Suave Naturals - Know Your Ingredients

As relaxer sales drop because more women are going natural, the multinationals are coming at us and launching their own 'NATURAL HAIR' product lines. They're beautifully packaged, sleek and available at drugstores and supermarkets across the country. But what's in them? You should really check out what you're putting on your hair.

It is important to monitor what chemicals you allow onto your hair, scalp and skin so in the interest of health, I am going to break down the loooong ingredient list of a product in the Suave range. You may see these ingredients listed in other products, this breakdown will give you a start on what you may see. In the end is it your choice to decide what you put on your head. I am providing this information as a service.

Suave Nourish & Strengthen Leave-in Conditioner

Ingredient List in order of appearance:

suave 2 leave in ingredient

Water – We know what this is and being the first in the list, most of the product is made up of water.

Cetearyl Alcohol - This type of fatty alcohol acts as an emulsifier. It helps bind the product ingredients together.

Dimethicone – Third in the list is a non-water-soluble silicone. That means there is a lot of it in there. Dimethicone stops water loss because it creates a hydrating barrier. This has the effect also of keeping moisture out. It creates an artificial shine on the hair. If you use products with dimethicone and want to color your hair, you must wash your hair with shampoo to remove it before using a treatment or coloring your hair. Silicones are eye and skin irritants to sensitive people.

Stearamidcopropyl Dimethylamine – This is a water soluble mild surfectant derived from rapeseed oil that is often used as a replacement for silicones. You may see this in products that claim to be “silicone-free”. It helps combine other ingredients while coating the hair cuticle and adds slip so is valuable for “tangle free”  or “detangling” products.

Glycerin – Glycerin is a humectant, which is a fancy way of saying it draws and binds water to whatever you put it on. If you use it on “out” styles like shake and go or afros, it can help keep your hair soft by creating a halo of humidity around it. Glycerin is only of use when it has water added. So if it dries out on your hair it will dry out your hair along with it. Keep a spritz bottle handy if you use heavy glycerinezed products (PS. glycerinized is not really a word).

Behentrimonium Chloride – According to Toxic Timeout this is an aquaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative, antistatic agent, defrizzer, emulsifier and hair conditioning agent. It is primarily used in hair care products such as conditioner, dye and mousse.

HEALTH RISKSBehentrimonium chloride is a toxic compound, and concentrations of .1% and higher have been shown to damage the eyes by causing tissue death of the mucous membranes. It’s also highly flammable,  irritating to the skin and can cause an increased risk of cancer, nerve damage, anemia and disintegration of the kidneys..

Fragrance – Whatever they use for fragrance is what they put in to make it smell nice. “Fragrance,” fragrance/parfum,” “natural fragrance,” or “organic fragrance” should not be listed on labels without identifying constituents. You don't know what this "fragrance" is made of!

Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil) – Down the list is the good stuff. Coconut oil is fantastic for hair and skin and food and nails and all kinds of things.

Phenoxyethanol - This is a preservative used to limit bacterial growth. It is also used as a product stabilizer. It can cause eczema and allergic reactions in sensitive people. Although it is considered a “safe” preservative, it is dangerous for infants so avoid it if you can.

Dipropylene Glycol – This is used in heavy industry as a solvent. In cosmetic products, it is used as a solvent and viscosity decreasing agent. In other words it stops the product from being freely flowing.

Lactic Acid – This acid actually relaxes the hair texture, albeit temporarily. It smooths the cuticle and softens the hair. It also coats and stops other products from penetrating the hair. In high concentrations it will strip the cuticle off the hair completely. Did you know that your hair follicles produce a small amount of lactic acid that acts as an antibacterial agent to protect your follicles and scalp from infection? Now you do!

Caprylgl Glycol – a wetting agent with antibacterial action. It is also used in septic tanks. Often used in combination with the preservative phenoxyethanol to increase its antimicrobial properties.

Potassium Chloride – An inorganic, water soluble salt used to increase the thickness of the water portion of the product.

