We take the luxury of washing and conditioning our hair at least a few times every week. With a market teeming with an abundance of shampoos and conditions, from high end to budget, to shampoo bars to handcrafted all-natural shampoos - it can be difficult to know which one to pick. The best place to start is by looking at the back of the bottle. Any ingredients you struggle to pronounce? Sadly, many hair companies pump plenty of chemicals and toxic ingredients into their formulas that are not only bad for the environment but can dry out your hair, scalp and leave it feeling brittle. So, what should you be looking out for in your shampoo?
Have you ever wondered how your shampoo foams into cloudy goodness while massaging it into your scalp? Simple: its sulfates. Sulfates are very strong detergents that work through a chemical reaction, in which they bind with the sebum on the scalp when mixed with water. Once you start to rinse your shampoo out, the sulfates actually strip your hair and scalp of their naturally made oils, moisturizers, and color, leaving behind dryness, flaking, frizz, and irritation. They don’t just stop there. Sulfates have the grave potential to create carcinogens that can ultimately lead to kidney damage and hormone disruption.
When looking for your shampoo, ensure there is no Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).
Parabens are a preservative that helps keep shampoos and conditioners on the shelf for as long as possible and to prevent bacteria growth. Parabens can disrupt the body's hormone balance, by mincing estrogen and has been linked to the growth of breast cancer. They can also irritate the skin and scalp.
These are sneakier, and you won't see “paraben,” but rather you should avoid products with butylparaben, ethylparaben, and methylparaben.
- Sodium Chloride aka Salt:
Do you know how many shampoos and conditions are quite thick? That is thanks to sodium chloride, or salt, which is pumped into shampoos and conditioners. Over time, this additive can make your scalp super dry, flaky, itchy and can even lead to hair loss. To remove this aspect, there are sodium chloride-free shampoos available which would be the easiest solution.
Shockingly enough, Triclosan was banned from soaps in 2016 but still finds its way into many cosmetic products including shampoos and conditioners. Its job, as such, is to preserve the shelf life but is not a necessary additive. It has been seen to contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs and can cause harm to the immune system.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. It is added to plenty of shampoos and conditioners and can be absorbed through the scalp. It can cause toxicity, affect or even cause asthma and has been linked to cancers such as myeloid leukemia and rare cancers, including cancers of the paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity, and nasopharynx.
When buying shampoo, to avoid products with formaldehyde look on the list for “quaternion-15” which is the sneaky name it's called on the ingredient list.
No, your hair will not party over added alcohol in the shampoos and conditioners. Instead, it can completely dry out the scalp and hair. The very bad alcohols are the opes with the names that include “prop” such as Isopropyl alcohol or propanol.
- Faux Fragrances
If it isn't a natural fragrance, it might be a synthetic or faux fragrance that can contain thousands of hidden chemicals. By slapping “fragrance,” on the bottle it is a loophole that means manufacturers avoid listing the extensive list of chemicals. These are artificial and can cause skin irritation, allergies, asthma, headaches, nausea, wheezing, itchy scalp, hives and more.
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Another culprit behind shampoo getting super foamy is Cocamidopropyl Betaine. It also promises to thicken hair. It is composed of coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine. It is notorious for causing terrible eye irritation and pain, rosacea, eczema, skin irritation and allergies.
- Retinyl Palmitate
Retinyl Palmitate is a perfume mixed with palmitic acid. It causes, however, plenty of issues for the hair and scalp that can cause peeling, scaling, redness, itchiness. It has also been linked to cancer, reproductive issues and even toxicity.
When shopping to avoid retinyl palmitate, avoid products that have vitamin palmitate, axerophthol palmitate, hexadecanoic retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinol, hexadecanoic, aqua sol a, arovit, optovit-a, and retinol palmitate.
For the best and healthiest hair, you should opt for the cleanest products available. This should be one where the ingredients are natural, without any of the ingredients discussed above, are organic, non-toxic, and as close as possible to being naturally derived.
The good news is that there are several shampoos and conditioners that are made with gentler ingredients that will improve hair, health and be gentler on the environment. We recommend products such as Davines for frizzy hair, Grown Alchemist for all types of hair including colored hair, Saya for strengthening hair, Le Labo for thick hair and Briogeo for curly hair.