I have really thick, dry, kinda curly-wavy hair. I don’t do much with it: it’s usually just pulled back with a scrunchy. When I got (back) to Taiwan in 2013, I started experimenting with different shampoos and conditioners. Within a year, I had to cut six inches off my hair because it was so damaged. That was a big bummer for me, so I’ve grown a lot more conscientious about choosing hair care products.
I had a lot of trouble finding English reviews of products I was considering buying, usually from Watsons, so I wanted to put this info out there for anyone else who might be trapped in the shampoo aisle, eyes glazing over from trying to decipher Chinese labels and the gibberish lists of ingredients.
I learned a lot. Many products that claimed to be “natural” still contained sulfates, silicones, parabens, or other ingredients that I want to avoid. Not everyone is or has to be so picky, so don’t stress out about hair care products more than you have to. This is just a post to remind you that labels can be deceiving, especially if labels are all you have to go on.
Sea Venus Ka’fen Green Tea Benefits Treatment
I grabbed this one off the shelf at random, just because the label kind of gives the impression that this would be a product with natural and healthy ingredients: Green Tea! Benefits! Green Leaves! But then I got to googling and discovered this conditioner has a couple of questionable chemicals in it. Behentrimonium chloride can cause damage to the mucous membranes of your eyes in anything but the smallest quantities. Dimenthicone is a silicone that will coat your hair, making it silky soft and smooth the first few times, but with regular use, no water can get to your hair and it ends up drier and more damaged than ever. Propylparaben is a paraben and by now we have all been told to not use products with parabens because they cause cancer.
This is why I did all this homework!
Diane Botanical Moist Treatment
This conditioner didn’t look half bad, ingredient-wise, but it contains dimethicone. It already destroyed my hair once and I won’t let it happen again!
Watsons Naturals Argan Oil Conditioner
This argan oil conditioner looks okay, except that argan oil is the ninth ingredient. Generally, the first five ingredients are the active ingredients, so it’s misleading to call this “argan oil” conditioner. Oh and it contains methylisothiazolinone. I don’t want to cry wolf, but some tests done on rats (sorry, rats) have indicated the exposure to this compound for too long or in too high quantities can cause nerve damage. Companies insist that it’s very diluted and you rinse it all off down the drain. So maybe it’s fine…or maybe you can just pick a different conditioner. Seems to be a lot of products that don’t contain this preservative, least of all with a label that says “Naturals”.
Watsons Naturals Argan Oil Shampoo
C’mon, guys, we know the rules: no parabens, no silicones, no sulfates. And here the second ingredient is sodium laureth sulfate. It’s the stuff that makes your shampoo bubble and foam, but it can dry out your skin and hair, cause skin irritation or allergies in the long-term. You’re better off without it, and plenty of products no longer contain SLS. And just like with the matching conditioner above, argan oil is so far down the list that it can hardly be considered an active ingredient.
Herbal Essences Naked Shampoo
I was so excited when I first saw this American product at Watsons that I bought the extra-large shampoo and the extra-large conditioner. But then I got home, and, bummer: it contains SLS, which can dry out or irritate your hair and skin.
It especially annoys me because the bottle is like “no parabens, no silicones, no colorant” but then it has other problematic ingredients. Truth: I used the shampoo and conditioner as shaving lotion for my legs. I guess I’m not that opposed to sulfates, mostly just opposed to having split ends that necessitate losing inches of hair.
Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo
Hey! We may have a winner. The ingredients all check out in terms of being safe and natural. However, my hair is dry, so I would personally avoid anything harsh enough to call itself “clarifying lemon.” Sounds like split ends to me! But at least there are some not-bullshit products available at the drugstore.
Amma Coffee Strengthening Shampoo
This is another contender for “possibly not going to destroy your hair.” I haven’t tried this particular product, but I’ve use some other Amma Garden shampoos and conditioners, and I felt like they were very drying. Really, my hair like an underloved horse and I have to be intentional about not doing much with it to make it stay healthy and long like I like it.
Ascience Treatment Hair Mask
I don’t even have a picture of this product, that’s how bad the breakup was. It started off so well: after months of dryness and split ends, my hair was gorgeous. And then things started to go downhill. I tried using more product in my hair; I tried using it more often. Then I did some research found out that the dimethicone was the culprit. It coats the hair shaft, makes it silky soft and smooth, but after a while, no moisture can get to the hair and it just breaks and breaks.
Maaaybe you could use this like once in a blue moon when you need your hair to look amazing for a special event. Using it more often than that will destroy your hair.
After experimenting for two years, I actually ended up losing like six inches of my hair. I was bummed! But I learned a lot and now I am happy with my no-poo routine. I have been ordering all-natural conditioners (many different types) from iherb.com (affiliate link) because I couldn’t find anything natural in the stores.