WHICH ALCOHOLS ARE GOOD AND BAD FOR YOUR NATURAL HAIR
Learning what to look for on product labels is key in understanding how to care for natural hair! There are several red-flag ingredients to avoid to help maintain your hair’s good health... including alcohol. But are all alcohols bad for natural hair? 🤔
Alcohols in general are made of short or long carbon chains.
Alcohols with a short carbon chain – fewer than three carbons – mix with water, but also dissolve oils and polymers (conditioning agents that cause hair cuticles to lie flat, and give the hair its smooth appearance). In other words, these alcohols evaporate quickly and reduce drying time, but also strip the hair of oils. Great for an astringent…not so great for hair. 😩
These alcohols are often found in cosmetic and personal products, but should not be used consistently on natural hair. In products, alcohols have specific roles: as a solvent to dissolve substances that don’t dissolve easily in water or oil; as an astringent to shrink or constrict skin, as an antimicrobial agent to reduce bacterial growth; and as a means of preventing a product from foaming. Hair products that use these alcohols include; hair gel, hair spray and hair mousse.
🚫Here is a list of short carbon alcohols to look for and avoid for consistent use because of their drying effect on the hair:
- Alcohol denat (also called denatured alcohol)
- SD alcohol 40
The short answer is yes! Fatty alcohols that are naturally found in plants, including coconut and avocado oil, are actually good for your hair! These alcohols differ from their hair-drying counterparts, because of their structure.
Alcohols with longer carbon chains – 12 carbons or more – have the ability to bind water and oil together in products. Because of their higher carbon content, they are considered “oily” or fat, and are known as “fatty” alcohols. Fatty alcohols help create the thick, creamy texture that many natural hair-care products have and also provide the “slip” needed for detangling. This is because fatty alcohols are also emulsifiers – they help keep the water and oil together in products.🤝
Because water and oil do not naturally mix, an additional ingredient, or emulsifier, is required to prevent the oil based and water-based ingredients from separating.
According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, there are several fatty alcohols that have been tested and determined as safe for cosmetic ingredients! These include:
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Myristyl alcohol
- Cetyl alcohol
- Stearyl alcohol
- Behenyl alcohol
- Lauryl alcohol
NOTE: There are alcohols that are considered neutral, providing a limited impact on natural hair. Benzyl alcohol, for example, will not impact the feel of hair and is used solely as a preservative in products.
So, be kind to your hair by avoiding or limiting the use of products that contain drying alcohols, but don’t be afraid to try a product that has one of the fatty alcohols! Their emollient properties can leave your hair softer and smoother, and they also have a low toxicity level, making them safe for your natural hair, skin and body!
Looking for products that don’t contain drying alcohols, but don’t know where to start? The Melanin Haircare Signature Collection will have your tresses feeling SMOOTHER than ever! Grab YOUR set TODAY at Sephora.com, Ulta Beauty or at MelaninHaircare.com!