Many hair products contain many artificial chemicals that can dry your hair and irritate your scalp. Thankfully, many natural ingredients have the benefits your hair needs without the irritation. These benefits include moisturizing dry hair, protecting dyed hair and reducing dandruff. They may even act as an antifungal or promote hair regrowth. Here are 6 natural ingredients that are best for your hair.

1. Avocado oil

Avocado oil can soften and smooth hair as a natural emollient. In particular, it can help Morgan hydrate and prevent heat styling damage caused primarily by hydration. It can also promote overall hair health and reduce hair damage, says Michele J. Farber, MD, board-certified dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group. Avocado oil contains fatty acids that help repair cuticles, add shine to hair, and prevent damage.

Avocado oil also contains antioxidants. “Antioxidants can protect against environmental contaminants and reduce vulnerabilities resulting from these exposures,” says Faber. “It’s perfect for a hair mask to reduce frizz and prevent damage.”

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been used traditionally in South Asia for hair health. It is hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water. Lavanya Krishnan, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and Medical Director of Arya Derm in San Francisco, says that by deeply penetrating the hair, it can protect the hair cuticle against damage caused by frequent dampening and drying.

Krishnan recommends applying coconut oil to your hair before you wet it to prevent this swelling and protect your hair from damage. A 2015 review considered coconut oil as an effective hair care ingredient, finding that it can also reduce protein loss due to its deep penetration of the hair shaft.

3. Argan Oil

Krishnan says that argan oil is rich in substances that penetrate the hair shaft and reduce dryness, including vitamin E, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. Krishnan says argan oil is great for adding shine to the hair because of its vitamin E component, and it is especially beneficial for color treated hair. For a stronger hold and to reduce dryness, she recommends applying argan oil to hair after dye treatments. In fact, a 2013 study applied argan oil to colored human hair extensions and found that the oil protected protein loss and reduced the damage caused by hair dye.

4. Honey

Honey is rich in antioxidants, which means it can help prevent and reverse hair loss caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Because of this, Krishnan says, honey can help prevent and reverse hair loss caused by too much time in the sun and environmental pollutants. Farber also says that honey is good for hydration, because it contains humectants, which means it helps to retain moisture, which can be beneficial for hair breakage.

Although there isn’t a ton of evidence proving the benefits of honey on hair growth, Farber believes that its moisturizing properties and antioxidant properties help to reduce breakage that can cause hair loss and impede growth.

Honey may also help with dandruff, Farber says. In a small study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2001, 30 participants with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff were surveyed: half the participants served as a control group and the other half underwent a four-week honey treatment. In just two weeks, those who applied the honey hair treatments saw significant improvement in itching and scaling, as well as in hair loss.

5. Tea Tree Oil 

Tea tree oil is better for the scalp than the hair itself, because it has antifungal properties, and Krishnan says it can help with scalp irritation and scaling due to fungal dandruff. This is because tea tree oil can inhibit the growth of Malassezia yeast that can cause dandruff.

The benefits of tea tree oil for dandruff were highlighted in a 2002 study in which researchers found that a 5% tea tree shampoo was more effective than a placebo. The tea tree shampoo made participants’ dandruff less noticeable by 41% over four weeks. However, when applying tea tree oil to your scalp, exercise caution. “Many people have heard that tea tree oil can cause contact dermatitis in patients with more sensitive skin,” Krishnan says. Farber suggests adding a small amount to your shampoo and testing it on a small area before applying it to the whole scalp to make sure there is no irritation.

6. Saw Palmetto

Hair loss is the main reason why many people turn to saw palmetto. Friese says that saw palmetto affects the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. This enzyme converts testosterone into DHT, the hormone responsible for male and female pattern hair loss. Dr. Zeichner agrees, saying that “saw palmetto is a botanical extract that has been shown to block the effect of androgen hormones. As high levels of these hormones are associated with hair thinning, blocking them may theoretically boost hair growth. 

Researchers believe saw palmetto reduces hair loss by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT and the absorption of DHT in the body. It’s important to remember that most studies on saw palmetto have been focused on its effects on men, so more large-scale research on humans is needed to confirm its effects on women. Saw palmetto prevents hair loss by stopping the body from converting testosterone into DHT. 

Friese shares that saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties on the scalp., Inflammation is the source of many scalp-related issues and hair growth problems; saw palmetto increases scalp health by reducing inflammation. A healthy scalp is the key to new hair growth, and Friese says that a reduction of inflammation in the scalp can assist in promoting hair growth and preventing hair loss in men and women.

Saw palmetto has been studied mainly for its ability to treat hair at its source, but there are likely to be added benefits to the hair follicles themselves. Friese adds that there have been few studies to establish what it does to the hair itself, but that anything that strengthens the hair follicle will make it stronger and thicker.

These ingredients can be used on their own in your hair or found in products such as shampoos or conditioners. If your hair or scalp problems persist after using these ingredients, consult a dermatologist who can help you get to the root of the problem and get it looking and feeling better.