Conventional hair products contain many toxic chemicals that are harmful to people and the planet. Shampoo and conditioner goes down the drain of almost every single household. That means that some of the chemicals in conventional hair products are directly released into rivers, oceans, and lakes through our wastewater. Our scalp is just like skin and absorbs much of what we use to clean it with. Hair and scalp health, not to mention your over all well-being is super important so here's what you should be looking to avoid, on the ingredients list of your shampoo and conditioner.
Ingredients to Avoid
Parabens can be found in most personal care products including your shampoo and conditioner to prolong shelf life. There are several types of parabens, so look out for anything that ending with ‘parben’ like butylparaben, ethylparaben and methylparaben. It's been linked with skin irritation, reproductive issues and neurotoxicity.
Tricolson is added to many haircare products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It's a skin irritant and suspected carcinogen. It's a known endocrine disruptor which can be associated with infertility, depression and weight gain.
3. FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES:
You can find formaldehyde-releasing preservatives is in many haircare products. It’s crazy that this chemical is a known carcinogen, yet still allowed to be used in personal care products! Not only has formaldehyde been linked to cancer, but it also can cause toxicity and asthma if inhaled.
4. POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL aka PEGs:
PEGs are included in most haircare as a thickening agent. They tend to strip the hair of it's natural moisture and then need to add a silicone to make the hair feel soft again. It's been classified as a “developmental toxicant,” which means that it may interfere with human development.
5. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) / SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES):
This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and haircare products. SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form a carcinogen. It's also one of the possible triggers for Perioral Dermatitis.
6. PHTHALATES :
Are a cluster of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in haircare are dimethyl phthalate often found in hair spray. It's also often present in "fragrance" so be mindful that as you may not see it on the ingredients list. It's a known endocrine disruptor and there have been links shown to an increased risk of breast cancer, and reproductive birth defects in males and females.
Is a synthetic polymer and a form of silicone with two methyl groups attached. It's present in most haircare products as it's cheap and creates synthetic softness and smoothing. Not only will it dry out your hair long term but it can build up causing greasy roots and very heavy ends.
Is used to alter the pH of the products and act as an emulsifier to help other ingredients mix together better.
It's highly absorptive and can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes. Continuous exposure has also been linked to asthma and allergic reactions.
Almost all hair-care products contain some form of alcohol as it's used for it's evaporation qualities.. Short chain alcohols are the ones to steer clear of - SD Alcohol 40, Ethanol, Propyl, Porpanol, Isopropyl. It can really dry out your hair causing split ends and breakage.
10. PVP/ VA COPOLYMER:
Is a synthetic vinyl polymer used in haircare as a filler or binder. It is another toxic chemical derived from petroleum and is used as it's considered the ‘ideal’ styling aid. It's been known to cause irritation to the scalp. The particles can also lead to respiratory problems in some people.
You’d be hard-pressed not to spot the word “fragrance” printed on a hair product label. “Fragrance” can include a mixture of ingredients that makes your conditioner smell like coconut, the FDA doesn’t require companies to specify them, since this information is often proprietary. If you have an allergic reaction to a product, fragrances are probably responsible.
Use the "Think Dirty" App
“Think Dirty” is a free app, that is a really useful way to learn about the toxic ingredients found in your personal care products.
Simply scan the product’s barcode on the app and it will provide you with a “Dirty Meter”, a comprehensive rating, along with detailed and easy-to-understand information about the chemicals to avoid in products, certifications, health impacts and healthy personal care tips.
Alternative Haircare Products
Whether or not you buy products with the ingredients mentioned above comes down to personal choice and how comfortable you are with the potential risks outlined. Here are some cleaner options for haircare products if you decide to make that switch!
Other Clean Hair Products: