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The haircare ingredients you need in your routine and the ones you should avoid

The haircare ingredients you need in your routine and the ones you should avoid
Gigi Gordon
Beauty Writer17 days ago
View Gigi Gordon's profile

When it comes to hair care, we're a lot more careful than we used to be about what we put on our luscious locks. Gone are the days when ingredients' lists were longer than your arm's length, now we want to know exactly why every haircare ingredient is included. Well, if you've had trouble keeping up with every single ingredient on that haircare dos and don't list, don't worry, this A-Z guide has got you covered.

Harmful haircare ingredients you need to avoid

Sulphates

Why are sulphates bad for hair?

Although there is still debate as to whether or not sulphates are as bad as we originally thought, we think it's still best practice to avoid them if you have sensitive skin. Commonly found in detergents and engine degreasers, sulphates work to deeply cleanse, which can be too strong for sensitive scalps. This deep cleansing can also strip the strands of their natural moisture, leaving the locks dry and brittle.

However, it's important to remember that you can't instantly go sulphate-free. First, you'll need to use a sulphate shampoo to remove any silicones, phthalates or parabens that you have put in your hair. That may sound confusing, but it's actually very important. Sulphate-free shampoos just won't be able to uplift such strong ingredients, so use a sulphate shampoo to uplift any leftover toxins before you go fully free from nasties.

Our favourite sulphate free shampoos:

  • Shu Uemura Art of Hair Colour Lustre Sulphate Free Shampoo (300ml)

    Shu Uemura Art of Hair Colour Lustre Sulphate Free Shampoo (300ml)

    4.76 Stars 91 Reviews
    £26.95
  • Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Shampoo 384ml

    Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Shampoo 384ml

    4 Stars 13 Reviews
    £10.99
  • Imbue Curl Liberating Sulphate Free Shampoo 400ml

    Imbue Curl Liberating Sulphate Free Shampoo 400ml

    4.5 Stars 4 Reviews
    £8.99

Silicones

Why are silicones bad for hair?

Silicones coat the hair with a seal to lock in moisture while creating the illusion of shinier hair. The problem is, if moisture can't come out, it can't go in either. This can cause the hair to suffocate, stopping nourishing ingredients from penetrating the follicle. What's more, silicones are very difficult to remove from the hair shaft, which can lead to build-up. This build-up can cause irritation, dryness or dullness - three things you definitely don't want.

Our favourite no-nasties masks:

  • Umberto Giannini Grow Mask Hemp, Coconut and Shea Treatment 230g

    Umberto Giannini Grow Mask Hemp, Coconut and Shea Treatment 230g

    5 Stars 2 Reviews
    £9.25
  • Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Banana 3-in-1 Dry Hair Mask Treatment 390ml

    Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Banana 3-in-1 Dry Hair Mask Treatment 390ml

    4.31 Stars 26 Reviews
    £6.99
  • Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque 340g

    Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque 340g

    4.56 Stars 39 Reviews
    £12.99

Phthalates

Why are phthalates bad for hair?

Both colourless and odourless, phthalates are mainly used as plasticisers. What this means is that they are used to coat plastics and increase their longevity, making the object stronger and more difficult to break. In haircare, they help fragrances to last longer and soften other substances present in the formula. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's report in April 2010, the ingredient has been linked to a broad range of health risks, including negative effects on the liver and kidney.

All of Bouclème's products are formulated without the use of any silicones, parabens, phthalates or sulphates. So, you can trust anything from their brand to be safe for your hair.

Our favourite Bouclème products:

  • Bouclème Curl Cream 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Cream 300ml

    4.08 Stars 24 Reviews
    £7.60
  • Bouclème Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    Bouclème Curl Defining Gel 300ml

    4.52 Stars 42 Reviews
    £8.00
  • Bouclème Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo 250ml

    Bouclème Scalp Exfoliating Shampoo 250ml

    5 Stars 4 Reviews
    £26.00

Parabens

What are parabens and why are they bad for hair?

Parabens are chemical preservatives, often found in cosmetics and haircare products. They come in many different forms, most of which are difficult to pronounce, including butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutyl paraben (we told you so). Cheap and effective, their only purpose is to extend the shelf life of products.

