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Curly Nikki

Why Is Sodium Hydroxide In My Conditioner?

By January 27th, 202122 Comments

Why Is Sodium Hydroxide In My Conditioner?via The Beauty Brains

Fitz is furious…Why is sodium hydroxide in my Herbal Essences conditioner? Will it take my hair out? YIKES!!!

The Right Brain responds:

You can rest easy, Fitz. Herbal Essences won’t cause you to lose any hair (unless you’re pulling your hair out after trying to figure out all their overly cutesy names.)

Sodium hydroxide is safe

After looking at a few Herbal Essences conditioners we noticed that only some of them, such as Hello Hydration, contain NaOH (that’s chemist talk for sodium hydroxide.) Here are the ingredients:

Water, Stearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Bis Aminopropyl Dimethicone, Orchis Mascula Flower Extract, Zea Mays (Corn) Silk Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Fragrance, Benzyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1

We’re not sure why some versions use it while others don’t, but in any case it’s there for one reason: to adjust pH. While NaOH is damaging to hair when used at high concentrations and at high pH, when used at low levels at neutral pH, it doesn’t cause any problem at all. That’s because sodium hydroxide is basic (hi pH) and it will react with other ingredients that are acidic (low pH.) This reaction neutralizes the hydroxide so it’s not harmful to hair.

CN Says:

The above is just a reminder… I’m sure many of you were already in the know! #curlychemists


  • hunnybun says:

    I continue to use the conditioner and lets be real if there was enough NaOH to relax your hair there would be a warning to avoid countless lawsuits.

  • hunnybun says:

    amen and amen whats a gorgeous made up face, long hair and nice clothes if the insides are all messed up and the body is out of shape. I'm patiently waiting for the health and fitness revolution in the black community

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous 1:08 – The fact is that unless one knows the exact percentage of the ingredient and the concentration of such, one cannot say with certainty the extent to which it may or may not be harmful. Attempting to make people feel foolish for being ingredient-concerned is not helpful to anyone's journey. Also, please stop with the spelling lessons in criticism of others' posts, also meant to make others feel foolish…it's just a blog, for heaven's sake. Can't we just appreciate and grow from the learning process, together?

  • Anonymous says:

    It's also in Organics carrot oil moisturizer

  • DecemberPumpkin says:

    i use Herbal Essences Hello Hydration conditioner and have no problems with this stuff

  • Anonymous says:

    Funny this should be posted here today… I just looked this up last week. I was reading the ingredients of one of my favorite products; saw sodium hydroxide and nearly died lol.

  • Anonymous says:

    Please – be nice

  • Anonymous says:

    Why do you assume we're not??

  • Anonymous says:

    I can't wait for the day we pay as much attn to what we put in our bodies as we do what we put in our hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ladies please, if you all have been using this stuff with no problems in the past, then stop stressing over someone else's concerns–geez! One moment the bandwagon likes it, the next, the bandwagon hates it. You're confusing the newly naturals.

  • Anonymous says:

    I still won't use it because whether used in low concentrations or high its not a good thing to use. Period.

  • Curlyique says:

    I am grateful for this post because I bought some Aloe Vera gel (Lily of the desert) for my TWA and I've been scared to use it for a month because of the sodium hydroxide.

  • Anonymous says: mentioned this on the site saying there was concern b/c sodium hydroxide is in the Herbal Essence conditioner. Teri actually took it off of her recommended conditioner list b/c of this. I have not used it since. Not that it damaged my hair or anything but I would not risk 21 inches of hair growth being damaged. So now I just use Aussie Moist as a leave-in.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous 257. It looks like this is possibly the ingredient. On this ingredient is used for a process called silkening. It states that Silkening is a mild lye-based chemical (sodium hydroxide) or perm that is put on hair for 5-9 minutes to loosen the curl.
    I do not pretend to be a chemist because I am not well versed on this subject. Some say it is not enough in conditioners to be harmful. Others say not true. One thing that I have learned through this natural process is that everyone's hair is different and I know this ingredient was not working for my hair. I have very fine hair and my hair cannot take much. Once I threw the conditioner out my hair shedding or falling out dramatically decreased.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous 257, I will try to go back and redo the research that indicated what the ingredient was.

  • Anonymous says:

    @anonymous 238, which ingredient is that? I use Herbal Essence everyday and that is very concerning.

  • Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately for me it made my hair come out tremendously. It was not the ingredient mentioned here but it was another ingredient that I found was similar to a relaxer that is in this conditioner that was causing my hair to come out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent article Nikki! Thank you!

  • Anonymous says:

    Pay attention during chemistry class and this stuff won't scare you…goodness.

    Coarse hair..not course hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this. I was also concerned. Unfortunately, I no longer use the Herbal Essences line because I was a little concerned that the silk (protein) would dry out my already moisture seeking course hair.

    Any thoughts on this? I'd love to be able to use the product again.

  • Sammysam says:

    I just looked that up! My new fav leave-in has it in the list, but it's supposed to be natural. I got a little frantic lol

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks fore explaining. I was concerned too. I came to the conclusion that it must be for frizz reduction/smoothing the cuticle.

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