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How To Read Intimidating Hair Product Labels

It wasn’t until I met a dermatologist that I realized all of the important info lives on the back of the bottle.

Are you constantly rummaging through beauty aisles, searching high and low for products that will actually work? I used to simply read the front of the bottle, where enticing phrases like “get healthy, moisturized hair after a single wash,” are listed.

It wasn’t until I met a dermatologist that I realized all of the important info lives on the back of the bottle. The ingredients and random numbers initially confused me, but after familiarizing myself with three major factors, I felt like a pro!

Keep reading for the hacks that will make decoding your favorite products easier.  

The Top 5: Sometimes, a product label can be intimidating, with more than 20 ingredients listed. The key is to focus on the first five. Ingredients are listed in order of how much is included in that particular bottle, going from highest to lowest. So if the first ingredient is “water,” you automatically know the product is majority water since it's listed first.

Assignment: Grab one of your favorite products, read the top five ingredients, and research their benefits for your hair texture!

Shelf life: As a product junkie, I constantly discover products that I've only used once or twice. I used to wonder if the product would still work after sitting for so long. Thankfully, I learned that a small number and letter combination on the product determines its shelf life after being opened.

For instance, this symbol translates to 12 months:

Easy enough, right?

Learn the Ingredient’s Job: All ingredients have a particular job when it comes to how they perform on your hair.  Some moisturize, while others handle the task of providing protein or shine to our stands. Note the ingredients most associated with each hair goal:

Protein: hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed keratin, hydrolyzed silk protein, keratin, hydrolyzed oat flour, hydrolyzed soy protein

Volume/Fullness: biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 and Vitamin H, sea salt

Moisturizing:  glycerin, aloe vera, jojoba oil, shea butters, avocado oil, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, behentrimonium methosulfate

Heat styling: silicones such as dimethicone and amodimedthicone

Shine: natural oils such as coconut oil and argan oil

Detangling/Provide Slip: fatty alcohols such as behenyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol,  Isocetyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, etc.

Not down with all science-y words, but want to know if your favorite product is simply good or bad for you? Try the "Think Dirty" app. After scanning a beauty product, it will be ranked anywhere from one to ten on the “dirty meter.”

Keep reading for product recommendations, based on these categories: