Alcohol? Polyquaternium? Good or Bad for hair?

I am confused about the alcohol found in most conditioners. What does cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and the like do to one's hair?

I was under the impression that alcohol dries out hair...

Is one type of alcohol better than others? If so, what is the difference between them and what do they do to enhance your hair?

And what is polyquaternium? Is a certain number of polyquaternium better than others? (i.e. polyquaternium-72, or polyquaternium-4)

If I had a choice in getting conditioner with an alcohol or one with polyquaternium, which should I get?



  • jennyfurrensjennyfurrens Posts: 708Registered Users
    I'm not one of the ingredients gurus so what i'm about to say isnt in scientific terms. its just what i know!

    you'll be hard pushed to find a drugstore conditioner without cetearyl alcohol. it is confusing but most of the alcohols high-up in conditioners are moisturising. the only drying alcohols you need to watch out for are alcohol denat(ured) and benzyl alcohol. cetearyl and stearyl etc are moisturising and good! you'll probably find the moisturising ones in conditioners and are more likely to find the drying ones in things like gel and hairspray.

    polyquats (this is when you need a chemist as i'm saying it in laymans terms) are like mini versions of silicones. i think they're derived from silicones or something. those on CG dont worry about them. they can build up, and some find they buildup quicker than for other. now there are two that build up most easily and i cant quite remember what they are. it's either polyquat 11, 10, or 4. but i'll wait for someone to clarify that for me! for a while i was trying to find products that didnt contain polyquats either as they do build up for me, but it was a very difficult task! so now i use products with polyquats but do a lemon rinse to get rid of them. they dont need sulfates to be removed, just a very mild cleanser.

    quaterniums however are pretty much silicones. quaternium 80 is a destatic agent and had the same effect on my hair as any silicone - fluffy buildup about 2 hours after applying!

    hope that made a little sense or cleared things up a wee bit, at least until someone else tells you exactly what the polyquats do by number and the difference between the alcohols.

    cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
    condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
    style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.

    pw: curlywurly
  • medusahairmedusahair Posts: 3,515Registered Users
    the cetyl is a fatty alcohol but I don't know about the others.
    I do fine with Polyquats but some do find they get some buildup so it depends on your hair.
    Low porosity, medium texture.
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    If it smells good put it in your hair, if it tastes good spit it out!