on your hair, swap it out. Yuen says you can get rid of the residue with a strong clarifying shampoo.
4 of 9
Jojoba oil is a great ingredient for people with thick hair because it's similar to the natural oil your hair creates on its own. "I like jojoba because it's not greasy or heavy, and will give your hair a natural, healthy shine," says Yuen. He recommends Leonor Greyl's deep-conditioning mask because it contains the star ingredient, as well as a host of other vegetable oils that help leave thick hair more manageable.

As far as consistency, those with thick hair can tolerate heavier creams, but they should also look for something hydrating. “If there’s someone with thick hair who’s looking to condense it a little bit, the best way to do that is with hydration," explains Walent. "When the hair is hydrated, the cuticle is smoother and lying down...then, the hair will condense."
5 of 9
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Curly Hair
The key to keeping both curly and textured hair healthy is moisture, moisture, and more moisture. Adapting habits like co-washing (washing with just conditioner), deep-conditioning, and doing hot-oil treatments will keep those locks hydrated.

It's also important to avoid ingredients that will strip the hair of said moisture. "I highly recommend co-washing in-between shampoos and avoiding products that contain a lot of alcohol, as this will dry the hair out more," says Redway. Sulfates and silicones are major red flags.
6 of 9
Natural ingredients like jojoba and coconut oils, as well as shea butter, are great for curly girls. And when they're mixed into formulations, it's easier for them to absorb into the hair, says Walent. We love SheaMoisture's Gentle Curl-Cleansing Co-Wash: Besides doing double-duty (cleansing and conditioning), it's also detergent-free with a low lather.
7 of 9
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Textured Hair
If you have tighter coils, it's even harder for moisture to travel the length of the hair shaft — so, again, steer clear of any stripping ingredients like alcohol. You also want to avoid products that lather, since that's usually a sign that they contain sulfates and detergents. Silicone — which includes all substances ending in "cone" (like dimethicone and cetearyl methicone) — should also be on your steer-clear-of list. "Silicone is a false ingredient, because it gives shine — but it’s such a false sense of shine," explains Walent. "It’s not coming from a healthy place; it’s coming from a coating place."
8 of 9
Just like their curly friends, textured ladies should gravitate toward moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter. DevaCurl's new Decadence line is specifically formulated for those with textured hair. The One Condition product contains several highly hydrating substances, like vitamin- and mineral-rich chufa milk; quinoa protein, which helps strengthen, protect, and condition; and olive oil, which hydrates and controls frizz.
9 of 9
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Hair


R29 Original Series