Hair Loss And Growth

10 Ingredients To Avoid In Hair Products

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, November 10, 2020

10 Ingredients To Avoid In Hair Products

If you are mindful of the things you eat, then you should just be as picky when it comes to your hair products. After all, what you apply on your hair can affect its color, shine, thickness, and growth. In some cases, it may lead to cancer as well. So before you go out and buy another product, read the label carefully so you could avoid these harmful ingredients: 

  • Paraben
  • Parabens are preservatives that help prevent bacterial colonization in hair products. While they can keep your shampoo or conditioner usable for a long time, they can have some untoward effects on your health. 

    According to a study, parabens have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. That's because parabens are xenoestrogens, which means they exert estrogen-like responses to the body. Because of this effect, it's best to avoid hair products containing methyl-paraben, propylparaben, benzylparaben, or butylparaben.

  • Formaldehyde
  • Formaldehyde is a colorless chemical compound used by morticians in preserving dead bodies. That's because this chemical can help fight germs and fungi. 

    Nowadays, formaldehyde is also added to many shampoos and hair smoothing products. While it can help tame your otherwise frizzy locks, formaldehyde can damage your DNA. Add to that, it can dramatically increase your cancer risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde use has been linked with cases of brain cancer and myeloid leukemia. 

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate 
  • Sulfates are some of the most commonly used ingredients in the beauty industry. They make for good surfactants since they help trap oil and dirt to be rinsed away with water. While sulfates can make your hair clean – and your shampoo sudsy – they may lead to several health problems as well.

    According to a study,  a type of sulfate – sodium lauryl sulfate – can irritate the outermost layer of the skin, triggering skin inflammation. Like other chemicals, it can also be harmful to the eyes. There are also claims about its cancer-causing effects, however, further studies are still needed to prove this claim. 

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate is another type of surfactant found in most hair care products. It can trigger a sensitivity reaction in some people, which could lead to irritation or a subsequent allergic reaction. 

    Another concern with Sodium Laureth Sulfate is its contamination with 1,4 dioxane. This may occur during the ethoxylation process, which helps make this ingredient a viable surfactant. 

    Unfortunately, 1,4 dioxane has many health effects on the body. According to the Toxicological Profile for 1,4 dioxane, its short-term exposure can lead to irritation. Add to that, large amounts of 1,4 dioxane may cause liver and kidney damage as well. 

    The report also says 1,4 dioxane is anticipated to be a human carcinogen – a substance that may induce cancer. For this reason, Canada has banned the use of products that may be laced with 1,4 dioxane. 

  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sodium chloride is known to many as table salt. It is added to hair products containing sodium lauryl sulfate (another bad ingredient) to help thicken them. Unfortunately, this irritant can make your scalp dry and itchy – triggering hair loss along the way.

    Sodium chloride is particularly bad for people undergoing expensive keratin treatments. Using a product that contains salt will undo the beautiful effects of the treatment – which means you'll end up spending a lot of money for nothing. 

  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
  • Also known as PEG, polyethylene glycol is a low-cost chemical derived from petroleum products. It is used to help thicken shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products. 

    Concern about PEG use stems from the substances that may contaminate it. PEG can contain ethylene oxide, a toxic substance that may induce cancer. 

    PEG, which is ethoxylated to prevent skin irritation, may also be tainted with 1,4 dioxane. As previously mentioned, this byproduct may have carcinogenic effects on the body. 

  • Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
  • DEA and TEA are agents that help reduce surface tension. These allow manufacturers to combine water and oil-soluble ingredients in many hair care products. 

    Unfortunately, both of these ingredients can trigger scalp irritation – even an allergic reaction. They also damage keratin and other proteins in your hair, which could make your locks dry, brittle, and prone to breakage/shedding. 

    DEA and TEA also have the potential to be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines. With that being said, they have been banned for use by the European Commission. 

  • Mineral Oil
  • Popularly known as baby oil, this is used in many hair care products to make the hair soft and shiny. While such effects are very good, it contains silicone – a synthetic product similar to rubber or plastic. 

    One of silicone's jobs is to protect the strands from air and water. Although it seems promising, it prevents moisture from entering your hair. As a result, silicone can turn your locks dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. 

    While silicone can make your hair shine, it can weigh your hair down, making it limp and lifeless.  It can also trap dirt and other harmful substances in your strands, which could trigger a bevy of other hair problems.

  • Alcohol
  • Many hair care products contain alcohol. But before you panic over your shampoo’s alcohol content, you first need to determine its type. Fatty alcohols, which are made from vegetable oil, can help hydrate your hair. Good examples include Cetearyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, and cetyl alcohol, to name a few.

    In contrast to fatty alcohols are short-chain alcohols. It is used in products to help decrease drying time. Unfortunately, its drying effect can take a toll on your head. By doing so, it can make your scalp irritated – and your locks dry, frizzy, and brittle. 

  • Triclosan
  • Triclosan is an ingredient used in many personal care products due to its antibacterial properties. Although this is the case, it is not recognized as a safe additive by the FDA – so it was banned for use (in certain products) in 2016. After all, you can absorb triclosan by way of your skin and mouth.  

    According to the Mayo Clinic, Triclosan may alter hormone regulation and even harm your immune system. Because of its germ-fighting action, it may contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well. With these negative effects, experts recommend avoiding shampoos and conditioners that still use triclosan.