Conditioning your hair is an important step. Without it you get stuck with tangles, flyaways, frizz, and other unwanted tress issues. But loading your locks down with harmful synthetic ingredients is not doing your hair any favors. Find out what to look for in healthy natural conditioners (to go with your favorite natural shampoo) and which your hair will love.
Natural hair care is sort of like natural deodorant. It can be difficult to make the switch from conventional to nontoxic. Another similarity…it’s so worth it!
Mainstream shampoos are made with a host of toxic chemicals, like sulfates and synthetic fragrance, just for starters. Hair conditioners are no different. Even plenty of those labeled as natural contain a handful of ingredients that aren’t safe for your hair or body.
6 Most Harmful Ingredients to Watch for in Hair Conditioners
Are you are a label reader? It is the best way to guarantee you are purchasing a healthy product. Here is a breakdown of harmful ingredients to look for in hair conditioners and why you want to steer clear.
Sulfates: Did you think sulfates only show up in shampoo? Nope, many hair conditioners contain SLS and SLES. These surfactants have a job other than making products foamy. They also work as emulsifiers, which keep oil and water from separating in conditioners.
Sulfates are known skin and eye irritants. The International Journal of Toxicology says sulfates “appear to be safe” for brief and discontinuous use, followed by thorough rinsing. But do you feel good about using an ingredient that has to be rinsed off in order to be safe?
Maybe you’ve heard SLS and SLES are linked to cancer. SLS is not a cancer-causing ingredient, but the ethoxylation process used to make SLES causes the ingredient to release 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic contaminant.
Sulfates are also penetration enhancers that alter the epidermis. This means other chemicals in the product can more easily penetrate the skin’s surface, making their way into our organs and bloodstream.
Look for: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate, anhydrous sodium lauryl sulfate, irium.
Dimethicone: This one is a common player in conventional hair conditioners, and it does make hair silky and shiny. Until the product is washed out and you are left with more dryness and damage to your silicone-dependent hair. Silicones coat strands and prevent the hair from drawing in moisture. It also traps sebum on the scalp, resulting in irritation, flaking, or itchy scalp.
Look for: dimethicone, amodimethicone, cyclomethicone.
Ehtanolamines: MEA, DEA, and TEA are used in hair care as emulsifiers and foaming agents, but have been associated with cancer in animal studies. They also pose accumulation risks and form carcinogenic compounds when mixed with other cosmetic ingredients. At the very least, these ingredients cause skin inflammation and irritation.
Look for: monoethanolamine, diethanolamine, and triethanolamine.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG): PEG is added to cosmetic products to soften skin and hair. But this ingredient strips away natural oils. It is a penetration enhancer and commonly contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane.
Look for: anything with “PEG”.
Synthetic fragrance: These ingredient cocktails are linked to skin irritation and headache, dizziness, eye irritation, allergic reaction, and hormonal disruption.
Look for: benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP), di-n-butyl phthalate or dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), and sometimes “fragrance” (It is important to note that the terms “fragrance” or “parfum” sometimes occur on an ingredient listing which contains natural fragrance ingredients and no chemical ingredients. This is most often due to manufacturer trade secret and should be disclosed on the label.)
Synthetic preservatives: Most mainstream hair conditioners contain some sort of synthetic preservative. Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen in the body and accumulate in breast tissue. They are also shown to have the potential to cause fetal impairment and fertility issues. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is linked to allergic reaction and may also be a neurotoxin. If a product claims to be “paraben-free” do not assume it contains no synthetic preservatives.
Look for: alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens, > 3 (2h) -isothiazolone, 2-methyl-; methylchloroisothiazolinone225methylisothiazolinone solution; 2-methyl-3 (2h) -isothiazolone; 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one; 2-methyl- 3 (2h) -isothiazolone; 2-methyl-2h-isothiazol-3-one; 3 (2h) isothiazolone, 2methyl; 2-methyl-3 (2h) -isothiazolone; 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one.
Healthy Hair Ingredients
It’s crazy to use any of the junky ingredients above when natural ingredients give you gorgeously healthy hair without the health risks. Plant oils, nut butters, essential oils, and other naturals hydrate, smooth, and repair hair. Here are a few you’ll find in natural hair conditioners.
Coconut oil: No surprise to see this natural superstar made this list. Coconut oil is the best at not only hydrating hair, but getting to the root of hair damage. The oil has the ability to penetrates the hair shaft better than any other oil and repairs damage where it starts.
Aloe: A super gentle ingredient that offers light hydration, aloe removes excess oil, and calms irritation.
Argan oil: Ultra-nourishing argan oil is great for taming frizz and flyaways, and protecting hair from damage due to heated styling tools.
Green Tea: An antioxidant powerhouse, green tea strengthens hair, reducing split ends and promoting healthy hair growth.
Rosemary oil: Not only is this oil refreshing, but rosemary oil is said to stimulate hair growth, slow graying and hair loss, reduce dandruff, and prevent dry scalp.
Horsetail: A popular ingredient in natural hair care, horsetail is an herb that repairs damage. Perfect for very dry or over-processed hair.
Tea tree oil: Antibacterial and antiseptic properties in tea tree oil make it a boon for those dealing with dry scalp or flakiness. The oil unclogs hair follicles and rids the scalp of built-up sebum.
10 Natural Hair Conditioners for a Healthy Mane
All Hair Types
1. Rare El’ements Essential Lite Conditioner: A great choice for daily use, this conditioner repairs and protects, and leaves hair soft and shiny. $40
2. Rare El’ements Essential Conditioner: For a more intense conditioning, use this conditioner to strengthen and nourish aging hair, which tends to become dry and brittle. $48
3. Yarok Feed Your Volume: Use this volumizer to amp up limp locks and make hair more manageable. $34
4. Rahua Conditioner: Dry hair can seem like a hair dilemma. When nothing seems to work, use this beauty to rehydrate and banish frizz. $36
5. Josh Rosebrook Balance Conditioner: Conventional products tend to strip scalp and hair of essential oils, causing dryness, irritation, and even excess oil. Balance an oily scalp with this gentle product. $30
6. Acure Organics Smooth + Manageable Conditioner: Marula oil and coconut water banish frizz and smooth fuzziness. Perfect for color treated or over-styled hair. $9.99
Color Treated Hair
7. Lovefresh Natural Organic Conditioner: A super gentle conditioner that adds softness and shine without stripping away color or natural oils. Choose from rosemary spearmint or grapefruit lime. $24
8. Intelligent Nutrients Leave-In Conditioner: For an added boost of moisture that protects hair when heat styling and fights static, try this leave-in. $33
9. Nurture My Body Nourishing Conditioner: This conditioner softens and detangles hair, controls frizz, and smooths strands. $29.95
10. UMA Oils Intensely Nourishing Hair Oil: To give hair an extra hit of hydration try this citrusy hair oil. Use as a pre-shampoo conditioner or overnight treatment. $70
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