Petrolatum – A byproduct of the petrochemical industry, this thick, water insoluble, sticky waxy stuff coats the hair, attracts dust and dirt, clogs pores and creates an impenetrable barrier on the hair shaft. It clogs follicles, coats the scalp, imbalances the scalp oils, causes dandruff and cannot be easily washed out. The EU mandates that for cosmetic use, the full refining history of the petrolatum must be known and proven to be non-carcinogenic. The US sets no requirements on refinement and the PAH content in the petrolatum used in personal care products. Other common names for Petrolatum are Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil and White Petrolatum. If I see any of these listed as an ingredient on a product, I won’t buy it.

Amodimethicone – This is a silicone derived from Dimethicone. It coats the hair shaft, smooths and conditions the hair, making detangling easier. It also give a shine to the hair. You will see this ingredient in lots of curly/natural hair products because of its properties in giving hair a silky feel. It is safer for the hair and does not cause problems to the extent that Dimethicone does. Still, best not to use this before you plan on coloring your hair because it will to some extent, prevent penetration. Like Dimethicone, it can irritate the skin or break off the hair if too much of it is used without rinsing out between uses.

CP/Dimethylaminoethylmethacrylate Copolymer – Copolymers like this create a film that coats the hair shaft. In combination with the silicones that also coat the hair, the effect would be to weigh the hair down and keep frizz down.

Disodium EDTA – This salt is synthesised in a lab from formaldehyde, ethylenediamine, and sodium cyanide, which results in this chemical. It is a metal chelation agent, which means it binds with and deactivates heavy metal ions. In cosmetic products it is added to give them a longer shelf life after breaking the seal. It is a synthetic preservative and like all synthetic preservatives, I prefer not to use them because we have no idea how they are affecting our biological and environmental systems.

PEG-7 Propylheptyl Ether – Usually found in detergents, this is a surfectant, emulsifier, dispersant and degreaser. For some reason, they are putting this chemical into some leave-in hair products, maybe to reduce the coating effects of all the silicones and petrolatum to make that stuff easier to wash out. I don’t know.

Cetrimonium Chloride – Another ammonium salt ath is used to prevent or inhibit the buildup of static electricity. In other words, it carries a positive charge that attracts it to the slightly negatively charged skin and hair proteins and this is why it is used as an antistatic.

Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter – we all know what this is. It is so far down on the ingredient list that there is very little Shea Butter located. There is much more Petrolatum in this product than Shea Butter.

Coumarin – According to Websters, this is a toxic white crystalline lactone with an odor of new-mown hay found in plants or made synthetically and used especially in perfumery and as a parent compound in anticoagulant agents. So I suspect this is something they add for scent.

Hexul Cinnamal - is a common additive in perfume and cosmetic industry as aroma substance. It is found naturally in the essential oil of chamomile. So, this is just for scent.

Limonene - Limonene is a chemical found in the peels of citrus fruits and in other plants. It is used to make medicine, used to promote weight loss, prevent cancer, treat cancer, and treat bronchitis. In foods, beverages, and chewing gum, limonene is used as a flavoring. In pharmaceuticals, limonene is added to help medicinal ointments and creams penetrate the skin. In manufacturing, limonene is used as a fragrance, cleaner (solvent), and as an ingredient in water-free hand cleansers. So take your pick as to why it’s in here.

Linalool – This ingredient is a naturally occurring terpene found in many flowers and spices including lavender and coriander. It has a slightly lavender-like, spicy scent and is used in aromatherapy to treat depression and anxiety because it is claimed to have uplifting effects.

That's it!

My recommendation for this Suave Leave-in is -- if you use it, you should wash it out before using it again. If you don't want to wash, at least rinse thoroughly. Do not use this when doing the No Shampoo Method. Using it multiple times on your hair without shampooing it out may cause a buildup that makes your hair hard and resistant, and is difficult to wash out. Also multiple applications over itself will dry your hair out and maybe harden it or cause some breakage around the hairline.

In the end, this is not a product for me. It may make my hair look pretty for a day but it contains too many questionable, synthetic or downright dangerous chemicals I’d prefer not to put on my hair. A lot of these chemicals are cheap and very helpful when mass producing formulations that need extremely long shelf life and could be exposed to nasties during the manufacturing process. Especially the anti-microbials and preservatives which could extend shelf life for years. That is why you see such a long list of ingredients.

For this reason, I prefer to use products from authentically natural hair companies. Buy small and buy often. In the end, the choice is yours. I hoped I have helped you make your choices from a place of knowledge.


Last modified on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 11:09
Patricia Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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