What are the harmful chemicals found in shampoo?
Dangers of Chemicals Used in Shampoo
There are thousands of different chemicals that are found in various shampoos. You must start reading labels and realize which ones are toxic and which shampoos are safe.
We all take care in our appearance, with our face being the focal point and our hair, the frame. It’s not as easy as it seems in the shampoo advertisements to get our hair as perfect as the movie stars and there are many products out there that are designed to make our hair sleeky, bouncier or fuller-bodied – what we don’t notice, however, is the amount of potential dangerous chemicals we are putting onto our hair and in many cases leaving it on for the duration of the day. Shampoo, although we wash it out of our hair, can cause a variety of health problems from the residues it leaves as well as being absorbed into the skin as we wash our hair.
Whether we’re keeping our hair shiny, clean and dandruff free for work, school or a night out, there are thousands of shampoos to choose from for all kinds of hair types and colors. It is estimated that in North America alone $11 billion is spent annually on shampoo, with $40 billion being spent globally. Lurking inside our shampoo bottles may be a number or toxic chemicals that could cause us a lot of harm: an expensive price to pay for a glossy mane. the only way to avoid this is to use a chemical free shampoo.
Unfortunately, regulation of the chemicals used in shampoo leaves a lot to be desired. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to cover a massive range of products, with the bulk of their money and efforts being spent on testing prescription medicines and as such shampoo is largely forgotten about. What is surprising is that the FDA has actually approved some shampoo products that contain known carcinogens and toxins. In recent decades, the shampoo industry started cutting corners in the quest for the ultimate (and most profitable) shampoo products. As a result, it is now common for us to buy a bottle of unnaturally colored liquid from the store which may well contain carcinogens and other toxins. We then lather these potentially dangerous products into our scalp most mornings (or even every morning).
There are a wide range of harmful chemicals used in shampoo but some of them are alarmingly common and have well documented medical conditions linked to them.
Propylene Glycol is a main ingredient in many industrial anti-freeze applications as well as in the automotive industry where it is commonly found in brake fluid. In shampoos, Propylene Glycol is used to force hair to retain moisture and to stop it from drying out or splitting. A number of heath issues surround Propylene glycol with warnings from The Material Safety Data Sheet citing the chemicals as a strong skin irritant which may also cause kidney and liver damage. Propylene Glycol is also known to irritate eyes, as well as accidental ingestion being known to cause a host of reactions including vomiting, respiratory issues and possible coma.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are two of the most common hazardous chemicals used in shampoo. SLS is known by up to 150 different names which make identifying it in your products all the more difficult – but it is hardly surprising manufacturers want to try and hide its identity. SLS can cause swelling of the hands, face and arms as well as evidence pointing towards skin irritation and corrosion. There are personal care products on the market with concentrations of SLS up to 30% which is extremely alarming, since studied published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology reported that as little as 0.5% concentration is enough to lead to skin irritation. Although not widely known, this is not news since these reports were made public in 1983. SLS and SLES are powerful degreasers and can also be found in car cleaning product. Our recommendation? Always use an SLS Free Shampoo.
1, 4 Dioxane
1, 4 Dioxane is a by-product of SLS and SLES production which can cause hormonal imbalances, male infertility as well as being a known carcinogen. It was included on Senator R Kennedy’s list of carcinogens which he submitted to congress in 1997, but nothing has been done since then to stop this chemical appearing in our shampoos. Even the FDA themselves raised doubts about the safety of 1, 4 Dioxane back in 1992 but have yet to act upon their own findings.
Ethyl Acetate is on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Hazardous Waste List” and is also a common chemical used in shampoos as well as many other toiletry products. Respiratory difficulties, irritation of the eyes, anemia and kidney damage are all linked with Ethyl Acetate.
Benaldehyde has similar symptoms to Ethyl Acetate as well as being a central nervous system depressant, but lacks any regulation over its use in personal products such as shampoo.
‘Colorants’ is a blanket term for a range of chemicals used in shampoo. There are many natural dyes and colors out there which have been used for thousands of years but it is generally cheaper today to use a chemical. Coal tar is often part of the colorant process which is very controversial since it is known to have carcinogenic properties.
‘Fragrance’ is a common ingredient on the side of shampoo bottles but is very ambiguous since fragrance can be any one of around 4,000 different chemicals or, more likely, a combination of them. Of these 4,000 chemicals, many are known to be carcinogenic or toxic. The FDA has had numerous reports of dizziness, sickness and vomiting that have been likely caused by the unidentified ‘fragrance’ in a shampoo. It is important to note that while many people think that poisons and toxins must be swallowed to cause us ill effects, this is not the case. The skin can absorb many of the harmful chemicals and they are deposited straight into the blood stream where they can immediately start affecting vital organs and central nervous system functions.
What to do to Avoid Chemicals in Shampo
There is a simple was to avoid contact with the harmful and toxic chemicals used in shampoo products, which is avoiding chemical based shampoos altogether. Natural alternatives are readily available from companies who value the quality and safety of their products above profits alone. With a lot of the chemical based shampoos on the market, you don’t even need to read the label to know it’s not natural. Bright orange, yellow and purple liquids don’t occur very often in nature and many of the scents are indefinable. Artificially scented shampoos with ambiguous names like “alpine spring” or “tropical punch” are named this way – remember, if in doubt, check the label!
Always buy a natural shampoo!