Ingredients 101 - Conditioners


Shea butter & Coconut oil tend to hug the limelight a fair bit when it comes to hair for the DIYers and for the well known brands. The great majority of curly hair products will have one or both of these ingredients in their formulations as they can do wonders to help keep our curly hair moisturised, soft, more manageable and even offer a low sun protection factor, which comes in handy.

However, they are not the be all & end all when it comes to choosing the best hair product for YOU. Other ingredients also play a vital role in hair care - understanding what you are buying will help you understand what the product will do for your hair.


Conditioning ingredients act as emollients, meaning that they soften and smooth the hair, they facilitate detangling and manageability, they reduce tangling, hair friction. They also help with providing and/or prolonging hair moisture as they create a ‘film’ around the hair shaft.

Conditioning agents are able to achieve this by depositing molecules (a film) on the hair strand which help close the cuticle layers of the hair.


There are several ingredients that can lend conditioning effects in a formula. It is even possible for one ingredient to have several purposes. They can act as conditioning agents (emollient), cleansers, emulsifiers and even as a preservative. In some formulations, two ingredients can be paired together to bring about better effects on the hair, as in they complement each other.

As a tip, the more concentrated the ingredients are, the higher up they will be on the list. Here are some of the conditioning ingredients you can normally find in your hair products:

Behentrimonium Methosulphate/Chloride

Cetrimonium Chloride - reduces static hair and prevents build-up

Fatty Alcohols (Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Lauryl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol, etc.) - they act as emollients that lubricate and soften the hair

Glyceryl Caprylate - oily wax that lubricates and makes hair feel smooth and soft

Glycol Stearate - can act as a conditioning agent, creating a film around the hair shaft to make hair feel soft

Polyquats (Polyquaternium-7/10/11/44, hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride) - they condition the hair by creating a film that helps with detangling and softens hair

Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine - a soluble silicone replacement that seals, smooths prodives hair shine

Soluble silicones (Dimethicone Copoloyl or silicone with “PEG-” suffix + name of silicone )

Proteins - They hold on to moisture helping to delay moisture release and smoothing hair by filling holes and cracks in the cuticle layers)

Oat milk - provides a silky feel, shine and helps protect the hair by reducing hair friction.


Some synthetic ingredients (man-made ingredients) do not rinse out easily and will require strong surfactants to be removed.This is typical for some polyquats and insoluble silicones (dimethicone, amodimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane).

Additionally, the interaction between some ingredients in a formulation might make their otherwise soluble coating more likely to cause build up. Porosity also has a role here since ingredients with a higher build up potential will hold on tighter to high porosity hair.

If you regularly use cleansing conditioners, it is worth using a clarifying shampoo capable of removing build up. If build up is not removed, it can lead to dehydrated breakage.

Shop now

Our mission is to arm you with the best products for textured hair and to guide you in finding the best routine for YOU.

Winnie Awa, founder of Antidote Street