Figuring out what products work for you is something all naturals go through. And sometimes a product leaves your hair feeling so bad that it is forever seared in your memory as an ultimate fail. Our writers discuss their fail products and why they suspect they didn’t work. Keep in mind that this list is subjective and one woman’s fail is another woman’s holy grail. Be sure to hit us up in the comments with your thoughts on our list and your own fail products.
My hair is all over the place. It’s technically type 3 something or the other, but to simplify, I label myself 3C when folks ask. I’ve got looser curls along the back half, and a tight, shrinkage-prone wave/curl hybrid in the front. My crown is a beast unto itself that refuses to be defined (in more ways than one). My hair is medium-high porosity (due to hair color), and about average in density and strand thickness. I haven’t encountered tooooo many products that I can’t make work, but there are a handful that I just absolutely cannot with. It’s nothing against the brand themselves — just that those particular products didn’t work out for me and my hair. They are:
I still have nightmares about this one. I initially purchased the leave-in because I heard so much good about it, and saw one YouTuber in particular (MoKnowsHair) rave about it as her staple. I will never, ever, EVER put that stuff in my hair again. It might possibly go down as the worst product I’ve ever used. Every single quality I thought the Mixed Chicks Leave-In would have, it didn’t. I thought it would have slip — negative. Just barely enough to get the product through the hair. I thought it would be moisturizing (that random yellow color reminds me of egg yolks, which in my mind I equate to cholesterol, which therefore equates to softness) — it came up short. I thought it would at least abate some frizz — more disappointment. Any hold and definition the Leave-In provided was outshone by the awkward shrunkenness and itchy scalp I experienced in the day following. Not only did it aggravate my scalp psoriasis, but it caused my hair to be dry yet stringy and coated-feeling all at the same time. Read my horror story here.
I thought this would be a phenomenal product for my hair — it felt good in my hands, smelled great, and had awesome ingredients. But alas, it had NO slip whatsoever, which was disappointing. Prior to applying this mask, I had used a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo which left my hair feeling clean and not stripped. Get this: my hair felt worse after I rinsed out the Giovanni. How does a conditioner do the opposite of what it says it’s going to do? My experience was so bad, I never gave it a second try. Sometimes, no is just no. [video here]
As a transitioner, I used to love mixing Curl Enhancing Smoothie with some aloe vera gel to moisturize and style my hair. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to use it on my hair since then. For some reason, after about a year into my transition, my hair started haaaaating Curl Enhancing Smoothie. It made my hair feel rough, tangled, and coated, and way greasy. I tried cutting it with aloe vera gel like old times, with zero luck. I purchased a few more jars within the past 3 or so years, determined to make it work. This was primarily driven by seeing other naturals with dope hair and finding out their styler of choice was Curl Enhancing Smoothie. But no matter what I did, how I cut it, applied it, worked with it, the end result was always the same. In 2015, I’m committed to not buying another jar. I’m done forcing the issue. If you want to see how I got down with the Smoothie in my transitioning days, click here.
Sigh. For me, this product was a classic case of great ingredients, poor performance. I really wanted to like this product. I really did. I turned a blind eye to the Luster’s Pink Lotion-esque color scheme, the confusing acronyms, and the obvious fake curly wig on the box, and the name dropping in “My True Story” (why is Jay-Z’s name on the side of a hair product box?) — all because I really believed in the ingredients. I really did. I first used the curl creme to moisturize/refresh a wash and go, applying a little bit to each section. The next morning I woke up with buildup‑y flakes all over. I just chalked it up to not meshing with the other products in my hair at the time. The next time, I decided to go clean slate and try the creme on my damp, freshly washed hair per the instructions. That’s when things really went downhill. Although incredibly thick, rich, and creamy feeling, my hair did not soak it all in like it typically does moisturizers and defining cremes. It just sat. And tangled my hair. And sat. And made my hair mushy. After applying the curl creme to my entire head (I should have left well enough alone, and stopped after the first section gave me pause), I realized the creme just wasn’t going to mesh with my hair. I tried to brush it into a ponytail, and all that did was make things worse. Even though I had just washed my hair, I had to hop back in the shower and wash it all over again — with shampoo to make sure I got it all out. Even under the water, it made my hair feel tangled and rough. Brave enough to read the review? Click here.
