15 Most Harmful Ingredients Found in Your Shampoo

Beauty, haircare | 0 comments

From food, daily consumer products to regular workout sessions, people are becoming more conscious about living a healthier lifestyle. So how familiar are you with the ingredients that go into your shampoo? The answer is probably “not much”. Even with the best intention to read the labels at the back of the bottle, few of us, if not none, would examine each and every ingredient that make up the shampoo on the shelves. Instead, we based our purchase using scent, colour, brand or reviews.

Time to make wise decisions with healthy, nourishing ingredients. You can start by pinning up these 15 most harmful ingredients in the shampoo on your blacklist the next time you are shopping for a shampoo.

1. Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Sulfates is a very common ingredient in shampoo. When you rinse out the shampoo, the surfactants take all the sebum with them. These cleaning agents are so harsh they can damage the hair, make it brittle, and increase frizz. They can also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin.


2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

This detergent works the same way as the two mentioned above. In addition, it creates the lathering foam. Most of us feels we do not get sufficiently clean without the foam, though that is not the case. SLS can have mutagenic properties and other toxic effects on the human body.


3. Parabens

Parabens are used as a preservative to prevent bacteria from growing in cosmetics and shampoos, and it is likely that our skin can absorb them during topical use. They are also a common ingredient when keeping processed or canned food fresh, which means that we also get them in our system orally.

Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to an increased growth of breast cancer cells. Multiple experiments have shown that women have a higher concentration of parabens in their bodies compared to men, which is probably a result of using more cosmetic and healthcare products.


4. Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is simply salt, it play the role of maintaining thicker consistency in shampoos and conditioners. Salt can make an already sensitive scalp dry and itchy, which can eventually be a cause of hair loss.


5. Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

Also a thickening agent that is often contaminated with byproducts. They can be directly harmful to humans since they are derived from petroleum. There has not been sufficient research done to conclude that PEGs themselves are toxic. However, common by-products in the PEGs, like ethylene oxides and 1,4-dioxane are harmful.


6. Diethanolamine (DEA)

7. Triethanolamine (TEA)

DEA and TEA are also emulsifiers and foam agents that reduce the surface tension between different substances so that ingredients that are water-soluble and oil-soluble can blend together. In 1998, researchers found a link between the topical application of DEA and cancer in animals during lab tests. According to the Food and Drug Administration, however, there are no proven links between the use of DEA and cancer in humans.


8. Formaldehyde

Out of all the shampoo ingredients that are harmful, formaldehyde may be the scariest. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and has been proven to be absorbed through the skin in animal testing. Manufacturers often add it directly as a preservative. But it can also be released over time through a chemical process from other types of preservatives. The formaldehyde-releasers have different names and it will not always be clear what they actually are. But one that is common in shampoos is quaternium-15.


9. Alcohol

Another very common component in shampoo. Most alcohols have a drying effect, and the higher up in the ingredient list it appears, the more of it the product contains. Some alcohols that are not as bad for dry hair start with a “C” or an “S”, like Cetearyl alcohol and Stearyl acohol. They can help your hair retain moisture. The ones that are bad if you already have dry hair usually have a “prop” in their name, like Isopropyl alcohol or propanol.


10. Synthetic Fragrances

Products that have “fragrance” on their label contain thousands of hidden chemicals. Some ingredients in fragranced cosmetic products can disrupt the reproductive systems. They can also cause cancer, asthma and make their way into women’s breast milk. Like many ingredients on this list, it is also an irritant to the skin and scalp, which can lead to hair loss.


11. Synthetic Colors

Most shampoos and conditioners are dyed with a synthetic color to make them look nice. These colors come from petroleum or coal-tar sources, all of which come with harmful health effects. Many have links to various diseases – even cancer and are already illegal abroad. Synthetic colors will normally go by FD&C or D&C combined with a number.


12. Dimethicone

A type of silicone, dimethicone is basically plastic that contributes to product buildup making your hair feel greasy to give the illusion that your hair look shiny. In reality, it weights the hair down, making it heavy, limp and lifeless. Hair and scalp that are “coated” with this plastic film stops moisture and nutrients from coming in and can clog pores on your scalp causing skin irritation or hair loss.


13. Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Even some shampoos claiming to be natural and organic, contain cocamidopropyl betaine, which is another foam booster. Do not let the fact that it is a natural compound from coconuts trick you! Hair products use it together with something called dimethylaminopropylamine which can cause skin irritation, allergy, rosacea, and eczema.


14. Triclosan

Triclosan was banned from being used in antibacterial soaps in 2016, but ironically it is still an allowed ingredient in other household staples, such as toothpaste, shampoos and deodorants. This is a chemical antibacterial agent that is known to cause hormone disruptions, which can cause cancer, neuro developmental problems and affect fetal developments, among other things.


15. Retinyl Palmitate

Some shampoos contain retinyl palmitate, which is the ester of retinol. That means it is a retinoid, which is one of the most important vitamins for the skin. However, when in contact with skin, it converts into retinol. This is a known skin irritant and can cause peeling, scaling, redness, and itching. There are warnings about side effects from retinyl palmitate, including cancer, reproductive problems, and organ toxicity.

The reality is, it is impossible to avoid all the ingredients stated above completely, but it is always good for us to be equipped with some knowledge to make an informed decision.


This article originally appeared in Vanilla Luxury.