Kinda Not a Big Deal: The Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Formula Changes Are Not A Sign of the Apocalypse

nourish spa conditioner new formula

For about the past week or so, everyone has been making a big hoopla about the formula changes to everyone's beloved super cheap, curly girl-friendly conditioner, Trader Joe's Nourish Spa. Folks were angry. Some ran to their nearest Trader Joe's to clean out the remaining old formula from the shelves, and created a home-stockpile to prepare for the worst. I even saw on another blogger's Instagram a recommendation for starting a petition to switch back to the old formula -- before even giving the new formula a shot.

Sometimes, naturals do too much. (I had to get that out, I've been holding it in for too long)

Before I go on a mini-rant about how folks need to simmer down sometimes, here's the old label:

And the new one:

nourish spa conditioner new formula

In case you can't see the ingredients or don't have the time to analyze the distinctions, here are the two lists compared (the changed ingredients are highlighted in red):

Old Nourish Spa Formula: purified water, organic rosemary extract, organic valencia orange citrus, organic mango, organic lemongrass, organic ginko biloba, organic echinacea, organic willowbark, organic sea kelp, organic chamomille flower, organic textured soy protein, organic lavender, organic grapefruit citrus, tocopherol (Vitamin E), acetamide MEA, cetyl alcohol, citric acid, methylparaben, polyparaben, botanical fragrance.

New Nourish Spa Formula (scientific names of extracts removed for ease of reading): purified water, cetyl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride, citric acid, tocopherol (Vitamin E), dimethicone, argan oil, organic rosemary extract, organic valencia orange citrus, organic mango, organic lemongrass, organic ginko biloba, organic echinacea, organic willowbark, organic sea kelp, organic chamomille flower, organic textured soy protein, organic lavender, organic grapefruit citrus, tocopherol (Vitamin E), acetamide MEA, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, fragrance.

The natural hair community has been up in arms over these formula changes, and this blogger thinks it's a classic case of much ado about nothing. Let me explain the reasons why *I* believe the formula changes don't matter as much as everyone thinks they do:

1. The Botanical Extracts Are the Same -- Just Moved.
Word for word, all of the botanical extracts are in the same cluster as they appear on the old label. The only major switch is that they appear after the ingredients that compose the conditioner base. I don't personally believe the concentrations are different; I'm moreso of the mindset that Trader Joe's changed where the extracts were listed as a move for compliance with the FDA Cosmetic Labeling Regulations. According to the FDA,

The ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement.

Nourish Spa Conditioner's botanicals fall under the second exception:

Ingredients present at a concentration not exceeding 1% may be listed in any order after the listing of the ingredients present at more than 1% in descending order of predominance. [§ 701.3(f)(2)]

So basically, the botanicals have always been present at a concentration of less than 1%. The label has just been adjusted to reflect that.

2. Behentrimonium Chloride and Argan Oil are GOOD.
Behentrimonium Chloride is a quaternary ammonium compound (cleaning and conditioning agent) and close cousin of cetrimonium chloride. It penetrates the hair, conditions, and acts as an anti-static and anti-microbial agent. It is derived from the oilseed turnip, and as a plant-based compound it is great for detangling, softening, and more. Argan oil is touted as an omega-rich miracle oil that can help quell frizz, repair damage, nourish the hair, and banish brittleness and dryness. And they added argan oil without adding to the price! See? Nothing wrong here.

3. The Paraben Preservatives are GONE.
Being distracted by the flurry of botanical extracts, most fans of Nourish Spa turned a blind eye to the fact that paraben preservatives were also on the old ingredient list -- myself included. For those not aware, parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics to prevent microbes from forming and helps to stabilize products for a longer shelf life. The problem with parabens? They're easily absorbed into the bloodstream by the skin and aren't metabolized. In fact, parabens are a highly prevalent element of (statistically) 19 out of 20 breast cancer biopsies. There is no proven link that parabens are carcinogenic, but there is concern that they interrupt endochrine/hormone function in women, and lead to reproductive toxicity. The parabens in the old formula have been replaced with a milder, non-paraben preservative (phenoxyethanol), and potassium sorbate, which is a food-grade level preservative. Nothing to be up in arms about over here, folks!

