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Reader Q&A: CurlyNikki Decodes Alcohols Found in Hair Products

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Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceMag with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.

READER QUESTION:   My new favorite conditioner has alcohol right at the top of the ingredients list. I’m a new natural, but I do know that alcohols are on my avoid list. Are all alcohols bad or drying?

CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE:
  Simply put... no. All alcohols are not created equally. Fatty alcohols provide an emollient effect, and bind water and oil to give our favorite conditioners their slip and creaminess. They can act as emollients which are known to make hair (and skin) softer. Here's a list of fatty alcohols, which are okay to use in hair products:
  • Behenyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Isocetyl alcohol
  • Isostearyl alcohol
  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • C30-50 alcohols
  • Lanolin alcohol


Cetyl and/or Sterayl alcohols are present in most of my favorite products.

Alcohols to avoid include the ‘short chain’ ones- SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denat, Propanol, Propyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol. You’ll often find these in hair sprays and gels not marketed for our hair type, but stay vigilant!

Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural haircare, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.

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