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What ingredients to avoid in shampoo?

Hi! I am looking for an affordable shampoo that I can use that is not filled with chemicals, dyes, parabens, etc. I read reviews of some vegan shampoos that don’t have those things and it says it makes hair greasy. I don’t want that. I wear a chin-length bob, have moderately thick and wavy hair. I am 30.

The topic of good and bad shampoo ingredients is of huge interest to everyone who uses shampoos (more than 60% of people!). No wonder why you, our dear readers, are asking us about them so often. Let’s talk about all those ingredients and how to switch to a more natural shampoo.

So, get ready to find out:

– what toxic ingredients to avoid in shampoo,

– how to distinguish between a good shampoo formula and a damaging one,

– and what the best shampoo ingredients you should search for.

Based on recommendations of dermatologists and hair experts, we compiled a list of good and bad components to sort out trusted hair care products from those that are better to avoid.

Why We Should Pay Heed to Shampoo Formula

Decades ago, most of us didn’t focus on the formula of hair care products at all. The primary factors that made us purchase a particular shampoo or a conditioner were the product’s price, ounces, and attractive design. Let’s be honest, the majority of us still don’t always take a moment to read the label when considering a purchase. And it is a huge mistake!

The world-recognized dermatologists, physicians, and hairstylists will say out loud that it is a paramount rule to learn the formula before purchasing a shampoo. Some harmful ingredients in shampoo may result in hair loss and scalp acne. Moreover, scientists suppose that they may even cause cancer. To make sure you won’t face those troubles in the future, please take a couple of minutes to read our guide on bad and good shampoo ingredients.

Bad Ingredients in Shampoo that May Damage Your Hair

Our favorite shampoos often make our locks look like we are Hollywood celebs. But what is hiding under this glamorous hair dazzle? Manufacturers add specific chemicals that make hair look fantastic but literally ‘kill’ it after a while.

Shampoos consist of several dozen ingredients. There are surfactants, foaming agents, conditioners, thickeners, opacifiers, sequestering agents, preservatives, artificial fragrances, and some other special additives among them. That is why they foam easily, have a pleasant smell, their shelf life is up to 3 years, and your hair feels clean after just one hair wash.

What ingredients are harmful in modern shampoos:

Parabens. They are preservatives that stop bacteria from growing. They remove dirt and dead skin cells from your hair and scalp, but also strip your natural hair oils, making hair dry, brittle, and lifeless. These are sometimes hidden under the name “Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates”. There are some less harmful alternative preservatives, such as sodium benzoate, salicylic acid, benzoic acid, and sorbic acid.

Formaldehyde. This chemical is a well-known carcinogen. May cause severe alopecia, pimples on the scalp, eye irritation, and other allergic reactions. It can be listed in beauty products as Methylene glycol, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium 15, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 dioxane, imidazolidinyl urea, hydroxymethylglycinate, diazolidinyl urea, and bronopol.

Sulfates (SLS, SLES). If your skin is sensitive, sulfates may cause severe allergic reactions, such as scalp itching, irritations, swelling, hives. They are extremely bad for fine, thin, and damaged hair. They also fade hair color. And they are found in car wash soaps, floor cleaners, do you still think you need them in your shampoo? Better look for products that use fruit/vegetable-based cleansers, e.g., plant-derived ethylhexylglycerin.

Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs). PEGs are petroleum-based emollients, emulsifiers, i.e. thickening agents that create a pleasant creamy texture of your fave shampoos, as they help water- and oil-based ingredients mix together. They have a destructive effect on the scalp, especially if it is used on damaged skin.

Triclosan. Triclosan aims to deal with scalp bacteria, but it may lead to hormone disorders as well. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women, and even responsible for causing depressions and weight gain.

Alcohol. Alcohol literally dehydrates the strands and makes them dull without natural brilliance.

Fragrances. These synthetic ingredients are found in almost all beauty products. “Fragrance” on the product’s label usually means thousands of hidden chemicals. Look for natural fragrances, i.e. essential oils.

