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Harmful Ingredients in Hair Products

Harmful ingredients in hair products

Nowadays, people are becoming more and more health-conscious about their lifestyle. So, how aware are you of the products that you use for your hair and scalp? When we glance at the ingredients in shampoos and hair care products, we usually come across a very long ingredients list. However, when choosing shampoo and hair care products, the criteria to be considered are often fragrance, color, brand and packaging.

Along with many other cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners are full of toxic chemicals that can do more harm than good to hair. So what are these toxic ingredients and how much do they affect our health and the environment?

The Side Effects of Shampoos and Hair Products on Hair

Most hair care products contain toxic chemicals to give your hair instantly satisfying results. First it may be nice to see your hair clean, shiny, voluminous and smooth, however this short-term satisfaction may be followed by side effects such as hair loss, skin irritant, hormone imbalance and cancer risk. We have listed the hazardous ingredients in your shampoos that may have long-term health effects.


Paraben is a type of preservative and frequently used in shampoos, hair and skin care products, make-up products, moisturizers to extend the shelf life of the products. Studies have shown that paraben may increase estrogen hormone (female hormone) and they may contribute to the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women.

Paraben also has side effects such as eczema on the skin. Products must provide information on the toxicological profile of the ingredients, their chemical structure and their level of exposure. Generally, they appear on the back of products and are usually called methylparaben, ethylparaben, benzyl paraben or butylparaben.

Famous brands acknowledge that they have included parabens in their formulas since the 1950s to prevent the growth of bacteria in their products. However, studies conducted after the 2000s have shown that parabens can reveal a number of health problems. That’s why you should think twice when using hair products containing parabens.

Paraben and Hair Loss

Paraben is associated with hair loss because they are easily absorbed through your skin and are harmful to your scalp. Parabens can cause a number of problems for your hair including drying, irritating your scalp, fading your color, and even hair loss.

Studies conducted in 2016 found that parabens were often in the urine and blood stream of people using products containing parabens. It means that what you’re putting on your hair and scalp often gets into your pores and blood. This is why it is significant to stay away from products containing parabens for your hair growth.

Parabens May Increase Skin Aging

Basically, methyl parabens (MP, one of the most common parabens in cosmetics) reduce the function of Keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are skin cells responsible in the epidermis for the production of keratin, an extremely powerful protein known to give skin its strength.

It is important for the shampoo and conditioner to have a “Paraben-free” label to ensure that it does not contain any type of paraben.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sulfates are types of chemicals that play a significant role in the effectiveness of shampoos. Surfactants lower the surface tension of the liquid they are in and  makes the liquid easier to mix with water and work up into a good foam.

This chemical, which makes the hair foam more during the shower, may deceive you as your hair is cleaned. However, SLS can do more harm than good to your hair. Sulfates can leave the hair dry and unhealthy, causing your hair to lose the moisture it needs. It can also dry the scalp and cause irritation. Possible damages of sodium lauryl sulfate were examined by the National Institutes of Health and the research revealed that it may also cause skin and scalp irritation in addition to hair loss.

“Researchers from Germany tested 1,600 patients for SLS irritancy and found 42% of the patients tested had an irritant reaction.”

“Another study, on seven volunteers over a three and a half month period, found regular contact caused irritation, and the irritation subsided once the skin was no longer exposed to SLS.”

Especially people with dry or frizzy hair need to avoid sulfates. Sulphates can cause loss of natural oils and moisture in hair. For this reason, you should avoid shampoos with this type of ingredient to prevent frizz.

People who dye their hair or apply heat to their hair regularly should also avoid sulfates in order not to trigger their hair dryness.


The effects of formaldehyde have been widely publicized over the years, but new research has revealed that it can cause cancer and irritate our skin. Formaldehyde can also damage DNA and cause hair loss in case of excessive exposure.

The side effects of Formaldehyde, which has started to be accepted as a carcinogen, can be quite great. It can seriously disrupt the quality of human life due to the diseases it may cause.

The American Cancer Society warns that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. This means that it may cause cancer or help cancer to grow. Products with this chemical release formaldehyde gas into the air and may trigger other health side effects in consumers.

Researchers found that the lasting health effects of keratin products on people who are hairdressers and people who get this treatment are not known. It’s important to know the side effects and risks of a keratin treatment. Keratin treatment may seem like a good option for curly or wavy hair, but it is very likely to do harm in the long term. These tests have shown that keratin treatments contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals.


Phthalates, which are usually found in hair sprays, are also used in various hair care products. They are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can cause premature puberty in girls and reduce sperm count in boys. It is also very dangerous for the environment. To be a more conscious consumer, you need to search for “Phthalate Free” labels in the hair products you choose.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is also found in hair care products and when used recklessly, it irritates the scalp and causes complaints such as itching, dryness, and dandruff on the scalp. On the other hand, it can cause dryness, thinning and fading in the hair.

Dimethicone is a type of silicone and is known for providing moisture and volume to the hair and preventing the hair from frizz. However, this silicone may accumulate on the scalp over time and damage the hair. Since it makes your hair look shiny, you may not be able to notice the damage immediately, but it may cause dandruff on the scalp in long-term use.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Alcohols that are commonly used in hair care products can make your hair extremely dry. It is necessary to avoid alcohols such as propanol and isopropyl. They are mostly used as a thickening agent in shampoos, and it is one of the most important causes of hair damage and loss.


This controversial ingredient is a powerful antifungal and antibacterial agent used in all kinds of cosmetics and cleansers. Scientists describe Triclosan as a highly hazardous ingredient that should not be used in hair products, as it can cause a range of problems, including cancer and reproductive toxicity.

“Triclosan, which is commonly found in antibacterial soaps, was banned in over-the-counter products in the US after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided it was doing more harm than good. “

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Shampoo for Your Hair

Expressions such as ‘paraben free’, ‘chemical free’ ‘sodium free shampoo’ or ‘sulfate free shampoo’ used in hair care products do not mean that the product will be harmless. A product that looks organic may actually be just a marketing strategy. The safest way to make sure you find chemical-free products is to look at the shampoo ingredients list on the packaging. Before purchasing, be sure to check the ingredients that should be avoided in the shampoo listed above.

Some of the ingredients that are expected to be in hair care products are below:

Salicylic acid: It cleans the scalp by eliminating dead skin cells and creating the perfect environment for the hair to grow healthy.

Aloe vera: Soothes and heals the scalp while preventing free radical damage.

Chamomile: Gentle and calming antioxidant with antibacterials to support a healthy scalp.

To sum up, choosing safe and non-toxic products for you and your family is an important step for a healthy hair and body, since about 60% of the products are merged into your blood and organs.