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5 Toxic Ingredients That Could Be Doing Major Damage to Your Hair (and Overall Health)

Toxic hair ingredients harmful hair ingredients ingredients that damage your hair

If you don’t know the ingredients found in your hair products like you know the back of your hand, it’s time to get cozy with them. Ahead, five toxic ingredients lurking in your daily care and styling favorites that are harming your hair and maybe even your well-being.


Got that one favorite hairspray that bends and molds but lets you revise? That’s the quintessential too hard to pronounce hair ingredient, phthalates, pronounced “thah-lates,” doing its best work. While the ingredient helps us have good hair days every day, it might also be responsible for adverse reproductive effects.


Make a mental list of every hair product you own. Was the product’s scent a determinant in the purchase? Most likely, yes. Judging a book by its cover doesn’t invariably produce the best outcome (maybe that super sensual smelling hair oil weighed your hair down or the shampoo that transports you to Tahiti dried our your locks), but buying based on scent is second nature to us. The same way it’s commonplace for companies to state countless synthetic chemicals and toxins, under the guise of the word “fragrance,” which could lead to lung complications, allergic reactions, and cancer from prolonged exposure.


One of the reasons your hair feels squeaky clean after a lather? Sodium laurel sulfate. Too much of the ingredient can make your hair feel dry as hay, and additionally cause skin allergies.


Say coal tar and one’s mind immediately conjures up an image of dinosaurs’ fatal run-ins with tar in the prehistoric era. Dinosaurs are no longer, but the dangers of coal tar remain. If you’ve ever dyed your hair at home (every pre-Jen Atkin Army soldier can attest), you’re familiar with the caution statement. If you continue to use boxed dye, then do you, girl, but beware. It reads like so: “Caution – This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness. (FD&C Act, 601(a)).” A preliminary test sounds ordinary, if not necessary and totally normal, right? Right. But did you catch the last six words? Blindness! According to the FDA, the blindest-inducing ingredient is coal tar, which doesn’t “need FDA approval before permitted for use in cosmetics.”

Of course, it’s unlikely someone would risk dyeing their lashes or brows using boxed dye, but using a blindness-inducing hair product as directed could regardless pose a life-changing threat to your vision. The solution? Take a color hiatus and embrace your biological hue or go to a pro colorist.


Your shampoo and hairspray don’t seem like the best home for a highly flammable tenant such as Isopropyl Alcohol. So why do all but a few contain it? To help the hair absorb other active ingredients sans heat application. Whether a fierce style is worth the drying effect it has on your locks is your call.

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