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Ecology womanTop 10 Ingredients To Avoid In Hair Care Products

Written Judy Hood

Consumers spend billions of dollars each year for shampoos, gels, conditioners and other products that promise thick, shiny, luxurious hair. Although you wouldn’t intentionally rub antifreeze or harsh floor cleaners into your scalp, many mainstream hair care products contain the same toxic chemicals that are used to winterize car engines and clean up industrial spills. Over time, these toxins accumulate in the bloodstream and can eventually cause significant health issues, including respiratory problems, hormone disruptions, birth defects and cancer.

Make a habit of reading hair care product labels so that you and your family are not exposed to the health risks associated with toxic chemicals. There are several consumer advocacy groups with websites that list specific ingredients to avoid. Two of the most popular ones are  and Other good sources of information are  and

Following is a list of some of the commonly used toxic ingredients used in hair care products:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): This ingredient is used in many mainstream shampoos to help create a thick, rich lather. It is also used in industrial-strength detergents, engine degreasers and floor cleaners.  According to the Chemical Safe Skincare advocacy group, SLS is an endocrine inhibitor and may increase the risk for cancer and liver disease.

Formaldehyde: Many popular hair care products, including baby shampoos, contain chemicals that combine to form formaldehyde, which has been linked to respiratory illnesses and cancer.

Propylene Glycol: This is the active ingredient in the antifreeze you put in your car and it is also used in shampoos to keep the product from freezing during shipping and storing. This chemical can irritate the skin, cause allergic reactions and alter skin structure to allow other harmful toxins to reach the bloodstream.

Parabens: Often used in hair care products as preservatives, parabens have estrogenic effects which have been linked to breast cancer.

Selenium Sulfide: This ingredient, which is used in dandruff shampoos, is a toxic skin irritant and possible carcinogen.

Petroleum: Most mainstream hair care products contain petroleum-based chemicals that have been linked to anemia, kidney disease and nerve damage.

Fragrance:  Many synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, a class of chemicals linked to hormone disruption that can cause birth defects, infertility and sperm damage.

Aminomethyl Proponal: This highly toxic chemical is used as a pH adjuster in hair care products, especially hair straighteners and colors.

Diethanolamine (DEA) Many shampoos use this ingredient as an emulsifier. It is a disruptive chemical that combines with other toxins to form nitrates and nitrosamines. Repeated use can increase the risk for liver and kidney cancers.

Lead: This neurotoxin accumulates in the body over time and can lead to serious health problems, including liver damage. It is often listed on labels as “lead acetate.”

The good news is that there are safe, effective hair care products on the market. Because savvy consumers are demanding chemical-free alternatives, several manufacturers provide eco-friendly organic hair products derived from all-natural ingredients.  These products use Mother Nature’s own therapy to provide shiny, healthy hair. Search out these natural alternatives and avoid the “hair-raising” toxins that harm your body and the environment.