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Alcohol for your curls: the good, the fat and the drying

Alcohol and your hair: If you have to believe the internet you would think these two really don’t go together. Because alcohol can dry out your hair, especially if you have curls. Curly hair is often drier than average, so you better watch out for that. Because nobody wants dry hair and fluff! But the soup is not eaten as hot as it is served: not all alcohols are bad for your hair. Some are even good for your hair, moisturizing it. Wondering which are good and bad, and how you can distinguish the good from the bad? After reading this article, you will know all about it.

Also read: Curls and a silk or satin pillowcase

In this article:

In this article:

What does alcohol do?

It is sometimes said that alcohol is added to hair products to prevent people from eating or drinking these hair products. Huh? Fortunately, the truth is slightly different, strange enough?

Alcohol is added to shampoos and conditioners, among other things, to ensure that other ingredients can better penetrate the skin or hair.

Furthermore, it gives products a lighter, fresher feeling on the skin. Alcohol also ensures that the hair dries faster after a wash. 

You will find alcohol more in creams, serums and masks than in products that have a foaming effect.

Different types of alcohol

Certain types of alcohol not only allow the hair to dry faster, but also dry it out and cause frizzy hair. But there are also alcohols that act as a conditioner for your hair, the so-called fatty alcohols. 

It is useful to know what types of alcohol exist and how to recognize them, so that you can determine for yourself whether a product is suitable for your curls.

How do you recognize the different types of alcohol

You now know that there are good (fatty or fatty) and bad (drying, drying or short chain) alcohols. But how do you recognize the different types of alcohol on the – generally illegible – labels of your favourite hair products?

Dehydrated alcohol

Drying alcohols are often found in hair sprays or styling products. That is for a reason, because without this alcohol, for example, it would not be possible to spray hairspray from the mouthpiece. 

These alcohols have the most drying aspects. They suck the moisture or hydration from your hair, as it were. 

As a result, your hair dries out, starts to frizz and in some cases it even breaks off. So if you want to have hydrated curls, it’s best to avoid these alcohols, especially if they’re at the top of the ingredient list. 

The best known bad alcohol is alcohol denat (denatured alcohol) or SD alcohol (SD alcohol 40). All dehydrated alcohols are:

  • Alcohol denat
  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Ethyl Alcohol
  • Isopropyl
  • Methanol
  • SD alcohol 40
  • Propanol
  • Propyl

Good fatty alcohol

Fortunately, as mentioned, there are also alcohols that do not irritate the skin and hair. These types are also called ‘fatty alcohols’ because they come from fat (from coconut and palm) and retain moisture. 

They act as an emulsifier, allowing water and oil to be mixed. These types of alcohol also ensure that conditioner gives the hair a soft feeling and makes it easy to comb. 

They help add and retain moisture. They put a kind of layer over the hair, which prevents the loss of moisture. 

Some of these alcohols are also used to thicken a product. You will find the right alcohols as follows:

  • Behenyl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Isocetyl alcohol
  • Isostearyl alcohol
  • C30-50 Alcohol
  • Lanolin alcohol

List of cg-proof products that contain no or only good alcohols

To make it as easy as possible for you, we’ve put together a list of some Curly Girl-friendly products that don’t contain alcohol, or just the good ones. 

With this list you can easily walk into the drugstore and be outside again within five minutes. Also nice! 

However, we recommend that you always check the label yourself for alcohol; you never know if the composition has suddenly changed.


  • Petal Fresh Rosemary & Mint Shampoo
  • Novex My Curls Mystic Black Shampoo
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo


  • As I Am Naturally Coconut Cowash Cleansing Conditioner (contains good alcohols Cetyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol)
  • Petal Fresh Pure Rosemary & Mint Conditioner (good alcohols + no protein)
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner

Also read: Everything you want to know about co-washing

Deep conditioner

  • As I Am Naturally Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner (contains good alcohols Cetyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol)
  • Camille Rose Naturals Moroccan Pear Conditioning Custard (contains good alcohol type Cetearyl Alcohol)

Also read: 5 tips for Deep Conditioning of your hair according to the Curly Girl Method


  • Aunt Jackie’s Coconut Creme Recipes Curl Boss Coconut Curling Gel
  • Cantu for Natural Hair Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel
  • Eco Styler Professional Styling Gel Moroccan Argan Oil

As with everything: do what you feel most comfortable with. Do you currently use hair products that contain bad alcohols, but do you have healthy hair and do not suffer from scalp irritations or dry hair? 

Then you can in principle continue to use those products. But keep in mind that your curls and scalp can be damaged in the long term.

So, you now know everything you need to know about alcohol for your curls and the different types. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them via Instagram!

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