6 Trending Hair-Care Ingredients to Know About

“Soap, rinse, repeat” was once a normal part of everyday hygiene, but with more time at home and a constant focus on all things scalp care, the newfound self-care move has received more attention than ever.

Case in point: a hairstylist’s TikTok video explaining how to shampoo properly garnered nearly two million views in one month; Searches for “scalp care” have skyrocketed year after year, and innovative launches (many of which are packed with ingredients you trust in skin care) continue to hit store shelves. To help de-clutter, we asked the experts which popular active ingredients are worth folding into your hair routine.


Celebrity colorist Ora Friedman says that the majority of hair care products typically follow the same general makeup: “Natural oils that are meant to smooth hair, proteins that strengthen it, emollients to add moisture, and fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol, to give emollients and conditioning properties to the hair,” she says. . Some shampoos may also contain detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate to remove dirt and oil.

“Glycerin helps make products softer, less oily, and makes it easier to apply to the scalp,” says New York-based dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD, managing director of Common Moisturizers. “Some hair care products also contain vitamins, but the rate at which they are absorbed is unknown.”

Your perfect match

Organic hair and skin care creator Josh Rosebrook says hair care products often rely more on formula than ingredient-based ones, which means that a test drive is necessary before finding the best match for your hair. To help with the dating game, he gives you helpful matching advice: “Choose your shampoo according to your scalp type, or how oily your scalp is, and choose your conditioner according to how well balanced your hair shaft dries.

Ingredients to be avoided

The menu may be in flux forever, but there are a few ingredients that hair experts agree you should stay away from. Among them, according to Friedman: sulfates, which can dry, cause stripping and breakage of color; parabens, which are said to have an effect on hormone levels; and silicone, which are known to build up on strands over time and prevent moisture from entering the hair.

List of common ingredients to know


Rosemary may be in vogue at the moment, but Dr. Markowitz says the herb is definitely carrying its weight in hair care, and it’s one you’re starting to see more often. “Healthy, natural, anti-inflammatory ingredients like rosemary and safflower oil can help calm inflammation and promote hair growth,” she says of the no-nonsense addition to any hair care regimen, especially if weak scalps and thinning hair are affected. Home.

Vitamin C

Similar to its role in skin care, topical vitamin C has been found to combat oxidative damage and fading when used on hair. The brand’s co-founder and celebrity colorist, Justin Anderson, found in dpHUE’s Brightening Powder, says he chose the ingredient to restore hair’s vitality and health. “We found that adding vitamin C to our formula, along with a natural chelating agent, was an absolute game-changer,” he says. According to Dr. Markowitz, vitamin C may also play a role in maintaining the suppleness of the scalp dermis thanks to the reduction of oxidative damage.

rice water

According to Spate, online searches for rice water have grown more than 10.2 percent in the past year alone. The reason boils down to our hair makeup, says Nancy Twain, CEO and founder of Briogeo. Because hair is mostly made up of keratin, Twine says the naturally occurring proteins are already in every strand. “However, these proteins and bonds break down over time, especially with frequent heat styling, chemical processing, or hair coloring.” Rice water, found in Briogeo’s newest and most effective treatment to date, is packed with fortifying nutrients that help restore shriveled bonds, reverse damage and enhance shine.

hyaluronic acid

We’re no stranger to skincare favorite hyaluronic acid, but the moisture-binding ingredient also offers promising benefits when applied to hair and scalp (you might see it appearing as sodium hyaluronate on hair care products). “Hyaluronic acid is hydrating, which means that hydration occurs by drawing surface moisture from within,” says Dr. Markowitz. While there is no moisture inside the hair follicle that can be drawn to the surface, Dr. Markowitz says when applied to the scalp, the acid may help hydrate and prevent drying as it would any other skin surface for a healthier crown.


Known for their healing abilities, Friedman says peptide-packed formulas are your hair’s best friend when dealing with hair breakage, especially from excessive hair color. “Try to avoid any ingredients that might dry out hair, like sulfates, which can actually cause more breakage,” she says. “Look for strengthening ingredients like proteins and peptides,” which work inside the hair shaft to repair bonds.

salicylic acid

Zinc pyrithione may be the gold standard for breaking out dandruff, but salicylic acid is causing waves in the oil-balancing game and reducing dandruff, too. The acid “helps remove buildup on the scalp,” says Dr. Markowitz, and it also helps get rid of mild, itchy scales. The trusted acid also helps return the scalp’s natural exfoliation levels to a healthy baseline.

Looking to revamp your shower setting? Discover our favorite hair care pins here.

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