A look at the ingredients in your hair care products, and what they do.

Ingredients commonly found in hair care products

This is a dynamic list; we'll update and amend as necessary.

Anionic Surfactants

Detergency, foaming:

  • Alkylbenzene sulfonates
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate: can be drying to the hair
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate: can be very drying to the hair
  • Ammonium Xylenesulfonate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium cocoyl sarcosinate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate: can be drying to the hair
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: can be especially drying to the hair
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Sodium Xylenesulfonate
  • TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 cocamine sulfate
  • Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate

 

Amphoteric Surfactants

Used to provide mild cleansing, as well as some aid in foaming:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Coco betaine
  • Cocoamphoacetate
  • Cocoamphodipropionate
  • Disodium cocoamphodiacetate
  • Disodium cocoamphodipropionate
  • Lauroamphoacetate
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate

 

Cationic Surfactants

Quaternary Ammonium compounds:used to provide conditioning, some detergency, emulsion stabilization:

  • Behentrimonium chloride
  • Behentrimonium methosulfate (gentler)
  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Cetrimonium chloride
  • Cinnamidopropyltrimonium chloride
  • Cocotrimonium chloride
  • Dicetyldimonium chloride
  • Dicocodimonium chloride
  • Dihydrogenated tallow dimethylammonium chloride
  • Hydrogenated Palm Trimethylammonium chloride
  • Laurtrimonium chloride
  • Quaternium-15
  • Quaternium-18 Bentonite
  • Quaternium-18 Hectonite
  • Quaternium-22
  • Stearalkonium chloride
  • Tallowtrimonium chloride
  • Tricetyldimonium chloride

 

Nonionic Surfactants

Used for gentle cleansing and for emulsion stabilization:

  • Decyl glucoside
  • Laureth-10 (lauryl ether 10)
  • Laureth-23
  • Laureth-4
  • PEG-10 Sorbitan Laurate
  • Polysorbate- (20, 21, 40, 60, 61, 65, 80, 81)
  • PPG-1 Trideceth-6
  • Sorbitol
  • Steareth- (2, 10, 15, 20)
  • C11-21 Pareth- (number between 3 and 30, the higher the number, the more water soluble and higher the hydrophilic portion)
  • C12-20 Acid PEG-8 Ester

 

Emulsifiers

Larger surfactants used to stabilize emulsions (droplets of oils in water):

  • Caprylic/capric/diglyceryl succinate
  • C10-15 Pareth-(2,4,6,8) Phosphate
  • C14-16 Glycol Palmitate
  • C18-20 Glycol Isostearate
  • Ceteareth-(4-60)
  • Cocamidopropyl lauryl ether
  • Deceth-(3-10)
  • DIPA-hydrogenated cocoate
  • Dipentaerythrityl hydroxystearate
  • Dipentaerythrityl hydroxyisostearate
  • Dipentaerythrityl hexacaprate/caprylate
  • Dodoxynol-(5,6,7,9,12)
  • Nonoxynol-(1-35)
  • Octoxynol-(1-70)
  • Octyldodeceth-(2,5,16,20,25)
  • Palm kernel glycerides

 

Preservatives

  • Butyl paraben
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Ethyl paraben
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea
  • Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
  • Isobutyl paraben
  • Methyl paraben
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Propyl paraben
  • Sodium benzoate

 

Thickeners

  • Aluminum stearates/isostearates/myristates/laurates/palmitates -- any mixture thereof
  • Glycol distearate
  • Hydrogenated castor oil
  • Hydrogenated castor oil hydroxystearate
  • Hydrogenated castor oil isostearate
  • Hydrogenated castor oil stearate
  • Hydrogenated castor PEG-8 esters
  • PEG150 distearate

 

Naturally derived polymers

Used for thickening of the product:

  • Carboxymethyl hydroxyethyl cellulose
  • Carboxymethyl hydroxypropyl guar
  • Cellulose
  • Ethyl cellulose
  • Hydroxybutyl methylcellulose
  • Hydroxyethylcellulose
  • Hydroxymethylcellulose
  • Lauryl Polyglucose

 

Humectants

Attract water to the hair to keep the moisture content high:

  • 1,2,6 hexanetriol
  • Dipropylene glycol
  • Glycerin
  • Hexylene Glycol
  • Panthenol
  • Phytantriol -- enhances moisture-retention, increases absorption of vitamins, panthenol, and amino acids into hair shaft, imparts gloss
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Sorbitol
  • Triethylene glycol
  • Polyglyceryl sorbitol
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Polydextrose
  • Potassium PCA
  • Urea
  • Hydrogenated Honey
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Inositol
  • Hexanediol beeswax
  • Hexanetriol Beeswax
  • Hydrolyzed Elastin
  • Hydrolyzed Collagen
  • Hydrolyzed Silk
  • Hydrolyzed Keratin
  • Erythritol
  • Capryl glycol
  • Isoceteth-(3-10, 20, 30)
  • Isolaureth-(3-10, 20, 30)
  • Laneth-(5-50)
  • Laureth-(1-30)
  • Steareth-(4-20)
  • Trideceth-(5-50)

