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Top 10 Harmful Ingredients in Shampoos and Conditioners: What to Avoid and Safer Alternatives

When shopping for shampoos and conditioners, it’s important to be aware of harmful ingredients that are commonly found in these products. Many of these commonly used ingredients can have serious effects on your health and the environment. Here's a breakdown of some dangerous ingredients, why they are used, and possible health risks.

1. Parabens

Use of Ingredient: Parabens, such as butylparaben and methylparaben, are used as preservatives to extend product shelf life.

Health Risks: Parabens can disrupt hormone balance, potentially leading to reproductive issues and increased breast cancer risk. They can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Environmentally, parabens can harm marine life, with even low levels being lethal to coral reefs.

2. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs)

Use of Ingredient: PEGs are used as thickening agents in shampoos and conditioners.

Health Risks: Derived from petroleum, PEGs can strip hair of moisture, leading to breakage and dryness. They are also classified as developmental toxicants, meaning they can disrupt human development, and have been linked to various cancers.

3. Triclosan

Use of Ingredient: Triclosan is an antibacterial agent used to reduce bacterial contamination.

Health Risks: Triclosan can disrupt endocrine function, leading to infertility, immune system issues, and even cancer. Despite its antibacterial properties, it has been banned in antibacterial soaps due to its potential health risks.

4. Formaldehyde

Use of Ingredient: Used as a preservative and smoothing agent.

Health Risks: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can cause skin irritation, asthma, and respiratory issues. It is often listed as quaternium-15 on ingredient labels.

5. Synthetic Fragrances and Colours

Use of Ingredient: Added to improve the scent and appearance of products.

Health Risks: Synthetic fragrances can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and hormonal disruptions. Colours derived from petroleum and coal-tar are potential carcinogens.

6. Dimethicone

Use of Ingredient: A type of silicone used to make hair feel smooth.

Health Risks: While initially making hair feel soft, dimethicone can cause build-up on the scalp, blocking moisture and nutrients, leading to dryness and irritation. Over time, it can weigh hair down and cause scalp issues.

7. Sulfates

Use of Ingredient: Sulfates, including Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), are used to create a lather in shampoos.

Health Risks: While they provide a deep clean, sulfates can strip your hair of natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation, and inflammation. Prolonged exposure can exacerbate conditions like eczema and rosacea. Sulfates also pose environmental risks as they flow into water systems, disrupting ecosystems.

8. Retinyl Palmitate

Use of Ingredient: A form of Vitamin A used to promote skin cell turnover.

Health Risks: Retinyl palmitate can cause skin irritation, redness, and sensitivity to sunlight, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

9. Hexachlorophene

Use of Ingredient: An antiseptic agent for its antibacterial properties.

Health Risks: Can cause skin and eye irritation, including redness, swelling, and sensitivity to light. Ingesting hexachlorophene can lead to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. It can also cause damage to the liver.

10. Phthalates

Use of Ingredient: Used as a binding agent in shampoos and conditioners.

Health Risks: Phthalates are hormone disruptors linked to infertility, low sperm count, pregnancy loss, and gestational diabetes. They can also harm the kidneys, liver, and thyroid. Environmentally, they affect animal reproduction similarly to humans.

Safer Shampoo and Conditioners

Now have covered what to avoid here are safer shampoos and conditioners to use.

Safer New Zealand Options

Shampoo and conditioner bars:

Shampoo and conditioner bottles:

Australian based safer shampoo and conditioner options


Choosing Better

When shopping for hair care products, it’s important to read the labels and be aware of harmful ingredients. Opting for products free from sulfates, parabens, PEGs, triclosan, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances, dimethicone, retinyl palmitate, hexachlorophene, and phthalates can help maintain healthier hair and reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Additionally, choosing products with natural ingredients supports not only personal health but also the environment.



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