Lustrous hair

Today, with so many different hair care products, it is very difficult to choose adequate care which will suit your hair type the best. That is why we need to learn how to read the ingredients list to understand the values and effects of hair product labels. 

Many hair care products, even those with hair labels  “hair repair” and “beauty oils”, “natural” and even “organic” contain substances that could affect the hair badly and slow down its recovery or growth.

Therefore, you should be able to differentiate between the favorable and good ingredients from the bad ones in the hair products. Only then will you known what to expect from the product and most importantly — is it really worth the money. 

In this article, we will teach you how to read the ingredients list, what hides behind hair product labels, and which ingredients should be your top priorities.

Healthy silky shiny hair

Basic ingredients

Every cosmetic product has a number of key ingredients that make it stand out and serve its purpose. Shampoos usually contain cleansing ingredients such as sulfates. Hair products such as conditioners or masks contain fatty alcohols while leave-in products contain silicones and natural oils. This would be the basic guide on how to recognize some of them in hair care products and learn the basics of what the cosmetic industry is based on.

Hair products differ based on their labels and purposes. However, they all have one common ingredient — water. They contain up to 80% of water. Since it is the most prominent ingredient, it is usually listed in the first place on the ingredients list. This is because the FDA’s regulations require manufacturers to list ingredients based on their concentration in the very product. The second less prominent ingredient is usually in the second place, and so on.


There is a huge amount of misconceptions about surfactants found in shampoo, especially those for curly hair. Surfactants or sulfates have been the basic ingredient of many shampoos, not just for curly hair. Environmental concerns and allegations they cause irritation or remove natural oils have made women avoid hair products containing these ingredients.

What most women do not even know is what surfactants are. So let us start from the very beginning. Surfactants are molecules or compounds consisting of two portions — hydrophilic and hydrophobic. The former attaches to water while the latter does so to dirt, oil, or grease. That is the main reason why there are plenty of surfactants in the shampoo you are using.

Natural surfactant

There is also something known as a natural surfactant. The natural surfactant is the type of surfactant which are plant-based or organic. Since the cosmetic industry is working hard to offer organic and natural options for their consumers, you can see organic as hair product labels on the shelves.

Difference between surfactants as the ingredients

Another thing important for you to know is that surfactants differ among themselves. They range from mild to strong based on their ability to remove oil, grease, or dirt and the amount of lather they produce during the removal process. Surfactants also differ in whether or not they create more or less lather. For example, there is a difference between Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate produces more lather which is the main reason why it is found in shampoos, cleansers, or shaving products. They make sure your skin and hair are squeaky clean after the wash. On the other hand, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate is sulfate-free and incredibly mild and gentle to your skin. As a result, it does not irritate the skin and is considered to be one of the safest surfactants on the market.

Fatty alcohol – the good kind of alcohol

When you see the hair label alcohol on the product, you immediately want to run away. However, not all alcohols are bad. There are also good alcohols, so do not run away just yet.

The word itself refers to “alcohol” and it associates immediately to something very damaging to the hair cuticle and skin. However, there are two types of alcohol in hair products. We have pure alcohols, such as ethanol, alcohol denat, SD alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol. There are also fatty alcohols such as Lauryl, cetyl, myristyl, stearyl, behenyl alcohol.

You can find fatty alcohols in hair care products. Manufacturers derive them from coconut or palm oil and are very good emollients. This means they hydrate and soften the hair while also smooth the hair surface. In addition to this function, they are also responsible for connecting the aqueous and oily components in the hair products. Similarly, they make products creamy.

Although these ingredients may be cheap to produce, they should not be the only ingredients on the list, especially if your hair is dry or damaged. 

Natural oils as one of the ingredients

Unlike mineral oils, natural ones weigh less in molecules which allows them to deeply penetrate hair strands and nourish scalp and hair with vitamins. Therefore a hair product enriched with natural oil is the perfect natural hair moisturizer. Natural oils function similarly to fatty alcohols. They feed, soften, smoothen the hair cuticle, and prevent damage.

The most commonly used oils in hair care products that act as a natural hair moisturizer are coconut, avocado, argan, macadamia, sunflower, almond, castor, and jojoba oil.  Apart from the usual benefits, every natural oil has special features which give something unique to the hair. Avocado oil as a natural hair moisturizer ensures natural UVA / UVB protection.  Grapeseed oil is resistant to high temperatures.  Meanwhile, when applied only as a leave-in product does not protect the hair from heat. Castor oil is useful in shampoos and treatments for hair follicles and the scalp.