My hair tends to be on the dry side and it also has high porosity. When my hair finally absorbs moisture, it holds it; but when that moisture leaves, it leaves behind a parched and tangled mess. I wouldn’t describe my hair as fine or coarse, it sort of falls somewhere in the middle. It’s very springy and tends to love products with weight like puddings and gels. However, for every one product my hair loves, there are three products that my absolutely hated and left it feeling awful. Take a look at my not so favorite list!
The name of this product is very deceiving. With words like shea butter and moisture intense, you’d think that your hair would be in moisture heaven after using it. This was not the case for me. This product left my hair feeling extremely dry and brittle. It even looked dull and flaky, but when I touched it it was greasy. I used this product twice before calling it quits. I thought if I tweaked the way I was using it, then that would make a difference…it didn’t. The pudding also had a greasy texture to it, which is why it probably didn’t work well for me. Greasy products tend to just sit on top of my hair never really giving me the extra moisture that my hair desperately needs. African Pride has never worked for my hair. I guess I was hoping that their natural hair care line would be different.
I’m a huge fan of Shea Moisture. I currently use their Curl Enhancing Smoothie and their Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. However, my hair absolutely hated the curling gel they make. It left my hair feeling crunchy and kind of sticky. I don’t even know how a product can leave your hair sticky, but that’s how it felt after it dried (which took forever by the way). It was also very tangled. When I tried unraveling my twists, I had difficulty. My hair also appeared limp and lifeless. It just sat on top of my hair and didn’t work into it. I didn’t need to try this more than once to know that it would never work in my hair.
Because I’m such a fan of Eco Styler’s Olive Oil gel I thought that I would give the Eco Custard a try. After all, it was clearly targeted to women with curls and natural hair. Not only did my hair not like the product, it was too light for it. My hair needs something with weight to it. I had to apply way too much of the custard in order for it to really work into my hair. The jar isn’t that big, so having to apply that much product was not appealing to me. The custard didn’t do anything special to my hair. I think the shea butter that I applied with it did most of the work. I also didn’t care for the strong perfume smell of the custard. I find that unnatural smelling products usually have a whole bunch of things in it that aren’t the best for my hair. I used this twice before I threw in the towel.
I will try almost any natural, pure or raw oil on my hair because it loves hot oil treatments. I decided to try canola oil because I read great reviews from other naturals. People claim that it eliminates frizz and reduces breakage. It’s even in a few of the hair products that I’ve loved over the years. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I used this oil as a hot oil treatment and rinsed as usual. Sadly, the oil didn’t rinse well. I was actually blow drying my hair and I felt the canola oil just sitting on top of my hair. After I blow dried, my hair felt very dry, but was extremely greasy. It was so greasy that the oil was creeping down my forehead. Thinking I used too much the first time, I tried using less the second time. However, my results were still the same. My hair was a mess for two weeks because it was too oily. If my hair can’t handle canola oil as a hot oil treatment, it definitely can’t handle it as an oil that I use while I’m styling my hair. It apparently works fine for my hair when it’s mixed in other hair products, but not on its own. I was one and done with canola oil.
My hair would be considered Type 4, a mixture of Type 4a, b, and c throughout my entire head. It is coarse and dense with thick strands. I don’t consider myself a product junkie (anymore) but I do like trying out new products to see how they work for my hair.
These are just a few, but there are several other products that I have tried that didn’t work for my hair. I have realized that with the majority of the products that didn’t work, the common denominator was either too much glycerin or too much protein. While these two ingredients are great for the hair, when used in excess my hair becomes dry and brittle. Not every hair product will work the same for everyone, even if two people have the same hair type.
