You use hair care and styling products every day — but do you even know what’s actually in them? Take a look inside your bathroom cabinets and drawers. Chances are, you have a collection of hair products that are synthetically derived and filled with substances that can potentially harm your hair. That’s because most country are not aggressive when it comes to banning harmful chemicals in hair products: This makes it especially important consumers to be aware of what ingredients are in their products.

Are Hair Products Toxic?
Most hair products are loaded with toxic chemicals that give your hair instant gratification. They help give us clean, shiny, bouncy and smooth locks, which often makes us settle for them. However, these short-term benefits come along with long-term ill effects – ranging from cancer to hormone imbalance.

Here is a list of ingredients in your shampoos and conditions that can turn out to be harmful in the long run.

1. Mineral oil
With its smoothing properties, mineral oil performs well as a detangler or hair conditioner. But mineral oil contains significant levels of PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons), potentially linking it to nonmelanoma skin cancer. Because cancer usually means some sort of dysregulated immune signaling — and immune signaling is crucial in a healthy cycling follicle — even a small amount of this ingredient could be harmful to hair cells.

2. Sodium Chloride
Sodium chloride is another name for salt. Sodium chloride in shampoo and conditioner is mainly there to make the consistency thicker. Salt can make an already-sensitive scalp dry and itchy, which can eventually cause hair loss

3. PVP/ VA copolymer
PVP/VA copolymer is the ingredient found in most hair care products that provides the “hold factor.” (Think: hairsprays.) It is another toxic chemical derived from petroleum that’s known to cause irritation to the scalp, as well as respiratory issues in some people.

4. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate
Known as “sulfates,” these ingredients are used as cleansing or foaming agents in hair products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t officially deemed sulfates “harmful,” but they can be drying to the scalp and strip hair from its natural moisture. Certain concentrations have been found to cause moderate irritation, especially in those with sensitive skin or skin conditions.

Why ShouLd You Throw Away Products Containing Sulphates And Parabens?

5. Polyethylene glycol
Polyethylene glycol (PEGs) are included in many hair care products as a thickening agent; however they tend to strip the hair of its natural moisture. Users then need to add silicone to make the hair feel soft again. According to a report by the International Journal of Toxicology by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, carcinogenic (cancer-causing) ingredients were found in various PEG compounds, some of which have also been classified as a “developmental toxicant” (meaning they may interfere with human development).

6. Benzene
Benzene is another immune-signaling disrupter commonly found in hair dyes. According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is known to cause cancers, including leukemia. Studies have shown there’s a strong link between benzene, immune system toxicity, leukemia, and other cancers of the blood cells. Research also supports that an expectant mother’s exposure to benzene may cause developmental damage to the fetus. Despite these risks, benzene is still one of the 20 most common chemicals in the US, which is why it’s so important to read the list of ingredients on every hair product bottle.

7. Phthalates
Though this group of chemicals is often sneakily disguised as “fragrance,” phthalates are used in a number of hair products. They help reduce stiffness in products like hairsprays, allowing them to form a flexible film. But studies have found that phthalates interfere with our endocrine hormones, which is bad news for our hair. The hair growth cycle is sensitive to changes in our endocrine hormones like estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, testosterone, insulin, and thyroid hormones.

8. Parabens
Similar to phthalates, parabens are also endocrine disruptors. Used to prolong the shelf-life of hair products, they can appear on ingredients lists as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, etc. Parabens are easily absorbed by the human body when applied to the skin or scalp, which puts your endocrine system — and the health of your hair — at immediate risk.

9. Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and, like parabens, it’s been proven to be absorbed through the skin in animal testing. Manufacturers often add it to hair products, such as shampoo, or Brazilian/keratin blowout treatments to work as a preservative.

10. Synthetic colors and dyes
Many hair dyes and other hair products use an abundance of synthetic colors and dyes. These toxins and chemicals can harm the hair cuticle, leaving it susceptible to oxidative damage. Many artificial colors and dyes are also made of coal tar, which may contain heavy metal salts like arsenic and lead that can deposit toxicity onto the scalp.

