Haircare Products to Avoid: A List of Harmful Ingredients

Shampoo as we know it today was first developed in the early 1900s, when German inventor Hans Schwarzkopf developed a detergent-based formulation. The shampoo was a big improvement over earlier formulations, as it was better able to remove dirt and oil from the hair without causing any damage to the scalp. This development revolutionized the hair care industry and paved the way for the wide variety of shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products available today.

Today, shampooing your hair every day is not necessary or recommended by experts. Depending on the individual, shampooing your hair two or three times a week is usually enough to keep your hair healthy. With the variety of shampoos available in the market, it is important for people to choose the right shampoo for their hair type and needs.

Parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, and triclosan are all common ingredients found in many hair care products, and they can all be potentially hazardous. Parabens, which are used as preservatives, can disrupt hormone levels and cause reproductive and developmental issues. Sulfates, a detergent-like precursor, is used to create a lathering effect and can strip your hair of its natural oils. Phthalates, a common plasticizer, can cause reproductive issues and asthma. Synthetic fragrances, often derived from petrochemicals, can cause an array of health issues including skin irritation, hormone disruption, and headaches. Formaldehyde, which is used as a preservative, is a known carcinogen and can cause severe skin irritation and respiratory problems. Triclosan, an anti-microbial, can cause endocrine disruption and antibiotic resistance.

If you’re looking for a safer option, there are many natural hair care products available that are free from dangerous chemicals. Natural products such as those made with essential oils, coconut oil, and olive oil are often gentler and contain fewer harsh chemicals, making them safer and more effective options.


Parabens are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the body’s hormones, and they have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, fertility issues, and early onset puberty. The European Union has banned the use of five types of parabens in cosmetics, while the United States has not enacted a similar ban. In light of the potential health risks associated with parabens, many consumers are choosing to avoid them by reading the labels on personal care products and choosing those that are paraben-free.

Due to the potential health and environmental risks associated with parabens, many manufacturers have begun to eliminate them from their formulas. As a result, there are now more and more products available that are labeled ‘paraben-free’. Despite the fact that parabens may be safe when used in low concentration, many people are opting for natural alternatives. These natural alternatives are often derived from plants, such as tea tree oil, aloe vera, and chamomile, and are known to be much gentler and safer than synthetic preservatives.

The EU is also reviewing the use of other parabens, such as butylparaben, to determine whether they should also be included in the list of banned substances. In addition, the EU is requiring that manufacturers list the presence of any paraben on the product label. This allows consumers to make an informed decision about the products they buy.


Sulfates are known to be harsh on hair, causing it to become dry and brittle. They can also strip away essential oils, leading to dry scalp, irritations, and dandruff. This can be especially true for people with naturally curly or coily hair textures, as the oils produced by their scalp take longer to travel down the hair shaft. Therefore, for these hair types, sulfate-free shampoos are often preferred. Additionally, sulfates can be toxic to aquatic life, so it is important to be mindful when rinsing hair in the shower or bath.

Fortunately, sulfate-free shampoos are becoming more widely available. These products are designed to provide a thorough cleanse without compromising the natural integrity of the hair. They are also free from harsh chemicals and potential irritants, making them a safer option for those with sensitive skin or scalp. Additionally, sulfate-free shampoos are not tested on animals and are often made with natural ingredients, making them more eco-friendly. For those looking for a shampoo that cleanses without the harsh effects of sulfates, sulfate-free products are the way to go.

That being said, not all sulfate-free shampoos are created equal. Schweiger explains, “You will want to look for a product that contains surfactants such as coco glucoside, lauryl glucoside, decyl glucoside, and amphoteric surfactants such as cocamidopropyl betaine, as these are gentler and more hydrating than traditional sulfates.” He also recommends looking for shampoos that contain natural oils and humectants, such as glycerin, that can help hydrate the scalp and hair.


Triclosan has been found to be an endocrine disruptor and is linked to a variety of health problems, including allergies, infertility, and cancer (via the Natural Resources Defense Council). In 2016, the FDA banned triclosan from antibacterial soaps, citing a lack of evidence for its effectiveness and safety. The EPA has also labeled it as a “chemical of concern” due to its ability to damage the environment. As a result, many companies have removed triclosan from their products and replaced it with safer alternatives.