Studies show that the most effective oils for damaged hair are those full of fatty acids – for example, argan and macadamia oil. Also, as the oil is closer to the top of the ingredient list, its effect is more powerful.

The most important thing to remember about natural ingredients is that they are not fully organic. They are processed and adapted for skin and hair care which is actually a good thing. Forget puting oils from our kitchen on your body and hair.

Coconut oil


One of the most useful ingredients in hair care products is beeswax. Thanks to its many properties, you can use beeswax for hair not only skin. Beeswax helps hydrate and soften the hair and skin giving it shine and preventing damage. As a natural antioxidant, it prevents the negative effects of external influences on the hair and skin. Furthermore, it adds volume which, with other qualities, makes it the perfect natural hair moisturizer. The best part about beeswax for hair is that it can be easily mixed with other ingredients, such as natural oils. Together, they have a much stronger effect on hair in terms of hydration, shine, and protection.


Do you know what ingredients are responsible for making your hair flexible and strong? The answer is proteins. Hair products for colored, damaged, and porous hair contain proteins.  Their ability to fill in all holes and cracks in the hair structure is the main reason why they are on the ingredients list. Besides, proteins also serve as humectants which means they keep your hair hydrated longer. No wonder you can find many proteins in your protein mask for hair.

You may ask what hair products have protein in them? Apart from shampoos, regular and deep conditioners, you can also find proteins in hair masks. A protein mask for hair is particularly suitable for dry hair.

Regular proteins are not used in products in their original form. With the help of hydrolyzation, you are now able to find protein ingredients in hair products. We can make a distinction between protein ingredients in hair products. Usually, hair products, such as a protein mask for hair, contain synthetic or natural proteins.

Synthetic proteins are chemically modified proteins. Thus they can cause irritation at some point. Such proteins are easy to recognize on the ingredients list because of the hydrolyzed+protein name. For instance, you can find hydrolyzed soy protein in hair products but you should know it is a synthetic protein.

On the other hand, natural proteins are derived from nature so hydrolyzed protein hair products are suitable for vegans and vegetarians alike.

The most common proteins are:

  • keratin
  • hydrolyzed soy protein
  • wheat protein
  • hydrolyzed collagen
  • silk protein
  • hydrolyzed oat flour

Vitamin E-alpha tocopherol, tocopherol acetate

If you come across this ingredient in some of your hair care products, know that it is there for a reason. Its main use is softening and hydrating the hair. Vitamin E also prevents hair splits, restores hair shine, and provides strong antioxidant benefits to the hair.

Vitamin E for hair is the best remedy if you have frizzy, damaged, or unmanageable hair. It turns it into voluminous and shiny. Apart from that, supplements containing vitamin E can prevent hair loss thanks to its antioxidant properties.

One of many vitamin E oils benefits for hair is scalp circulation boost. Vitamin E essentially improves blood flow which leads to a  healthy scalp. Similarly, oils with vitamin E are great for locking in the moisture and preventing greasing. Lastly, taking vitamin E capsules as a supplement, in addition to beneficial effects on the body and skin, slows the appearance of gray hair.

Long hair

Hydrating ingredients — Aloe vera

Although there is not much research on all the ways aloe vera is beneficial for hair, one thing is certain. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing effects as well as vitamins E, C, B-12, and folic acid, aloe vera suits the hair and skin well. Because of its anti-inflammatory role, an aloe vera hair mask can soothe irritation and itchiness. This makes it is particularly suitable for sensitive hair. However, you can use an aloe vera hair mask or shampoo if you have dry, oily, brittle, or damaged hair.

In hair care products its most common role is hydration, but it also helps with preventing moisture loss. It also helps with lightening and mild strength styling if used in leave-in and styling products. That is why it is recommended for curly hair because it helps curls stay moisturized while giving a mild styling benefit.

Regarding aloe vera, there is one thing you should know. A small number of people may be allergic to the plant, so using products with aloe vera in it is out of the question. It might be best to use a patch test before applying products based on aloe vera on larger skin areas just to be safe. 

After you have mastered your readings of the ingredient list, spend as much time as you need analyzing the products you buy. Expensive products are not necessarily the most beneficial ones. After you find products that your hair loves, try to improve and enrich your diet with vitamins, proteins, iron, so that your new hair grows strong and becomes more resistant to all the negative effects. It will help grow long and healthy hair.