15 Harmful Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid in 2022

Buying a quality shampoo for your hair is not as easy as it looks. That’s because shampoos contain many products that can damage the quality of both your hair and scalp.

These toxic elements dry out your hair and scalp and can also lead to cancer with repeated use.

Therefore, it is advised that you keep away from them. But, how to know what are the shampoo ingredients to avoid?

After researching and consulting with several hair experts, we determined that Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Formaldehyde, Parabens, SLS, Sodium Chloride, and Silicone are harmful shampoo ingredients to avoid.

Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid:

For your convenience, we have prepared this comprehensive guide where we will discuss the top 15 shampoo ingredients to avoid, and what are their harmful effects. Let’s begin!

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Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

 1. Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is a chemical that comprises the majority of shampoos, detergents, toothpaste, and other cleaning products.

It works by binding the sebum in the shampoo with water.

When you rinse your scalp, the chemical takes away all the residues and oils with it. However, along with the cleansing, it can also damage the hair.

One of the major reasons to avoid shampoo is that it causes hair thinning problems. In addition to this, it can also make the hair brittle and increase the frizz in it.

If you have sensitive skin, there is a high chance that this chemical will cause allergic reactions too.

That’s why we will not recommend the shampoos that have Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in them.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes hair thinning problems.
  • Makes the hair brittle.
  • Increases the frizz.
  • Might cause allergic reactions.

2. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is another toxic ingredient that is found in the shampoos out there.

Most of the time, manufacturers add it directly to the shampoos as a preservative.

But sometimes, it is also released from other types of preservatives through a chemical process.

Formaldehyde releases gas even when present in hair care products and is known to be absorbed through the skin.

This, as a result, might lead to throat or nose cancer, leukemia, and other major health problems.

Moreover, it also causes the release of other toxic chemicals from the products that have been heated.

Reason to Avoid:

  • Causes nose and throat cancer.
  • Leads to leukemia.
  • Releases other toxic chemicals from the shampoo.

Check out the list of Worst Shampoos

3. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives that are found in shampoos, lotions, makeup, and other beauty products.

Their main aim is to inhibit the growth of microbes in the products, and as a result, the shelf life of these products is increased. This substance, however, does have some undesirable side effects.

For example, when paraben is used in shampoos and conditioners, it strips away the natural oils present in the scalp.

Therefore, the hair becomes dry, brittle, and heavy. What’s more, if your scalp is already damaged, it might lead to dandruff problems too.

You might also face difficulty in maintaining a hairstyle because the roots might not grip the hair properly. This may cause hair to break.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Strip away the natural oils.
  • Lead to dandruff problems.
  • Cause breakage of hair.

4. Alcohol

Another super harmful ingredient in shampoos is alcohol, which can dry out your entire scalp.

The majority of the alcohol in the shampoos acts as a harsh agent that can remove the hair’s protective sebum.

This can lead to dryness, dandruff, and skin issues because the natural balance of water and lipid is compromised.

However, not all types of alcohol are bad for your hair. There are some good alcohols too. That’s why you must pay attention to the label.

For example, Ceteraly and Stearyl alcohol are good alcohols that help the hair retain its moisture.

But, if you see any alcohol that has the word ‘prop’ in it, such as isopropyl, or propanol, these are among the worst shampoo ingredients to avoid.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Takes away the protective sebum.
  • Causes dryness, dandruff, and skin issues.
  • Compromises the natural balance of water and lipid.

5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Also known as SLS, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a surfactant used in most shampoos, conditioners, cleaning products, detergents, and toothpaste.

It creates the lathering foam that we all love in a shampoo. Moreover, it has a great cleansing power and also acts as an emulsifier.

Yet, in doing so, it strips away the natural oils from the hair and also compromises the hair follicles.

As a result, the hair becomes rough and brittle. Not only this, but this chemical has some other toxic effects on the body too.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Strips away the natural oils from the hair.
  • Compromises the hair follicles.
  • Hair becomes rough and brittle.

6. Sodium Chloride

Sodium Chloride is used as a thickening agent, emulsifier, or stabilizer and is found in most commercial shampoos.

There is a graph known as the salt curve in the cosmetic industry. The more the quantity of salt in a product, the higher its viscosity will be.

Just like excess salt can cause health problems for cooking purposes, the same is true with hair care products. It is known to cause irritation to both the skin and the eyes. 

Even though it does not directly cause hair loss, it can make your scalp dry and itchy.

This can lead to loss of hair. However, you will get clean hair without any topical damage when you opt for a sodium-free shampoo.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Makes the scalp dry and itchy.
  • Causes irritation to eyes and skin.
  • Might also lead to hair loss.

7. Silicones

Even though silicone offers a long list of upsides to its users, some downside is associated with silicone hair products.

Silicones create a seal that keeps the hair hydrated from the inside. But, due to this layer, other nourishing ingredients are blocked from penetrating into the hair follicles.

With time, silicone might also build up on the hair, and as a result, the hair will get a dull and dry appearance. In addition to this, the hair can also become weak and might break more than usual.

