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Ingredients in Herbal Essences Shampoo

Updated on October 29, 2016

The Hair Jungle

Some girls love to shop for shoes. Some girls love to shop for purses. Some girls love to shop for jewellery. But I am not some girl. I love to shop high and low for the best and the cheapest hair products in existence. I love my hair and I especially love when my hair looks fabulous. So, I need products that provide that special "oomph" that makes my hair shiny, touchable, and beautiful. Not many products make the selection, but Herbal Essences is a definite "cut" above the rest. They have a selection made for every hair type in the world. So let's get ready to enter the hair jungle and find out if Herbal Essences products do what they claim!

What is Sodium Laurely Glycolic?

When we are wading through the hair jungle, the most common problem we run into as women are the ingredients to a shampoo. What do they mean? Often we have to rely on television ads and magazine ads to tell us the truth about what this product will do to our hair. Let's take a look at the old formula of Herbal Essences before it was revamped into the product line it is now:

Old Herbal Essences Ingredients:

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Fragrance, Passiflora Incarnata Flower Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Sodium Xylene Sulfonate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Yellow 5, Orange 4, Ext Violet 2

Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: According to the 1988 American College of Toxicology report, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are irritate the skin in concentrations of as little as 0.5%. When the concentrations in soaps and shampoos exceed 10-30%, SLES and SLS cause severe skin irritation and skin corrosion. SLES and SLS are added to soaps, shampoos, detergents and even toothpaste because they are a known surfactant, or foaming agent. In clinical studies SLES and SLS are linked to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children, and liver toxicity. The FDA reports that shampoos with SLES and SLS cause eye irritation, scalp irritation, swelling of the hands, face, and armpit; tangled and fuzzy hair

SLES and SLS are used in products because it is cheap and easily available. They are the same ingredients that are found in a car wash that are used to degrease and clean your car. Because it can easily degrease a car, it causes our skin to dry out. However, the cause for alarm is that SLES and SLS are absorbed into the skin each time it is used where it mimics the hormon Oestrogen. Oestrogen has been known to cause many problems from fertility problems to even causing breast cancer in women (Oestrogen levels are known to be involved).

Cocamidopropyl Betaine: Cocamidopropyl Betaine is an amphoteric detergent, meaning it can act as an acid or a base. Unlike SLES and SLS it does not irritate the skin or eyes. It is used to give substance and thickness to shampoos and to lessen the amount of irritation from SLES and SLS products. Also, because of its anti-static properties, it is a good conditioner for hair. According to studies so far, Cocamidopropyl Betaine is completely safe for human use.

Sodium Chloride: Sodium Chloride just means table salt. It is used as a thickening agent in shampoos if the main ingredients in shampoo are are SLES and SLS. Salt used in shampoos is very harsh on the skin and can sting the eyes.

Citric Acid: Even though the word Citric make us think of Citrus fruit, Citric Acid is not added to shampoos for the smell. Shampoos, according to their ingredients, are an acidic, a neutral, or a basic shampoo. An acid has a pH balance from 0 to 6, a neutral has a pH balance of 7, and a base has a pH balance from 8 to 14. Citric Acid is added for two reasons. Firstly, it is added because when a shampoo is slightly acidic at 5.5 on the pH scale, the hair lies flat on the head and is smooth. Also, it has a preservative action and keeps bacterial growth from growing on the head.

Sodium Citrate: Like Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate is used as a buffer to keep the acidity in the shampoo at 5.5 on the pH scale.

Fragrance: Fragrance gives the shampoo an attractive smell to the hair.

Passiflora Incarnata Flower Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract: Botanical extracts make shampoos smell good but have no other use negatively or positively.

PEG-60 Almond Glycerides: Peg-60 Almond Glycerides is an anti-irritant and conditioning product.

Cocamide MEA: Any product containing DEA, has been proven by the FDA to cause cancer. Because studies showed it caused cancer, many manufacturers pulled the product out of ingredients. However, manufacturers are still using DEA derivatives such as MEA in products. The FDA says Cocamide MEA is the number one product to contain the most DEA. It has yet to be tested, but is still a cause for concern among consumers.

Sodium Benzoate: Like Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate is a preservative killing bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. It works well in acidic mixtures.

Tetrasodium EDTA: It is a water softening and preserving agent that reacts with sodium, magnesium, and calcium salts found in hard water and breaks them down. It is also a bonding agent that links with minerals to prevent them from growing bacteria.

Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride: It is a conditioning property.

Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate: It is an anti-static agent.

Sodium Xylene Sulfonate: It is used as a claritant, but is also a skin irritant.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone: It is used to protect against bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. Not only is it used in shampoos and detergents, but also used in paints and fuels. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has not found any carcinogens in it. However, it is found to be an allergen.

Methylisothiazolinone: MIT has been found to affect the nervous system by restricting growth of axon and dendrites in immature nervous cells in rat brains. Also, long term exposure to this chemical showed in studies that it affected the way neurons communicate with each other. It is used in shampoos to prevent bacterial growth, but has been found to be a skin irritant. MIT can only affect the cells it comes in contact with. There would be no way for it to get into the bloodstream and to the brain unless you had an open wound.

Yellow #5: Yellow #5, Coal tar, is used to control dandruff; however, it is a known cancer causing agent.

Orange #5: Is a safe color additive to shampoo.

Ext Violet 2: Also known as Ext D&C Violet 2 is a known cause of tumors and serious skin rashes on lab rats. Prolonged exposure to the chemical has cause depression, convulsions, coma and death. It is also a suspect in causing Leukemia. Even inhaling the vapors can cause absorption into the skin.

Ice Age Cosmetics?

Wow, so the old Herbal Essences shampoos were far from great for our hair, skin, and body! But, as science has progressed, have our cosmetics evolved? Are they still safe and gentle on our skin? Let's take a look at the top five most popular shampoos from the new Herbal Essences line. Let's compare ingredients to see if we are safe from our shampoo.

1. No Flakin' Away

No Flakin' Away was created to provide relief from dandruff; dry, itchy scalp; and tightness.

Ingredients: active ingredient: pyrithione zinc 1%, purpose: anti-dandruff, inactive ingredients: water, ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium chloride, glycol distearate, dimethicone, ammonium xylenesulfonate, citric acid, cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract, cymbopogon schoenanthus oil, fragrance, cetyl alcohol, cocamide mea, polyquaternium-10, trimethylolpropane tricaprylate/tricaprate, hydrogenated polydecene, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, peg-7m, benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Pyrithione zinc 1%: Pyrithione Zinc is an anti-dandruff ingredient.

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laurly Sulfate: Both of these ingredients are close cousins of Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Laurly Sulfate. However, these ingredients are more harsh irritants than SLES and SLS, and just as dangerous.

Glycol distearate: Glycol stearate and distearate are added to shampoos to disguise cloudiness.

Dimethicone: It attaches to the hair strand and fills in holes and weak spots to give strength to the hair. However, it also blocks out conditioner from repairing the hair.

Ammonium xylenesulfonate: Ammonium is used as a compound to thicken mixtures and increases the ability of water to dissolve other molecules.

Cymbopogon schoenanthus oil: It is mainly a fragrance additive and has anti-bacterial properties. It is considered safe by the FDA.

Cetyl alcohol: Fatty alcohol that lubricates the hair strands.

Polyquaternium-10: It is a conditioner that is non irritating and moisturizing to the hair.

Trimethylolpropane tricaprylate/tricaprate: A conditioner. Little to no toxic information is available.

Hydrogenated polydecene: A conditioner for the hair that is non-drying, non-irritating, odorless, and colorless.

Peg 7-M: Thickens the shampoo compound.

Benzyl alcohol: It works to intiate a reaction with another chemical in the ingredients. It is odorless and colorless. Also, it acts as a solvent.

Propylene glycol: It is a petroleum derivative that acts as a solvent, surfactant, and wetting agent. It easily penetrates skin and weakens cellular structure and protein structure. It can cause liver, brain, and kidney abnormalities. It is used in anti-freeze and hydraulic fluids. It is one of the primary irritants of skin, even in low concentrations. Propylene glycol is even found in some processed foods!!!

Dangerous Ingredients: ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium chloride, propylene glycol, methylisothiazolinone

2. Body Envy

Body Envy was created by the Herbal Essences company to provide volume and height to hair that is otherwise lifelss and flat.

Ingredients: water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, ppg-2, hydroxyethyl coco/isostearamide, sodium chloride, citric acid, sodium citrate, russelia equisetiformis extract leaf/stem extract, prunus persica nectarina fruit extract, fragrance, sodium benzoate, tetrasodium edta, polyquaternium-10, propylene glycol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, sodium xylenesulphonate, yellow 10, yellow 5.