The European Union has banned triclosan in products such as cosmetics, soaps, and toothpaste due to its potential health risks. In the US, the FDA has proposed a ban on triclosan in soaps, but it is still widely used in other products.

Given the potential health risks associated with triclosan, it is important for consumers to check the labels of products for its presence and to avoid buying products that contain it. While the FDA has not yet banned triclosan in the US, it is still important to be aware of the health risks associated with its use and take steps to reduce your exposure.

In fact, the FDA has banned the use of triclosan in products such as soaps, detergents, and body washes due to the potential risks associated with it. While triclosan may be an effective antimicrobial agent, its potential toxicity makes it a less desirable choice for many personal care products. Consumers are encouraged to read product labels and avoid products containing triclosan in order to reduce their exposure to the chemical.

Synthetic fragrances

The CSC notes that many of these synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Phthalates have been linked to a variety of health issues, including reproductive problems, early puberty, asthma, and allergies. In addition, some fragrances contain allergens, which can cause skin and respiratory reactions in some individuals. Given the potential health risks associated with synthetic fragrances, it is important to be aware of what is in your personal care products and to seek out products with natural fragrances or no fragrances at all.

The European Union has banned hundreds of synthetic fragrances due to health concerns. In the United States, the FDA does not require companies to list the ingredients used in their fragrances, leaving consumers unaware of what may be in their products. Additionally, fragrances found in many household products such as cleaners, laundry detergents, and air fresheners can be just as toxic as those found in cosmetic products. It is important to be aware of the ingredients and fragrances used in the products you purchase and to seek out products free of synthetic fragrances.

You can also look for products that indicate they don’t contain any synthetic fragrances. Of course, it is important to read the label to make sure and always avoid products with phthalates. Lastly, if you want to avoid synthetic fragrances all together, you can opt for fragrance-free products. These are often labeled as “fragrance-free” or “unscented,” which generally means they do not contain any fragrances at all.


However, these benefits come with a caveat. Silicones can build up on the hair over time, leading to dull and dry looking locks. This build up can also lead to clogged pores in the scalp and can make it difficult for other hair care products to penetrate the hair. In some cases, it can also cause an allergic reaction. To counter this, many brands offer a range of silicone free hair care products. Additionally, those looking to avoid silicone build up can look for products labeled as “low poo” or “co-wash”, which use a gentler, sulfate-free surfactant to cleanse the hair.

To avoid this problem, Dr. Markowitz recommends looking for hair products that are silicone-free and using natural ingredients instead. She also recommends using gentle sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, which will help to limit the amount of build-up on your hair. Additionally, she suggests using clarifying shampoos once a month to help remove any silicone build-up. Ultimately, it is important to choose the right products for your hair type and needs in order to maintain healthy and strong hair.

A few silicone-based products like dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and amodimethicone are more commonly used in hair care, and are known for their ability to protect and smooth the hair cuticle. These silicones are more difficult to wash out, and can lead to buildup if not properly cleansed. However, they can still provide some beneficial effects when used in moderation. Ultimately, it is important to read the labels of the products you use to ensure that you are using the right type of silicone for your hair type.


Common types of alcohols found in hair products include cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol. These types of alcohols are beneficial for hair because they help to keep the product from becoming too watery, and they help to nourish the hair while providing a silky texture. While it is important to understand the types of alcohols being used in your hair care products, it is also important to understand the other ingredients in the product to ensure that your hair is getting the best care possible.

There are some other alcohols to look out for, such as cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and lanolin alcohol. These are known as “fatty alcohols” and although they are not as drying as the short-chain alcohols, they can still be damaging to your hair if used too often. To avoid any potential damage, it is best to look for products that are free of alcohols and instead contain natural, hydrating ingredients like aloe, glycerin, coconut oil, and shea butter.

Long-chain alcohols can also help to protect the hair from further damage, as they form a protective layer on the hair shaft. This layer can help to prevent the loss of moisture, as well as limit the amount of heat and styling damage that can occur. This is why many hair care products contain long-chain alcohols as part of their ingredients. In addition, these alcohols are also known to help prevent frizz and provide greater manageability to hair.


Formaldehyde is also used as a preservative in many personal care products, such as lotions and creams, as well as in makeup, deodorants, and nail products. It is also used as a preservative in medical products, such as vaccines, and in some cleaning products. Exposure to formaldehyde can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact, and it can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as shortness of breath and skin reactions.

