Is Your Shampoo Toxic? 9 Harmful Chemicals in Your Hair Products

Within the past couple of years, consumers have become increasingly concerned over what they are putting in their body-with good reason- from makeup and skincare to food. Thankfully the beauty industry has responded mostly positively, and has agreed to meet the higher standards that we are demanding. Unfortunately, the majority of products for sale in drugstores currently still has harmful chemicals and life threatening side effects. The industry is slowly but surely changing, but what are we consumers supposed to do until then? People everywhere, particularly women, no longer have to choose between a toxic beauty routine or no products at all. Generations of infertility issues, allergies, eczema, and even cancer are unravelling as we further educate ourselves on what goes into our bodies. Previously I spoke about the little to no regulations that the FDA has over our beauty products, so it’s our job as consumers to know what we’ve been fed to put in our body, and what we are now REFUSING to put in our body. As always, trusted, local, organic small businesses are often a great place to shop. Don’t be nervous to ask about ingredients, or why certain ones are used or not. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have also put out red lists for shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, hair dyes, etc. have ingredients that you should avoid.


So, for now, let’s talk about hair…

In just our shampoos and conditioners alone, nine harmful common ingredients continue to stay off the FDA’s radar, and are found in companies like L’oreal, Pantene, Neutrogena, Dove, Garnier, Clinique, Tresemme. Even beauty lines from Chanel and Lancome are highly toxic. These are the same companies that continue to perform tests on live animals. (While I cannot with good conscience recommend using their products due to the ingredients, a huge thank you to Dove for banning animal testing within the last year!)

Here are the 9 ingredients you should avoid:


  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an inexpensive detergent that creates the sudsy lather. This cleans, but it is too intense for skin and hair use, and natural necessary oils are stripped from hair. This causes an overproduction of oils from your scalp trying to repair itself, often resulting in greasy looking hair. SLS has also been linked to scalp redness, irritation, and hair loss.


  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is another common detergent that will dry your hair out, but it is not as harsh as SLS. The negative to SLES is the production has been found to produce by-product of dioxane which is a probable human carcinogen. Other carcinogens include processed meat, car engine exhaust, formaldehyde, alcohol, and tobacco.  


  1. Parabens are common preservatives that have been found to mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone function, and have also been linked to breast cancer, and have been found inside of tumors.


  1. Phthalates are “a salt of phthalic acid” or, industrial chemicals used for softening plastic. Often used in perfumes to preserve the scent, and in hair products to add softness. Side effects of phthalates have found to be hormone disrupting, possibly early puberty, reproductive and genital defects.


  1. Mineral Oil can provide a quick fix of oil that your hair needs, but it does not penetrate your hair. The oil sits on the surface of your hair and skin, locking out water and clogging pores. Beware- this is the first and main ingredient in most petroleum jelly products, even Vaseline brand body oils.


  1. Cocamide Diethanolamine (DEA, or Cocamide DEA) is a chemically modified form of coconut oil. In small doses it has been found to cause allergic reactions, and in large doses it is a potential human carcinogen. It has been banned in California since 2012 because of its potential to cause cancer.


  1. Sulfates, such as SLS and SLES commonly strip the hair/skin and leave you brittle and dry. This is what causes shampoos to get so foamy, which is commonly associated with a clean feeling. Sulfates are most commonly found as irritants to the skin and hair.

However, sulfates are not all bad. Magnesium sulfate, (or Epsom salt) is one sulfate that creates volume and curl in your hair, and can give you a nice magnesium boost!


  1. Triclosan is an antibacterial commonly found in hair products as well as toys, and toothpaste. The issue here is that our bodies need good bacteria to function properly. Triclosan has been found to alter levels of thyroid hormones, and cause resistance to antibiotics. Children are even more at risk of allergies, eczema, and asthma. Triclosan also has a negative impact on ocean contamination.


  1. Triclocarban is an antibacterial agent found in soaps and lotions. Triclocarban has also been found to affect the body’s resistance to antibiotics, and is not safe to be flushed/drained into our water systems. In 2017, the FDA made an effort to limit exposure of both triclosan and triclocarban, but unfortunately they fly above the radar in certain products.


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