They say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and a similar thing applies to hair products. Don’t judge a shampoo (or conditioner or gel, etc.) by its bottle. Fancy labels and high price tags don’t necessarily translate to good products. What DOES matter is what’s in those products, so the most important part of the label? It’s not the brand or the sparkly letters or the miracle promises. What matters is the stuff in tiny type — the list of ingredients.
And that’s why professional salon products especially formulated for curly hair are often the best, since they have the ingredients you need and avoid the ones you don’t. But the stuff you find at the local drugstores? They can be great, too, if you know what you’re looking for.
The rule of thumb for bouncy curls: No sulfates, which is a type of surfactant, aka detergent.
A surfactant—sometimes referred to as a detergent—is a substance that, when dissolved in water, gives a product the ability to remove dirt from surfaces such as the human skin, textiles, and other solids. There are several types of surfactants, from harsh to mild, and sulfates are in the most harsh class.
Common sulfates as found on hair product ingredient bottles include:
Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate
Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
Sodium Laureth, Myreth or Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
Milder surfactants—less drying and recommended in lieu of sulfates — include:
Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate or Cocoamphodipropionate
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
Now, makes sense that we wouldn’t want harsh detergents messing with our curls, right? Learn more in the Live Curly Live Free e-book, Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curly Hair.
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Jenell Stewart, formally known as BlakIzBeautyful is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kinky Curly Coily Me. Jenell has a MS in special education and dedicates her time to educating and uplifting women with kinky, curly, coily hair. She big chopped on March 26, 2010 and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.View all Jenell posts.