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How Safe Is Your Shampoo? A Look At 10 Dangerous Ingredients

Updated on June 13, 2011

Ever look at a bottle of shampoo’s ingredients? How many ingredients do you recognize? I don’t have a degree in chemistry, so I usually only recognize one, water. The rest may as well be Greek.

We don’t spend much time wondering about the safety of the ingredients in our hair products since we naturally assume that some government regulatory body, in this case the the FDA (the Food & Drug Administration regulates the cosmetics industry), watches out for consumers and keeps the big bad corporations from selling us dangerous snake oil. Unfortunately, just as with the food industry (read my food articles) the FDA is a complete letdown.

Of all product complaints filed to the FDA, shampoos rank among the highest. Some of the complaints include swollen arms, hands and face; irritated scalps and eyes; tangled, split, and fuzzy hair.

Let’s take a look at some unsafe, but common ingredients allowed in our hair products.


Shampoo induced bad hair day

#1 Sodium lauryl sulphate:A detergent, emulsifier, and wetting agent. Commonly used in hand lotions, shampoos, cream depilatories, bubble baths, andtoothpastes.

Health effects:Dry skin, skin irritant, linked to eczema. May damage cornea if it comes in contact with eyes. Can enter the heart, lungs, liver, and brain upon skin contact.


#2 Fragrance (parfum):A blend of synthetic substances that impart a desired odor. Blends can often contain more than 100 different chemicals.

Health effects:Many of the chemicals used to make fragrances can cause skin irritations and allergic responses. Just some of the commonly used chemicals known to cause allergic reactions include:

Allyl alcohol, amyl cinnamal, benzyl alcohol, citral, coumarin, eugenol, geraniol, hydroxycitronellal, and this 44 letter beauty, hydroxymethylpentylcyclohexenecarboxaldehyde.


#3 DMDM Hydantoin:A preservative.

Health effects:A possible skin irritant. May release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.


#4 Diazolidinyl urea:Alcohol based. Used as a pesticide in cotton, as an antiseptic in hair and nail products.

Health effects:A mild skin irritant. May release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.


#5 Laureth-16:A wetting ingredient and ammonium derivative.

Health effects:May cause skin irritation


#6 Malic acid:A naturally derived acid. Used as an alkali and antioxidant in cosmetics.

Health effects:Can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. Since it can remove the protective outer layer of skin, it can increase sensitivity to sunlight.


#7 Benzyl alcohol:Used as a solvent in perfumes, a topical antiseptic, and a preservative in hair dyes.

Health effects:Irritating and corrosive to the skin and mucous membranes. An eye irritant and well known allergen.


#8 Sodium laureth sulfate:A detergent. Commonly used as a water softener and cleansing ingredient in nonirritating shampoos.

Health effects:A skin and eye irritant. An allergen.


#9 Glycine:A common texturizer in cosmetics. Also used as a dietary supplement, a gastric antacid.

Health effects:Shown to cause endocrine disruption and changes in motor activity in animal testing.


#10 Propylene glycol:One of the most common ingredients in cosmetics, used as a moisture carrying vehicle. Has good permeation properties. Commonly used in liquid makeup, foundation makeup, mascaras, cold creams, baby lotions, shampoo, lipsticks, mouthwash, spray deodorants.

Health effects:Known to cause allergic reactions. A skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritant.

There are thousands of unsafe ingredients being used in the cosmetics industry. These are just ten of them.

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    • karpatimedispa profile image

      karpatimedispa 

      6 years ago from Double Bay

      Thanks for the great break down of what these ingredients actually do. Many of us are aware these chemicals are bad, but unsure as to WHY and WHAT they actually do. For a great chemical free alternative. Try Karpati Hair Care for a great chemical free solution http://www.karpati.com.au/naturalhaircare/intro.ht...

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