But...There is One Thing.
This wouldn't be an honest assessment without bringing up one potential downer: silicones. I'm not personally cosigning on this one as a red flag, because 'cones don't bother me. Some of my favorite products have silicones in them. But for some ladies who may be on a strict curly girl regimen, this can be a total downer.

Dimethicone is present in the new formula, and it is a popular cosmetic silicone. Silicones work by coating the hair in a thin, semi-permeable or waterproof layer that reduces the porosity of hair, and makes it less likely to absorb humidity (great for straightening and smoothing hair). It reduces moisture loss within the hair, and lubricates the surface of the hair and makes it easier to comb (slip and less tangled). All of these benefits, while being lightweight and not causing buildup! The obvious downside is that silicones like dimethicone are synthetic. However, they are generally recognized as safe for human skin and hair. Unfortunately, dimethicone is not water-soluble. This doesn't mean that you can't cowash with the new formula, just that you'll have to become more diligent about clarifying or using shampoo at least once a month to avoid buildup (which you should be doing anyway). Besides, the new formula of Nourish Spa isn't just contains a silicone as the 5th ingredient after water. It's present, but not enough to cause super-duper alarm.

Trust me: I tried out the new formula.

As far as everything goes, here's my take on the new Nourish Spa Conditioner formula:

Price: Still $2.99. Take note, companies that add argan or other oils to their products and jack up the price :)

Consistency/Feel: Same.

Color: Same.

Fragrance: Same.

nourish spa conditioner new formula
Look at that shine! No filter, no flash!

Performance: This is where the rubber meets the road. Based on my experience (I've had many a bottle of Nourish Spa in my day as a transitioner and being natural), I actually like the new formula better. It has more slip, and helped me work through my tangled 7 day wash and go with ease. The smoothness and feel of my hair was the same afterwards, which means that it still preserves the same functionality that many naturals have come to love over the years. One super, ultra, mega difference I noticed right off the bat? SHINE. Lots, and lots, and lots, of shine. Between the argan oil and dimethicone, some serious shine business is coming out of that bottle.

So to Trader Joe's I say -- Great job! Thank you for making an already awesome product even more awesome without gouging my wallet.

To my fellow transitioners and naturalistas I say -- All change ain't bad. Unless you're a die-hard CGer, the changes won't ruin your regimen.

That's my assessment! Have you tried the new formula? Share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Rashida ShidaNatural ApplewhitApril 22, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    I'm a die hard CGer, and haven't put silicones in my hair for years. I did an experiment on my hair a while back, and frequent use of silicone-containing conditioners left my hair dry! I never retained moisture until I switched to a strict silicone-free regimen. I'm very apprehensive on using the newly formulated conditioner because of past experience with silicones, especially dimethicone!

  2. Hi Shida! I definitely understand you needing to do what you gotta do for your hair! Hopefully you can find another CGfriendly alternative :)

  3. It's only big deal if whatever ingredients don't work well for a person's hair. Like they added protein to UFD's curly magic & some hate protein in their stylers. I've never tried this product but I will say my hair suffered from cones. I thought the cg method was a temporary 2 month challenge or something when I learned about it. So after I start seeing my hair thrive & become manageable with more curl definition I just went back to other products since I thought my hair was "fixed" lol nope. My hair started to feel like straw and became harder to accept & retain moisture which eventually caused crazy breakage from dry hair. I have braids in now but I'm going back to modified cg method (I use shampoo), only thing that works for me .

    I always feel bad when fellow naturals ring their hg products then the formula changes or it gets discontinued. Perfect 10 products are hard to find.

  4. It is a big deal I used the old formula and it was great for my curls. I tried the new formula even after I saw the new list of ingredients and it sucked big time. Also now that the essential oils are lower on the list that means there is less of them. whichever ingredients are first that means there is more of them in the product. also argan oil smooths hair not allowing it to curl. The whole reason why people bought this product was because they could get a conditioner without some form of alcohol as the second ingredient. It is no better than any other conditioner on the market any more. Also the dimethicone makes my hair feel like plastic barbie doll hair that is frizzy, So not cool! They need to go back to the old recipe. Ever since the company changed were the products was made, they cheap out on the ingredients like the rest of the other big companies and use crappy stuff that do not work in people's hair. When will the get it alcohol DRIES OUT HAIR and yet it is in every conditioner as the second ingredient. so all the other ingredients are battling to moisturize the dry hair from all the alcohol they put in. Never mind if your hair was dry to begin with. I am very disappointed in them.

