Knowing what's in your shampoo or leave-in conditioner bottle is pretty important if you want healthy, shiny hair. Some ingredients are easy to decipher—it's well known that aloe is great at hydration, coconut oil adds shine, and squalane oil smooths frizz without weighing your hair down.
But what about those hard-to-pronounce ingredients that are everywhere on the label, but seldom on the marketing—the foaming agents, the thickeners, the conditioners? Well, that's what we're here to unpack.
One such ingredient is behentrimonium chloride, which is commonly found in haircare products and offers some great benefits. We asked board-certified dermatologists Anna Guanche, MD, and Shari Sperling, DO, to help us shed some light on this ingredient.
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Keep scrolling to read all about behentrimonium chloride, the benefits, and what hair types it's best for.
Behentrimonium Chloride for Hair
Type of ingredient: Conditioning ingredient
Main benefits: Conditions hair, removes static, provides shine
Who should use it: Behentrimonium chloride is suitable for all hair types, but those with frizzy, dry, or curly hair might benefit more from it.
How often can you use it: It's safe for daily use.
Don’t use with: According to Guanche, "there is limited research on whether this compound works well with a particular product or if it has adverse effects with particular products."
Benefits of Behentrimonium Chloride for Hair
Behentrimonium chloride is an ingredient used in haircare products designed to reduce static and frizz. "It is derived from an ingredient of the brassica rapa oleifera plant," Sperling says. "It is part of the mustard plant family and commonly known as rapeseed or canola."
If you've ever used a leave-in conditioner that promises to reduce frizz, or an anti-static product to smooth flyaways after a blowout, you've probably used a product that contains behentrimonium chloride. Some of its benefits for your hair include:
- Anti-static properties: "Behentrimonium chloride is beneficial for the hair because the anti-static, emulsifying characteristics of the compound prevent the hair from becoming static and frizzy," Guanche explains. Sperling adds: "It reduces static electricity that occurs when the hair shafts move against one another or fabrics."
- Helps with detangling: Behentrimonium chloride can also help soften your hair, making it easier to detangle. "It also has a detangling effect through the absorption in the hair and scalp," Guanche explains. "The positive electrical charge within the compound contributes to the super conditioning and allows hair to be more manageable and soft, especially for more curly and textured hair."
- Can add shine: Sperling tells us that behentrimonium chloride also provides shine to hair.
- Prevents bacteria growth: Another great benefit of behentrimonium chloride is that it also acts as a preservative, helping to prevent bacteria from growing in your haircare products.
- Acts as a surfactant: It's partially water- and oil-soluble and can help give products a smooth consistency and a gentle lather.
Hair Type Considerations
Behentrimonium chloride can work for all hair types, but people with thick, dry, curly, and/or textured hair probably benefit the most from it. "Behentrimonium chloride is most beneficial for people with textured, curly, or thick hair because of the detangling properties and frizz control," Guanche says. "The frizz-free, detangling, and conditioning properties of the compound help maintain manageable, soft, and moisturized hair."
While behentrimonium chloride is safe for daily use across most hair types, you'll want to pay attention to the label to avoid irritation. "The only precaution when using products that contain behentrimonium chloride is if the concentration of the compound in the product is more than 0.1 percent, because then it can be harmful to the skin, scalp, and hair follicle," Guanche explains.
How to Use Behentrimonium Chloride for Hair
Behentrimonium chloride is a key part of a number of hair care products, including wash-out and leave-in conditioners, anti-frizz and anti-static products, curl creams, and more. If desired, you can use these products daily to reduce frizz and tame flyaways—especially if you have curly hair.
What is the difference between behentrimonium chloride and sodium chloride?
Behentrimonium chloride is a waxy substance that's derived from rapeseed or canola oil, while sodium chloride is simply salt. Sodium chloride is added to some hair care products to provide a creamy texture, and to volumizing products like sea salt sprays.
Do coarse hair types benefit from using products with behentrimonium chloride?
Coarse hair types can definitely benefit from using hair care products with behentrimonium chloride. The ingredient can help smooth hair and get rid of frizz, but the effect is temporary.
Cameron DM, Donahue DA, Costin GE, et al. Confirmation of in vitro and clinical safety assessment of behentrimonium chloride-containing leave-on body lotions using post-marketing adverse event data. Toxicol In Vitro. 2013;27(8):2203-2212.
Jairoun AA, Al-Hemyari SS, Shahwan M, Zyoud SH. Analysis and quantification of alkyl (C12-22) trimethyl ammonium chloride content in cosmetics: regulatory compliance gap analysis. Cosmetics. 2021;8(4):103.