Many studies have linked parabens to the decline in skin and scalp health. They can cause a whole host of problems, from hair drying and fading to scalp irritation and even hair loss. Parabens are particularly troublesome because they are absorbed through the skin when you topically apply hair care products and cosmetics.

Nourishing ingredients you need to start using

Coconut oil

This ingredient is loved for its broad range of benefits, helping to soothe irritation on the scalp, seamlessly uplift makeup from the skin, as well as its moisture-locking abilities. Rich in essential fatty acids, the ingredient supports the hair's natural synthesis of collagen, which helps to combat dryness and breakage. It even helps to stop the scalp from producing excess sebum, combatting oiliness.

The important thing to know is that Coconut Oil is not a moisturiser. As you were taught in science, oil and water can't mix. So rather than actually hydrating hair, Coconut Oil coats the strands, working as a sealant to prevent moisture loss. It is particularly beneficial to those who have high porosity hair, or who have subjected their hair to lots of heat or chemical damage. Quite literally frazzled, damaged hair struggles to hold onto moisture, so sealants are especially important.

  • OGX Damage Remedy+ Coconut Miracle Oil Hair Mask 168ml

    OGX Damage Remedy+ Coconut Miracle Oil Hair Mask 168ml

    5 Stars 1 Reviews
    £7.99
  • KIKI Health Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil 500ml

    KIKI Health Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil 500ml

    5 Stars 3 Reviews
    £13.95
  • Camille Rose Naturals Coconut Water Leave-In Treatment 240ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Coconut Water Leave-In Treatment 240ml

    4.67 Stars 12 Reviews
    £10.99

Avocado oil

Avocado is rich in Biotin, the vitamin responsible for growth and repair in the hair. Not only does this help to encourage growth, this ingredient also helps the hair to rejuvenate, combatting dryness and dullness. What's more, this conditioning effect helps to hydrate hair, feeding moisture deep into the follicle. The result? Hair looks shinier and feels stronger.

  • Cantu Avocado Hydrating Cream Conditioner 400ml

    Cantu Avocado Hydrating Cream Conditioner 400ml

    £6.99
  • Camille Rose Naturals Fresh Curl Revitalising Hair Smoother 240ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Fresh Curl Revitalising Hair Smoother 240ml

    4 Stars 2 Reviews
    £16.99
  • Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo 60ml

    Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo 60ml

    5 Stars 2 Reviews
    £15.00

Argan oil

Rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, Argan Oil is a holy grail ingredient when it comes to hair care. Famous for its ability to soften and smooth hair, this ingredient is the most popular with those who regularly heat style or chemically treat their hair. Helping the tresses to recover from balayage, keratin treatments and perms alike, Argan Oil has always been a staple in any haircare lover's cupboard.

  • Beauty Works Pearl Nourishing Argan Oil Mask 250ml

    Beauty Works Pearl Nourishing Argan Oil Mask 250ml

    4.83 Stars 24 Reviews
    £11.99
  • Redken All Soft Argan-6 Oil 111ml

    Redken All Soft Argan-6 Oil 111ml

    4.64 Stars 123 Reviews
    £26.10
  • Pantene Gold Series Intense Hydrating Hair Oil with Argan Oil 95ml

    Pantene Gold Series Intense Hydrating Hair Oil with Argan Oil 95ml

    £7.99

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear is the trending haircare ingredient of 2021. Packed with 150% more Vitamin E than Argan Oil, Prickly Pear seeds are also filled with antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Antioxidants defend the hair against environmental aggressors, which can cause dryness and damage, while fatty acids help the hair to defend and rebuild. Working in harmony, these two ingredients leave the hair looking softer and feeling stronger.

  • Christophe Robin Regenerating Serum with Prickly Pear Oil 50ml

    Christophe Robin Regenerating Serum with Prickly Pear Oil 50ml

    5 Stars 1 Reviews
    £35.00
  • Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner 250ml

    Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner 250ml

    5 Stars 2 Reviews
    £26.00
  • JASON Hair Care Aloe Vera 80% and Prickly Pear Shampoo 473ml

    JASON Hair Care Aloe Vera 80% and Prickly Pear Shampoo 473ml

    4 Stars 7 Reviews
    £6.99

Sea Kelp & Algae

Harness the magic of the sea to care for your locks and watch the waves soften. Algae survive in some of the harshest climates in the world, thanks to their powerful ability to regenerate. The ingredient has some of the same benefits for the hair, repairing damage from heat styling while protecting the tresses against environmental aggressors. What's more, Sea Kelp is the swear-by ingredient of many hairdressers, heralded for its ability to encourage growth. With these two ingredients by your side, you can expect stronger, softer and healthier-looking hair.

