For most of us going on a hair journey finding hair products tailored to our curly hair needs is not a problem. Thankfully, natural hair care brands keep growing every year as does our choice of products (just be careful and find those which have an ethical and conscious approach to ingredients). Still, despite having our lives made easier by all the market choices we now have, finding curly hair products for sensitive skin can prove to be a real odyssey.
Sensitive skin can be defined as skin that after being in contact with a substance or ingredient gets irritated showing signs of redness, flakiness or dryness. While some people may not have any visible signs other than their skin feels uncomfortable others may actually have an allergic reaction that causes scales, flakes, blisters, itchiness, colour discolouration, inflammation and more.
People with eczema, psoriasis and allergies to specific ingredients will fit under this group easily. Luckily, I don’t have sensitive skin and buying hair products is not a problem – I can buy anything, even the mainstream products that can be drying and harmful to curly hair.
Allergy to Shea Butter & Coconut Oil
However, many people are not as lucky as I am, and I got curious to know more about this problem when some members of the Facebook Group – The Curly Queen Adventure – voiced their difficulties in finding products without coconut and shea butter, which caused their allergies to flare up. Talk about an impossible mission or near impossible, right?!
When it comes to coconut oil, there has been an increasing number of people declaring some sort of skin allergy to it. Many I gather, only realising this condition after stepping into the natural hair community, discovering the wonders of coconut oil and fully embracing it.
With shea butter though, things are a little different. In case you don’t know, shea butter comes from the kernels of shea nuts so it would be normal to think that if you have a nut allergy you’d be allergic to the protein in shea butter. However, many people are not allergic to it, in fact, it is a common ingredient in hair and skin products.
A study performed by Dr Chawla, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York), found that the molecule responsible for causing the allergic reaction, immunoglobulin E, barely binds to the shea protein – meaning the body doesn’t recognise it as a nut protein and doesn’t, therefore, trigger an allergic response. Interesting, for sure! Still, some people are still allergic.
So what do people who have sensitive skin, are allergic to a specific ingredient or have a skin condition do to avoid having an allergic reaction when using hair products?
Well, they check ingredients to make sure there’s nothing in their hair products that can set off or exacerbate their allergies. So… in an effort to help all those with skin allergies and after some research about the subject, I wanna share with you a list of ingredient that can flare up your allergies to shea butter, coconut oil and some common ingredient people are sensitive to.
Keep An Eye On
From my research, I found that some of the ingredients that can irritate or flare up allergies are already in the list of ingredients to avoid for curly girls. They are drying alcohols, sulphates (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate), artificial colours (FD&C or D&C on the label plus the name of a colour and number), petroleum-based ingredients (like mineral oil or paraffinum liquidum), fragrances or perfumes, parabens (ending in ‘paraben’).
For those of you who are allergic to shea butter check the ingredients list for its different denominations like Butyrospermum Parkii or Karite Butter.
When it comes to coconut oil, and according to the research I did, there are quite a few ingredients that can be derived from coconut. The difficulty, however, remains in the fact that these ingredients can also come from palm oil and this is, more often than not, not specified on products.
You can find ingredients like Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate or Lauric Acid, for which coconut oil doesn’t come to mind. Below is a free PDF list of 60+ ingredients gathered from different sources (1) (2) (3). Please be aware that this is not an extensive list and reliability may not be the best, if you have been diagnosed through an allergy test help make the list complete and leave a comment.
To have access to the list of coconut-derived ingredients that can be present in your products download the free PDF below. You can also download the Skin Safe App which gives you ‘information on beauty and skincare products listed by ingredients that tell you which products are safe to use’. Yes, there’s hair care information as well as household. Check it out.
I wanted to be able to give you a list of products you can use without coconut and shea butter, but this is a research that is far too extensive to undertake and personal to your own allergies. So instead I give in this post some common ingredients that you may be sensitive or allergic to and I ask you to share your own experiences and products that have helped you.