What’s Really in Men’s Hair Care Products?


When choosing your hair care products, much of the process comes down to brand image and price. Most men will simply walk down the hair care aisle at the grocery store and grab whatever happens to be on sale that day. And while this may work for some men, there are a lot of ingredients found in men’s hair care products that should be avoided – this applies to shampoos, conditioners, hair gels, and pomades found at the grocery store and online at high-end or boutique sellers. Here, we will provide a list of ingredients commonly found in men’s hair products that you should avoid, including those touted as “natural” or “organic” (looking at you, organic hair gel), which can be just as harmful as their synthetic counterparts.

Bearded man holding hair care products in his hands

Ingredients to Avoid

Because you are generally using hair care products on a daily basis, or every few days for shampoo and conditioner, it is important to know if they contain ingredients that can be harmful to your hair. In fact, some hair care products include harmful ingredients that can dry out or damage your hair, requiring you to continue using the product to compensate for the sustained damage. This may not be intentional by the manufacturer, but even so, it can be a side effect of the preservatives and fillers used during production to either save on costs or sustain/help the product in other ways.

Here are some common ingredients found in men’s hair care products that you may want to avoid:

Mineral Oil

One of the most common ingredients added to men’s hair products is mineral oil. Mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum and acts as a smoothing agent, which helps detangle hair and also acts as a lubricant that gives your hair the appearance of being moisturized. Mineral oil contains a high amount of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have the tendency to clog pores and irritate the scalp.


Sulfates can be found in most shampoos and is an additive that makes the shampoo foamy, which helps increase coverage when lathered into the hair. Some brands have started removing sulfates from their products, while others keep it in their budget variants and only remove it in their higher-end products, with a selling point that they are “sulfate-free”. Sulfates dry out your hair and can be harmful to your immune system. Inflammation, irritation, and rashes are common effects of sulfate use, which is not only harmful to your hair and skin but can be annoying and uncomfortable.


Paraben is a preservative added to men’s hair care products to increase shelf life. There are many different types of parabens, but you can identify them by the common ending of “paraben”. Skin irritation is the most common problem with parabens. There are reports linking parabens to neurotoxicity, reproductive issues, and an increased risk of certain cancers, but these have not yet been proven, and most parabens are flushed out of the body relatively quickly and have been found safe for use in cosmetics. Even if they won’t kill you, that doesn’t mean they should be touching your hair and skin each day, especially if they cause skin irritation and potential hair damage.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is the stuff you use to clean your phone screen, wipe down the tv, or soak electronic components to clean them. But maybe you could also put it in your hair and apply it to your skin? Actually, isopropyl alcohol does a great job at stripping away oils, which makes it a great cleaning agent. That being said, it honestly does this a bit too well, making it a harsh additive to your hair and skin products. Because it does such a good job at stripping away oil, it often leaves hair dry and brittle, which does more damage than good, especially when there are other products out there that get the job done without going overboard.

Synthetic Fragrances

Smelling good is a necessary part of life, but it can come at a cost, especially when using inferior products that utilize synthetic fragrances and may smell appealing to some but are the fabrication of what smells good and not the real thing. Many artificial fragrances are created with chemicals and preservatives that can cause irritation and can dry out the skin, leading to rashes and breakouts. Try to avoid synthetic fragrances if at all possible, as natural extracts will not only smell better, but they will treat you better as well.


Ingredients to Embrace

Now that you know what to avoid, there are many ingredients found in men’s hair care products that you should embrace, as they provide all the benefits you want but lack the artificiality and negative effects of the foregoing. One thing to look for when comparing ingredients on men’s hair care products is if you recognize what they are. Water, coconut oil, aloe leaf, shea butter, beeswax, etc. are all things that are easily recognizable and known to be natural, healthy ingredients. The more recognizable, the better. Look for things that will naturally clean and moisturize, and while these may be organic and natural ingredients, they don’t always have to be listed as “natural” or “organic,” though hopefully, they are.

For a great list of natural, helpful ingredients in men’s hair care products, see Johnny Slicks’ own line of shampoo, conditioner, natural pomade, organic hair gel, and organic beard oil. We use only the best ingredients, including natural oils, organic beeswax, and body-safe fragrances that will not only clean and moisturize your hair and skin, but they will leave you smelling great – almost too great. See our disclaimer found on each product.

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