  • JASON Hair Care Sea Kelp and Porphyra Algae Shampoo 473ml

    JASON Hair Care Sea Kelp and Porphyra Algae Shampoo 473ml

    4.2 Stars 10 Reviews
    £6.99
  • Maui Moisture Colour Protection+ Sea Minerals Shampoo 385ml

    Maui Moisture Colour Protection+ Sea Minerals Shampoo 385ml

    4 Stars 1 Reviews
    £8.99
  • Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner 240ml

    Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner 240ml

    4.69 Stars 16 Reviews
    £15.99

Sea Salt

If you're someone who suffers from a dry, flaky or sensitive scalp - Sea Salt could be what you need. Taking things back to basics, this manual exfoliant harnesses the power of nature to calm your concerns. Helping to buff away dirt, impurities and build-up from the skin, the ingredient lets the scalp breathe, leaving room for growth and repair.

  • Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt (250ml)

    Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt (250ml)

    4.62 Stars 87 Reviews
    £7.00
  • We Are Paradoxx Detox Scalp and Body Scrub 200g

    We Are Paradoxx Detox Scalp and Body Scrub 200g

    £25.50
  • Kérastase Energising Scrub 250ml

    Kérastase Energising Scrub 250ml

    4.78 Stars 18 Reviews
    £38.70

Vitamin C

If you suffer from weak, dull hair then Vitamin C is the ingredient you need! Philip Kingsley, the experts in scalp care have launched their new Vitamin C Jelly Detoxifying Hair and Scalp Treatment to help cleanse and protect your strands leaving them strong and healthy. The unique powder to jelly formula works to get rid of a build up of dirt and impurities caused by pollution and environmental aggressors. Simply apply the product before your shampoo to deeply cleanse and leave you with soft, shiny, strong locks!

  • Philip Kingsley Vitamin C Jelly Detoxifying Hair and Scalp Treatment 5g

    Philip Kingsley Vitamin C Jelly Detoxifying Hair and Scalp Treatment 5g

    £28.00
  • The INKEY List Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment 50ml

    The INKEY List Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment 50ml

    4.5 Stars 2 Reviews
    £9.99

Amino Acids

Amino acids help our bodies to product proteins that are essential for many body functions and growth. Particularly important for hair growth, Amino Acids help strands grow stronger, shinier and prevent damage and moisture loss. The Wella Professionals Fusion Mask is formulated with Silk Amino Acids to target damaged hair and bring it back to it's healthiest state. Inspired by Spider Silk, one of the strongest natural fibres, the mask penetrates deep into the hair follicles, infusing them with moisture for visibly healthier hair.

  • Wella Professionals Fusion Mask 500ml

    Wella Professionals Fusion Mask 500ml

    4.89 Stars 9 Reviews
    from
    £14.00

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Gigi Gordon
Beauty Writer
View Gigi Gordon's profile
As a haircare obsessive, I’m always on the lookout for new products and methods that will define my crown. I can never stick with a hairstyle for too long, and I love to pair minimal makeup with a bold lip. I specialise in haircare, with a mission to make all hair types and textures look and feel fantastic. If you’re after a new routine or product – I’m your girl, I’ve tried every haircare challenge and all the curl creams I can get my hands on. I couldn’t live without my wash-and-go routine, and I follow the Curly Girl Method religiously. Unable to find my perfect salon, I’ve always cut, braided and dyed my own hair, working as a freelance hairdresser since 2016. Although I’m a long-time fanatic, I’ve been writing about beauty since 2019, working with haircare specialists from Cantu, Boucleme and Mielle Organics to uncover the best tricks and tips. Felicia Leatherwood is my haircare guru, and Scary Spice is my all-time icon.
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