Other harmful ingredients include Sodium Chloride (=salt), DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (momoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine), Synthetic Colors, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (for foam), Retinyl Palmitate, and potassium sorbate.

I have clients tell me that there hair is frizzy, “oily”, unmanageable, and the list goes on. It is weighed down by build up left from the waxes and plastics in these shampoos. They are extremely harsh and will ruin your hair. If you have color, they will strip the color out. The results of your hair being frizzy is because these shampoos blow open the cuticle on the hair shaft. They leave the hair lifeless and flat to your head. At first, they work fabulous because they are distributing waxes to leave the hair shiny and soft. Over time those waxes harden.☹️ @ashleighleehair

Good Ingredients in Shampoo to Hunt For

The scariest part is over, and now we can uncover hair-friendly shampoo ingredients, which make our locks healthy and good-looking. These are essential oils, botanicals, fruit extracts, and other certified organic ingredients. These components in the product formula are harmless: biotin/collagen, aloe vera, oils (plant, essential oils – coconut oil, olive oil, etc.), honey, shea butter, root- and fruit extracts. However, a patch-test is still a must-do before using any new hair product! Don’t skip it.

You should switch out your shampoo & conditioner every 6 months. After a while your hair gets used to that product and it no longer responds to the products. especially if you don’t remove all debris and product build-up from your hair. @dirtyhairsecrets

A good tip is to add vitamins A and E to your shampoo when washing the hair. As a rule, they are available in any pharmacy without a recipe. Hair experts also recommend selecting a shampoo and a conditioner of the same series (preferably by the same brand). Thus, you can boost your shampoo’s efficiency, using it in a combo with the right conditioner.

Moreover, you may check out popular DIY tutorials and try to make your own homemade shampoo, shampoo bars, and any other hair care products you wish.

Other Popular Questions About Shampoo Ingredients

Below, there is a list of the most widespread questions that worry our readers who are in search of a good shampoo:

What Ingredient in Shampoo Causes Hair Loss?

Synthetic fragrances and sodium chloride may damage follicles and cause severe hair loss. Thus, it is better to avoid these chemicals when selecting a shampoo.

What Ingredient in Shampoo Causes Itchy Scalp?

The regular use of products with sulfates, PEG, and alcohol in their formulas provokes scalp itching and irritation. As a result, it may lead to bloody pimples.

What Ingredient in Shampoo Causes Cancer?

Parabens and formaldehyde have a destructive effect on female reproductive organs and may cause cancer.

Are Vegan Shampoos Better?

A vegan shampoo is a) not tested on animals, and b) contains no derivatives from animals. It also contains LESS bad ingredients. Possibly the only one non-vegan ingredient in vegan shampoos is lanolin (a byproduct of wool farming). So yes, they are less harmful to your locks and health.

How Long Does It Take Hair to Get Used to Natural Shampoo?

Natural shampoo ingredients have a positive effect on the hair and scalp. However, switching to natural shampoo may be challenging. Foaming is worse, and strands get greasy much sooner, they look oily-waxy, so a lot of women start to wash their hair every day. Still, experts suggest selecting products with natural basic ingredients instead of destroying hair with SLS, parabens, and similar toxic chemicals. Just give your locks time. Most often it takes 2-3 weeks for hair (and you) to get used to new, more natural, products. Sometimes several months.

You gotta think how many years you used that bad shampoo that now this new one has to undo all those years. @mamaeclipselove

Some advice on how to transition to all that natural-organic-vegan shampoos:

– shampoo several times, and experiment with applying (from your palms, or by breaking off a small piece of a shampoo bar, by rubbing shampoo directly into the hair, etc.);

– try baking soda as a cleanser, and apple cider vinegar rinse;

– if you are ready to give up, try another shampoo, or even several different brands.

We hope this article will convince you that it’s crucial to read the label before purchasing a shampoo or any other beauty product. Got anything to add? Comment below and share your experience!

Featured Image: jcomp –

by Donna Sullivan
Donna is a hairstylist with 8 years of experience. Ask her about any hair-related problem (haircuts, hairstyles, colorings, hair care) and get a pro advice!