Back when I had loose hair, I purchased hundreds of hair products simply based on the description on the front part of the label. If it promised that it contained healthy ingredients, I would buy it without thinking twice.
It wasn’t until I started my loc journey that I became aware of everything that I could and couldn’t put in my hair.
Thanks to some friends with dreads, I was warned early on that I would have to use a dreadlock shampoo. But I didn’t really know what that meant until I started doing my own research.
With the help of my good friend Google, I’ve gone down many many rabbit holes leading me to discover things that I would have never even thought to question— the world of cosmetic ingredients being one of them.
I discovered Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Instant Soothe Scalp Elixir less than a year ago while I was going through a phase of having dry skin and an excessively itchy scalp. During my annual maintenance appointment, I discussed my concerns with my loctician, and she introduced me to the product.
Since I travel a lot, I usually don’t take my fresh aloe vera gel scalp spray because it requires refrigeration, so I thought an over-the-counter product could solve a big problem for me. This is why I decided to give my loctician’s recommendation a try.
The bottle claims that it provides 24-hour relief of itchy, dry scalp for curly and coily hair types. It’s a leave-in formula with cooling menthol & peppermint oil.
The moment I tried it, I felt instant scalp relief! I loved this product up until the very moment I sat down to make this review. 🙁 Cue sad music…
In this article, I break down each of the ingredients that make up the Royal Oils Instant Soothe Scalp Elixir and explain why it doesn’t make the cut to be a dreadlock-friendly product.
Royal Oils Instant Soothe Scalp Elixir ingredients
- Pyrithione Zinc: Zinc Pyrithione is a coordination complex compound of zinc, meaning that a neutral molecule is bound to a central metal atom. This is the only active ingredient in the Scalp Elixir known for its anti dandruff and anti-seborrheic properties. There are several problems to consider, particularly when thinking about putting this product directly on your scalp. First, studies have warned it has potential DNA-damaging effects.
As a result, in March 2022, the European Union officially banned this ingredient from being used in any of their cosmetic products. That should be a huge red flag for all of us, even if your country (i.e. United States) hasn’t banned it yet. Another problem with this ingredient is that it is NOT water soluble. Even though you would be using it directly on your scalp, rather than the locs themselves, anything you use on your hair should be water soluble.
The amount of Pyrithione Zinc used in this bottle of Instant Soothe Scalp Elixir is just over 0.125%— the ratio is 0.1g per 100 mL (the Elixir bottle is 125 mL or 4.2 fl oz). In my opinion, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.
- Water: Water is great. There’s nothing more to say about that. 🙂
- Niacinamide: This is a form of vitamin B-3 that is water soluble. It is known to improve the quality of skin because of its hydrating and collagen-boosting properties. It is oftentimes used for treating eczema and acne.
- PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil: PEG stands for polyethylene glycol, and is a synthetic ingredient. This is mixed with natural castor oil to create PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil. This ingredient compound allows liquids that don’t normally combine to incorporate and mix together, thereby improving the consistency of the product. Meanwhile, its properties also help to soften and soothe dry skin. This ingredient is soluble in water, however being that it is synthetic, I personally wouldn’t be super inclined to use it.
- Menthol: Menthol is a compound extracted from mint plants. It can be extracted naturally or fabricated in a lab. This product doesn’t specify where they have derived this ingredient from.
- Mentha piperita oil: This is peppermint essential oil that is derived from a hybrid mint species of spearmint and water mint.
- Mentha arvensis leaf oil: This is cornmint essential oil, derived from wild mint leaves.
- Phenoxyethanol: This is a synthetic ingredient that is used as a preservative in cosmetic products.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is becoming more popular in hair products because it helps hair retain moisture while leaving it shiny. The label doesn’t tell us where the caffeine is derived from but it doesn’t seem to be a bad ingredient.
- Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 dimethicone: This is a derivative of dimethicone, which is a silicone polymer (a combination of molecules). While it is said to have skin-soothing properties, some sources say it dries out skin. I don’t know which to believe but being that it’s a synthetic ingredient, I would opt against it.
- Glycerin: This is a sugar alcohol compound that can be naturally derived or synthetically made. The label doesn’t specify where the glycerin in this product is derived from. In any case, it is water soluble and is said to have properties to help the hair retain its moisture.
- Fragrance: In a dictionary, fragrance is defined as a pleasant scent. In cosmetics, it is defined as a combination of chemicals that gives a product a distinct smell. The ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural materials and oftentimes include solvents, preservatives, and stabilizers. Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients that make up their fragrance, thereby keeping the details of this specific ingredient ambiguous.
- Benzyl alcohol: This is an ingredient used as both a solvent and preservative. It can be derived naturally and synthetically. While many claim it to be safe, some reports show that it has a high risk of producing an allergic reaction upon contact.
- Acrylates/C 10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer: This is a synthetic ingredient made from methacrylic and acrylic acid. It is typically used to enhance the performance of paint coating, varnishes, adhesives, sealants, and many other products. In cosmetics, it is used for stabilizing the texture of the product by thickening it up. It is soluble in water and is said to be safe for skin when used in low concentrations, however being that it is synthetic and somewhat of an adhesive, I would not use it on my locs, and recommend you don’t either.
- Panthenol: This ingredient is an alcohol derivative of pantothenic acid, more commonly known as vitamin B-5. It’s a water soluble substance that is known for its hydrating and moisturizing properties and is believed to promote the healing of wounds. This ingredient is naturally found in some plants but if it’s created synthetically, it has a longer shelf life.
- Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine (THPE): This synthetic ingredient is used as a chelating agent which allows the binding of metal compounds in order to remove them from the body. Without turning this into a chemistry lesson, we can break down this big intimidating word in order to determine why it is not a dreadlock-friendly ingredient (or human-friendly, for that matter).
- Tetra: This is the Greek numerical prefix for the number 4.
- Hydroxy: This is hydroxide, meaning that one oxygen atom is bonded to one hydrogen atom.
- Propyl: This is a compound derived from propane. Read that again…propane.
- Ethylene: This is a flammable hydrocarbon gas whose sources can include petroleum and natural plant-based gasses.
- Di: This is the Greek numerical prefix for the number 2.
- Amine: This is a derivative of ammonia.
It should come as no surprise that several of these compounds are unsafe, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
The New Jersey Department of Health warned against the use of ethylenediamine because it is a corrosive chemical that is hazardous to a person’s health, with the possibility of resulting in skin allergies (including a rash) among other ill effects.
Even though it remains a popular ingredient in the cosmetic industry, many sources claim that it has caused irritation to the skin, the eyes, and the respiratory system.
In any case, synthetic ingredients usually are a no-no in my book and this ingredient in particular is no exception.
- Ethylhexylglycerin: This is (you guessed it!) another synthetic ingredient (glyceryl ether) used as a skin-softening and humectant agent that can double up as a mild preservative. While most sources claim that it is safe for use, there have been some reports of it causing skin irritation and dermatitis.
If you’ve stuck around all the way to this point, props to you!! I hope my research has helped you understand what each of the ingredients mean.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I do not recommend the Head and Shoulders Scalp Elixir Treatment for dreadlocks.
Sadly, it was a product that I enjoyed using because it brought temporary relief to my scalp. But after doing this deep dive on the ingredients, I am committed to finding a healthier alternative.
In the meantime, if you have any tips, recommendations, or questions about other products or ingredients, be sure to leave me a comment below!