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Why is there isopropyl alcohol in my conditioner?

Katemonster asks…I was looking at the new Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner and noticed it contained isopropyl alcohol. Curious, I tried to figure out why this was as it’s a drying agent rather than a conditioning agent. I have read that if the amount is low enough, it probably evaporates during manufacturing, and that is possibly used to dissolve other ingredients however I am unable to find anything definitive. Any ideas? 

The Beauty Brains respond:

You’re correct, KM, in assuming that you should avoid saturating your hair with isopropyl alcohol (IPA) because it can be drying. So why the heck is Garnier adding to their conditioner?

Why add alcohol?

As you suspected it’s there to help dissolve another ingredient. Specifically the ingredient Behentrimonium Chloride (which is a GREAT conditioner) is sold as an 85% slurry in isopropyl alcohol. (That means the ingredient itself contains 15% IPA.) The advantages of using this ingredient mixed with IPA instead of as a solid are related to simplifying the manufacturing process:

1. It’s easier to pump a slurry than it is to add a solid material.

2. A solid requires heating while A slurry can be added at lower temperature. Being able to cold process a conditioner saves both time and money. (If they’re using cold processing the IPA may not evaporate.)

Is alcohol bad for hair?

The mixture of Behentrimonium Chloride and IPA is in the final formula at a level somewhere around 2-5% so the most IPA you’d find in your conditioner is probably less than 0.75%. That level is so low and it’s on your hair for such a short period of time that there’s nothing really to worry about in terms of damaging your hair.

Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner ingredients

Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil/Huile Minerale, Behentrimonium Chloride, Isopropyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Glycerin, Parfum/Fragrance, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Linalool, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCI, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Citric Acid, Benzyl Salicylate, Cocos Nucifera Oil/Coconut Oil, Theobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Saccharum Officinarum Extract/Sugar Cane Extract/Extrait de Canne a Sucre, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cl 19140/Yellow 5, Cl 15985/Yellow 6, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hina April 17, 2014, 1:35 pm

    The first thing I did was go and check my conditioner. Shocked to see IA mentioned in the list 🙁


  • jeannie April 18, 2014, 2:43 pm

    What about Alcohol Denat. ? It’s the first ingredient listed in bumble and bumble’s thickening serum: http://www.sephora.com/thickening-serum-P280574

    Some people say that it thickens hair by drying hair out with alcohol. Is that true?

    • admin April 19, 2014, 8:29 am

      No, that’s not true at all, alcohol is typically used in styling products as a solvent and quick drying agent.

    • C March 1, 2020, 3:26 am

      Hi Perry,

      Could it be that the reformulated hair products of Cantu and Shea Moisture contain Isopropyl Alcohol just because the new manufacturing processes involves conditioning agents in slurry form instead of solid pellets.

      I also noticed with certain Procter & Gamble products that the US manufactured conditioners don’t contain Isopropyl Alcohol while the European manufactured ones do. Is it because of different INCI regulations between US and EU, or because the US plants uses alcohol-free solid pallets and European plants slurries for conditioning agents?

      • Perry Romanowski March 2, 2020, 2:31 pm

        It’s not likely INCI differences. P&G would just follow the EU ones. You could be correct that it has to do with the types of ingredient forms they are using.

  • Vanessa March 23, 2015, 2:42 pm

    I saw this product on drugstore.com and some of the ingredients you have list are not even on the bottle.

    • Randy Schueller March 23, 2015, 4:19 pm

      It’s not surprising to see inaccurate ingredient lists online.

  • Dev March 9, 2016, 12:32 am

    If I’m not mistaken, the behentrimonium chloride raw material itself is a mixture of alcohol and water. The INCI for BTAC is “behentrimonium chloride & ethyl alcohol.” So I’m guessing if you see BTAC on the label of a cosmetic, alcohol isn’t too far behind. I did see that there are other things it’s dissolve in, but alcohol seems to be the most common. I also found that there is only 18% alcohol contained in the raw material mixture (at least from this particular manufacturer)

    Hope this help!


  • NeNe June 23, 2016, 8:57 pm

    The slip is amazing for Garnier Fructis Damage Control conditioner. But it’s not that moisturizing once you rinse. When you have it in, it feels so luxurious. then you rinse it off and it’s like, meh. I would recommend it for coarse hair that is hard to detangle, but be sure to follow up with a good nourishing moisturizing leave in if you have kinky and or curly hair.

    • Rita December 7, 2018, 1:22 pm

      This is because the mineral oil in the conditioner is what provides the slip while on your hair. After you rinse it, your hair feels meh because oil is not soluble in water. It stays on the hair strand and it is in fact extremely drying for anyone’s hair because it coats the hair shaft which in turn does not allow your hair to breathe or be penetrated by outside sources of moisture.

  • Anasa November 17, 2018, 2:45 am

    What if the IPA is in a leave in conditioner, specifically Garnier Ultimate Blends Argan Oil & Almond Cream Dry Hair Leave-In Conditioner? Is the amount of IPA a concern? I love this prod, but that’s an ingredient that makes me wary.

    • Perry Romanowski June 15, 2019, 1:06 pm

      IPA will just evaporate off so there is no problem with it being used as a solvent in the product.

  • dharmarajsinh zala April 29, 2020, 2:52 pm

    Is it necessary to use IPA in conditioner formulation if using behentrimonium chloride or it can be formulated without IPA…