Alcohol in hair care products is always bad, right? An expert answers
24 May 2018
“Alcohol has a drying effect on hair, leaving it brittle, lifeless and prone to split ends, so it’s always better to choose hair products without alcohol.”
You’ve probably heard this claim before. But in the age of Fake News and easily spread “click to share” misinformation, is it true? Is alcohol bad for hair?
The answer is yes. And no.
You see, there are bad alcohols that can dehydrate hair, but also good alcohols that have major benefits for your tresses. This is important to remember, especially if your hair is prone to dryness – a problem that many African women with their tight Type 7 and 8 curls are intimately familiar with.
The good guys
Common alcohols you don’t have to worry about in a product ingredient lists include cetearyl, cetyl, lauryl, stearyl, and behenyl alcohol. This is because they are fatty alcohols, also known as emollients.
Rocky Bukasa, Mizani Brand Educator explains, “You’ll even find these alcohols in natural ingredient-infused shampoos, conditioners and masks. This is because they’re frequently derived from palm seed, coconut and olive oil. Emollient alcohols are often included in conditioners as they make hair more manageable by smoothing down scales on the protective outer layer of hair strands known as the cuticle. When cuticle scales are raised, you’ll notice because hair feels rough and difficult to brush.”
The baddies, kind of
Short-chain alcohols are ingredients to be aware of. Often, they’re included in haircare products – especially styling aids – because of their fast-drying, fast-evaporating function and ability to prolong product life. The risk for some women, though, is that these products can upset hair’s moisture balance. Watch out for the inclusion of propanol, ethanol, ethyl, and propyl alcohol.
Busaka clarifies, “This kind of alcohol is performing a job too. As long as the product you’re using doesn’t lead its list of ingredients with one of these alcohols, indicating that it’s the primary component, you have less to be concerned about. This said, I would always recommend a haircare routine that prioritises lightweight moisturisation at every stage to avoid dry hair.”
He points out that for women who’ve chosen the natural hair route, Mizani 25 Miracle Milk is an excellent, professional-quality product to replenish moisture-deprived hair. This leave-in conditioner hydrates with an effective combination of coconut oil and fennel seed extract.
Busaka concludes by suggesting that if you’re worried about the ingredients in a haircare product, point them out to a professional next time you’re in the salon. Trust in expert knowledge over Internet hearsay, because no-alcohol haircare isn’t the only option for healthy, hydrated locks.
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