11. Coal Tar
Coal tar-derived dyes are used to give artificial colour to cosmetics, including hair dyes. These petroleum-derived colours can contain a variety of other chemicals and metals like aluminum substrate, which have been linked to cancer and brain damage. Due to the high potential for irritation, most coal tar dyes are banned and cannot be used in cosmetic formulations in Canada. But if you are shopping for hair dye online from a non-Canadian company, be sure to check the ingredients list before checking out.

Also-known-as: P-phenylenediamine, C.I. (followed by a five digit number), FD&C or D&C (followed by a colour name and number)

12. Sodium hydroxide
Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is used in hair products — especially ones that serve as straightening treatments — to adjust pH, or the acidity. But NaOH can actually damage your hair when used at high concentrations and at high pH.

13. Alcohol
Alcohol is added to hair products to help hair retain moisture; however, many alcohols have a drying effect that can damage delicate strands — and the higher up that “alcohol” appears in the ingredient list, the more of it the product contains. Tip: The alcohols that wreak havoc on dry hair usually have a “prop” in their name, like Isopropyl alcohol or propanol.

14. Diethanolamine
Diethanolamine (DEA) is also a foam agent that reduces surface tension so water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can blend together. About 20 years ago, researchers found a link between the topical application of DEA and cancer in animals (however, the effects on humans are unclear). Although DEA can still be used in American hair care products, European Commission actually banned DEA in cosmetics.

15. Triclosan
Triclosan is added to many haircare products to prevent bacterial contamination, but it’s a skin irritant and suspected carcinogen. Even in the United States, the antibacterial agent triclosan is banned from being used in antibacterial soaps; however, it is still allowed in shampoos. This ingredient is known to cause hormone disruptions, which can lead to cancer and affect fetal development.

16. Silicones
Many people have a love/hate relationship with the use of silicones in their beauty products. When used in conditioners and styling products, silicones act like a protective seal by coating the strands and leave your hair with a glossy, smooth finish. Silicones are emollient slip agents that are great for locking in moisture and giving the hair an instantaneous (but artificial) silky, shine. Silicones will weigh your hair down, and since it adds an exterior seal to our hair cuticles, it prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft which will end up drying out your hair overtime. However, if you are looking for a longer term solution to nourish your dry, damaged hair, then using a conditioner, hair mask or serum that contains cold-pressed, plant-derived oils will give you healthier, luscious locks over time. Oils that are great for using in your hair include Coconut Oil, moroccan argan oil, and marula oil. Look for hair products that have these plant oils higher up on the ingredients list and avoid ones that contain primarily silicones if you want more than just an instant fix.

Know more about harms of silicones and its different types

Common silicones: Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone,, Phenyl trimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane.

17. Dimethicone
Dimethicone is a type of silicone that is used in an array of hair products. Since dimethicone acts as a protecting cover on the surface of the hair, it contributes to product buildup and can actually prevent moisture and nutrients from coming in. Instead, it collects dirt and residue, clogs the pores on the scalp and causes skin irritation.

18. Toluene
Toluene [9] is a petrochemical solvent used in most hair dyes. They can hamper your immune system and may even cause birth defects.

Please stay away from hair dyes if you are an expectant mom. Toluene can have a detrimental effect on your central nervous system. Toluene is often labelled as benzene, phenylmethane, toluol and methylbenzene.

19. Resorcinol
Resorcinol [10], a common ingredient in hair dyes and bleaching agents, is linked to skin irritation. It can also cause functional disabilities of the immune system. In animals, it causes thyroid function disruption.

20. Selenium sulfide
Selenium sulfide [11] is a proven carcinogen (cancer causing compound). Lab tests on mice showed the development of tumors due to selenium sulfide. Read the ingredients of your anti-dandruff shampoos to stay away from selenium sulfide.

21. Retinyl palmitate
Retinyl palmitate [8] is the ester of retinol and palmitic acid. This ingredient can cause skin itching, redness, scaling and peeling. It may also cause cancer, reproductive problems and toxicity to organs.

Wrapping up-
Choose a sulphate free formula with mild surfactants. Try to only use hair products that are made with natural, non-toxic ingredients, such as shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or argan oil. Our regulatory bodies are not very strict when it comes to the ever evolving beauty industry so Make sure you buy from brands that disclose their full list of ingredients on the labels.

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