So what is in our hair care products?

26 Jan

Do you know what is in the products that you use on your hair?  I am now at a point where I will read the ingredients on the back of the packaging before I buy a new hair care product.  In this post I want to just highlight some ingredients that you should look out for and if possible avoid.


Sulphates are found in shampoos.  Sulphates are what causes shampoos to lather.  Sulphates tend to strip out natural oils from the hair and some women try and avoid them.  Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is found in about 95% of commercial shampoos.  There are many sulphates that are used in shampoos including ammonium lauryl sulphate, ammonium laureth sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate.  The shampoos I use both have sulphates.  The Tresemme Naturals shampoo I use says “lower sulphates” on the bottle which is what led me to buy it.  It contains Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate and Ammonium Laureth Sulphate.  The “lower sulphate” claim on the bottle is rather ambiguous though.  It just leaves me wondering – lower sulphates compared to what?  I do like how my hair feels after using this shampoo though which is why I use it.

I discovered that The Body Shop sells some shampoos without sulphates.  Read the label though because some of their shampoos do contain them.  I bought a small bottle (60ml for R30 ) of a shampoo called Rainforest Moisture.  The bottle says no silicones, no sulphates, no colourants, no parabens!  I will do a review of the shampoo in a different post.  If shampoos that contain sulphates are drying to your hair then the ‘no sulphate’ route may be the way to go.  It will cost you more but it may well be worth it!

Some women do not use shampoo at all and do conditioner washes where they wash their hair with conditioner.  I will write a dedicated post on this later.

Petroleum / Petrolatum and Mineral oil / Liquid Paraffin

These ingredients are found in many hair care products for African hair.  They tend to coat the hair and block out moisture.  Many women can use products with these ingredients with no problem, but others tend to experience limp, greasy, dry hair that lack in moisture.  Petroleum is usually found in “hair food” and “pomades”.  Those “vaseline textured” hair products we used to use back in the day.  I would often go to the salon for a “set” and once the rollers were taken off they would plaster the hair food on my scalp and then apply some more to the hair.  I would leave the salon with very shiny, greasy hair!  Those products did nothing for my hair except keep essential moisture out!  Many manufacturers use petroleum for its consistency and because it is very cheap.  I tend to avoid products where petroleum / mineral oil is among the first 3 or 4 ingredients (ingredients are written on labels in order of volume).  Before you buy a moisturiser, just check the label and see whether it had petrolatum or mineral oil and whether it is among the first few ingredients or not.  There are many products to choose from that either do not contain these ingredients or where they are very low on the list.  My favourite moisturiser, Organic Root Stimulator Incredibly Rich Oil Moisturising Hair Lotion had petrolatum as the 4th ingredient.  I also like Organic Root Stimulator carrot Oil.  The packaging actually states – no petroleum, no mineral oil!  I’ve also come across African Pride Maximum Strengthening Moisturizer Lotion.  It does not contain any of these ingredients.  I have just bought it and am yet to try it.  Will let you know what I think when I try it out.


Silicones are used in hair products to add shine to the hair.  Silicones are hair ingredients that end with “cone”.  Some examples are dimethicone simethicone and cylomethicone.  They can cause buildup to the hair though this build up can easily be removed with shampoo.  In my opinion they only cause problems in women that do not use shampoo at all or those that use sulphate free shampoos that may not be able to remove build up on the hair.  Where hair has excessive build up this may prevent moisture from getting to the hair.  I personally do not have a problem with silicone in my hair products.  This may be because I use shampoo twice a week.


Preservatives used to inhibit microbial growth in hair care products.  In other wods they are used to prolong the shelf life of products.  Four main parabens are in use: methyl, ethyl, propyl and butylparabens.  Many products will have 2 or more of these chemicals as part of a preservative system.  Some studies have said that parabens are carcinogenic.  I have been going through the products that I have and I’ve realized that many of them have parabens among the last few ingredients on the list.

As I’ve said before, all hair is different.  Keep track of what is in your hair products and how your hair reacts to products with certain ingredients.  Take note especially of the first 3 or 4 ingredients which form the primary ingredients of a product.  Simply because something claims to be all natural doesn’t mean that it is all natural. Further, just because something is all natural, doesn’t mean that it contains the best ingredients.

So much for the ingredients to avoid – what products should you look out for that are good for the hair.  In deep conditioners look for natural oils (coconut, safflower seed, olive, soybean, jojoba etc), water, protein (when you need it).  In moisturisers look for natural oils, water, and pathenol.  Also look for humectants (ingredients that draw moisture to the hair) like honey, glycerin, aloe, etc and fatty alcohols (lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol, which act as emollients that soften and smooth the surface of the hair.



3 Responses to “So what is in our hair care products?”

  1. Globelle 06 December, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    how do I get d product and price list

    • Tendayi 10 December, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      Which product Globelle?


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