When you reach for your shampoo and conditioner you definitely don’t consider it a risk—this is part of your routine and it’s pretty much the most harmless part of your day. Unfortunately, it turns out the hair washing products you rely on are most likely full of chemicals. Here are the toxic compounds to avoid at all costs—if you have any of these lurking on your shelves, now is the time to toss—your health may be riding on it.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs)
PEGs help penetrate the skin, acting as a moisturizer and stabilizer. While this sounds like a good thing, it turns out that PEGs are often contaminated with pollutants including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, cobalt and iron. These contaminants not only take away natural moisture but are linked to diseases such as breast cancer, leukemia, brain and nervous system cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer, as well as Hodgkin’s disease. These contaminants have been proven to interfere with nervous system development and may also cause kidney and liver organ toxicity.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is responsible for the foaming lather we’ve come to expect from our shampoo—but it turns out it becomes contaminated in production by a toxic compound known as 1,4 dioxane. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, this is linked to negative effects in the kidneys, liver and central nervous system and is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Fragrance isn’t what you think it is. It’s not actually sweet smelling and harmless, but made can be made from about 3100 different chemicals not listed on the label. The term “fragrance” is a way to skirt the FDA so the company does not have to list the chemicals. Aside from being linked to allergies and hormone disruption, 80% of fragrance chemicals have not been tested for safety on humans. Fragrance may also cause migraines, asthma and chronic lung disease.
Phthalates have been linked to a host of issues from asthma to ADHD, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes—even low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Phthalates is a class of chemicals—there are a ton of substances that share a phthalates suffix. Also known as plasticizers, this chemical makes plastics more flexible and less breakable, and is also used in fragrance. It often escapes personal care labels, so the only way to test if it is in products is through laboratory testing, but trust us—you want to definitely avoid it.
Sulfates act as detergents and are present in hair washing products because they are so effective at removing dirt and oil but they can take away a little too much—sulfates are harsh and strip away your body’s natural moisture. Of course, that’s not the only issue. Sulfates contain dioxane, which is carcinogenic and may also interfere with the kidneys.
At this point you’ve probably seen products with the words “Paraben Free” in bold letters on many of your fave products—but what are you avoiding? Parabens are a group of chemicals that are also xenoestrogens, which means they are similar to the hormones that naturally occur in the body—but actually disrupt these hormones. As if that wasn’t enough, parabens have also gained a reputation as carcinogenic.
If anything on your shampoo label ends with the words “cone” it’s a silicone. Silicones do not dissolve in water, which may give hair the appearance of shininess but in reality it causes hair to become dull, dry and brittle by blocking essential oils and moisture from penetrating the hair shaft. It can also cause hair to shed more easily and throw your scalp off balance.
Need an all natural alternative? CHECK OUT these toxic-free shampoo and conditioners.