The Myth of Natural Hair Products

As a scientist, I am actually very liberal with the word natural and my view is that everything
has a natural origin. However, I am deeply aware that most consumers when purchasing a product from a company using the words for curly hair, botanical, natural or organic, there is an expectation of many natural unadulterated ingredients. Many consumers choose to trust companies but in truth it is often more about marketing rather than genuine differences in content.

Today is an exercise in learning to read product labels not as the manufacturer wants you to, but rather as they really are.

What are we doing?
1. Delete all extracts - often constitute 1% or less of the product
2. Delete all advertising words e.g organic, unrefined, raw, fresh, unnecessary wording
3. Focus on the top 5 ingredients only - often constitute 80-90%+ of the product
4. IF you are avoiding something specifically read the full list .

SPOILER ALERT - Whether the product is considered organic/natural/for curly hair or not, an almost uniform trend emerges and notably many of the ingredients chosen are made in the lab (marked with†)

Type of Ingredient
What it does
What is typically chosen
Emollient and Stabiliser Softens hair, helps oil and water in conditioner mix instead of forming separate fractions Cetyl alcohol†, stearyl alcohol† or the fusion cetostearyl alcohol†
Surfactant Smooth cuticle, softens hair and also helps oil and water fractions in conditioner mixbehentrimonium methosulfate† or behentrimonium chloride†
OilAdds Slip, softens hair Shea butter or silicone based oil†

1. Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 5/5)
Summary:  Clear list. Has a lot of alcohol, fragrance is high up on the list. 
Key ingredients - cetyl alcohol and shea butter

As you should read it: Aqua, Cetyl Alcohol, Alcohol Denat. (38B, Lavender), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Fragrance

As Listed: Aqua, Cetyl Alcohol (From Coconut), Alcohol Denat. (38B, Lavender), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Fragrance, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Glycerin, Rosa Rubiginosa (Rosa Mosqueta®) Seed Oil*, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil*, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil*, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Nut Oil*, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Calendula Officinalis Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract*, Melissa Officinalis (Balm Mint) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Chrysanthemum Sinense Flower Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Flower Extract, Magnolia Biondii Bud/Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Angelica Archangelica Root Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Seed Extract

2. Kinky Curly Knot Today
(Ingredient list clarity rating 0/5)

Summary: Ingredients list is not clear - no water on the listing, Question the listing!  
Key ingredients - cetyl alcohol and behentrimonium methosulfate
As you should read it: Cetyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate

As listed: Organic mango fruit extract, organic slippery elm, organic marshmallow root, organic lemon grass, cetyl alcohol, behentrimonium methosulfate, citric acid, phenoxyethanol and natural fragrances

3. Beemine BEEUTiFUL Moisturizing Deep Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 4/5)
Summary: Generally clear ingredient list except preservatives are not named.
Key ingredients - cetearyl alcohol , behentrimonium methosulfate, shea butter and coconut oil

As you should read it : Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium methosulfate, Shea Butter , Coconut Oil

As Listed: Distilled water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium methosulfate, Organic Unrefined Shea Butter , Organic Coconut Oil, Cupuacu Butter, Calendula Extract, Chamomile Extract, Organic Raw Honey, Paraben and Formaldehyde Free Preservative, Fragrance (Phthalate Free)

4. Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3/5)

Summary: Ingredient list has a lot of marketing words, extracts are prominently listed, contains quite a few silicones
Key ingredients - cetearyl alcohol , cyclopentasiloxane, stearalkonium chloride, behentrimonium chloride

As you should read it: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearalkonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride

As listed: Aqueous (Water, Aqua Purificata, Purified) Extracts: Hippophae Rhamnoides Extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Leaf Powder, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearalkonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, Phenyl Trimethicone, Quaternium-80, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Chenopodium Quinoa Seed Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Hordeum Distichon (Barley) Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Tocopherol, Babassuamidopropyltrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Behenamidopropyltrimonium Methosulfate, Dicaprylyl Maleeate, Dimethiconol Meadowfoamate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, Citric Acid, Sodium Gluconate, Methylcholroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

5. Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3.5/5)

Summary: Extracts prominently listed but otherwise a fair ingredient list
Key ingredients -behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, shea butter and avocado oil

As you should read it: Water, Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil

As Listed: Water infused with Equisetum Maximum Lam (Horsetail), Mentha Piperita (Peppermint), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), Laurus Nobilis (Bay Leaf), Ocimum Basilicum (Basil), Arctium Lappa (Burdock Root), Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow Root), Origanum Vulgare (Oregano), Cymbopogon Flexuosus (Lemongrass), Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme), Salvia Officinalis (Sage) and Urtica Dioica (Nettle), Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Soy Lecithin, Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

6. Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 3.5/5)

Summary: Ok list, some marketing terms and emulsfying wax (which can be cetearyl alcohol or polysorbate) is not defined.
Key ingredients - shea butter, argan oil, coconut oil, behentrimonium chloride

As you should read it: Water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter), Argan oil, coconut oil, Behentrimonium chloride

As Listed: Deionized water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter)*, Argan oil, coconut oil*, Behentrimonium chloride, essential oil blend, vegetable glycerin, emulsifying wax, sea kelp extract, Panthenol (vitamin B-5), avocado oil, Lonicera Caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower and Lonicera Japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E) and Daucus Carota Sativa (carrot) seed oil. *Denotes certified organic ingredients

7. For arguments sake , here is what is considered a non natural product
 Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioner
(Ingredient list clarity rating 5/5)

Summary: Clear list, some water soluble silicones included
Key ingredients -stearyl alcohol , behentrimonium chloride, cetyl alcohol, bisaminopropyl dimethicone

As you should read it: Water , Stearyl Alcohol , Behentrimonium Chloride , Cetyl Alcohol , Bis Aminopropyl Dimethicone

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

There you go, learn to eliminate marketing hype and read the ingredients that are actually working on your hair!


  1. lol !!!!! now going to check all my hair products.......

  2. Thank you for this. I've never been about products that claim to be natural/organic and this helps tremendously

  3. You are the absolute best at this!

  4. You are too much for me, lol!!! Makes perfect sense, one of my fav DC (JessiCurl) is listed and that is the exact way I read the list!

  5. This is an excellent article!

  6. Great article as usual JC. This article was sooooooo necessary!

  7. I was always told that ingredients are listed in order from most occurring to least occurring. Not sure how true this is but I believed it. I assumed that products listing extracts in the top 5 meant that those extracts were used in abundance- relative to the other ingredients. Do you have any insight on this myth(fact?), JC?

    1. Hi Lisa, I will do another article on extracts to explain :)

  8. You always break it down! And this is why I love reading your stuff! Thank you! I've never really cared for "natural" and "organic". As long as a product works for my hair I'm a happy bunny. My fave conditioner is the Hello Hydration. My hair doesn't mind silicones and I'm always happy to see Behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate and fatty alcohols on ingredient lists. :)

  9. You always break it down! And this is why I love reading your stuff! Thank you! I've never really cared for "natural" and "organic". As long as a product works for my hair I'm a happy bunny. My fave conditioner is the Hello Hydration. My hair doesn't mind silicones and I'm always happy to see Behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate and fatty alcohols on ingredient lists. :)

  10. Thank you all for the comments and I am glad you valued this article :)

  11. OMG! This just opened my eyes!! I fuss so much about nothing!

  12. Very informative info as always. I appreciate you so much...

  13. Very informative post! You are simply the best JC Asante!

  14. Thank you Jc. for the post. For the silicones, How do we know they are water-soluble ? How do we clean them effectively to avoid build-up ?

  15. This is so informative, thank you Jc!

  16. Great post. It is important people understand how to read through the marketing mumbo jumbo. People fall for the advertising and end up paying more and more for products that are in essence the same as others at lower price point.

  17. This article was EVERYTHING!!! When I do reviews on my blog, I don't bother breaking down anything past the first 5 ingredients. I remember when you first published your article about the first 5 after water. I used to break every single ingredient down....until that article. Thank you for keeping it real, and being a great resource to us bloggers who love to cut through the crap and keep it real :)

    1. Thanky Christina , you know I love your blog :)

  18. Thank you so much for your hard research and transparency. I own a bottle of Nature's Gate Aloe Vera conditioner and just noticed that aloe vera juice is at number 14 on the ingredient list. Shame on me. Question though, In its top five, it states that the glycerin and stearyl/cetyl alcohol are vegetable derived. Does this improve the product or is this also creative labelling?
    And what does Caprylic Triglyceride do? Hope these questions are not too much. Thanks!

  19. Great post like always JC. I've so busy with nursing school, I finally got to check up on my favorite hair site now that I'm on break. I remember when I first found your site, I read through literally all your new and old posts, and re-read plenty so I could really get the understanding. I even ended up watching up science videos on surfactants just for deeper understanding haha. You are the reason that made me start experimenting on my own hair product wise, with your site as my guideline. And man, my hair is thriving now! Through your articles and countless trail runs, I literally know what ingredients will and won't work for me. I can buy something new in the store right now and know it will work, because of your teaching and emphasis on understanding ingredients. So even if my favorite product is gone, or I'm out of town, I can still find substitutes. Honestly, I couldn't have gotten this far without you because no one makes blogs the way you do. Yeah, you saved my hair haha. I would love to read an article based off what Lisa has posted in the comments. I thought the same thing too. Especially the products where extracts are inside the top 5 ingredients. Thank you so much!

    1. Thanks April, you just made my day :)

  20. Thank you for this JC! I just recently started formulating my own hair products (personal use) and after looking at formulations, keeping it simple with the base ingredients (sans 'extracts'), really gets the job done just as well as commercial products (if not better). Love this article. Reading through the hype!

  21. this is very informative explanation. I will now always look at the first 5 ingrediants.
    So since Aubrey Conditioner and HE Hello Hydration were rated 5/5, does that mean they are best ? Or they just have their labels most clear ?

  22. I actually go for natural and organic products as i've come to realize that products with too many synthetically derived ingredients doesn't work for my hair, i love how your product list the ingredients one should really be focusing on. It's really all about science

  23. Wow Wow Wow what a helpful post. This is so easy to understand and remember, thank you!


Post a Comment

I love comments! All comments are moderated so they will only appear on the blog once I approve them.

Popular Posts