Must-Use Ingredients for Curly Hair (and Ones You Should Avoid)

Whether you have springy ringlets, tight corkscrew curls, or tousled beachy waves, all types of curly hair needs extra TLC—and the right ingredients—to keep it soft, silky, and frizz free. Knowing what to look for in shampoos and conditioners is the first step to healthier, shinier, and well, just more fabulous curly hair. 

Curly HairI should know! I have curly hair that I keep in top condition with Pharmacopia’s shampoos and conditioners. In fact, I was the key tester as we were formulating these products: if it worked for my curls, then we mixed the better-for-you, plant-based ingredients into our shampoos and conditioners. And based on the response we’ve gotten from our curly-haired fans to date—these products work!

Why Curly Hair Needs Extra TLC

It all comes down to the curls—or the coils. Because curly hair is structured differently than straight hair, it’s more prone to dryness, frizz, and coarseness. (The coils are part of the hair’s structure; all these twists and turns can make hair strands more fragile and prone to tangles—and breakage.) 

Plus, it’s often hard for the scalp’s natural oils to travel down the hair shaft of a tightly wound curl. The end result: curly hair strands in desperate need of the right kind of moisture to stay soft and shiny. 

Using the wrong kind of moisture, and ingredients, can leave buildup in your hair that can weigh down your curls, leaving them lifeless.

Must-Use Ingredients for Curly Hair

When it comes to curly hair, not just any shampoo and conditioner will do. Look for these important ingredients: 

  1. Coconut oil: There’s a reason we make sure to include this plant-based oil in our Citrus and Verbena Shampoos. It’s rich in a fatty acid called lauric acid that gets quickly absorbed into dry hair strands to keep them moisturized—and soft and shiny. This also helps to strengthen hair strands, preventing breakage and taming frizz.
  2. Shea butter: This fat comes from the nuts and seeds of the shea tree. It’s high in nutrients and fatty acids, making it a popular moisturizer for both hair and skin. (That’s why shea butter is a top ingredient in Pharmacopia Conditioners and Pharmacopia Body Lotions.) Because of its fatty nature, shea butter acts as a sealant, keeping moisture in, preventing dryness and coarseness, and shielding curly hair from environmental damage. It also helps to improve hair’s elasticity, reduces frizz, and enhances curl definition. 
  3. Aloe vera: There’s no question that aloe vera is soothing for both skin and hair—that’s why it’s found in our Body Washes, Body Lotions, and Shampoos and Conditioners. It helps reduce scalp irritation and encourages hair growth. Aloe vera is also chock-full of vitamins and minerals, and it’s rich in amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Because the hair is already made up of amino acids, adding more to hair strands gives hair the boost it needs. This is why amino acids help to strengthen hair (preventing breakage) and tame frizz. Aloe vera also makes hair shiny.
  4. Argan oil: We’re big fans of alluring argan oil for good reason. It’s rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids. In fact, it’s the fatty acids found in argan oil that help to hydrate and strengthen hair strands—preventing breakage like split ends. It’s for just these reasons that we made argan oil the highlight of our popular Hyatt Hotels Collection Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner.
  5. Jojoba oil: This oil is derived from the seeds of the Simmondsia chinensis shrub that grows in desert-like areas. Why jojoba oil is so important for hair: it resembles the natural oils produced by the scalp. 

Because curly hair tends to have less natural sebum, using jojoba oil is particularly beneficial. It helps to balance oil production, preventing dryness. Jojoba oil is also able to deeply penetrate the hair follicles, strengthening the hair from within. What’s more, jojoba oil doesn’t actually hydrate strands, it works by helping to seal in moisture, keeping hair hydrated and soft. You can find jojoba oil in all our Pharmacopia Conditioners (and Pharmacopia Body Lotions).

Ingredients to Steer Clear Of

Just as there are ingredients that can help give curls shine and bounce, there are also ingredients that dry them out—or weigh them down. These are the ingredients to avoid.

Sodium lauryl sulfate: Sulfates are cleansing agents found in many shampoos and conditioners because their molecules are able to quickly attach to dirt and oils, so you can easily rinse grime down the drain. Sodium lauryl sulfate, in particular, can be problematic for curly hair. That’s because sodium lauryl sulfate is one of the harshest chemical surfactants in use today and can strip hair of its natural oils.

It’s these natural oils that are essential for curly hair strands to stay moisturized, soft, and springy. What’s more, stripping away these oils can leave the scalp dry and irritated—and be a recipe for dandruff. That’s why all Pharmacopia Shampoos and Conditioners (as well as all our products) are free from sodium lauryl sulfate.

Parabens: These synthetic preservatives are found in health and beauty products (and many other products), including shampoos and conditioners, to prevent them from spoiling. 

The problem with parabens is this: Parabens can be absorbed through the skin into the body, eventually seeping into the bloodstream before being excreted from the body. Scientific studies have found that parabens can disrupt the endocrine systems in the body. This is why these preservatives have been linked to cancer. Read more about parabens and their potential health effects.

There’s simply no reason to be putting parabens onto your skin and scalp when you’re shampooing and conditioning. That’s why Pharmacopia has been paraben free from our start in 1999.

Silicones: These synthetic ingredients are found in hair-care products like shampoos and conditioners because they help to smooth hair strands, detangle, and make tresses feel silky. But these ingredients can also build up in the hair over time, weighing down curls and making them lackluster. 

Curly Hair To-Do’s

In addition to using the right shampoo and conditioner, these are some other tips that can give you shinier, healthier, and more defined curls—without the frizz:

  • Wash curly hair only when necessary. Curly hair doesn’t need to be washed every day. Doing so will leave hair strands dry and frizzy—and may even dry out your scalp. When’s the right time to wash curly hair? Every few days tends to work best, though if you need to stretch it longer, you can. (To protect curls between washes, wear a shower cap when showering.)
  • Detangle with our conditioner. After washing and conditioning, apply a small amount of Pharmacopia conditioner to hair strands—or even just to the ends—to keep them moisturized and frizz free. (How much conditioner depends on how curly your hair is and how long it is.) This will also help you to effectively detangle tresses.

Our Pharmacopia conditioners are lightweight enough to not weigh down strands or create build-up. Plus, after using them, you’ll be left with a hint of our essential-oil-based scents—from invigorating citrus and zesty verbena to heady argan (found in our Hyatt Hotels Argan Conditioner).

Curly hair may take some extra TLC, but when you use the right shampoos and conditioners, you’re a step ahead … and you’re on your way to shinier, silkier, and healthier curls.