If you’ve struggled with dry or damaged hair, you’ve probably received a common bit of advice: avoid products that contain alcohol.
Seems logical; textured strands aren’t easily coated. Their unique crimps and curves tend to stall natural oils’ travel. Alcohol-based products are universally known for drying out the hair, so they could eradicate oils altogether.
However, you might be surprised to know the opposite is true.
When used properly, products that contain alcohol aren’t harmful at all. In fact, most of them benefit the hair.
There are two general types of alcohol: Short Chain and Fatty.
Short Chain alcohols are used in products that are designed to dry rapidly, like holding spray and gels.
They have a tiny carbon content, low molecular form and are miscible with water. This means they evaporate quickly, eliminate excess weight and ensure other ingredients won’t overpower a product.
They create hold and definition without making the hair too stiff or weighed down, but if used too often or too heavily, they absorb essential oils, leaving hair dry and brittle. Occasional use is best.
Fatty (or long chain alcohols) have a high carbon content and are derived from natural resources like coconut and palm oils. They are used to make creams smooth, lotions thick and foams stable.
Unlike their fast-drying, short-chain cousins, fatty alcohols are emollient, hydrating and lubricious. You know that wonderful “slip” we enjoy when detangling with conditioner? Thank fatty alcohols!
They are too big to penetrate the hair, so instead, they absorb and trap moisture, which seals damaged cuticles. Hair is softer, smooth and frizz-free.