5 Ingredients Every Curly Girl Should Know

5 Ingredients Every Curly Girl Should Know

Looking at the ingredients list on a product can feel overwhelming, especially when you are new to caring for your curls. Knowing which ingredients may benefit your curls versus those you wish to avoid is a minefield and can leave any curly feeling lost and confused. While many marketing claims suggest "use x to achieve…" or "use y for ultimate…", often these can be unfounded. Curlsmith consciously chooses ingredients to enrich their products and enhance your curl care experience.

What Ingredients Are Great for Curly Hair?
Curls Love Rice Water
Apple Cider Vinegar Hair and Scalp
Hyaluronic Acid
Shea Butter
What Ingredients Should I Avoid?

What Ingredients Are Great for Curly Hair?

Let us guide you through our top five ingredients that are great for curly hair and some you may want to avoid.

Curls Love Rice Water

History of Rice Water & Hair

Rice water is a centuries-old natural treatment for the hair and skin. Used widely throughout Asia, rice water has been attributed to the famous "World's Longest Hair Village,"; a village in the Guilin region of China holding this Guinness World Record and boasting hair reaching up to 1.8 meters.

Importance of Inositol

Rice water is primarily a starch but also contains a rich mix of compounds such as minerals, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and amino acids. One of the most important compounds within rice water is Inositol, a carbohydrate found naturally in plants and animals. Studies have found that Inositol is very effective in hair care and even goes so far as to suggest that this compound can repair hair damage, penetrating the hair fiber and staying in place even after shampooing.

Rice Water Benefits

Rice water has an extensive array of benefits for the hair, including:

  • Increased elasticity and a reduction in surface friction – Studies have noted that reduced surface friction and increased elasticity were seen in the usage of rice water, thus reducing breakage in the hair.
  • Increased strength – The combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and Inositol helps to strengthen the hair from the inside out. Inositol remains in place post washing, suggesting that rice water can protect from future damage, leaving you with strong curls.
  • Increased manageability and shine – Rice water's ability to help manage damage to the cuticle and beyond will significantly impact manageability. A smoother cuticle will also lead to shinier hair overall.
  • Improved feel and condition – A smoother cuticle will lead to less dryness and a smoother, softer feel to the hair.

While there is no scientific evidence supporting rice water's ability to encourage growth, rice water will help to reduce breakage, to help to maintain length, and support overall growth.

Rice water is a key ingredient in Curlsmith's Super Slip Primer of the Detox Kit. The Primer helps to smooth and strengthen the hair, aiding pre-shampoo detangling and minimizing dryness, swelling, and potential stripping when clarifying.

Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits Hair & Scalp


Apple Cider Vinegar History

Historically, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has a strong history in Africa and China as an alternative medicine and was prescribed by Hippocrates in Ancient Greece for ailments including coughs and colds in 400BC. It was even used for the treatment of wounds in World War 1 and the US Civil War.

Whilst Apple Cider Vinegar remains a popular home remedy and a kitchen cupboard staple, it is not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind for hair care. It does, however, have some amazing benefits for curls.

ACV and The Scalp

ACV is shown to have antimicrobial properties in several studies, meaning apple cider vinegar benefits the scalp and helps tackle issues such as dandruff. It is also rich in various nutrients, including vitamin B and C. A 2018 study stated, " Apple Cider Vinegar has multiple antimicrobial potentials with clinical therapeutic implications."

ACV and pH

The hair and scalp are naturally acidic, sitting between pH 4.5 and 5.5. When alkaline (base) substances, such as water, contact the hair, it swells. If the hair pH is not rebalanced, this can lead to dryness, frizz, roughness, and even breakage and damage.

Damage also occurs when very acidic substances are applied to the hair; most of our hair products tend to be mildly acidic through to very alkaline (even up to pH9 and beyond)—as such, balancing our hair's pH generally means bringing it down.

This is where ACV comes in. However, applying pure ACV to the scalp and hair is not advisable given its low pH of 2-3. Although, ACV can reduce the pH in well-formulated products to help balance the hair.

ACV and Build Up

The makeup of Apple Cider Vinegar is what places it apart here and enables it to tackle build-up gently.

