The Effect of Alcohol-Based Hair Products on Hair

by Laurel Tuohy ; Updated July 18, 2017

Hair products meant to add sheen or moisture can sometimes do the opposite.

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Some hair products can make your hair look dry, flaky, dull and lifeless. The culprit is the drying alcohol in many of these potions.

Why Alcohol is Used

According to Cosmetics Info, alcohol is added to hair products to thicken them, keep them from foaming and protect products from microbes. It can act as a preservative to keep products fresher longer. That's why a jar of pomade or a can of hairspray can smell as pretty a year later as it did the day you bought it.

Why Alcohol Dries

When products containing alcohol are applied to your hair, the alcohol evaporates very quickly. The problem is that it takes a bit of your hair's natural moisture with it, leading to dry, lifeless locks that create the need for using more products on them and, of course, even drier hair.

Products Without Alcohol

Some products don't contain alcohol. Many companies advertise "alcohol-free" on the front of the product, taking the guesswork out of reading tiny ingredient lists. According to Megsmakeup.com, well-known brands such as Nexxus, Garnier and Jonathan have alcohol-free hair care ranges, as do smaller labels such as Blow Hair Care and AG Hair Cosmetics.


Look for the word "alcohol" on the label or, more likely, "alcohol denat.," "alcohol denatured," "methanol" and "isopropyl." The latter four types of alcohol are used in all inedible consumer goods that contain alcohol. The qualifying words mean that a small amount of bad-tasting chemicals have been added to the alcohol to make it undrinkable, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Chemistry Archive.

Hair Rest

No matter what hair products you choose, give your hair a rest. If you use products on the weekends for social events, give your hair a few days off during the week. If your job requires a stellar coiffure, let your hair recuperate on the weekend.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

About the Author

Laurel Tuohy was certified as a yoga teacher in 2009 after spending a year honing her craft in India. She has held editorial positions from music critic to lifestyle editor since 2000. She holds a degree in anthropology from Western Connecticut State University and her award-winning articles have appeared in publications around the globe from "The Mirror" to "The Times of India."