All about the fitness and health lifestyle
All about the fitness and health lifestyle

Harmful Ingredients in Shampoos to Avoid

Last Updated:
July 4, 2023

Harmful Ingredients in Shampoos to Avoid

Deciding on a shampoo and conditioner brand to use can be difficult, especially if you have certain hair types. Reading the label of the bottle is a great place to start, but you still need to know what ingredients to avoid. Below are some of the most common harmful ingredients in shampoos you should avoid and why.

1. Sulfates

Used to create a lather in shampoo, sulfates are surfactants or surface-acting agents. Sulfates help to clean dirt and excess sebum from the scalp, however, they can also dry out the scalp and cause hormonal issues. The most common sulfates in shampoo are SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), and ammonium lauryl sulfate.

2. Parabens

Used to increase the shelf life of products, parabens help to prevent bacteria from growing within the bottle. However, parabens also mimic the function of estrogen and can increase the risk of breast cancer in both men and women.

3. Polyethylene Glycols

This is a derivative of petroleum added to shampoo as a thickening agent. Polyethylene glycols are often listed in the ingredients section as PEG followed by a number, the lower the number the more likely the compound is to penetrate the skin. This can cause severe skin irritation and enter the bloodstream if used on broken skin.

4. Phthalates

Used to increase the spreadability of a product, and boost scents, phthalates are a common ingredient in shampoo. However, they are also an endocrine disruptor and can cause early puberty in females, and reduce sperm count in men with overuse.

5. Formaldehyde

Often used in keratin-based products, formaldehyde is a carcinogenic used as a preservative. Formaldehyde is easily absorbed into the skin and can cause a wide variety of health issues. Two of the most common issues from formaldehyde are dry skin and hair loss. However, regular use can also increase the risk of cancers and create nose, throat, and eye irritation.

6. Triclosan

This is a popular antibacterial agent and known hormone disruptor. Studies show that Triclosan builds up within the fat cells of the body and can cause toxic reactions. Some reactions include a decrease in thyroid hormones and an increase in food sensitivities. Triclosan is also commonly found in pesticides and cleaning products.

7. Dimethicone

This is a type of silicone that acts as a protective layer on your hair. However, over time this builds up as a residue around the roots, and on your scalp. This can prevent moisture from entering the hair follicles and cause scalp irritation.

8. Alcohol

Any shampoo containing alcohol is likely to dry out your hair and scalp. Often they are added as a thickening agent within the shampoo. However, shampoo containing alcohol can be very damaging to your hair follicles and increase the brittleness, and breakage you experience.

9. Synthetic Colors

Many of us may be drawn to pretty shampoos, however, synthetic coloring can be harmful to you and your hair. Commonly, synthetic colors are a derivative of petroleum, acetone, or coal tar,  and can drain oxygen from the skin. Furthermore, they can cause skin irritation, hyper-pigmentation, and neurotoxicity. Identify synthetic colors by looking for FD&C or D&C on the label.

Regulatory bodies are not very strict when it comes to shampoo and conditioner ingredients. As humans do not directly consume these products, the FDA restrictions are nearly non-existent. However, you should aim to avoid the harmful ingredients in shampoos listed above to ensure you take the best care of your skin, hair, and overall health.

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