Hair Care Products: Why The Top 5 Ingredients Matter

One of the biggest challenges many naturals face is knowing what products to use, how to use them, and when to use them to achieve the perfect look. I have been guilty of scrolling from post to post and watching tons of videos online in search of demos and reviews to give me some insight into what products or product line would be best for me. This often results in the accumulation of an impressive stash of curl creams, gels, shampoos, conditioners, and other stylers which clutter the bathroom counters and cabinets after an unsuccessful styling attempt.

By no means do I want to minimize the benefit of a good product review, but I can say that the search for the perfect product can be simplified with a bit of knowledge about what you actually need to achieve the desired look. You can gather quite a bit of information from reading the product ingredient label and in actuality you may only need to focus on the first few ingredients on the list. It is not that the other listed ingredients don’t matter but rather it the initial review can give you a quick insight into the product from a formulator’s perspective.

hair product store display
An example of in-store retail product offerings for haircare.

So, what do you look for on the label? Here is what you need to know to learn the most about a product in a short amount of time:

1. A simple way to check ingredients in hair products is to take a look at the label.

The order in which the ingredients are simply listed reveal a lot about the formulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Cosmetic Labeling Guide states that the ingredients on the product label must be labeled in “descending order of predominance”. Simply stated, the ingredients must be listed based on their concentration in the formulation from the highest to lowest concentration. ⁣ Ingredients which make up less than 1% of the formulation can be listed in any order after the listing of ingredients present in a higher concentration.

2. The first 5 – 6 ingredients often matter the most.

Since the ingredients listed first on the list represent the bulk of the formulation they also represent the ingredients which largely influence the performance of the product on the hair. For example, if water or aloe vera is listed at the top of this list you can assume that the product has been formulated to hydrate and provide moisture to the hair. Similarly, if you are searching for an all natural styler and see the ingredient carbomer listed at the top of the list you will know that this synthetic polymer may not meet your haircare standards. This approach will help you focus on what result you desire from the product purchase and the likelihood of it addressing your needs.

3. Make sure to double check to see where exotic and special ingredients are listed.

Often exotic or expensive ingredients are added to enhance marketability. Many product brands tout use of these rare ingredients to create differentiation in the product market and enhance the perception of product quality. However, if these ingredients are found toward the end of the list it suggests that their impact on product performance is likely minimal.⁣ This will help you decide if that exotic hair oil or butter is worth the money. One additional telltale sign is the product cost. Due to limited sourcing, most exotic ingredients will cost more money and result in a higher retail price point.

Understanding product labeling can help you find just the right product for your hair without a lot of trial and error. You will be drawn to products that can deliver the results you need and and it won’t hurt to save money and priceless bathroom space in the process.

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