Ingredients to avoid in your natural hair products

I wouldn’t describe myself as a product junkie now, but in the early stages of my natural hair journey I had a side table lined with all kind of products I hoped would work some sort of miracle on my hair. I did a bit of research before I Big Chopped but it mostly involved stalking and obsessing over black women with long glorious nappy hair, haha.

So I tried different products without fully understanding or knowing what my hair needed. I wish I had known earlier on that as a nappy haired woman I couldn’t just pick up any product off the shelf. That my hair was different and special (fragile and breakage prone)

“I battled with dry hair, split ends and SSKs (Single Strand Knots)”

In the first year of my natural hair journey, I battled with dry hair, split ends and SSK’s. Split ends were mostly on me because I used to pull out those annoying SSKs with my hands, but why was my hair dry and why did I have so many SSKs?? I was deep conditioning after shampooing & conditioning weekly, and I was doing the LOC method, so I knew I was doing the right things to keep my fibres looking healthy but it was all to no avail. So I went back and did some real and I realized I needed to change my hair products. Many nappy haired women out there don’t know that most hair products out there contain a lot of chemicals that is neither good for the hair nor body. Nappy hair already has fewer cuticle layers than straight hair type, so you can bet that it will be less resistant to cleansing chemicals that straight hair can more easily endure.

The best products for nappy natural hair are the ones that are mostly made with natural ingredients. Once I started using products designed specifically for natural hair, my hair started to thrive! So my nappy folks, here are some of the list of harmful chemicals to avoid when choosing products for your natural hair. When choosing a product for your hair take a look at the ingredient listing, as a rule of thumb the first five ingredients listed should not contain any of these chemicals listed here, and if they do it should be closer to the end of the list. Manufactures by Law need to list their ingredients from the highest it contains to the lowest, so if you have stuff like sulphate or minerals oils next at the beginning of the ingredient listing, you’re buying yourself a bottle full of chemicals that will most probably leave your hair dry


Sulfates also known as (Surfacants or Detergents) when dissolved in water has the ability to remove dirt from surfaces. SulFates range from harsh to mild. The most common sulfates used in hair products are SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) & SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES).

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)– SLES is the alcohol form (ethylated) of SLS. Both SLS and SLES can enter the blood stream. They may cause potentially carcinogenic formations of nitrates and dioxins to form in shampoos and cleansers. Large amounts of nitrates may enter the blood system from just one shampooing. Sulfate-based surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate has been found to be significantly irritating for the scalp and drying to the hair. Steer away from SLS and SLES and  instead look for products that contain milder sufacants. It easier to just buy a totally Sulfate free Shampoo.


Mineral Oil is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons produced from the distillation of petroleum. It is a mix of Hydrogen and Carbons. Mineral Oils  can be advantageous and disadvantageous for nappy hair. It deposits on the surface of hair strands and forms films that are sufficiently thick to mask irregularities in the cuticle structure. It can offer good detangling benefits and minimize frizz by preventing penetration of moisture into the hair in humid conditions. The clause with mineral oil is that because it clings so tightly to the hair shaft it can prevent the flow moisture in either direction, that means no moisture is going out, neither is it going in! So let's say you put something like Vaseline on you hair for your first week after deep conditioning, the next week your hair is feeling dry and you’re thinking oh ill just take my spray bottle and spritz my hair with my water and conditioner mix, ……..??………. You get the picture? If not go back and read from the top. Black hair is already mostly on dry side and needs as much moisture it can get. Whether it’s from the shower steam or your spray bottle. Blocking all access to moisture with Mineral Oil is not a great idea.

I would raise my eyebrow if it was on the first five ingredients on my leave in conditioner or shampoo. There are better oils with great conditioning benefits that can be used in place of mineral oil.