 

Cationic Polymers

Positively charged polymers that provide silkening and smoothing effects by adhering to the surface of the hair due to the hair's overall negative charge:

  • Polyquaternium-10
  • Polyquaternium-7
  • Polyquaternium-11
  • Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

 

Silicones

Used to add shine and gloss to hair, decrease combing friction and tangling, provide conditioning, and act as humectants:

  • Amodimethicone not soluble in water by itself
  • Amodimethicone (and) Trideceth-12 (and) Cetrimonium
  • Chloride mixture that is soluble in water in the bottle
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone Sparingly soluble in water
  • Cetearyl methicone not soluble in water
  • Cetyl Dimethicone not soluble in water
  • Cyclomethicone not soluble in water
  • Cyclopentasiloxane not soluble in water
  • Dimethicone not soluble in water
  • Dimethicone Copolyol water soluble
  • Dimethicone copolyol water soluble
  • Dimethiconol not soluble in water
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane - water soluble
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone Sparingly soluble in water
  • Stearyl Dimethicone not soluble in water
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone not soluble in water
  • Lauryl methicone copolyol water soluble

 

Organic oils

Emollient effects, conditioning:

  • Mineral oil
  • Paraffin
  • Petrolatum

 

Proteins

Humectants, conditioners:

  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed hair keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed silk
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Keratin
  • Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein

 

Vitamins

  • Retinol, Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A)
  • Tocopherol acetate (Vitamin E)

 

Emollient Esters

Provide conditioning to the hair and give a soft, smooth feel:

  • Butyl myristate
  • Butyl stearate
  • C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
  • Caprylic/capric triglyceride
  • Cetyl octanoate
  • Cetyl stearate
  • Cetearyl stearate
  • Decyl oleate
  • Dimethyl Lauramine Isostearate
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Glyceryl adipate
  • Glyceryl arachidate
  • Glyceryl arachidonate
  • Glyceryl behenate
  • Glyceryl caprate
  • Glyceryl caprylate
  • Glyceryl caprylate / caprate
  • Glyceryl citrate / lactate / linoleate / oleate
  • Glyceryl cocoate
  • Glyceryl Diarachidate
  • Glyceryl Dibehenate
  • Glyceryl Dierucate
  • Glyceryl Dihydroxystearate
  • Glyceryl Diisopalmitate
  • Glyceryl Diisostearate
  • Glyceryl Dilaurate
  • Glyceryl Dilinoleate
  • Glyceryl Dimyristate
  • Glyceryl Dioleate
  • Glyceryl Dipalmitate
  • Glyceryl Dipalmitoleate
  • Glyceryl Diricinoleate
  • Glyceryl Distearate
  • Glyceryl Erucate
  • Glycol stearate
  • Isocetyl stearate
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Isopropyl palmitate
  • Isopropyl stearate
  • Isostearyl stearate
  • Octyl palmitate
  • Octyl stearate
  • Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate
  • Sorbitan benzoate
  • Sorbitan caprylate
  • Sorbitan isostearate
  • Sorbitan laurate
  • Sorbitan Tristearate
  • Stearyl stearate
  • Tocopheryl linoleate

 

Alkanolamides

Emulsifying agents / emulsion stabilisers / surfactants / viscosity controlling agents:

  • Acetamide MEA
  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamide MEA
  • Lactamide MEA
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Lauramide DEA & Propylene Glycol
  • Lauramide MEA
  • Lecithinamide DEA
  • Linoleamide DEA
  • Linoleamide MEA
  • Linoleamide MIPA
  • Myristamide DEA
  • Myristamide MEA
  • Myristamide MIPA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Oleamide MEA
  • Oleamide MIPA
  • Soyamide DEA
  • Stearamide MEA

 

Amines

Emulsifiers and conditioning agents:

  • Behentamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Isostearamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Lauramidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Myristamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Oleamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Palmitamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine
  • Tallamidopropyl Dimethylamine

 

pH-adjusters

Used in very small amounts:

  • Ascorbic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Triethanolamine

 

Salts

Often used to enhance thickness (viscosity) of the product:

  • Calcium chloride
  • Magnesium chloride
  • Magnesium sulfate: has been found to add volume to hair, used to enhance curls
  • Potassium chloride
  • Potassium glycol sulfate
  • Sodium Chloride

 

Fatty Alcohols

Provide emollient effect, lubricity, emulsion stabilization:

  • Behenyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Isocetyl alcohol
  • Isostearyl alcohol
  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • C30-50 Alcohols
  • Lanolin alcohol

 

UV Filters/sunscreens

  • Benzophenone-2, ( or 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Benzophenone-4
  • Benzyl salicylate
  • Benzylidene camphor sulfonic acid
  • Bornelone
  • Ethyl cinnamate
  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
  • Octoxynol-40, -20
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate
  • Octyl Salicylate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Phenyl ketone
  • PEG-25 PABA
  • Polyacrylamidomethyl benzylidene camphor

