How to read the labels of the products for your curls

When you start to research more about how to care for your textured hair, it is likely that one of the first pieces of advice is to opt for products that are free of Sulfates and Silicones. There is a wide variety of products on the market, and many of them have “Sulfate-free”, “Silicone-free” written on the front of the packaging… But is that really so?

In many cases, although they claim on the front that they are free of these components, when you look at the complete list of ingredients you see just the opposite. Remember that the purpose of some brands is purely to sell!

The solution? Always carefully review the entire ingredient listing of each product before you buy it. Learning to read product labels will revolutionize your hair routine and also prevent you from spending unnecessary money on products that are not recommended.

Let’s start with the components that are harmful to your hair.


Sulfates are very harsh on curls, as they will strip your hair of all the natural oils and moisture it needs to stay hydrated and healthy.
Some common names of sulfates:

  • Sodium Lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl ether sulfate
  • Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium or Sodium Xylensulfonate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate/li>
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium Laureth, Myreth or Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate


Did you know that it is very common to find silicones in hair products? This is a quick (and very bad) “solution” to control frizz in hair. Silicones form a sort of plastic cover (since silicone is a plastic form) that covers the hair strands. However, that same cover will also prevent your hair from absorbing the moisture it needs to stay moisturized, and as you know, that’s the biggest problem of all.
Some common names of silicones:

  • Amodimethicone
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Bis-aminopropyl dimethicone
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Phenyl trimethicone
  • Stearyl Dimethicone
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone

The Alcohols:

A lot of attention on this point. Not all alcohols are bad for hair! There are some that are approved, since they don’t damage curls (we’ll talk about those later). However there are some alcohols that dry out the hair quite a bit and are therefore harmful.
Some common names of harmful alcohols:

  • Denatured alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Isopropanol
  • Isopropyl alcohol (also called IPA)
  • Propanol
  • Propyl alcohol
  • SD alcohol 40


While not the worst component of all for your hair, it is something you should try to avoid, as with its continuous use it will dry out your hair quite a bit.
Some common names of parabens:

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben

Now that we’ve told you a bit about the harmful components you should avoid in the ingredients list, it’s time to talk about the components you should look for. You should look for ingredients that are gentle, moisturizing, and soluble (so they don’t build up).

At the time of washing, it is important to look for gentle cleansing agents. Some of them are:

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Coco Betaine
  • Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
  • Lauryl Hydroxysultaine
  • Sodium Cocoamphoacetate or Sodium Lauroamphoacetate

As we mentioned earlier, not all alcohols are harmful to curls. Some alcohols are good humectants and should be on the ingredients list. These are:

  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Behenyl alcohol

To add shine and more slip to the hair, many products use silicones as the fastest way to do this. However, as we have already mentioned, these are quite damaging to the hair. If you are a Curly Girl, then we advise you to replace the common sulfates with other soluble and lubricating ingredients that will make your hair better and healthier over time, while also adding shine and flexibility. These ingredients usually appear at the top of the list and some of them are:

  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate
  • Behentrimonium Chloride
  • Dicetyldimonium Chloride
  • Distearyldimonium Chloride
  • Polyquaternium 55
  • Cetrimonium Bromide

These are some of our tips for ingredients to avoid and others to include. But there are other important factors when reading product labels.

The Order on the List

The ingredients always appear in descending order in the listing. That is, the ingredient that appears first is the one that is present in the greatest quantity, while the last ingredient on the list is the least concentrated.

Therefore, when reading a label, you should always focus on the first ingredients in the listing, as these are the ones that appear in the greatest quantity in the product. However, be sure to always look at the entire listing, sometimes the most unpleasant surprises come at the end of the list.

Bottom line: reading product labels is a habit you should adopt, as it is very beneficial for your curls and will also save you time and money. Some ingredients such as sulfates and silicones are very harmful for your hair and should be avoided in products. For washing you should go for gentle cleansing agents that won’t harm and dehydrate your hair. In your styling routine opt for products with soluble ingredients that provide elasticity, slip and shine.

At first, reading product labels may seem complicated or confusing but with constant practice it will eventually become quite simple and useful.

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