    1. Cetyl and ceatyryl alcohol are NOT drying alchols. We are not talking isopropyl alchol here. They are moisture retaining, conditioning fatty "alcohols", which are the complete opposite of the drying alcohols. I am not being trying to be unkind, I just don' want you to spend your life looking for an "alcohol" free condish, because you may never find one. This stuff is in everything, even "natural" conditioners. In all honesty, they really need to find a better term than "alcohol". It is way too confusing for people. I see this confusion CONSTANTLY. It's not just you, I promise. :

    2. I'll second that - I had gotten 4 other people to use it, before it changed, and my daughter & I tried the new "horrid" formula (only good if you have an oil problem)and had straw like dry hair! Horrible. My hair was growing long on the original formula! so sad...Ginger - still haven't found a good replacement.

  5. I'm very disappointed with the new ingredients mainly the dimethicone. Now I'm on the hunt for a new HG...ugh why couldn't they just leave perfection alone!

  6. I loved the old formula. I went modified CG approximately eight months ago ( I use shampoo). I actually didn't realize they changed the formula and continued to use the conditioner. Last week I started noticing that my hair was falling out in huge clumps and that the curls were straighter and my hair was dry and frizzy and I developed a very itchy scalp (all similar to my pre CG days). I couldn't figure out what had happened. I kept chalking this up to hormones. It was a random comment on the Internet that clued me to the fact that Trader Joe's had changed their formula. Sure enough they had added silicones. Now I know what's causing all these problems.

    So I have to disagree with you and say that it is a huge deal for those of us that really cannot tolerate silicones in our hair. I have lost a beloved line of products. Bummer. :(

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  8. Dimethicone is one of the strongest silicone! PS if you do NOT use shampoo it will bulb up on your hair and make it look like crap...End of story! I would have been fine without the one ingredient! Plus with it so high on the list you are going to have to shampoo your hair if you use this if you want to or not!

  9. One more thing, acetyl alcohol is Palm oil, which not only builds up on your hair, it is also a very controversial ingredient! The are cutting down rain forest to plant palm trees just because the product is so cheap and in basically every beauty product you can find! Now the sea kelp is great, unfortunately with all the silicone and palm oil its never going to make it into your scalp to help!

  10. thank you for this detail information on the above the conditioner. I just read it though it been posted a year ago. I read the products and have to agree with Christina. If you look at the ingredients... Citric Acid and vitamin E are only used in making conditioners around 0.5% to 1%; the citric acid is there to maintain the ph level. The vitamin E is there to prevent free radicals and does offer some type of oil benefit to the hair.

    So, with that being said the Dimethicone must be at the lower end of the percentage which will not cause build up as much and as fast as anyone may think. As for the extracts, they are in the right place as study has shown that though extract help hair and skin they are usually there to add a small benefit. If you see extracts at the top; trust me you are going to pay a good penny and it will not beneficial to you as most of it washes right off during rinsing. It is good to look at the first five ingredients, but it does not mean it is in the highest amount. Great conditioners often have less ingredients that you will think. A matter-of-fact adding two much citric acid stiffens the hair so chemist are only going to add a small amount.

    I think that they had to rearrange the ingredient list that is why the cost is still the same. I just making this assumption as I see it a lot. I think--looking at the product ingredients--it is a great product. I believe that sometimes we want miracles but neglect the truth. The truth is that the company made the product more honest and appealed to the public with the preservatives. If someone adds that the silicone is making they hair dry, I won't argue with that, but I know it is no way near a heavy amount it is very low.

  11. Hey Christina Patrice! I'm Gina Patrice! Late to the party, but I've just realized that silicones are drastically affecting - reducing - my curl pattern, and was SO sad to see the 'cones in this conditioner!!

  12. With which gel habe you combined this conditioner for a wash and go style?

  13. Google serch - Primarily used in hair care products such as conditioner, dye and mousse. Behentrimonium chloride is a toxic compound, and concentrations of .1% and higher have been shown to damage the eyes by causing tissue death of the mucous membranes. ... Don't confuse it with behentrimonium methosulfate, which is perfectly safe.

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