Coconut oil can be a great conditioner and moisturizer for the hair. Unfortunately for me, when I used coconut oil my hair felt brittle. It is said that coconut oil penetrates the hair and helps with protein retention and the excess protein may be what causes brittleness. So, after using this oil for several years, I finally realized that it didn’t quite work for me the way I had hoped and began using other natural oils for my hair.
In the beginning of my hair journey, I heard so many naturals rave about how amazing their hair felt after using this Cantu Leave-in. One of those naturals was my very own sister, so I thought I would give it a try. After using it several times, I was disappointed when my hair didn’t feel as amazing as everyone else described. Initial application of the product onto wet/damp hair felt okay, but after a few hours my hair still felt dry and brittle.
My hair is coily and kinky, but somehow I felt the need to try a ‘curling’ custard. I tried other products from the Kinky-Curly line that worked for my hair type so I thought maybe this one would work too. Well, it didn’t. For me the product did not work at all for obvious reasons- my hair is not and never will be curly regardless of the products I use.
Again, after hearing great things about this product, I purchased the Karen’s Body Beautiful Leave-in. I used it until the bottle was almost completely empty and after each use the results were the same. My hair felt great after the initial application, but a few hours later, it was back to feeling dry.
November of this year will mark eleven years since my big chop. If there’s one thing I’ve nailed by now it’s the ability to spot a product that will not work for my hair. You see, I know my hair pretty well. It’s dense with medium width strands (i.e. medium coarseness) with low-medium porosity (different sections of my hair respond differently to moisture retention). I have pretty tightly coiled hair and experience shrinkage of about 50%-75% depending on the section of my hair. If you care for the hair typing system then I would fall between the 4a-4b range. All this to say that products that do not help in the retention of moisture will likely NOT work for my hair. The products I describe below are not products I used once and tossed. I used at least half of the product before coming to the conclusion they just didn’t work for me.
I know this is favorite among many naturals but when I tried the product, shortly after I found it at a local Walgreens a few years ago, it really did little in the way of adding moisture to my hair. Moreover, it left white, flaky residue and did not work well with other products, such as gel. Now, it didn’t harm my hair in any way but my prone-to-dryness hair laughed in its face and didn’t respond to it at all. That said, I’ve had much better success with other products in the Shea Moisture product line, namely the sulfate free shampoos.
When I first applied Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie to my hair it reminded me of this product. It consistency is similar to other products that work for my hair but it just didn’t meet expectations. My hair felt fine upon immediate application but it felt dry and a bit crunchy by the end of the day. It almost felt like moisture was leaving my hair. Another aspect of this product that I didn’t care for was the smell. Now what I smelled upon opening the jar is fine but it had a strange after smell. I’m not particularly sensitive to smells but it bothered me each time I used the product.
This is one of those products that I felt could easily be replaced with a much cheaper, equally effective natural product, namely shea butter. So, it wasn’t that the product was objectively terrible it was just a letdown. It’s a pretty dense product and not one that I would say is designed to add moisture. It’s more geared towards sealing after you’ve already used a water based product. I was able to use almost all of the product mainly because I was in my protective styling challenge phase and wore medium twists almost constantly (this was around 2011). It worked fine as a twisting butter but, again, I could have achieved the same outcome with unrefined shea butter.
Hair moisturizers in liquid form are hit or miss for me. This was my first time trying a liquid moisturizer and I was so disappointed that it took me years before I tried one again (from Oyin Handmade and Beautiful Curls) which, incidentally, worked pretty well for my hair. The Protective Mist Bodifer is somewhat thick. It’s definitely a liquid but not exactly watery. I figured this would be a good thing because it meant, or so I thought, that the product was full of ingredients that would moisturize my hair. I found, however, that upon using the product my hair still needed a moisturizing base before sealing. I was able to salvage the product by mixing it with whole leaf aloe vera juice and using it as a leave in. But I don’t expect to have to add ingredients when I purchase a product in order for it to be usable on my hair.
What products are on your ‘worst offender’ list? What have your experiences been with the products we mentioned here?