Good Alcohols and Bad Alcohols for your Hair

Good and Bad Alcohols

When it comes to your hair most of us have been taught that products containing alcohols can be extremely damaging to your hair.  As a “naturalista,” I’ve heard other naturals talk about how brittle and dry your hair can become if your shampoos, conditioners, and creams have alcohol in them, but is that really the case? Well…yes and no.  I’ll explain. In this article, I will discuss Good Alcohols and Bad Alcohols for Your Hair.

Did you know that there are actually good and bad alcohols for your hair? Similar to how there are “good fats” (like avocados)  and “bad fats”  (like cheeseburgers) in our diet, there are good and bad alcohols for your hair. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘alcohol’ and just run away because some of the alcohol found in hair products can keep your hair looking soft and shiny.

Bad Alcohols

These alcohols have limited benefits for kinky, curly, coily haired women, which is why they’re considered to be bad. Alcohols that are “short-chain” alcohols have three or less carbons in the tail.  While they’re great at helping hair to dry quickly, they often help the hair dry too quickly.  The super quick chemical drying agents can actually leave your hair frizzy because the cuticle becomes rough as the water and moisture is removed from it. Below are alcohols that have been proven to be bad for your hair:

  • Ethanol alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Propanol alcohol
  • Alcohol denat.
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Isopropanol alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol

Women with  kinky, curly and coily hair are particularly prone to dry hair so the above alcohols can ruin your hair regimen.  Why? Since curly hair tends to already need tons of moisture, the bad alcohols can zap all of the life out of curlies with its quick-evaporating tendencies and drying-out qualities.

Good Alcohols

One question I constantly get asked is “cetearyl alcohol hair?” Contrary to popular belief, there are alcohols that are good for your hair.  These alcohols are fatty, generally come from natural sources, and they come many carbons strong. Be careful not to use too much because, like anything else, too much of a good thing can backfire.  In the case of “good fats” on your hair, too much can mean too oily, and your hair can easily end up with a greasy texture if it’s overdone.

You’ll often find these types of “good alcohols” in higher quality shampoos and conditioners as well as thickeners, non-ionic surfactants, and emulsion stabilizers.  These fatty alcohols help keep the price down in products as they replace more expensive polymers.


There are good and bad products for nearly everything you can imagine.  While your first inclination may be to think that alcohol in hair products is bad for your hair now you can see that a little research and diligence can go a long way and actually help your healthy hair journey. One alcohol-free product you can definitely try is the PureFix Hair Elixir which is a 6-in-1 hair and scalp treatment. Its all-natural ingredients work together to support longer, stronger hair and to promote hair growth.

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Brandelyn Green is the Founder of VoiceOfHair, a platform to help women of color find the best hair care products, regimens and hairstyles! Since starting VoiceOfHair in 2014 she has grown the social media platform to over 1MM+ on Instagram and Facebook. As a natural who is also a salon goer, she wanted to create a platform where people could find the best products, hairstylists, advice and trends.
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  • Anna says:

    I am looking at a dry shampoo that has just “alcohol” listed in the ingredients list. Is it good or bad?

    • Hi there Anna,
      Thank you for your comment & question! As long as the alcohol in the dry shampoo consist of one of the “good alcohols” listed in the blog then that would be fine!

      Cetyl alcohol
      Cetearyl alcohol
      Stearyl alcohol
      Lauryl alcohol

  • Mortada says:

    Hi guys, experts and doctors,

    I am a guy who had the best possible hair for my age.
    On March 2020 I had a very strong thick beautiful healthy hair that everyone used to comment on it when I had it a little long
    Between April the 2nd and 14th April 2020, i travelled during the lockdown to my country and was forced to be quarantined in a specific building for that purpose where the municipality didn’t work out the hot water in the building so no one could shower. I used to apply Ethanol Alcohol spraying it directly on my scalp with a short hair of 1 centimetre long (because I was afraid of other people and that Covid could be passed to me by air from the next rooms which had quarantined people too)

    I used to apply Ethanol Alcohol about 4 -5 times daily for like 13 days. While I was applying I did not shower for about 13 days so the Ethanol was staying there for the entire period until I got home and showered. I used to clean myself with Ethanol.

    Post quarantine and during the following 6 months my hair grew kind of normally and did not notice any thin hair or much hair falling. At the beginning of the 2021 year (about 8 months after that happened) I started noticing my hair started to fall and with time this problem started to be more serious as it is now with excessive hair thinning and loss and falling and shedding and even the grey hair more than doubled in my crown area until it reached what it is now (very thin hair and empty spots are easily visible and obvious)

    A few things to be considered:

    1- I am the youngest in my family, none of my elder brothers or sisters has any problem with their hair. My mom is about 76 years old and she has a very good hair for her age.

    2- My mother’s family and relatives all have thick and dense hair (example: her brothers which are my uncles (youngest is 70+ years old) and their hair better than mine probably better than mine now.

    3- None of my Dad’s family was bald too as far as I know even at late age.

    4- I have done all hormones and vitamins tests and all of them came back with ideal results.

    5- I don’t think I have a genetic baldness or any inherited traits or genes that leads to a hair loss condition especially from my mother’s side as all her big family members have serious strong and beautiful hair all of them.

    6-Most importantly, before April 2020 I had truly strong, thick, dense and coloured hair (just when I cut it a week before my quarantine and the Ethanol applying).

    The questions I always have in mind are:
    1- Did applying Ethanol on short hair and scalp caused this problem or helped it?

    2- In case It was the Ethanol effect. Can I do anything to heal the harmed follicles and is it truly possible to get them back to the stage before Ethanol?

    Thank you for taking time reading this, I am trying to explain to help identifying the problem that might help saving a little of my hair or maybe hopefully inshallah growing a new hair again.

    I look forward to your reply thank you again.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Mortada,

      Thank you so much for sharing with us! We are so sorry that you had to go through this experience. We would strongly suggest that you go see a professional doctor to have your questions answered. It very well may be that the Ethonal has damaged your hair follicles. But please have a professional diagnose this. Based on the details you explained, it does not sound like the problem is hereditary. We wish you the very best and hope you are able to get the answered needed to regrow your hair!


  • Brianna says:

    Hello, I have been looking for products that meet my hair needs I have waves, curls and straight hair in some spots, but the products I’m finding seem to contain both good and bad alcohols. Is this ok?

    • Hi Brianna,

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your hair concerns! Our product would be perfect for your hair. Feel free to check out our line as well as customer reviews at
      If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]

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