5 Common Hair Product Ingredients to Avoid

Rachel Krause
Bottles of cosmetics

Letizia Le Fur/ONOKY/Getty Images

With so many beauty products available on the market, and so many beauty products that we use every day, it can’t hurt to be a little more aware of the ingredients that we’re putting on our bodies. With that said, this is relatively new thinking, as more and more research is done into just how certain components can negatively affect not just our hair or skin, but our internal health, too. Whether they’re causing breakage or threatening to compromise your health, these five ingredients are a good place to kick off your “all-too-common hair care product ingredients to avoid” list.

Silicone, which you’ll also see listed as dimethicone and cyclomethicone (basically, any ingredient ending in -cone), isn’t quite the enemy of healthy hair, but the problem lies in the fact that silicone offers absolutely zero long-term benefits. It coats the hair strands to make them appear smoother and shinier, but over time they build up on the hair’s shaft, which results in greasy, weighed-down roots, especially on fine hair. This is doubly true if you use sulfate-free shampoos (as you should!): sulfates in conditioners and styling products are necessary for the removal of non-water soluble silicones, so unless you want to subject your hair to sulfates (we’ll get to that later), it’s best to avoid silicones altogether.

Unlike some of the others on this list, protein in and of itself is not bad for your hair, but you can have too much of a good thing—like, way too much. Protein strengthens the cuticle of the hair, but ODing on it can throw off the hair’s natural moisture balance, resulting in damage and breakage. Alternating between moisturizing products and protein-rich strengthening products is key for maintaining the balance in your hair (you can over-moisturize, too!).

Synthetic Fragrance
Relax: avoiding synthetic fragrance doesn’t mean being restricted to fragrance-free hair products. It does, however, mean that you should look for products that are scented naturally, with essential oils and extracts, rather than the dubious “fragrance” alone. These chemical compounds can be wildly irritating to skin, especially if you’re sensitive, and an itchy scalp has appealed to nobody ever.

Isopropyl Alcohol
We’re never surprised to see some form of an alcohol ingredient in a beauty product, but isopropyl alcohol is one that you should make a conscious effort to avoid. First things first: it’s used in antifreeze, which should be your first red flag. You may also recognize it by the name of “rubbing alcohol,” which you already well know is something you definitely don’t want to put on your hair. Not only is isopropyl alcohol highly flammable and toxic when inhaled, but it has a major drying effect on the hair that essentially sucks the moisture out of your strands.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Perhaps one of the nasty ingredients you’ll see most frequently on shampoo bottles, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates are some of the most irritating compounds you can apply to your skin. They’re commonly used as a foaming agent to create lather in cosmetics, and not only are they terrible and seriously overdrying for your skin and scalp, they’re also proven carcinogens that penetrate skin and get absorbed into your bloodstream. We’ll take a hard pass on that one.

Read more from Daily Makeover: 10 Common Things You Should Never (Ever!) Put on Your Face