These are the most unforgiving attributes of any curly hair product.

I have a head full of thick and fine, highly porous, highly dense, 3c curly natural hair. And I like it. Although I would like to think of myself as a sort of lazy natural, I have come to find out which types of products work for me, and which ones simply do not. It is usually easy to spot a failure a mile--or a few miles--away. Therefore I tend to avoid these characteristics altogether, especially after a fellow curly friend has used one of these words to describe a new product.

It smells bad

The fastest way to get me to put a product back on the shelf before it ever gets a chance to sit on my counter at home is its scent. I am not the biggest fan of strong synthetic fragrances that offend my sensitive nose. Personally I prefer earthy, natural scents--nothing over the top. More often than not a product's unpleasant fake fragrance is a dead giveaway of its potentially chemical-laden ingredient list.

According to Dr. Timothy Nicholson of the University of Queensland, "Most plastics aren't fit for consumers in their unfinished state, so manufacturers add other chemicals to improve the stability of the material. This includes things like antioxidants, plasticisers to make things softer, processing aids that help in the manufacturing process and plastic sunblock to improve durability. Often these smaller molecules will seep out of the plastic, which causes the distinctive rubbery smell. When products have been left in airtight packaging for a long time, the volatile molecules start to build up. When you open the packaging, they all get released at once, which means you get a much stronger waft than usual. This is one possible reason why the smell would be more noticeable in Chinese products, which have to travel a long way to get here."

It feels like glue

Another easy first impression deal-breaker, opening the cap and pouring a small dollop onto my fingertip only to be greeted by a tacky formula will give me no choice but to remove it from my wishlist. In my early transitioning days, when sleek baby hairs meant something to me, I used a pomade that came in a tin can--haven't we all at some point? However, these days I prefer Texas humidity to give me a lift while I do my best to stay away from applying Elmer's glue to my edges.  Does a brand refer to their styler as a paste or a glue? You can bet I am leaving it right where I found it.  Common ingredients that tend to make curly hair stylers feel tacky and sticky include glycerin, castor oil, sea salt, and candelilla wax.  

It leaves a filmy residue

Unfortunately this trait cannot be determined until it's too late and the brand has already claimed my $10--but how much do you want to bet that I'm not using it ever again? Depending on the look I'm going for, I may apply a gel to my hair, but it must be color-safe and alcohol-free. Natural curl definition with the help of a good daily conditioner, leave-in conditioner or refresher/moisturizer is all I need, as I prefer my curls to be soft to the touch and not dry, hard, or with a white film.

According to Curl Chemist Tonya McKay, not all film-producing products are bad, though. One that is intended to moisturize the hair or skin will contain emollient esters which "are usually hydrophobic oils that form films on the surface of the hair, where they often act as anti-humectants or sealers. They are lubricants and provide increased slip between adjacent hair strands, which makes detangling much easier." McKay says that "the best ones impart a soft, silky feel to tresses, while lesser ones may weigh it down or make it feel greasy.  Some can penetrate the interior structures of the hair and act as plasticizers, improving elasticity, toughness, and suppleness." If your product contains dimethicone, fatty alcohols, vegetable-derived oils and butters or hydrolyzed proteins, depending on how you use the product in your regimen, this trait isn't always something to cause worry.

It makes my hair squeak

Shampoo is a touchy subject when it comes to the regimen of us curly girls due to the potentially harmful ingredients they used to contain. To finally give in and consider adding a new one to the wash day routine and find it a miserable failure is beyond devastating. The squeaky clean noise is a particular buzzkill for me because it often signifies something far more damaging than beneficial.

According to North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS), "Hair that squeaks signifies bad clean; it can mean it has been over-cleaned, stripped of natural oils and just plain damaged." Thankfully there are plenty of clarifying shampoo and cleanser options that work with the naturally dry textures of wavy to coily hair, so I haven't had to run into the issue of that squeaky clean sound in a while.

It has ugly packaging

Yeah, I said it. Of course "ugly" is all a matter of personal opinion--but if I can visibly see that your advertising and branding strategies weren't on point, then chances are I will have a difficult time trusting the actual content of the package. And note to brands: saying "for all hair types" will not make me want to try the product any more or less. Be specific, and be honest--from the label to the ingredient list to the directions and the expected outcome for said hair type and demographic.

Which characteristic will make you put a product back on the shelf?

I want to know. Tell us on the NC Facebook page and in the comment section below!

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Read the reason why I recently dyed my hair