5 Common Harmful Shampoo Ingredients

Shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products can contain toxic ingredients that cause long-term health problems. Some ingredients are more harmful than others, so it’s important to be aware of the health risks involved when choosing your hair care products. Here are five common shampoo ingredients that can damage your health.


Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are powerful detergents and surfactants that give shampoo their creamy lather. SLS and SLES are used in industrial cleaning products, as they are excellent for removing grease and dirt. However, sulfates used in shampoo, skin care products and cosmetics have been linked to health problems and serious disease, including cancer. SLS and SLES also strip the hair’s protective oil away, leaving your hair and scalp more prone to damage.


Phthalates are used in a wide range of personal care products, as well as packaging and other plastic products. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to serious birth defects, early onset of puberty and an increased risk of some cancers, particularly breast cancer. Phthalates are not always included on the list of ingredients, which makes them difficult to avoid.

Propylene Glycol 

Propylene glycol is used in many different shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes and other hair products, mainly due to its ability to make hair look shiny. Propylene glycol is a skin irritant that can cause allergic reactions, hair loss and may even trigger skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, in certain people. Some studies have suggested that use of propylene glycol may even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.


Formaldehyde is used in embalming fluid and tobacco products, as well as shampoo and other hair care products. Formaldehyde is a known toxin that can cause cancer, disrupt hormones and, according to some studies, may even be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Inhalation of formaldehyde can cause breathing difficulties and long-term use can lead to serious respiratory problems.


Parabens are preservatives used in shampoo, styling products, shower gels, skincare products and cosmetics. Parabens disrupt hormones, which can lead to early onset of puberty, reproductive problems and hormonal imbalances. Parabens have also been linked to breast cancer and other serious diseases. In addition to contributing to health problems, parabens can cause serious skin reactions and hair loss in some people.

Shampoo and other hair care products often contain ingredients that could be damaging your health. Sulfates, phthalates, propylene glycol, formaldehyde and parabens are all common shampoo ingredients that can cause serious health problems. Reading the labels and learning about the different ingredients used in your hair care products will help you to make informed decisions about the products you buy.

Here is a recipe that you can quickly throw together at home to ensure that you know all of the ingredients in your shampoo:

Homemade Coconut Lavender Shampoo
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
1/3-2/3 cup water
2 tablespoon baking soda
5-15 drops lavender essential oil
Put baking soda & castile soap into a container and shake to combine. Add other ingredients and shake it up.

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