Apple Cider Vinegar is made up of several acids, but most importantly:

  • Acetic acid: Acetic acid can dissolve calcium carbonate, one of the main minerals that create hard water. It is also an unusual acid in that it can dissolve oils – most acids do not as they are polar and oils are non-polar. Only "like dissolves like" in terms of polarities.
  • Citric acid: Citric acid can dissolve hard water deposits on the hair.

ACV is a primary ingredient in the Wash & Scrub Detox, Curlsmith's answer to a flaky, itchy, or built-up scalp. Alongside ACV, this shampoo also contains micro-exfoliating particles to gently unclog the hair follicles, soothe irritation, and leave curls bouncy and shiny.

Hyaluronic Acid is more than Skincare


Hyaluronic Acid Background

Many of us will have used skin care products with hyaluronic acid and will be aware of its skincare benefits, but did you know that it can also help improve hair health and quality?

Hyaluronic acid is produced naturally in the human body. It is a humectant, meaning it can attract moisture (water) from its surroundings and retain that moisture. There are two types of humectants; common and film forming.

Common humectants have a small molecular structure and tend to bind to less moisture as a result. Film-forming humectants are much more complex, with big molecules that spread across the hair strand. This creates a flexible barrier around the hair, slowing water loss and dehydration.

Hyaluronic acid is film forming, but not only this; just one gram can hold up to six liters of water. This makes it perfect for delivering moisture without weighing down the hair, helping with the overall feel and health.

Hyaluronic Acid Benefits

The film-forming properties of hyaluronic acid have benefits for the hair, including:

  • Enhanced ability to retain moisture.
  • Improved manageability and health of hair health as the film fills in damaged cuticle areas, helping to reduce porosity temporarily.
  • Revitalizes hair and improves overall look through added smoothness, shine, and minimizing frizz.

Furthermore, hyaluronic acid also has many benefits for the scalp, especially if you struggle with a dry scalp. Products containing hyaluronic acid can help hydrate the dry skin, providing adequate water to enable skin collagen to structure the skin.

Various products in the Curlsmith range include hyaluronic acid, including The Calming Conditioner, which completes our journey through Curlsmith's Detox Kit. This conditioner benefits from soothing the scalp while restoring hair pH and balance. Beyond hyaluronic acid, it also features ingredients such as tea tree and peppermint essential oils, shea butter, and post biotics. It will leave your scalp tingly and less irritated and your hair shiny and smooth.

Shea Butter Nourishes

Shea Butter History

A staple in many hair care products, shea butter is derived from the nuts of the shea tree and is traditionally used in sub-Saharan Africa for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Shea butter consists of various hair-nourishing compounds, including vitamins such as A and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and antioxidants.

Shea Butter Benefits

It is primarily used as an emollient in haircare, forming a hydrophobic (water repelling) layer on the hair and helping to seal moisture into the hair. Its benefits, however, do not stop simply at aiding hydration.

Shea butter can also:

  • Softens the hair and enhances shine: An excellent conditioning agent to soften and improve the overall condition of the strands, also enhancing shine.
  • Sealant for the hair: As already mentioned, Shea butter leaves a thin hydrophobic film on the hair, reducing moisture loss by sealing water in. This can be especially useful for damaged hair. The hydrophobic layer can also stop extra water entering the hair and, as such, can be particularly useful in certain weather conditions such as high humidity.
  • Reduces inflammation and irritation: Shea butter isn't just great for the hair; it's fantastic for the scalp too. Shea butter naturally contains triterpenes which have antioxidant properties, helping to manage scalp issues.
  • Mild UV protection: Shea butter has some UV protective properties. It would not be sufficient to substitute shea butter for suntan lotion, but in a well-formulated product, shea butter can contribute to overall protection against UV damage.

Many products in the Curlsmith collections contain shea butter, but to highlight just one, the Shine Cream always comes up trumps. This fragrance-free leave-in conditioner contains a blend of several oils and butters, including shea, murumuru, castor oil, babassu oil, and jojoba oil. The perfect combination to enhance the shine and hydration levels of any curly.

