Wednesday, 05 August 2015 00:00

Chemicals in Natural Products

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Going natural after years of relaxing your hair can be a difficult time. Not only are you confronted with a brand new texture of hair you are not used to working with, but you are also entering a brand new world of hair care products.

 I have found many of these “natural hair” products are not only no good for natural hair, but are downright dangerous for it. Just because it says “natural” does not mean it is natural, or the has a good combination natural ingredients, or it is good for your hair at all, many stating right there on the label “ALL NATURAL - FOR NATURAL HAIR”.But this is not always true.

Since 2002, when Nappturality.com began the internet natural hair revolution, the market for natural hair products has exploded. Hair relaxer profits are declining and many companies that specialize in hair relaxers have entered the natural hair market with so-called ‘natural’ products made for natural hair. Sometimes these new hair products are the old hair products, reworked with a couple of essential oils added, some shea butter, a new scent and a picture of a woman with two-strand twists on the packaging.

It’s up to you to decide who you buy from. Personally, I do not buy hair products from any company actively engaged in making chemical relaxers and prefer using products from companies that have only ever formulated for natural hair.

So to help you navigate through the thousands of products now out there, I am not going to recommend products TO use, I am going to advise you on what ingredients NOT to use on your natural hair. Always read the label. Ingredients are listed from the most amount used to the least.

These are the main culprits you should check for and avoid. They directly affect the condition of your hair.

  1. SLS / SLeS / Sulfate / Sulphate / Sodium Laurel / Laureth. If you see these ingredients on your shampoo bottle, put it down and choose something else. This chemical will strip and dry out your hair, making it brittle and prone to breakage.
  2. ALS / Ammonium Laurel / Laureth Sulfate. See above. It is another sulfate. They say it’s gentler. Don’t believe it. ALTERNATIVE: A non-sulfate shampoo.
  3. Petroleum / Petrolatum / Mineral Oil. Anything containing petroleum based products in a grease, pomade or butter will coat your hair, making it seem soft and shiny to begin with but will soon attract dirt and dust. It coats the hair shaft, locking moisture out, causing flakes and dandruff. If you use a lot of this kind of stuff, you may need a sulfate shampoo just to strip it out of your hair.
  4. Glycerine / Glycerin listed as the first or second ingredient in any leave-in. Glycerin is a moisture attractant – it attracts moisture to itself. The problem is, it will attract moisture to itself from your hair, drying out your hair and making it brittle. If you use glycerin-based products make sure you don’t allow your hair to dry out by using a spritz containing mostly water during the day. ALTERNATIVE: Natural oils such as coconut, almond or apricot can act as humectants when used correctly. Olive oil is a heavy oil.
  5. Alcohol. Commonly found in gels or quick-set setting products. Alcohol will sap moisture right out of your hair and snap it. Note that this does not include “cetearyl alcohol” which is not a drying compound. ALTERNATIVE: An alcohol-free setting product such as aloe or flax gel.
  6. UREA. Just no. If you suffer from scalp conditions such as dermatitis or allergic reactions, this chemical could be the reason.
  7. Anything with ‘Propyl’ in it. Any combination or derivative of these chemicals are damaging and toxic.

Try to find products with natural preservatives, although not affecting your hair directly, the chemicals used in preservatives can be toxic.

Of course there are more bad ingredients, but these are the worst which directly affect the condition of your hair very soon after use. Eliminating hair care products containing these ingredients from are the first step in making sure you are using the best products for the health of your hair. There are alternatives out there, and companies dedicated to using the best and least damaging of ingredients. Search them out and recommend them to others.

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 07:11
Patricia "Deecoily" Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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