Alcohols in Hair Products Good Or Bad?

Conditioner Ingredient LIstHave you ever wondered what the alcohol found in most of our conditioners and leave in conditioners is used for. We are often told to avoid products that contain alcohol because it can be drying to our tresses and can lead to brittle hair that is prone to breakage.

Why then is alcohol found in our favorite ‘moisturizing’ conditioners and leave in conditioners? The answer is found in the structure of alcohol used in the product.

I was not a chemistry major so I will try to make this simple,….alcohol is a chain comprised of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen bonds the short chain alcohols include ethanol, SD alcohol, and Propanol just to name a few. These can be found in products such as hair spray and some gels.

On hair these alcohols

  • Allow the hair to dry very quickly because there structure allows it to evaporate fast
  • Creates dry frizzy hair
  • Roughens the cuticle of the hair
  • Removes oil and water from the hair

If moisture retention is your ultimate goal products containing these alcohols should be avoided.

(NB: When you have a cut, alcohol is often used to clean the area because despite the burn it really great at removing any dirt or irritants from the wound, it behaves the same way on hair removing any water or oil you may have in your hair)

Long chain alcohols also called fatty alcohols are often found in our favorite conditioners and leave ins. Examples of these alcohols are Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol and Lauryl alcohol.


These alcohols are created by heating coconut oil or palm oil with sodium hydroxide (lye); after the alcohol is made it is rather harmless but adds some benefit to our products.

The alcohol acts like an emulsifier and gives the product its creamy texture, the problem the alcohol solves is the fact that oil does not mix with water when added to a product. The alcohol binds everything together so that the product can spread effectively over your hair once applied.

On hair these alcohols:

  • Hydrate the hair
  • Do not penetrate the hair shaft
  • Allows for even product spread
  • Makes the hair ‘feel soft’

The moral of the story is, not all alcohols are created equal therefore the next time you look at the ingredients of a product and see alcohol try to determine the type of alcohol before completely dismissing it as bad for your hair.

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About Petra


Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for BlackHairInformation.com . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.

About Petra


Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for BlackHairInformation.com . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.

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Chimoi TaylorMercedes EvelynTylena P. SimpsonStanaya 'nay-nay' ReeveyTonya M. Wallace Recent comment authors

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Harvey Madison

I Don’t know If It Good Or bad Good But I Do Know That Too Much Isn’t Good Have A Blessed Day

Shantel Williams

Bad because it drys out your hair.

Sandra Bah Sandra Bah

Bad

Whitney Waters

Horribly bad for me it discolored my skin (mainly forehead) so absolutely no alcohol products for me.

Ruth Guzman

I try to steer clear of them when possible but I do have products with alcohol in them. Doesn’t bother my hair tho.

Rinae Kay

Some alcohols are good for hair

Micole Spicer

I have always read that alcohol in hair products was not good.

Natalie M Alston

Well water is the first ingredient… Idk… The first few ingredients are good.

Robyn Brewer

For my hair…..all bad. I have a health issue that dries out my skin, nails and hair…..so I avoid other things that could add to that problem!

Shawntrice Jernigan

Bad, its flammable

Vanessa White

Most hair products are flammable, most says stay away from naked flame from hair sprays to hair oil lol! Doesn’t necessarily make the product “bad” however “alcohol” in hair products, I personally stay clear from not good for hair. What would be good is if ingredients were listed in plain terms instead of ridiculous long named none understanding jargon!

Hazel Non Ya

Thanks I realized all alcohols aren’t bad!

Pearl Williams

Robyn Brewer if don’t mind. Me asking what do u use??

Tonya M. Wallace

All bad

Stanaya 'nay-nay' Reevey

The first 3 ingredients are normally what you go by. Plus theres tons of Glycerol in it. Its acidic soo thats good…because it restores your hair to its natural ph if this is a shampoo or conditioner. It says rinse throughly so you’re not leaving it in. I say it’s good. However it does depend on the person and their hair type. The porosity and texture…the overall condition of the hair.

Tylena P. Simpson

This is Exactly why i make my own products!

Mercedes Evelyn

The type of alcohol listed here is actually good for the hair.

Chimoi Taylor

Bad very very bad, alcohol starves your scalp and dries out your hair.