Good & Bad Picks for Dry Hair

Reviewed by Victoria Barbosa, MD on August 26, 2012

Face the hair product aisle with confidence. Once you can separate the good guys -- ingredients that soften and nourish dry hair -- from the bad, ones that make dry hair brittle and frizzy, you’ll be one step closer to hair you love.

Good Picks for Dry Hair

Low pH. To help dry hair, look for shampoos, conditioners, gels, mousses, and hair treatments that promote low pH balance on their labels. They'll help keep moisture locked in, says Dominick Pucciarello, an award-winning stylist with New York’s mizu salon. Also look for products that say, “intense moisture,” “anti-aging,” or “thermal protection.”

Oil. Hair products with nourishing oils are good for rehydrating, says George Gonzalez, celebrity hairstylist and owner of George the Salon in Chicago. Avocado oil, argan oil, and olive oil are all good for moisturizing dry, brittle hair. You can find these as stand-alone treatments as well as in many styling gels and hair creams and lotions.

Detanglers. “Any detangling, moisture-infused product that can be sprayed on the hair, from the roots to the ends, is good,” says Pucciarello. Make it a routine to use one. “You should brush it through the hair, not comb it. That will get the product on all the hairs and help protect it from heating tools and the outside atmosphere.”

Moisturizing conditioners. Choose a deep conditioner with humectants, emollients, or conditioning agents, which help retain moisture:

  • Glycerin
  • Glyceryl stearate
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium lactate
  • Sodium PCA

Some alcohols. Fatty alcohols also known as "oily" condition your locks. Here's a tip: say yes, to the alcohols that start with "c" and "s."

Bad Picks for Dry Hair

Fragrances. Pucciarello says the more fragrant the shampoo, conditioner, or hair spray smells, the worse it probably is for your dry hair. Although you might miss the scent, remind yourself that a fresh and clean smell is better for your hair in the long run.

Some alcohols. Alcohol is a bit shiftier; some are good for dry hair and others aren't. The alcohols often found in finishing sprays can dry out hair. If you already have dry hair, say no to ones that include "prop" in their name.

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Propanol
  • Propyl alcohol
  • SD alcohol 40

Gonzalez says an easy way to know if a product could be drying is if it's used for volume and hold, like root lifters and hairsprays. So if you have dry hair, avoid volumizers.

Luxury Hair Care

Deep-conditioning treatments are essential for anyone who has dry hair. Pucciarello recommends going to your salon for one each month and during the other weeks to give yourself the treatment at home. Gonzalez says you can increase home deep-conditioning treatments to twice a week if your hair feels brittle.

Show Sources


Dominick Pucciarello, stylist, mizu salon, New York, N.Y.

George Gonzalez, owner, George the Salon, Chicago.

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