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Curly Nikki

Skills Notes: Product Ingredients

By January 27th, 2021No Comments
Skills Notes: Product Ingredients
by Shelli of Hairscapades 
So, I was thinking about how overwhelming it
can be when you first discover the online natural hair web-iverse.
There is sooooo much information out there and some of it is very
technical, while other is anecdotal. And, while the education can be
enlightening, it can also cause more issues than remaining ignorant!! Been there …  done that.
LOL!! However, I do believe there is a “sweet spot.” You know … that
point where you’ve read enough, watched enough and tried enough to make
informed decisions about what products, techniques and regimens will
work for you and also know enough to figure out on which ones you should
take a pass? *Singing* “Walk on byyyyyyyy.”
Well, all that being said, it may take some
time to reach your very own personal “sweet spot.” Shoot, it took me a
year plus! LOL! But, I thought that I might be able to help some reach
their spot more quickly and navigate some of the ins and outs of natural
hair by providing some fundamentals in a simple format, as well as
links to additional information for those desiring more details. And
thus, the idea for Skills Notes was born. (Yup, Skills Notes. Hairscapades was too long and Skills has been my nickname since college.)
So, with that, welcome to the first installment of SKILLS NOTES!

SULFATES: Cleansing agents
found in many shampoos. Traditional sulfates can be harsh and strip hair
of necessary moisture and oils. However, there are now many cleansers
on the market that are sulfate-free and/or formulated with mild
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are following the
Curly Girl (CG) method, the Tightly Curly Method (TCM) and/or those with
dryness issues. 
WHY: These individuals should avoid harsh sulfates and
seek sulfate-free or mild sulfate alternatives.
For more information on sulfates and the alternatives, check out these articles: Which Sulfates Are Safer Than the Others? What’s in Your Shampoo
SILICONES: Conditioning
agents used in shampoos, conditioners, stylers, serums and glosssers
that provide slip and shine. Most ingredients ending in “cone,” “col,”
“conol” or “zane” are silicones. There are four basic categories of
silicones: water-soluble, slightly water-soluble, non water-soluble but
repels build-up, non water-soluble and build-up prone. Non water-soluble
silicones can eventually prevent the hair from absorbing sufficient
water/moisture to remain hydrated, which can cause dry hair.
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are
following the CG Method or the TCM and/or conditioner only regimens. 
WHY: These individuals should either avoid non-water soluble silicones,
use mild sulfate or sulfate-free shampoos that remove silicones or
incorporate a “clarifying” sulfate shampoo into their regimen as
Want to learn more? Check out these articles: The Real Scoop on Silicones (silicones explained) What’s the Scoop on Silicones (chart with recommended cleansing agents by cone)
PROTEINS: Protein is used
in many conditioners to reinforce and strengthen the hair structure,
especially when hair is damaged or weakened by chemicals (i.e. permanent
colors and/or chemical relaxers and perms). Protein treatments should
be followed by moisturizing conditioners to restore elasticity or the
hair may become brittle and feel dry. “Protein sensitivity” is a term
used for hair that responds negatively to protein, either because the
hair has sufficient protein or becomes brittle despite post-treatment
moisturizing conditioners.
WHY: Ensuring that hair is strong and moisturized aids in appearance
and reduces breakage that can impede length retention goals.
For a listing of proteins as well as tons of other useful information, check out this link: Curls 101 FAQs
GLYCERIN: Humectant found in many products that is used to attract water into the hair shaft.
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those with porous and
frizz-prone hair, those with low porosity hair and those with dry hair. 
WHY: In humid climates (i.e. high dew points), glycerin can cause high
porosity hair to frizz and tangle. For those with dry or low porosity
hair that is hard to moisturize, glycerin can help draw water from the
environment into the hair and help reduce/eliminate dryness. Many curl
activators contain glycerin in order to aid hair in moisture retention
and some naturals/curlies have found success with these type of
For a list of common humectants, see the Curls 101 FAQs link above.
ALCOHOLS: There are two
basic categories of alcohols used in hair products: short chain drying
alcohols (bad) and long chain “fatty” alcohols (good). Short chain
drying alcohols evaporate quickly, so they are used in products to
decrease the time it takes hair to dry. In contrast, long chain “fatty”
alcohols are lubricating, moisturizing and “film-forming” in order to
lock in moisture.
Short-chain drying alcohols should be avoided whereas long-chain fatty
alcohols are fine and can be sought out for their moisturizing

Drying alcohols: SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denatured, Propanol, Propyl alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol

Fatty alcohols: Behenyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol,
Cetyl alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol,
Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, C30-50 Alcohols, Lanolin alcohol

MINERAL OIL: Mineral oil is
used in products as an emollient, to seal in moisture, block humidity
and enhance clumping/curl formation. It is non-water soluble. Mineral
oil does not penetrate into the hair shaft to moisturize on its own. It
simply aids in sealing in water/moisture. Mineral oil has gotten a bad
rap, because it is often used in products with other ingredients (like
petrolatum and lanolin), which are sticky and/or greasy. These
combination of ingredients can cause build-up on the hair and scalp, as
well as attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. Some naturals
avoid mineral oil at all costs, but it does have benefits. Cosmetic
grade mineral oil can be light and non-sticky.
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow
co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues. 
Products with mineral oil combined with petrolatum, lanolin and some
vegetable oils can be sticky, greasy and build-up on the hair and clog
the pores of the scalp. Therefore, they require a cleansing agents to
Want to learn more about mineral oil and how it stacks up against coconut oil? Find more information here: Using Mineral Oil for Hair Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil – Which is Better?
PETROLATUM: Petrolatum is
used in products to seal in water, provide a barrier against heat and
chemicals and add sheen to the hair. It is non-water soluble. Petrolatum
is sticky, which can attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment.
It can cause build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the
scalp. Petrolatum is found in many traditional hair “greases.”
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow
co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues.
Products with petrolatum, lanolin and some vegetable oils can be sticky,
greasy and build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp.
Therefore, it requires a cleansing agent to remove.
PARABENS: Preservatives
used to extend the shelf life of products by protecting against a wide
range of microorganisms. The most common parabens found in cosmetic
products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.  
NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who want to use all-natural and/or organic products
exclusively. Those who want to avoid this preservative due to concerns
about toxicity and studies that indicated that parabens disrupts
hormones and were detected in breast tumors. 
WHY: Self-explanatory.
For more information about the FDA’s
position on parabens and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)
assessment and recommendations, check out these articles:
And that’s it for the first edition of SKILLS NOTES, Product Ingredients!
So, how’d I do?? What ingredients would you add to the list of basics?

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