10 Best Ingredients for Black Hair

Think: Natural

You have to be your own hair care advocate when it comes to buying the best products for you. There's a lot of information out there on what's good and what's bad for black hair. What happens when you use a product with ingredients in it that the latest hair expert says is a no-no? What if it works for you? Remember: everything doesn't work for everybody. Your hair may love shampoo, silicones and plenty of oil, so if it's thriving under that program, there's no need for you to change it! Still, look at the ingredients in every product you buy. These are some of the best for black hair, whether they're part of your favorite commercial product or options for your home mixtures.

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Water

Woman drinking water, a great ingredient to keep black hair healthy
Geri Lavrov/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Water is the ultimate moisturizer. Not only does it work on the outside of your body, it works from the inside, too. If this is the first ingredient listed on products, that's a good thing. It means the product is putting moisture back into your hair. After that, it's up to you to retain that moisture, so make sure you seal it in with whatever method is effective for your tresses.

You'll find products that contain coconut oil, but if you can buy it pure and/or organic, you can use it straight from the jar. It's a wonderful emollient because unlike other oils, coconut oil actually penetrates the cortex instead of simply sitting on top of it and making it look all nice and shiny. It absorbs wonderfully and is multi-functional; use it on your skin and cook with it, too.

8 Ways to Use Coconut Oil on Black Hair

Look for pure, unrefined shea butter that's pale yellow and smooth. Gritty, dark yellow, white or green shea butter is either too refined or even rotten. Again, look for a light yellow color and uniformity when buying shea butter. There are plenty of companies that have jumped on the shea butter bandwagon, but if it's not one of the first five ingredients listed in a product, it's probably not doing you much good. You can either buy a shea butter-based product, or better yet, use it straight from the jar. Pure shea butter can be firm, but it melts easily and absorbs into dry hair well.

Another multi-tasker here, olive oil is great for hot oil treatments and for mixing with rinse-out conditioners. Use sparingly as this is a heavy oil and can weigh your hair down when used in large amounts. If you're a DIY type, olive oil is a good ingredient to add into your home mixes.

Jojoba oil is prized as a natural ingredient because its composition is similar to that of your scalp's natural oils. Use straight from the bottle, although it's not considered as effective a penetrator as coconut oil, or mix with conditioners and hair moisturizers. It's a good option for anyone wanting a lightweight oil that won't weigh the hair down.

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Sodium Laureth Sulfate

For those of you out there who are already into reading ingredient labels, this one may throw you, especially if you avoid using sulfate-based shampoos. The vast majority of commercial shampoos contain either sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. The former, sodium lauryl, is drying and should be avoided. The latter, however, sodium laureth sulfate, is a suitable cleanser for black hair that won't overly dry it.

If you've ever used mashed avocado as a conditioning treatment, you're familiar with the moisturizing properties of this vegetable. The oil is good for use on anyone suffering from dry, thirsty locks. It's heavy, so it's best suited for women with coarse, denser textures.

Purported to prevent hair loss, aloe vera does more than soothe sunburn. A good aloe vera shampoo is said to restore the pH levels of the scalp. Use aloe vera gel or juice in your DIY treatments; you can also use aloe vera by itself as a very moisturizing ingredient.

Good for cleansing the scalp, promoting thicker hair growth and removing toxins, use castor oil once to twice per week. You only need a little at a time because this oil is incredibly thick. While pharmacy-grade castor oil is sufficient, many women looking for even more benefits and growth swear by Jamaican Black Castor Oil (or JBCO).

4 Ways to Use JBCO

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Cetyl or Cetearyl Alcohol

Don't let the alcohol scare you; this is nothing like SD-alcohol 40, which should be avoided. This ingredient is a non-greasy, non-sticky additive you'll often see used in conditioners, to make them thick and creamy, which is just what dry hair needs.