Before dropping a product into your basket at Target, Ulta, or in your cart on CurlMart, how much time do you spend reading the ingredients? At this point in the game, probably more than you have in your entire life.
Whether you're an ingredient snob and only purchase products made with the best of the best, a clean living curly who believes in eating and using only whole and natural products, or a natural newbie just taking it all in, there's one thing we can all agree on--ingredients can sound confusing, scary, and like you need an advanced degree in material science to understand how to pronounce them.
Luckily, not everything that looks and sounds terrible is. Relax, naturally curly world-- take in these 8 ingredients that sound all sorts of naughty, but are really pretty nice!
Because of how harsh traditional shampoo and cleansers can be, many of us turn away from anything that has the word "sulfate" in it. But the truth is, behentrimonium methosulfate is a far cry from the sodium lauryl sulfate that dries out and damages our kinks, coils, and curls. In truth, behentrimonium methosulfate is neither drying nor a sulfate. It is actually a super gentle surfactant made from non-GMO (imagine that!) rapeseed (canola oil), and is one of the mildest detangling ingredients out there. It doesn't cause buildup, or irritation to the scalp. You can find this gem in products like Kinky Curly Knot Today, Camille Rose Naturals Fresh Curl, and Lawrence Ray Concepts Shake & Go.
Nerd moment: I really, really, like, REALLY love cetrimonium chloride. I'm almost obsessed with it. I make it a point to ensure that practically ALL of my deep conditioners have this ingredient. Why? It rocks. Cetrimonium chloride is a quaternary ammonium salt with penetrating, conditioning, anti-static, and emulsifying properties. It also helps to gently cleanse and prevent odor by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, and helping oil mix with water to be able to wash them away. And lastly, what REALLY rocks my socks about cetrimonium chloride is what it does when combined with heat. When cetrimonium chloride is activated by heat (like sitting under a dryer, blow drying, and even the occasional flat ironing), it increases the tensile strength of hair. This ingredient is a MUST HAVE in any deep conditioner, leave-in, or heat protectant if you're planning to blow out, flat iron, or just maximize your deep conditioning. Catch it in Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask, ApHogee Keratin and Green Tea Restructurizer Spray, ApHogee Curlific Texture Treatment, and TGIN Triple Moisture Replenishing Conditioner.
Another common ingredient found in many regular and deep conditioners. Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine sounds scary, but it's really just a derivative of stearic fatty acid that is used to keep ingredients from separating (an emulsifier), as well as provide slip for easy detangling. But where does stearic acid come from? Here's where things get a little sticky. Typically, stearic acid is derived from animal fat. However, you can ensure your hair goodies are free of animal byproducts by purchasing products that are vegan, and that explicitly state they contain no animal products. A good place to start is Obia Natural Hair's Babassu Deep Conditioner.
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-propyl Silanetriol
Whoa, that's a mouthful. We'll just call this one Keravis protein, since that's what it's marketed as. Keravis protein is a vegetable-derived protein and silicone blend that was designed specifically to strengthen, fortify, and revitalize dry and damaged hair. Although its composition makes it not Curly Girl-friendly, Keravis protein is able to penetrate the cortex of the hair, helping to build strength from within while coating and conditioning the hair to protect the surface. The end result is hair with significantly improved tensile strength, which helps reduce the damage our hair sustains from dye jobs, environmental factors, and mechanical stress from styling. If you're ok with cones, get your Keravis protein fix in Eva NCY Therapy Session Hair Mask and ApHogee Keratin and Green Tea Restructurizer Spray.
Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
Typically, when you see a sulfate free shampoo, this ingredient almost always makes the list. And no, manufacturers aren't pulling the wool over your eyes -- sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate really isn't a sulfate. It is a surfactant and gentle alternative to sodium lauryl sulfate often used in conjunction with other mild cleansing agents to deliver a clean scalp and hair without completely stripping or drying out. Typically, the most gentle cleansers have sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate as opposed to C12-14. The numbers represent the number of carbon atoms, and the larger they are, the more gentle the surfactant is. Get your gentle cleansing fix with TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo and Ouidad Superfruit Renewal Clarifying Cream Shampoo. (Tgin and Ouidad superfruit.)
Would you be surprised if I told you this ingredient was a combination of something you probably have in your pantry? Simply put, maltooligosyl glucoside is a complex derived from carbohydrate syrup (sugar) and corn starch that conditions and moisturizes the hair. It helps improve moisture balance and moisture retention in the hair, and also helps soothe and improve dry scalp. It also goes by the name of hydrogenated starch hydrolysate. Not scary or bad at all, right? You can find this sweet little ingredient in Ouidad's Superfruit Renewal Clarifying Cream Shampoo.
If you're wary of propylene glycol, then this propanediol should make you sing! Propylene glycol has raised concerns in the naturally curly community, and propanediol definitely eases them. Propanediol is actually a plant-based, ECOCERT-approved emollient, solubilizer, and viscosity improving agent. As a natural alternative/replacement for propylene glycol, it improves moisture binding activity which results in silky smooth hair. Catch this safer and less irritating alternative in Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea All Natural Cleansing CoWash.
Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
A water-soluble derivative of guar gum, which comes from the cluster bean. It conditions the hair and contains anti-static properties that help fight frizz. For these reasons, it is a great additive to conditioners, deep conditioners, shampoos, and leave-ins that claim to soften and tame frizzies. Innocuous enough, right? Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride is the perfect example to showcase that ingredients that are difficult to pronounce aren't inherently bad. Catch these magic beans in Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea All Natural Hair Masque, Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls, and ApHogee Curlific Textured Hair Wash.