13 Most Toxic Ingredients in Hair Products
Toxic ingredients are everywhere today—in processed foods, beverages, cleaning products, and even in beauty and hair products. One of the most important things you can do for your health today is to pay more attention to the products you use and the ingredients they contain, and to educate yourself about what is healthy and what is harmful to your health.
Not only can toxic ingredients affect your health and well-being, they can seriously damage your hair over time and lead to dry skin, dry hair, slower hair growth and even hair loss. In this article, we are going to discuss the 7 most toxic ingredients in hair products to watch out for.
Sulfates are surface acting agents, or surfactants, that clean the excess oil and dirt on the scalp, and are used to create a lathering effect in hair products. All sulfates are damaging to skin and can cause an allergic reaction that effects your scalp and hair. They are also known to be damaging to the environment.
Sulfates are known to be hormone disruptors, and over time, may lead to hormonal imbalances. Some of the common sulfates to look out for in shampoos and hair products are ammonium lauryl sulfate, SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). Try to avoid using any hair care products that contain these ingredients.
Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid that are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility and durability). In hair products, they are used as gelling agents that increase lubrication and help fragrances bind to your hair and scalp. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that can affect normal hormonal functions in men and women. They are also harmful to the environment (as are most of the chemicals on this list).
3. Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)
PEG is the abbreviation for polyethylene glycol, a derivative of petroleum. Polyethylene is the most common form of plastic. When it is combined with glycol, it becomes a thick and sticky liquid that is often added to hair and skin products. These petroleum-based compounds act as emollients that help soften and lubricate skin, and as emulsifiers that help water-based and oil-based ingredients mix better together. properly.
Ethylene oxide, a carcinogen that effects human development, and 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen known to affect liver and kidneys, have been found in various PEG compounds. Many experts in hair care are aware that PEG compounds can also have a damaging effect on your scalp. It is best to avoid these carcinogens if you want to take good care of your body and hair. PEGs are often disguised in ingredient labels as simple numbers like 30, 32, 40, 100, 120, etc.
Dimethicone is a type of silicone that can act like a protective layer to hair. Over time, however, dimethicone builds up residue on your scalp and prevents moisture from entering the hair and skin. This can clog your pores and cause irritation in your scalp. So, while it may have benefits in the short-term, prolonged use of this ingredient can be damaging to your hair health long-term and is best avoided.
Parabens are preservatives that are added to hair products to prolong their shelf life. This is great for manufacturers keeping their products on the shelf longer, but not so great for you or your hair as parabens are toxic to your health. Parabens, such as Butyl paraben, propyl paraben, and ethyl paraben, mimic the function of the estrogen hormone. When there is excess estrogen in the body, it can affect normal body functions and may increase your risk for certain hormonal diseases, especially when used for long periods of time.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is commonly used in bars of soap. Recent research on triclosan has revealed that it is a hormone disruptor that can accumulate in fat cells. Many companies no longer use triclosan because of this, though it can still be found in many hair care products, deoderants, toothpastes, and soap. It is a pretty toxic ingredient, so avoid using products with triclosan if you can help it.
7. Retinyl Palmitate
Retinyl palmitate is another common toxic ingredient in hair care products. It is known to be damaging to skin and can cause skin itching, redness, and even skin peeling. It is also a hormone disruptor that can have a negative effect on your reproductive health.
Toluene is a common petrochemical ingredient used in hair dyes, commonly labeled as toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene or benzene. Toluene can have a damaging effect on your immune system and central nervous system, and may even cause birth defects. It is, therefore, recommended to avoid hair dyes with toluene in them—especially if you are an expecting mother.
Resorcinol is an ingredient often found in hair dyes that is linked to skin irritation, compromised immune system health, and disruption of proper thyroid function. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of the neck. It plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body and helps regulate many body functions by constantly releasing thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. An improperly functioning thyroid can lead to heart issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal issues and much more.
10. Selenium Sulfide
Selenium sulfide is a highly toxic ingredient that is commonly added to anti-dandruff shampoos. It is a known carcinogen that has been shown to cause tumors in mice. It is recommended to avoid any hair care products that contain selenium sulfide.
Alcohol is a fairly common ingredient in hair care products. It is often used as a solvent for other ingredients, as a thickening agent, or as an emollient that helps to properly mix oil-based ingredients with water-based ingredients. However, alcohol can make your hair and scalp very dry. Furthermore, different types of alcohol are more toxic than others. Propanol and isopropyl alcohol are especially drying and damaging to hair and can cause your hair to become thin and brittle.
12. Added Fragrances
Often, hair care brands will add “fragrances” or “parfum” to their products. These are broad terms that are often used to hide more toxic chemicals. It is similar to how many food companies sneak toxic chemicals in their food products by simply calling them “natural flavors.” The fragrances added in shampoos are usually made synthetically with a variety of toxic chemicals. The chemicals in synthetic fragrances may have a negative impact on your scalp and may contribute to hair loss. Some have even been linked to organ damage, reproductive issues, and respiratory issues.
13. Coloring Agents
Coloring agents are commonly added to shampoo and conditioner products to make them have a more appealing appearance. Often, the coloring agents used in hair care products are derived from petroleum or coal tar. They are often labeled as 'FD&C' or D&C'. “FD&C” means that the colorants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food, drugs and cosmetics. “D&C” signifies the colors can be used in drugs and cosmetics, but not food. Regardless of whether they are “approved” or not, these chemicals have carcinogenic effects and can be damaging to both your hair and your health. It is best to avoid using them.
Avoid These Ingredients in Hair Products
If you care about your health and the health of your hair and scalp, it is recommended to avoid the ingredients mentioned above. For reference, refer to this list whenever you are buying hair products and do not purchase them if they contain:
- Polyethylene glycols
- Retinyl Palmitate
- Selenium sulfide
- Added fragrances
- Coloring agents
Hair Products for Healthy Hair and Scalp
Instead of using toxic hair care products, find products that use only natural and organic ingredients. As you will soon find, these are actually quite difficult to come by. Even “natural” hair care products often contain some toxic ingredients in them. That's why we created our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner.
These hair products are truly natural, using only organic and wildcrafted ingredients. Plus, they contain beneficial probiotics from natural fermentation that help to improve the health of the scalp microbiome. Not to mention, they are full of nutrients that moisturize, strengthen and protect hair while also providing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal effects—all achieved with natural herbal extracts and no harsh chemicals.
Our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner are also hypoallergenic, vegan-friendly, alcohol-free, chemical-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, stearate-free, gluten-free, and contain no dyes, no fragrances, and no synthetic preservatives. We create our products in our own GMP facility and do not test our products on animals. Ever.
With our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner you can provide truly nourishing ingredients to your hair and scalp, while also avoiding all of the toxic chemicals so commonly found in hair care products today.