Ppg-2 hydroxyethyl coco/isostearamide: It works as an anti-static agent by reducing friction.

Yellow 10: It is a coloring agent that has been approved by the FDA.

Dangerous or Irritating Ingredients: Sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium chloride, tetrasodium edta, propylene glycol, methylisothiazolinone, sodium xylenesulphonate, yellow 5

3. Dangerously Straight

Dangerously Straight was created to keep the fly aways from flying and the sleek chic.

Ingredients: water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, cocamide mea, glycol distearate, dimethicone, ammonium xylenesulfonate, honey extract, pyrus pyrifolia/pyrus bretschneideri blend (pear) juice, hydrolyzed silk, fragrance, cetyl alcohol, polyquaternium-10, sodium citrate, citric acid, propylene glycol, sodium benzoate, disodium edta, peg 7m, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, red 33.

Disodium edta: Disodium edta alters the skin structure making it a penetration enhancer. It enables other chemicals to sink into the skin and reach the bloodstream more easily.

Red 33: A red dye in cosmetics.

Dangerous Ingredients: Ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, Cocamide mea, disodium edta, propylene glycol, methylisothiazolinone, sodium xylenesulphonate,

4. Hello Hydration

 Hello Hydration was created to bring moisture to dry and thirsty hair.

Ingredients:  water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, cocoamide mea, glycol distearate, dimethicone, ammonium xylenesulfonate, vanilla planifolia fruit extract, cocos nucifera (coconut) milk, fragrance, cetyl alcohol, polyquaternium-10, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, disodium edta, peg 7m, citric acid, propylene glycol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, blue 1.

Blue 1:  A blue dye added to cosmetics.

Dangerous and Irritant Ingredients:  Ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, cocamide mea, ammonium xylenesulfonate, disodium edta, propylene glycol, methylisothiazolinone.

5. Break's Over

Break's Over was created to provide strength to hair that is breaking and damaged.

Ingredients: water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, cocamide mea, glycol distearate, dimethicone, ammonium xylenesulfonate, cocos nucifera (coconut) milk, mangifera indica (mango) fruit extract, pearl powder, fragrance, cetyl alcohol, polyquaternium-10, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, citric acid, disodium edta, peg-7m, propylene glycol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, ext. violet 2.

Dangerous Ingredients: Ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, cocamide mea, ammonium xylenesulfonate, disodium edta, propylene glycol, methylisothiazolinone, ext. violet 2.

Be Informed And Be Beautiful

Not only are these products bad for us, but they are even worse than the old Herbal Essences line! Yikes! It's time for a hair care revolution. Let's be aware ladies of what we are putting our hair and bodies through.

Not only are these products dangerous, but they don't even do what each line claims! They are the same basic ingredients over and over again. For ingredients from one shampoo that claims to add volume, for another shampoo those same ingredients claim to make her sleek and smooth.

The best choice to keep us looking and feeling young is to return to nature with products like Herbal choice that have all natural all organic ingredients. Look for products that you can pronounce when reading and you recognize as words! Remember, what ever ingredient you see listed first, the products contains more of that than the others!

Be informed and be beautiful.

Click here to read about the Ingredients in Herbal Essence Conditioner

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image


      21 months ago

      I am a Nigerian girl. I have type 4c african hair. I use herbal essence shampoo and conditioner for my hair and they works great for me. I had tried many products (both hair and body products. Products that are made with chemicals and those that are said to contain only natural ingredients)

      I tell you the truth, every good hair and body products made with natural ingredients contains some unlisted chemical ingredients, which is the reason they work very well.

      Nobody can deceive me.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      What are the ingredients that made up the scent of the old herbal essence shampoo? (the original one with the lady in a forest on the bottle).

    • My Inner Jew profile imageAUTHOR

      My Inner Jew 

      11 years ago

      I know Reu!!!! Its so wonder people get so sick so easily....even baby shampoo is dangerous :(

    • ReuVera profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      Thanks for this valuable info. So, not all good what is labeled "Herbal", ha....

      This is time that we should question everything. Personally, I used to use children's shampoo for my hair (should check the ingredients anyway, ha?), can't complain.

      Thanks again. Keep writing.

    • My Inner Jew profile imageAUTHOR

      My Inner Jew 

      11 years ago

      Thanks! It sure does...and it is scary the products manufacturers use and we as consumers have no idea about!

    • BetsyIckes profile image


      11 years ago from Pennsylvania

      A lot of useful info here. Learned a lot of things from this hub. And It makes you think!


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