 

Natural Oils

Provide emolliency, conditioning, add shine:

  • Coconut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Olive oil
  • Palm Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Shea butter
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Wheat germ oil

 

Amine Oxides

Used to help disperse dyes in product

  • Cocamine oxide
  • Lauramine oxide

 

Chelating agents

Used in small amounts to react with metal ions present in the product or in the water, in order to improve stability or performance of the product:

  • Diiospropyl oxalate
  • Disodium EDTA
  • Disodium EDTA-copper
  • EDTA
  • HEDTA
  • Oxalic acid 
  • Potassium or sodium citrate
  • Sodium oxalate
  • TEA-EDTA
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Trisodium EDTA
  • Trisodium HEDTA

 

Fatty Acids

Used as emulsifying agents, emulsion stabilizers:

  • Arichidonic acid
  • Capric Acid
  • Coconut Fatty Acid
  • Lauric acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Linolenic acid
  • Myristic Acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Caproic acid
  • Capryleth-(4,6,9) carboxylic acid
  • Isostearic acid

 

Anti-Microbials/ Antibacterial

  • Glyoxal
  • Triclosan

 

PEG-Modified materials

Used as emulsifiers, surfactants, humectants, and to make non-wter soluble molecules more water soluble (There are thousands of these approved for use):

  • PEG-150 Pentaerythirtyl Tetrastearate
  • PEG- 2, -3, -4, -6, -8, -12, -20, -32, -50, -150, -175 Distearate - also used to thicken the product
  • PEG-10 castor oil
  • PEG-10 cocamine
  • PEG-10 cocoate
  • PEG-10 coconut oil esters
  • PEG-10 glyceryl oleate
  • PEG-10 glyceryl pibsa tallate
  • PEG-10 glyceryl stearate
  • PEG-10 hydrogenated lanolin
  • PEG-10 hydrogenated tallow amine
  • PEG-10 isolauryl thioether
  • PEG-10 isostearate
  • PEG-10 lanolate
  • PEG-10 lanolin
  • PEG-10 laurate
  • PEG-10 oleate
  • PEG-10 olive glycerides
  • PEG-10 polyglyceryl-2 laurate
  • PEG-10 propylene glycol
  • PEG-10 sorbitan laurate
  • PEG-10 soya sterol 
  • PEG-10 soyamine
  • PEG-10 stearamine
  • PEG-10 stearate
  • PEG-10 stearyl benzonium chloride
  • PEG-10 tallate
  • PEG-10 tallow aminopropylamine
  • PEG-100
  • PEG-100 castor oil
  • PEG-100 hydrogenated castor oil
  • PEG-100 lanolin
  • PEG-100 stearate
  • PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG-60..etc.
  • PEG-55 Propylene glycol Distearate

 

Miscellaneous Polymers

There are many, and they are used for a variety of purposes:

  • Carbomer: Polymer used to provide thickening 
  • Dodecanedioic acid/cetearyl alcohol/glycol copolymer: Polymer used to provide thickening
  • Hydrogenated C6-14 olefin polymers: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products
  • Hydrogenated ethylene/propylene/styrene copolymer: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products
  • Polyacrylic acid: Polymer used to provide thickening, emulsification, binding, and film forming on hair
  • Polymethyl methacrylate: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products
  • Polyvinyl acetate: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products
  • Polyvinyl alcohol: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products 
  • PPG: Polymer used to provide thickening and to stabilize emulsions
  • PPG-25-Laureth-25: Polymer used to provide thickening and to stabilize emulsions
  • PPG-5 Pentaerithrityl ether: Polymer used to provide thickening and to stabilize emulsions
  • PPG-75-PEG-300-hexylene glycol: Polymer used to provide thickening
  • PVP (Polyvinylpyrrolidone): Polymer used to provide thickening
  • PVP/VA (polyvinylpyrrolidone/vinyl acetate copolymer): Polymer used to provide thickening
  • Sodium carbomer: Polymer used to provide thickening
  • TEA-carbomer: Polymer used to provide thickening
  • Poloxamer (100-407): Polymers used as emulsifiers (emulsion stabilizers) and surfactants (detergents)
  • Poloxamine (followed by a number): Polymers used as emulsifiers (emulsion stabilizers) and surfactants (detergents)
  • Polyacrylamidomethylpropane sulfonic acid: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products
  • Polyethylene terephthalate: Polymer used to form films on hair surface in hair styling products

 

Anti-static agents

Reduce static charge build-up and fly-away hair:

  • Apricotamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Apricotamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Cocamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Cocamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Lauramidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Lauramidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Linoleamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Linoleamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Myristamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Myristamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Oleamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Oleamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate
  • Stearamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate
  • Stearamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Lactate

 

Alcohols

Used a solvent, can be drying to the hair:

  • SD alcohol 40
  • Witch hazel
  • Isopropanol