More often than not, our favorite curly-hair shampoo products contain a number of unintelligible chemical names. And so with few other options, we’re forced to trust the bottles’ labels. But in the keep-our-curls-cute quest, are we actually hurting them? Maybe. To help you understand what’s really in those bottles, jars or tubes, offers this quick list of the best (and worst) chemical ingredients for your curls.
Sulfates, or surfactants, give products the ability to remove dirt from surfacessuch skin and textiles. Sulfates can be great for removing product buildup and unclogging pores, which both ultimately encourage healthy hair growth. But some sulfates are so powerful they can strip your hair of healthy nutrients.  
To avoid them, make sure none of these ingredients are in your products: ammonium laureth or lauryl sulfate, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, ethyl PEG-15cocamine sulfate, sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate or TEA.  
Instead, opt for products with mild surfactants, and drying chemicals that work just as well as sulfates: coco betaine, lauroamphoacetate or sodium cocoyl isethionate.  
Silicones are commonly found in hair conditioners. These chemicals add shine and gloss while also decreasing hair friction and tangling. They also act as humectants, to seal in moisture. But some silicones aren’t water soluble, meaning they’ll cause buildup, clog pores and weigh down strands.  
To keep hair light, steer clear of these build-up-causing silicones: cetearyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone or stearyl dimethicone.  
Instead, choose hair products with slightly water soluble behenoxy dimethicone or stearoxy dimethicone, or those that are totally water soluble, such as dimethicone copolyol, hydrolyzed wheat protein hydroxypropyl polysiloxane, lauryl methicone copolyol and silicones with the letters “PEG” or “PPG” preceding them.
Protein-based products reinforce the hair shaft, keep strands strong and prevent breakage. But some curly hair types, especially coarse curls, are sensitive to proteins, which can cause hair to dry out and become brittle. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how your hair will react. Instead of cutting out proteins, use sparing amounts and see how they affect your hair. Some common hair product protein ingredients are collagen, keratin, silk amino acids, wheat amino acids and wheat protein.  
Now, who’s at the lab mixing up these perfect product ingredients? Click here to find out.