Glycerin the Key to Hydrated Curls


Glycerin Background

Glycerin is a common humectant derived from various sources, including plant oils. It is a highly effective humectant and can attract water molecules from the air. Its small molecular size makes it slightly different from the film-forming hyaluronic acid.

Glycerin Benefits

As with hyaluronic acid, glycerin helps hydrate the hair and scalp and improve the hair's overall look and texture. It also has mild antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which can help manage some scalp issues. While it generally doesn't serve a medicinal purpose within our products, glycerin is an FDA-approved treatment for wounds!

In our hair care products, glycerin serves several purposes, including:

  • A hydrator for hair and skin
  • A skin protectant
  • A solvent to help ingredients dissolve
  • To decrease the thickness of a solution

Again, glycerin is found in many Curlsmith's products and is used to benefit the hair, scalp, and formulation. The Scalp Stimulating Booster and Full Lengths Density Elixir contain glycerin to help improve scalp and hair health. Both topical formulas contain a blend of actives specifically formulated to help support density and fullness.

What Ingredients Should I Avoid?

While most ingredients are not inherently bad, some can negatively impact our curls, depending on the formulation. Other ingredients are just downright horrid, which is where "banned ingredients" come in. You will not find any of these ingredients in the Curlsmith range, and you may wish to avoid:

  • Sulfates: Sulfates are strong surfactants found in shampoos and used to remove dirt and oil from your hair. The main problem with sulfates is they can be too strong for some, especially if you have sensitive skin or curly hair. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding sulfates should you have eczema, contact dermatitis, or even rosacea. Naturally, dry hair may also struggle, hence why sulfates are often not recommended for curls and the reason Curlsmith is a sulfate free line.
  • Silicones: Silicones are artificial polymers with emollient properties when used in hair care. They add slip but can be pretty heavy and have the propensity to build up if not removed effectively.
  • Parabens: Parabens function in formulations as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, which increase the shelf life. However they can cause issues such as scalp irritation, hair dryness, and hair loss. In addition, parabens penetrate the skin and are absorbed by the body, leading in some cases to health issues.
  • Mineral oils: Mineral oils are generally used as conditioning agents or for slip as they are cheap to manufacture. However, they tend to be very heavy and can cause excessive build-up if not removed effectively.
  • DEAs: DEA or diethanolamine makes shampoo lather and adjusts pH. However, in the EU, it is banned within haircare products to reduce contamination from carcinogenic nitrosamines found in DEAs.
  • Drying alcohols: Drying alcohols have a variety of uses in haircare and aren't always drying in a solution. However, for those who are not product formulators, the exact purpose of drying alcohols in a formula can be tricky to identify. If a formulation is heavy in drying alcohol, this can cause the hair to become dry and frizzy.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are banned from haircare in the EU but not in the US. These ingredients "plasticize" products, helping them become more durable.

Curlsmith’s focus is to consistently work for better results for you regarding ingredients and overall company impact. All products follow rigorous testing and comply with both FDA and EU regulations. Curlsmith is committed to reducing our environmental impact, being a climate-neutral company, and providing all cruelty-free products.

Curlsmith Conclusions

Ingredients in our products have many benefits for our hair, can help change our overall style, and can improve our hair and scalp health. Understanding which ingredients may benefit your hair most, according to your texture, porosity, and other characteristics, can be incredibly useful. If you're not sure where you fall on this spectrum, why not use our Curl Quiz to identify your hair type and the products that may best suit your needs!

Shosh Stokes
Curly Hair Content Creator

Shosh began training as a hair stylist in 2021 and has completed the first year of her NVQ courses (the UK qualification for stylists). She will be undertaking a more advanced course to allow her to offer more in depth services at a higher level. Her aim is to specialise in curls and colour upon completion of her training.

Shosh Stokes
Curly Hair Content Creator

Shosh began training as a hair stylist in 2021 and has completed the first year of her NVQ courses (the UK qualification for stylists). She will be undertaking a more advanced course to allow her to offer more in depth services at a higher level. Her aim is to specialise in curls and colour upon completion of her training.