We all have bad hair days. The exact cause of that bad hair day is hard to pinpoint. It could be humidity in the air, styling mistakes or it could be the continued use of too-harsh products that are leaving hair less than healthy. Top stylists shared their list of the worst hair products that should be avoided at all costs.
1. Silicone-Based Products
“Silicone coats the hair shaft for a sleek shiny finish, but it prevents the real nutrients from conditioners to penetrate the hair shaft,” says Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC.
Safe alternative: If you’re seeking a shiny finish, try Redken Diamond Oil Shatterproof Shine (redken.com for salons). It’s able to seal and coat the hair cuticle without the use of silicone.
2. Alcohol-Based Products
“Avoid alcohol products, which are mostly used in styling spray-gels or mousses,” says Saviano. “Alcohol is a very drying ingredient for the hair.”
Safe alternative: L’Oréal Paris EverStyle Alcohol-Free Strong Hold Defining Gel ($6.99, lorealparisusa.com) gives hair hold without drying it out.
3. Cheap Shampoo
Saviano says to be wary when buying shampoo, since some brands strip color and remove hair’s natural oils. If you do choose a drugstore shampoo, look for one that’s low in sulfates and contains moisturizing ingredients.
Safe alternative: Living Proof Restore Shampoo ($28, livingproof.com) gently cleanses while keeping hair moisturized and healthy.
4. Protein-Based Conditioners
Conditioner fortified with protein is fine, as long as it’s not only protein that it contains. “Always use a combination of moisture and protein,” Saviano says. “Too much or only protein will eventually make the hair lose its natural elasticity and will cause hair to snap while brushing and styling.” Overusing protein on hair can lead to straw-like strands.
Safe alternative: Carol’s Daughter Tui Moisturizing Leave-In Conditioner ($14, sephora.com) has a balanced formula that includes wheat protein and natural moisturizers.
5. Plastic Brushes
“Do not use plastic brushes for your hair, because they have a tendency to break the hairs,” says Caroline Greyl, president of Leonor Greyl.
Safe alternative: Use a Wigo Cushion 100% Boar Bristle Brush ($18.74, ulta.com) instead.
6. Zinc Pyrithione and Coal Tar
While these ingredients are commonly found in dandruff shampoos, Greyl says says they’re really harsh on your skin.”
Safe alternative: Leonor Greyl Bain Traitant a la Propolis ($42, leonorgreyl-usa.com) is able to treat itchy dandruff without the troublesome ingredients.
7. Heat Protectants
“I think ‘heat protectants’ do more harm than good,” says Clear celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin. “For people styling their hair at home, using a heat protectant can do the opposite of what it’s supposed to. If sprayed before using a flat or curling iron, it can almost ‘cook’ the hair and cause it to break off. ”
Safe alternative: Try non-heated styling methods, like braiding damp hair and letting it air dry.
8. Products With Parabens
“Since parabens are used to kill bacteria in water-based solutions, they inherently have some toxicity to human cells and can be absorbed through the skin,” says Dwayne Ross, owner of Verve Lounge Hair Salon.
Safe alternative: Try using paraben-free shampoo, like Malibu C Scalp Wellness Shampoo ($16, malibuc.com).
“If the product lists fragrance, stay away,” says Rowenta celebrity stylist Josue Perez. “It can contain more than 4,000 separate ingredients. Studies show fragrance can affect the nervous system leading to major health issues.”
Safe alternative: Look for products that say “fragrance free” on the packaging.
10. Salt Sprays
The look of messy, beachy hair can be sexy, but many salt sprays actually dry out your hair in the process.
Safe alternative: The Josie Maran Bohemian Waves Argan Hair Mist ($22, sephora.com) balances out the Himalayan Pink Sea Salt used to get the beachy look with argan oil, so hair stays hydrated.