Alcohol is widely used in hair products, but how do you know which types are safe? In this article, we’ll discuss if alcohol is bad for your hair and the types you should avoid.
Why Is Alcohol Used In Hair Care?
Alcohol is an ingredient that’s added to a range of hair products, mainly shampoo, conditioners, hair masks, and hairspray.
While it’s typically referred to as ‘drying’ that’s not always the case. In fact, some types of alcohol can be incredibly moisturizing for the hair and scalp.
Alcohol is often added to hair products to prevent the contents from separating into oil and water.
In short, it can play a very important role in the appearance and the quality of the product.
Types Of Alcohol In Hair Care
When alcohol in hair care is discussed, it’s often generalized and seen as a chemical to avoid.
But there are various types of alcohol and they all have different benefits.
Here are the most common types of alcohol that you should know about.
Cetearyl Alcohol is one of the most common types of alcohol that’s found in hair products and you will be glad to know that it’s considered to be safe.
It’s a mix of Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol, which is found naturally through plants.
It is added to create a smoother and thicker texture and is believed to be very soothing on the hair and skin.
Alcohol denat is widely used in hair products as a preservative, also allowing the product to absorb quickly into the hair and skin.
It can aid in better penetration of the other ingredients, but this can lead to dryness and irritation.
Derived from plants and added to a range of hair care products, Stearyl Alcohol is considered to be a useful ingredient.
It is used to smooth cuticles and create a natural shine to the hair, making it feel softer and more manageable.
Lauryl Alcohol is another type of alcohol that aids in providing moisture to the hair and scalp, which prevents damage and breakage.
It’s suitable for use on dry and sensitive hair and scalps seeing as it doesn’t have a drying effect.
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is often added to shampoo, conditioner, and hairsprays.
It is said to be toxic when inhaled and very drying on the hair and skin, so it should be limited or avoided in most cases.
Cetyl Alcohol is derived from natural plant oils such as coconut and palm oil.
It’s used as an emulsifier and thickening agent, to prevent the oil and water in the product from separating.
The interesting thing about Cetyl Alcohol is how it melts at very high temperatures and aids in the pigments sticking to the skin – this is why it’s also used in lipsticks and other beauty cosmetics.
Is Alcohol Bad for Your Hair?
It’s important to remember that not all alcohol is bad for your hair. While there are some types of alcohol that can be drying on the hair and scalp, there are others that have highly moisturizing properties.
Some good alcohols that are safe for use on hair and skin are Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Lauryl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol and Myristyl Alcohol.
These types of alcohol are known as long chain alcohols and they are naturally derived from plants and oils.
They don’t evaporate too quickly, which means they hydrate the hair and lock in moisture.
Long chain alcohols are very beneficial for the hair and scalp and there are typically no adverse effects when using them.
On the other hand, short chain alcohols can be bad for the hair and scalp.
These types of alcohols evaporate too quickly, which leaves the hair and scalp feeling very dry.
If this moisture isn’t replaced, the hair can become dull, weak, and damaged.
The common culprits are Denatured Alcohol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Propyl Alcohol, Propanol, Ethyl Alcohol, and Ethanol.
Signs You Should Avoid Hair Products Containing Alcohol
Alcohol isn’t an essential ingredient in hair products, so if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be worth switching to an alcohol-free product.
Your Hair Feels Drier Than Usual
Some types of alcohol can be very drying on the hair, especially when used regularly.
If you use a shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, and hairspray all containing different types of alcohol, it’s likely that your hair will feel dry and brittle as a result.
Too much of anything is a bad thing! Try to cut down on some of the alcohol-containing products you use and always stick to the good alcohols.
Your Scalp Is Dry And Flaky
Even some of the good alcohols like Cetearyl Alcohol can cause sensitivities in people who have eczema or other skin conditions.
If you notice your scalp feels drier and more sensitive than usual, then alcohol could be to blame.
To rule it out, switch to an alcohol-free product that is designed for sensitive scalps and see if there is an improvement.
If the condition of your scalp improves, that’s a sign that even the good alcohols are an irritant.
You’re Prone To Frizz
If you’re susceptible to frizz, it might be worth taking a look at your hair routine.
If there’s alcohol present in more than 2 of your hair products, it could be causing your hair to dry up, resulting in persistent frizz.
Experiment with your hair routine by swapping out 1 or more products with an alcohol-free alternative and see if there’s any reduction of frizz.
Your Hair Is Damaged
If your hair has recently become dry and damaged, your alcohol-containing products could be to blame.
Hairspray is one of the worst culprits because the more you use it and brush it through your hair, the more it becomes dull and stiff.
And when this happens, it can cause the hair strands to become brittle and break off.
Reducing the number of products you use, as well as avoiding hairspray, could help to repair your hair and improve the overall condition.
You Have Split Ends
As certain types of alcohols can be drying on the hair, they can contribute to weak, brittle ends. Split ends are especially common and usually, can be fixed with regular trims.
But if you’re experiencing recurring split ends after just a week or two following a haircut, your hair products could be stripping your hair of too much moisture.
Split ends can prevent growth and lead to damage, so it’s important that you identify the cause and stop using any drying ingredients.
Does Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?
If you use products containing alcohol, there could be some concern over the dangers and whether it’s linked to hair loss.
Well, the good news is that the good alcohols mentioned above will not cause hair loss – in fact, they will help to keep your hair moisturized.
As for the bad alcohols, there is no known link to hair loss, so they can possibly be used in moderation without any harmful effects.
But something to consider is whether these bad alcohols could be drying out your hair and scalp.
If you use them regularly and in various products, this can make the hair brittle and weak. And over time, there is a possibility that it could contribute to hair loss.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you use them in only small amounts or eliminate them from your hair routine altogether.
Benefits Of Alcohol In Hair Products
Long-chain alcohols are known for having many beneficial effects on the hair and skin. Here are the main benefits.
Gives The Product It’s Texture
Long-chain alcohols act as emulsifiers, which prevents the product from separating and gives in the natural, creamy texture that you’re looking for.
When used in conditioners, it thickens up the cream and makes it pliable. Without the use of alcohol, the product would simply be too watery and it wouldn’t apply properly.
Helps With Detangling
If your hair is prone to knots and tangles, then long-chain alcohols could be just what you need.
Good alcohols, such as stearyl alcohol, give products a natural slip, so they glide over the hair, leaving fewer tangles.
Leaves Hair Feeling Hydrated
Forget the drying effects of short-chain alcohols and say hello to moisturizing strands with long-chain fatty alcohols!
The structure of these good alcohols is responsible for smoothing the cuticles, reducing dry strands, and leaving the hair feeling smooth.
Your hair will be more manageable and easier to work with!
How To identify Good Alcohols
As there are no hair products that specify good alcohols vs bad alcohols, it’s up to the consumer to identify them instead.
Here’s how you can identify the good alcohols:
Contact The Company
If you’re unsure of the type of alcohol or you would like to find out a bit more about how it’s used in the product, you can reach out to the company instead.
This can be helpful and informative, but keep in mind that a company doesn’t necessarily have to disclose this information to you.
Do Your Research
If you research each type of alcohol, you will be able to quickly find out if it’s good alcohol or a bad one.
There are studies conducted on every chemical, so if people have reported reactions to it, there will be clear evidence of this.
Through this knowledge, you can decide whether to avoid this chemical in all hair products or use it in moderation.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Coralle is an experienced beauty writer with a passion for wellness, women’s health, and sustainability.