Google Header -->
Skip to main content
Curly Nikki

Resident Curly Chemist on Hugo Naturals

By January 27th, 20217 Comments

Resident Curly Chemist on Hugo Naturals
Today I am analyzing Hugo Naturals Red Tea and Ylang-Ylang Conditioner. I have been eyeing Hugo Naturals for months, but finally decided to try the aforementioned conditioner because my hair was telling me that it could use a slight dose of protein. I was also curious about the conditioning attributes, since the product is marketed as a “lightweight conditioner…for dry or over-processed hair to restore moisture and sheen.” I was very curious to see how a lightweight natural moisturizing conditioner can successfully condition naturally coily, kinky, coarse hair. This conditioner was on sale at Whole Foods for $10.64 (regularly $12+). This conditioner is also available at and

The conditioner contains decyl glucoside, which is a derivative of glucose (a simple sugar) and fatty alcohol (from coconut) is used as a very gentle cleanser in products for sensitive skin, fabric softeners, detergents for washing clothes and ‘2 n 1 Shampoo/Conditioners’. These applications are due to decyl glucoside being a non-ionic surfactant; both the glucose and long hydrocarbon chain from the fatty alcohol have no charge. A non-ionic surfactant (no net charge), as opposed to anionic (net negative charge) and cationic (net positive charge) surfactants, is a detergent that does not separate in solution. Thus, a non-ionic surfactant is considered to be a weak cleanser that also avoids hard water deactivation. These characteristics combined with the placement of decyl glucoside will not make this a product suitable for co-washing. Instead, experimentation as a conditioner and/or a leave-in would be more suitable. I quickly eliminated analysis of the product as a leave-in because of the horrid smell!!! The smell is not sexy (as opposed to the other products made by the company), and I believe would deter potential mates, current significant others and/or the general public. The smell alone makes me believe that its punishment for those with dry or over-processed hair. Thus, I will focus analysis of this product as a moisturizing conditioner.

I tested the product in two trials:

  • First trial: co-washed with AOHSR with warm water, dc with Hugo Naturals Red Tea and Ylang-Ylang Conditioner for an hour, cold water rinsed and diluted my trusty Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating/Calming Conditioner with water and used as a leave-in. I then two-strand twisted with my shea/aloe/evco/castor oil mix. Result: My hair was quite indifferent to the dc, nothing better and nothing worse. I am attributing this result to the possibility that it was time to shampoo my hair (the last time I shampoo-ed was November 17th-ish). My hair did not seem it needed to be shampoo-ed before this treatment. The first trial is a good example of what happens when you plan an experiment, and for whatever the reason the experiment does not go as planned.
  • Second trial: shampooed with diluted Carol’s Daughter Tui Shampoo (I have been using this shampoo for about a year), dc with Hugo Naturals Red Tea and Ylang-Ylang Conditioner for an hour, cold water rinsed and diluted my trusty Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating/Calming Conditioner with water and used as a leave-in. I then two-strand twisted with my shea/aloe/evco/castor oil mix. Result: My hair was not moisturized much, BUT it seemed that that the conditioning noticeably fortified my hair. My hair had a lot more shine than usual. My scalp, however, felt dry and was prone to itching. I will be basing my conclusion on the second trial.


