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K18 – will alcohols dry out my curly–coily hair?


Addressing alcohols with curly–coily PRO expert, Alifia

Alcohol in hair products have been a concern in our community. As someone with curly–coily hair, you may have been told to avoid them in your routine. I get it, keeping your hair hydrated is a struggle—so the last thing you want is something that’s going to dry it out.
Here’s the thing, certain parts of our hair are hydrophobic (water-repelling). This means the hydrating products you love can’t penetrate the hair cuticle, leaving behind heavy buildup that weighs down your curls + coils.
Alcohols for peptide penetration
K18’s trio of 3 alcohols work together to open the hair cuticle so the K18PEPTIDE™ can penetrate the innermost layer of hair and reach broken polypeptide chains (keratin chains). Here the minimal amount of alcohol serves as an agent to optimize the hair environment for the peptide to work on a deeper level, not to dry hair out.
Here’s exactly what these alcohols do in K18’s mask formula.

Denatured alcohol opens the gates for the peptide to reach hair’s damage sites. Propylene glycol is another penetration enhancer that helps the peptide penetrate, binding water molecules and improving hydration for your curls + coils.
Some alcohols can actually help lock in moisture…no joke. Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that does double duty—its waxy consistency creates a physical barrier to keep water in or out (depending on the formula) and keeps the mask together for easier application.
Alcohols for product preservation
Benzyl alcohol acts as a cosmetic preservative, keeping your product fresh while it sits on the shelf. This and Cetearyl alcohol do not contain ethanol and can even be used in products marketed as “alcohol-free.” Woah.
A very low concentration of isopropyl alcohol is used to help conditioning agents blend better into the formula, without being directly added to the formula itself. Plus, they evaporate so you won’t even know they were there!
Still worried about dryness?
Here are some ways to combat that dry, brittle feeling:
- Try and avoid products that may leave behind major buildup on the hair
- Use a detox shampoo to remove buildup + clear the path for your haircare
- Use shampoos with a lower pH that closes the cuticle to reduce moisture loss
- Reduce friction and moisture wicking with a silk or satin pillowcase
Even as a PRO stylist, I’ve had to relearn what is and isn’t good for curly–coily hair. The truth is, ingredients aren’t a “one-size, quit all” kind of thing. Now I try and dig deeper into what’s in the formulas we use AND why before dismissing a product for myself, and my clients.
In the context of K18, alcohol is not inherently bad or drying and helps deliver the stronger, softer, smoother, bouncier curls + coils we’re going for!