Filipino woman with long, curly hair.

Haircare product labels are not as straightforward as they used to be. Shampoo isn’t just shampoo – it’s natural, hypoallergenic, or sulfate-free. Conditioner comes in different formulations, like serums, masks, and leave-on creams. These labels can help bring you closer to your haircare goals, but first, here’s a quick guide.


Sulfates or surfactants are detergents that cleanse your hair and remove oil. They are responsible for lather – which can be fun until it dries your scalp. While not inherently evil, sulfates can be problematic if you already have dry, damaged hair or are more mature. They can strip your locks of natural moisture, making them brittle and prone to breakage.


Silicone, a synthetic ingredient made of silica, is also dividing shampoo users. Silicone is effective at smoothing the hair and making it shiny and frizz-free. It’s also to use in hair care. However, it can also weigh the hair down, resulting in dull and lifeless tresses. Silicone-free shampoos usually replace the ingredient with , such as argan, coconut, and jojoba.

Some silicone-free alternatives include Dove Botanical Anti Hair Fall Shampoo Silicone Free Primrose, which uses 100% botanical oil to nourish weak and brittle hair, and Dove Botanical Silicone Free Shampoo for Damaged Hair Restore, which leaves hair with a soft, light-feel thanks to pink Moroccan rose extracts.


Did you know that “unscented” products still use fragrance to mask the smells of unwanted ingredients? If you’re allergic to perfumes or have sensitive skin, you want a product that does not have smell or ingredients that trigger your reactions. Surprisingly, these two can be mutually exclusive. Look for “fragrance-free” on product labels. This means it has no fragrances or perfumes that can irritate your skin.


Hypoallergenic is an umbrella term used to describe products suitable for sensitive skin. These don’t have potentially irritating ingredients like sulfates, fragrances, phthalates, and parabens. Keep in mind that “hypo” means “beneath” or “less than normal.” The term, therefore, does not rule out the possibility of allergic reactions. It simply implies they are less likely to cause them.


If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you want a non-comedogenic shampoo. This means it doesn’t have ingredients that can clog your pores, such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, and lanolin. While there is no of “comedogenic,” those who get frequent breakouts steer clear of these to avoid aggravating their condition. Moreover, this term is also rarely used in hair care. It’s often up to the consumer to on product labels and decide.

Natural, Vegan, and Cruelty-free

“Natural” is another in the cosmetics industry. Products with this label contain at least one natural ingredient. They can still have synthetic ingredients unless it says “100% natural.” It also doesn’t guarantee their safety since they don’t undergo any rigorous testing procedures.

On the other hand, the “vegan” label means the product does not have ingredients derived from animals, while “cruelty-free” means "not tested on animals." Again, these are not indicative of their safety or efficacy. The labels guide consumers in buying products aligned with their values and preferences.


Products that are “dermatologist-tested” have been tested by dermatologists for possible reactions. It can also mean one was consulted on the matter. It doesn’t mean a dermatologist approves or endorses it.

Other Labels

Some products would banner their hero ingredients or unique formulas on their labels. For example, TRESemmé Keratin Smooth KERA10 Shampoo highlights KERA10 Protein Complex, which can sound alien to a lot of people. It’s a technology that’s unique to the product and refers to its ability to penetrate hair 10 layers deep, and the it delivers to hair. When it comes to these labels, it's best to do your homework and look them up before you buy.

Hair care product labels can be confusing, so study this quick guide before shopping for the most suitable shampoo and conditioner for you. Moreover, take them with a grain of salt and go with your experience. Your hair and scalp are unique to you – one label can’t possibly capture all your needs.