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The Truth About Alcohol in Your Hair Care

3 min read

Alcohol gets a bad rap–especially when it’s located on the ingredients list in your hair care products. At some point in time, someone has probably told you that alcohol is an ingredient to avoid at all costs, as it can lead to dry, damaged, and brittle hair after repeated use.


You may be surprised to hear that this is actually not the case at all. Not all alcohols are created equally, and some can actually be extremely beneficial for your hair!


You see, there isn’t just one type of ‘alcohol.’ (And no, we’re not talking about wine vs. tequila!) Alcohol can exist in many different molecular forms, and the two main types found in hair care products include: short-chain alcohols and fatty acid alcohols.


Short-Chain Alcohols

Short-chain alcohols, also known as drying alcohols, are the ones you want to steer clear of. They are designed to evaporate quickly, which helps products dry faster once applied to the hair. This type of alcohol also tends to repel moisture from the hair cuticle, which is ultimately the cause of a frizzy, brittle appearance when repeatedly applied to the hair.


The most common short-chain alcohols you should keep a lookout for include: ethanol, propanol, propyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and SD alcohols.


Fatty Acid Alcohols

In contrast to short-chain alcohols, fatty acid alcohols can be very beneficial for your hair. They are commonly derived from natural sources such as coconut or sunflower seed oils, and are highly moisturizing. The fatty components to the alcohol provide lubrication for the hair shaft to lock in moisture and give your tresses a soft, glossy finish. 


If you see these alcohols on your ingredients list, no need to fear! The most common fatty acids include: lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and behenyl alcohol.