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7 Ingredients to Watch Out for in Your Shampoo

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Posted in Hair Care

Selecting a shampoo isn’t always easy. With tons of products lining the shelves, each with its own set of proposed benefits, how should you know which one is the best for your hair?

One of the ways you can narrow down your choices is by taking a peek at the shampoos’ ingredients lists. Here, you’ll find all the information you need to determine how healthy—or unhealthy—a product will be for your hair.

Top shampoo ingredients to avoid

There are a few ingredients, in particular, you should be wary of when choosing a new shampoo. Avoiding these seven ingredients could result in stronger, healthier hair.

1: Sulfates

Sulfates are compounds that help shampoos lather and cleanse by binding to the oils on our scalps after being activated by water. The problem with sulfates is that they can get hair a little too clean, stripping it of its natural oils and leaving it dry and brittle.

Some people with sensitive skin experience scalp irritation as a result of sulfates, which can lead to skin flaking and even scarring on the scalp if you itch too much. Sulfates are also a bad idea if you have color-treated hair, since they can make the dye fade faster. Not only is this not ideal for aesthetic purposes, but it could lead to more damage down the road if you’re coloring your hair more often as a result.

On the ingredients list, sulfates may be hiding under many names, including sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate, so keep a watchful eye!

2: Parabens

Parabens are compounds that are added to shampoos to prevent bacterial growth and preserve the quality and safety of your product.

Unfortunately, parabens may be linked to health problems like cancer because they are suspected to be endocrine disruptors. Putting paraben-rich shampoo on your scalp every day may potentially lead to health problems down the road. Although more research is needed to prove parabens’ safety or potential danger, it might be a good idea to steer clear of parabens, just to be safe.

3: Synthetic fragrances

Fragrances derived from synthetic compounds are typically loaded with chemicals that may not be listed in full on the ingredients list.

Not only do you not want to use shampoo that contains undisclosed fragrance ingredients, but synthetic fragrances can be irritating to the scalp and skin around the head and neck, making you feel itchy and inflamed.

4: Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is known for its ability to remove oil, but it can go beyond removing excess oil and cause severe drying of the hair. Alcohol-rich shampoos can cause frizziness—especially when your hair is already dry—and breakage.

5: Plastic microbeads

Although many countries have banned the use of plastic microbeads in shampoos and other products, they are still circulating in some products. The danger of plastic microbeads is mostly for the environment, since they can find their way into local watersheds and disrupt natural ecosystems.

6: Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

DEA and TEA are emulsifiers that help boost foam. DEA and TEA have been banned in some places because of their potential risk for cancer.

More research on humans is necessary, but topical application has been linked to cancer in some animals.

7: Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is a known irritant of the eyes and skin and may even be toxic to the organ system. It’s sometimes used in shampoos as a preservative, but it can cause inflammation or itchiness of the skin and scalp after use.

The benefits of natural, safe shampoo

When searching for shampoo, look for products made from all-natural, organic ingredients rather than synthetic ones. Choosing natural hair care products can have multiple benefits.

First, organic shampoos free of the seven ingredients listed above, among other potentially harmful ones, are much better for your hair. They are less likely to strip your strands of their natural oils, so they won’t leave them feeling dry or brittle. The result is healthier, more beautiful hair.

Organic products are also much gentler on the scalp, leading to nourished, healthy skin that isn’t itchy, inflamed or painful. Persistent inflammation of the scalp could potentially lead to hair loss problems, so you’ll want to avoid using any product that irritates your skin.

Finally, we just don’t know the extent to which non-natural shampoos are harming our bodies. With many shampoo ingredients linked to cancer and other health problems, the risks are just too great to put potentially dangerous chemicals on your scalp and allow them to enter your bodily systems. Organic products minimize these risks for healthier hair and a healthier you.

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH (AGH), Clinical Herbalist Paulina Nelega, RH (AGH), Clinical Herbalist

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