  • Indeed, my hair felt fortified, and was more than likely due to the wheat protein and vitamins. Since hair is made of protein, and protein is responsible for hair structure, products with protein help to fortify the overall integrity of hair. No protein is considered to be stronger or weaker than one another. Instead, all protein not only strengthens hair, but may have other added benefits. As such, wheat protein effectively penetrates and strengthens (Int J Cosmet Sci. 1997 Oct;19(5):215-26) while enhancing moisture, luster, shine and smoothness. The vitamins in the conditioner are also beneficial because hair is also made of vitamins.
  • The shine was due to the jojoba oil, wheat protein’s intrinsic moisture mechanism and possibly the babassu seed oil.
  • If this conditioner is not the best moisturizing deep conditioner when left on the hair for at least an hour, then there is no way that the recommended use would suffice even as a daily moisturizing conditioner. One of three things needs to change if they want to continue to market this product as a conditioner: market as a product that is a strengthening conditioner primarily due to the wheat protein, botanical extracts and the vitamins; do not market product as a moisturizing conditioner for dry or over-processed hair; or reformulate to better address the moisture concerns facing naturally coily, kinky, coarse hair. The product would add more moisture if at least one of the more thicker moisturizing agents (jojoba oil, palm oil, shea butter, cetyl babassuate, rice bran, babassu seed oil, etc) would move further to the top of the ingredient list. FYI: Cetyl Babassuate is a babassuate oil-derived conditioning agent, hair softner, stabilizer
  • This product has plenty sources of antioxidants: red tea, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl palmitate, acai berry and rosemary. Antioxidants can slow the oxidative effects of external factors, such as air pollution and ultraviolet radiation. Also, there is research that suggests that oxidative stress plays a role in hair aging (Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(2):121-9.), and that antioxidants may combat this. Antioxidants are are also used in cosmetics as a type of preservative. Regardless, I do not believe it is necessary to have THIS many sources of antioxidants in the product.
  • The product label can be misleading. The label touts the product as a “Red Tea and Ylang-Ylang” Conditioner, and you would think both ingredients would be in the top five-ish in the ingredients list. Red tea is third in abundance while ylang-ylang is very last. Ylang-ylang essential oil (eo) regulates sebum secretion, is a fragrance and an antiseptic. Some scientific literature suggest that the ylang-ylang eo may or may not be a skin irritant. Perhaps Hugo Naturals is being cautious by adding a little of the eo. Nonetheless, the label is misleading. I understand that product movement in the marketplace is due to buzz words, and perhaps Hugo Naturals should promote acai berry or passion fruit, along with the red tea, instead.
  • I do not believe my dry and itchy scalp was due to the ylang-ylang eo because I have used the oil in the past with no adverse reaction. Per the study documented in Allergy.1998 Nov;53(11):1078-82, wheat protein in hair conditioners can cause a rash. This is interesting because many people have an inflammatory reaction when ingesting wheat; I do not have this condition. I have not come across literature that discusses if both reactions are or are not independent of one another.

Conclusion: So, um, yeah, it is a HUGE no-no for HUGO NATURALS RED TEA AND YLANG-YLANG Conditioner.

Resident Curly Chemist on Hugo Naturals
DaJewel contributes to bi-weekly, picking apart the ingredients in popular as well as lesser known products. She will be making recommendations based on her findings… enabling PJs worldwide!

You can also find Dajewel on the forums!


  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the post. I am staying away from home in a hotel and had to buy new shampoo/conditioner so I purchased Hugo Naturals Tea Tree & Lavender. I have a red rash on my kneck and ears after two weeks and I was hoping it wasn't the hotel. I feel better. However, I will miss the beautiful lavander smell.

  • Anonymous says:

    Informative review!! I am recovering from a rash on my neck and shoulders from using Hugo Naturals volumizing conditioner (vanilla and sweet orange). The conditioner itself was amazing – I'm sad I cant use it – and now I have a clue why (wheat protein? Even though I can eat wheat just fine…)

  • dajewel1982 says:

    thanks, guys!!!

  • Kea::curls says:

    interesting about the antioxidants! keep 'em coming 🙂

  • ChrLvsBks says:

    As always, I learned a lot reading this. Thank you for taking the time and breaking down the science behind the product.

  • KeetaRay says:

    That was a GREAT review! Very informative, thanks for the info!!

  • Unknown says:

    Great review! I have a conditioner that claims it's moisturizing as well as fortifying. I now find myself having to follow it up with a real moisturizing DC. I can't wait till the bottle is empty.

Leave a Reply