Clean Up Your Haircare: Ingredients to Avoid & Why

Written by Leal Alexander (@CurlyGalLal)

This month is all about ingredients over here, so lets start by busting a huge MYTH, are you ready?

MYTH: The government prohibits the use of all dangerous chemicals in personal care products, and companies wouldn’t risk using them. (Source: E.W.G) 


Yep. This may be news to you but.. this is one of the biggest myths and is a common misconception. So nope, not every ingredient added into the hair and skincare formulas that we purchase is guaranteed to be safe for us, even if it explicitly says ‘natural’. In fact more often than not the products on the shelves include ingredients that can irritate and damage skin, dehydrate hair and be toxic to our internal organs. Crazy, huh? Thankfully Boucleme has none of these nasties!

When I was younger I knew none of this. In fact, up until 2 years ago I was still using cheap, highly commercialised products on my relaxed hair. Oh how things have changed… and I have been noticing within the curly community an increasing awareness of the ingredients found within dedicated curly hair products, the toxicity surrounding harmful ingredients and the effect they have on us. (Yay!) Terms like ‘clean’, ’no nasties’, ‘sulfate, silicone, paraben etc.. free’ are all becoming a familiar addition to the curly hair vocab (yay again!).  When it comes to caring for our curls I think it’s paramount that we are aware of what we are using. So, with that being said I think its time we discuss some of the nastiest nasties and why they should be avoided. 


Why CG Friendly is the way to go: 

Natural hair has a very different make-up to other, straighter hair types. Our cuticle is more exposed to the environment leaving our curls prone to drying out [hence why hydration is so key for achieving popping curls]. Synthetically derived detergents and chemicals have a negative effect on the cuticle making it super rough - herein lies the cause of ‘frizz’. Here is a list of some of the ingredients found in hair care products to avoid, in no particular order. Please bear in mind that this is in no way a definitive list and is based on my own personal research. I would always recommend doing your own research.


What to avoid: 

The majority of curly hair products will be made up of water (aqua) and in order to prevent the product from ‘going off’ preservatives must be added. Often these are cheap for manufacturers to use, and can even be found in ‘curly hair’ devoted brands. 

Brace yourself..

Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone for example are preservatives. According to the EWG* these can cause contact allergy and may be neurotoxic to brain cells. They are commonly found used together in hair care and are known to be one of the most common irritants, sensitizers, and aggressors of contact allergy - something I myself have suffered with for 7 years so I tend to stay away from.



Are a synthetic material, and are known to provide amazing slip and shine - they are quick fixes to frizz but over time cause damage with continued use. 

I’d be lying if I said the slip wasn’t a winning factor of this ingredient, however despite knowing this I avoid it LIKE THE PLAGUE. Why? Silicone is a plastic, it forms a water-resistant coating around the hair follicle that fakes the appearance of healthy, shiny hair - however in doing so it is actually repelling water. There are silicones that are not water soluble and some that are slightly soluble in water and will still build up on many curlies. I experienced a mad itchy scalp whenever I used a product with silicones in the past, IMO it’s not worth the 5 minutes I save on detangling and the long term damage. Did you know it can take 3-4 weeks to detox the hair of silicones when you ‘go natural?’ - this is one of the biggest discussions I have with new curlies that come to me with their transitioning woes. The only way to remove silicone is with, you guessed it, another BAD ingredient: sulphate.


Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates: 

You’ve probably heard of these by now. Sulfates are very strong detergents that strip the hair of its natural oils, with it taking our hairs moisture and natural protective layer. 

They are very common in shampoos and the sodium laurel sulfate creates the foamy lathering sensation that we all associated with a good deep clean. Well, they’re actually super drying for hair and should be avoided at all costs! A non-foaming cleanser is a great option, but for the suds-obsessed there are however milder foaming agents such as coco glucoside from plant derived materials. 


Isopropyl Alcohol: 

Also known as rubbing alcohol, it is a volatile ingredient. There are alcohols that aren’t as bad such as cetyl, cetearyl, and stearyl alcohol as they can actually help your hair retain moisture. However, Isopropyl does the opposite. It has a harshly drying effect - which as we know is the worst when it comes to curls. Continual use will leave you with hair that is dry and frizzy. Boucleme use Cetearyl Alcohol as a thickener, emollient and emulsifier.


Petrolatum and Mineral oils: 

Are used as replacements for high quality oils and butters, however they don’t offer the therapeutic benefits of naturally derived plant extracts as they are a by-product of crude oil. They cause build up and can be difficult to remove from the hair. However, natural butters and oils can provide similar properties with the therapeutic qualities without risk.



“Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, p-Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, n-Butylparaben, and Benzylparaben” (If you got past saying any of these you did better than me!) They are all industrial plasitsizers, used as preservatives to prevent bacteria from culminating from the water in cosmetic formulas. However they have been linked to breast cancer and are known to be estrogen-mimicking. Propyl, butyl, isobutyl, methyl are the common forms, easily absorbed into the skin and can harm the scalp.



Is a cheap and potent preservative used in hair care and is considered a known human carcinogen, with a long list of associated issues. I can personally attest as someone with contact dermatitis being allergic to most nail varnishes, generally the ones that contain formaldehyde resin. If you want a shocking example of just what preservative can do, google ‘Damien Hirst Cow in Formaldehyde’. 


Synethic Fragrance: 

Is an artificial additive used to make a product smell good. However it is listed as one of the top 5 allergens in the world! According to EWG “Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture.” This means the fragrance can contain any number (up to 100) of chemicals in the mix that are not listed. If you are particularly hypoallergenic and of sensitive skin perhaps go fragrance free where possible. Avoid with babies and children. Alternatively, as well as the therapeutic benefits, many plant derived essential oils can provide unique aromas as alternatives to synthetically produced fragrances. A few examples are rose, neroli, lavender, patchouli and vanilla to name a few, which can be used singularly or in a blend for a more complex natural fragrance.



It is worth noting that there is also very little regulation on the safety testing of cosmetic products and the FDA (food and drug admin) has no authority on this, even if a product has injured a person!!! In fact there are only 5-10 ingredients prohibited but the rest is fair game. This is why WE need to be diligent in searching BEFORE we buy and try.



Go forth, be vigilant and stay hair-safe curlies!

Lal XO

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