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A woman outside flipping her long hair in the wind.

Just as many people scan the labels of the foods they eat, lots of consumers also want to know about the ingredients in their personal-care products — yet most labels read like a foreign language. What are those ingredients? And how do we know which ones are actually beneficial among all those included in the sea of products?

For LifeSpa hairstylists Heidi Klegstad, Marta Nowak, and Emily Carey, a few ingredients stand out for their ability to support healthier strands and their lasting and positive effects for most people. These are the ones they recommend looking for the next time you’re shopping for products.

1. Glycerin

A colorless and odorless sugar alcohol, glycerin is often derived from plant or animal oils. When used in haircare products, glycerin acts as a humectant, drawing moisture from the air to maintain hair hydration and health.

“Glycerin can be helpful for tackling a number of hair issues, including addressing scalp health,” says Klegstad, a hairstylist at LifeSpa in Eden Prairie, Minn. “Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and glycerin helps moisturize and nourish the scalp to revitalize dry, brittle hair.

“This ingredient is especially beneficial for those with curly, thick, or dry hair,” she adds. “It helps condition and prevent breakage, leaving the hair more nourished and less prone to split ends.”

(Note: On an ingredient list, you may see glycerin listed as “glycerol.”)

Hairstylist product picks: Klegstad suggests the Wella Ultimate Repair Shampoo, Kérastase Bain Décalcifiant Réparateur Repairing Shampoo, Kérastase 8H Magic Night Hair Serum, or the Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask.

Specifically for the scalp-health benefits of glycerin, Klegstad recommends the Oribe Serene Scalp Oil Control Shampoo and the Oribe Serene Scalp Balancing Conditioner.

2. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the body’s connective tissue — particularly in the skin, eyes, and joints — to keep these areas moisturized, lubricated and healthy. Synthetic hyaluronic acid can be formulated with similar hydrating benefits to use in both skincare and haircare products.

Hyaluronic acid acts a humectant to help hair retain moisture, which in turn, helps to reduce frizz. Frizz happens when dehydrated hair seeks moisture in the air.

“This ingredient is known for its strong hydration properties, helping hair retain moisture and prevent dryness,” says Nowak, a hairstylist at LifeSpa in Folsom, Calif. “If you struggle with dry, damaged, or dull hair, you may want to try introducing products with hyaluronic acid into your haircare routine. It can even help stimulate hair growth.”

Hyaluronic acid can also be beneficial for color-treated hair or those with hair extensions. “It helps build the elasticity in your hair to strengthen and prevent future damage, which can be helpful for counteracting any damage that those services may cause,” says Carey, a hairstylist at LifeSpa in Green Valley, Nev.

(Note: On an ingredient list, hyaluronic acid may be listed as “hyaluron.”)

Hairstylist product picks: Nowak recommends the Chronologiste collection from Kérastase.

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize and destroy free radicals in the body. One of its lesser-known benefits is its ability to help heal your locks.

“Vitamin E is one of my favorite ingredients for haircare because it helps fight against environmental or external aggressors,” Carey says. “Free radicals in our air can contribute to dryness and breakage and cause frizz. Hard water, thermal styling, and color treatments can also cause damage. Hair products with vitamin E can help heal that damage and prevent future breakage, as well as add some shine.”

The antioxidant properties of vitamin E have also been shown to support hair growth by reducing cell damage in the scalp to help improve circulation. Improved circulation can help hair grow by stimulating the hair follicles to keep them in an active growth phase. Better circulation also helps essential nutrients reach hair follicles more efficiently.

(Note: On an ingredient list, vitamin E may be listed as “tocopheryl acetate” or “tocopherol.”)

Hairstylist product picks: Carey recommends the Chronologiste collection from Kérastase.

4. Omega-9

Omega-9 fatty acids are a monounsaturated fatty acid found in some plant and animal sources; they are considered nonessential because the body can produce them. When used in haircare products, omega-9 fatty acids help strengthen hair by nourishing the follicles and supporting the production of natural oils on the scalp, which contributes to the structural integrity of hair strands.

“Products featuring omega-9 help to strengthen the hair so it’s less prone to damage and breakage going forward,” Carey explains. “Its emollient properties can also help improve your hair’s elasticity, as well as add shine and softness. Styling products with omega-9 smooth down the hair cuticles to reduce frizz and improve manageability.”

Hairstylist product picks: Carey recommends the Ultimate Repair Miracle Hair Rescue leave-in treatment from Wella.

Jolene Turner
Jolene Turner

Jolene Turner is a beauty writer and social media strategist focusing on the salon, spa, and professional hair care industries. She currently works with the Life Time LifeSpa team on social media marketing and content development. Turner’s background includes working as the senior editor for American Salon, as a head writer for beauty blogs, and as a communications and consumer engagement professional for a global beauty brand. She’s worked with leading beauty brands including Aveda, Hotheads Hair Extensions, HiBar, Wella, and more.

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