Silicone is a mineral oil. It is an ingredient commonly used in hair care products.It can give slip and shine and help smoothen hair. But it is not a natural ingredient and its side effects are not nappy friendly. Silicone is almost like rubber and/or plastic. It is used as a sealant against water and even air. It prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft and becomes like a magnet for dirt and other ingredients. Most Silicone are not water-soluble, so they will prevent moisture from getting into the hair shaft. For us curly-kinky-nappy haired girls this can be disastrous because we already have dry prone hair. If there should be any silicone at all in your hair product, it should be water-soluble silicone, this means that it is able to dissolve in water. Water soluble silicone is easy to wash out of the hair and doesn’t leave a heavy build up.


Short Chain alcohol like isopropyl alcohol, cause the hair to be dry and frizzy, this type of alcohol is usually found in sprays and gels. Fatty alcohols like Benzyl or propene glycol, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol can help to condition nappy hair to make it soft and manageable.

Avoid: Isopropyl alchohol,Ethanol,Propanol,Chlorine, propylene gylcol.

Good Alcohols are; Behenyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, C30-50 Alcohols, Lauryl alcohol.


Perfumes for use in hair products are often dissolved in mineral oil bases with a small amount of preservative. Synthetic colors are believed to cause cancer. If a product contains them, don’t use it.   Some of the problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation. Synthetic fragrance ingredients can cause itchy, scaly, painful skin, and potentially worsen asthma. Even high concentrations of certain natural ingredients including tea tree, lavender, and citrus peel oils may cause such symptoms. Most of us do love our hair to smell good because it makes us feel good especially when we are complimented on it but again check that Fragrance closer to the end of the ingredient listing.


Yes, I said PROTEINS! It is very easy to get caught up in the DIY syndrome. You want to get into loving, pampering and caring for your hair, so you trying out every egg, yolk and cassava recipe you find on the internet (jokes). I tried to put honey and egg mixed on my 4c hair one time it wasn’t funny! My hair came outta that deep condition looking like it was fried! It felt very strawy

A Protein called keratin is the building block of hair. There is a phenomenon known as “PROTEIN OVERLOAD”, we identify this when your hair feels dryer than normal. There is a difference between normal dryness verses extreme dryness that protein overload causes. Lack of moisture is usually the biggest challenge for coarse hair (type 4hair), and it also tends to be sensitive to protein. It is important that naturals with coarse hair generally avoid protein and ensure that their conditioners and deep treatments are instead loaded with plenty of moisturizing emollients. So If you have coarse hair and the you find words like Amino acid, hydrolyzed keratin or wheat hydrosylates or hydrolysed collagen, peptides, keratin and silk protein in the first five ingredients of your product I would be worried. The key is to find the balance between moisture and protein

If you feel you are doing all the right things but your nappy hair still feels dry and breaks off you might want to take a look at the ingredient listing of your hair products, this maybe the issue. Take your time to research the ingredients you hear about a new product that is the rave of the season. Everyone is different, a product that works for one person may not work for you. Remember that ingredients listed first in a product have more potency than the one closer to the end of the list.

We are all humans and we will make mistakes. Trial and Error is good, because we learn from it. It might take a while before you find a product that your hair loves.  Remember to listen to your hair.

Black Hair grows!  You just gotta Love and treat it right... in Bob Marley's voice

Source: @keturahariel
What are your favourite hair products and what ingredients do you usually avoid? Let me know in the comments!

Love and Nappiness,



  1. In my experience with Locs so far, natural based shampoos tend not to cleanse them properly. I find myself increasely depending on products with SLS to remove excess oils and in some cases beeswax from Locs. I also agree that sulphates tend to dry out the hair so I always balance my washes with a sulphate free shampoo to help restore moisture.

    1. Wow. So far your method works well for you and has no negative effects, then you are good.

  2. Thanks for this. I've been dealing with lots of SSK's and I checked my products and found that most of them contain silicones.

  3. This is a great write up. Thanks ese!

  4. I always try to avoid sulphate. Now will look into the other four ingredients as well.


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