Long-term exposure to formaldehyde may lead to increased risk of certain forms of cancer, including leukemia and brain cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen. It is also classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. People should take precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to formaldehyde, such as by avoiding products that contain it and wearing protective gear when working with it.

You should also look out for ingredients like 1,4-dioxane, polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds, toluene, and ammonium laureth sulfate. All of these ingredients can be potentially hazardous for your health and should be avoided.


Exposure to benzene can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. Inhalation is the most common route of exposure and can occur from breathing in benzene vapors from gasoline and other products. Ingestion can occur from consuming contaminated food or water. Skin contact with benzene or products containing benzene can occur from spills or contact with contaminated surfaces. People who work in industries where benzene is used or stored are at an increased risk for exposure.

In response to the findings, the affected companies have issued recalls of the products in question. Additionally, many of them have made changes to their manufacturing processes in order to remove the benzene contaminant from their products, as well as improved their testing protocols. While the presence of benzene in these products is concerning, it is reassuring to see that companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their customers.

When using a powdered dry shampoo, be sure to use it sparingly and only in areas where you need it. Don’t apply it to your entire head, as this can create a chalky, white residue. Instead, target the areas that need the most oil absorption, such as at the roots. Then, use a brush to gently work the powder into your scalp and the rest of your hair. Finally, use your fingers or a comb to remove any excess powder.


In response to this study, the European Union has restricted the use of DEA and DEA-related ingredients in cosmetics, while the FDA has not yet taken action. However, many personal care manufacturers have taken steps to remove DEA and related ingredients from their products. Additionally, many companies are now using alternative ingredients such as cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium lauroyl sarcosinate as replacements.

NDEA has not been found to be present in any commercial products, but the potential for its formation is enough to make some people wary of DEA. Additionally, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database states that DEA is a moderate hazard ingredient, due to its potential to irritate skin and eyes, as well as its potential to form carcinogenic compounds like NDEA. As a result, many companies have elected to remove DEA from their products.


Phthalates are also found in vinyl flooring, children’s toys, adhesives, detergents, lubricants, lubricating oils, and even medical devices. In addition, they are used to make the plastic more flexible, making it easier to produce products such as shower curtains, food wrappers, and raincoats. As a result, phthalates are found in a wide range of consumer products.

The potential adverse health effects from phthalate exposure are a growing concern. Studies have linked phthalates to reproductive and developmental problems, as well as to cancer, asthma, and allergies. As a result, the European Union, Canada, and the United States have all taken steps to limit or ban the use of certain phthalates in certain products.

It’s important to be aware of the prevalence of phthalates in everyday products. Many household items like perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, and detergents contain phthalates, often listed as ‘fragrance’ on the label. Plastic food containers, cling wraps, children’s toys, and medical equipment are also known to contain phthalates. By being aware of these sources, we can better protect ourselves and our families from the harmful effects of phthalates.

It’s also important to look for products that are labeled as phthalate-free. It’s best to avoid products with fragrance, as this can be a sign that phthalates are present. You can also look for products that are made with natural ingredients, as they tend to be free of phthalates. Finally, check the product’s packaging to see if it states that it is free of phthalates or other potentially harmful chemicals.

Other hair product ingredients to avoid

For this reason, it is best to look for hair products that are made with natural, plant-based ingredients. Natural ingredients can provide the same benefits as PEGs, such as moisture and shine, without the potential for negative health effects. Additionally, natural ingredients are more likely to be biodegradable and won’t leave an environmental footprint. When shopping for hair products, look for those that are free from PEGs, and choose those that have natural ingredients instead.

In addition, it is not recommended to use products that contain phthalates. Phthalates are often found in hair care products and are known to disrupt the body’s natural hormones. Exposure to phthalates can lead to fertility issues, developmental and reproductive problems, and even cancer. Therefore, it is important to check the labels of hair care products to ensure they are free of these potentially harmful ingredients.

To do this, be sure to read the labels on all the products you buy, and check the ingredients list for anything that could potentially be harmful. Additionally, you can research any unfamiliar ingredients that you come across to get a better understanding of what they are, what they do, and how they can affect your hair.