Reason to Avoid:

  • Prevents the penetration of nourishing ingredients into the hair follicle.
  • Hair might become dull and dry.
  • Leads to more breakage of hair.
Bad Shampoo Ingredients

8. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

If you don’t want the thinning of your hair, then DEA and TEA are the two main ingredients to avoid in your shampoo.

They are put in shampoos and conditioners to provide them with a silky texture, but they are also used as pH adjusters.

As a result, the acidity of other ingredients is counteracted, and the natural oils of the hair are stripped away. This might also lead to dry, flaky, and itchy skin.

In 1998, the research concluded that the topical application of DEA can lead to cancer in animals, but the effects of this ingredient on humans are still unknown.

However, the European Commission has still banned DEA in cosmetic products.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Strips away the natural oils of the hair.
  • Leads to dry and itchy skin.
  • Makes the skin flaky.

9. Dimethicone

A type of synthetic silicone, dimethicone, is used to cause hair loss among the users.

Furthermore, this ingredient does not biodegrade easily and, as a result, becomes hazardous to the environment. 

Therefore, it is in our shampoo ingredients to avoid at all costs. To do this, check for the ingredients on the label.

If there is dimethicone, Amodimethicone, or Cyclopentasiloxane written on the list, then the shampoo is not suitable to use.

There are a variety of natural shampoos out there that do not have dimethicone in them.

Natural substances are used in their creation, ensuring that they won’t do any damage to your hair.

Instead, they nourish it, and therefore, we recommend them, hands down.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes allergic reaction.
  • Leads to burning or stinging.
  • Might have trouble breathing.

10. Triclosan

Triclosan is another hidden ingredient found in shampoos and conditioners. It was originally introduced as a pesticide due to its antibacterial properties.

However, people started using it in soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and toothpaste too.

The side effect of using triclosan-included shampoos is that it interferes with the normal functionality of the hormones.

Not only this, but it also stops hair growth by preventing the ability of the testosterone to bind to receptors found on the hair follicles.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • A known skin irritant.
  • Linked to endocrine disruption and liver cancer.
  • Prevents hair growth.

11. Artificial Fragrance

The hair care brands sometimes do not reveal the exact ingredients they use in their shampoos and instead put them under the category of fragrances or perfume.

This artificial fragrance is not made of natural fruits and flowers, hence it is a bad shampoo ingredient. Toxic chemicals are used in their production, and this poses a risk to human health.

Synthetic fragrance is known to cause hair thinning and other issues related to hair. What’s more, it might also lead to cancer, asthma attacks, or reproductive issues.

This means that shampoos with artificial fragrances will cause more trouble than good.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes hair thinning.
  • Leads to cancer and asthma.
  • Might result in reproductive issues.

12. Synthetic Colors

There are artificial colors in the majority of the shampoos and conditioners so that they look appealing to people.

However, we fail to understand that these colors are made using coal-tar sources or petroleum that possesses harmful side effects.

Some of the sources are even known to cause several diseases, including cancer. For this reason, they are declared illegal too.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Cause a number of diseases.
  • Linked to cancer.
  • Cause asthma

13. Cocamidopropyl Betaine

It is an additive found in shampoos that increases the risk of inflammation in the human body.

This means that you could be putting this ingredient on your head every other day without knowing it.

Apart from being present in shampoos, the human body naturally produces Cocamidopropyl Betaine when it processes natural oil.

This substance may cause irritation of the scalp if consumed in excess. Moreover, the hair might fall out more quickly than before.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Leads to scalp irritation.
  • More hair fall than ever.
  • Causes skin discomfort.

14. Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl Palmitate is the ester of retinol and is found in some of the shampoos out there. As a result, it is retinoid, one of the essential vitamins for the skin.

However, when the ingredient comes in contact with the skin, it is converted into retinol.

Retinol is a known skin irritant that causes redness, peeling, scaling, and itching among users.

Furthermore, according to some research, retinyl palmitate also causes side effects such as cancer, organ toxicity, and reproductive problems.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Causes redness and itching.
  • Might lead to cancer and reproductive problems.
  • Leads to flaking of the skin.

15. Potassium Sorbate

Potassium Sorbate is a chemical that can cause thinning of hair if left too long on the scalp.

That’s because it is capable of stripping the hair follicles from the protein, and as a result, the structure of the hair is weakened.

So, if your shampoo does contain Potassium Sorbate, you should rinse it out of your hair just after three minutes.

In this way, you can avoid experiencing chemical burns on your skin, preserving its sensitivity.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Strips the hair follicles from protein.
  • Causes chemical burns on the skin.
  • Toxic to DNA.


Final Thoughts

These were the top fifteen shampoo ingredients to avoid. Even though they deeply clean the dirt on your scalp, they can also damage your hair and remove the nutrients and moisture that it requires.

Moreover, they can have a major impact on your well-being too. Therefore, you must educate yourself about these bad shampoo ingredients and stay away from them.

Need more information on the toxic ingredients found in your shampoo? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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