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5 Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

If you’re looking for a safer shampoo product, then the list of ingredients to avoid can be pretty long. In this guide, we take a look at 5 ingredients you might want to steer clear of when buying a shampoo:

PARABENS

What are they?
Chemicals used as fragrance and preservative ingredients not only in personal care products but also food.

Why are they bad?
They mimic oestrogen and so can act as hormone (endocrine) system disruptors. They've also been associated with biochemical or cellular level changes in the body.

What can you do?
Check product labels for words like Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben and Isopropylparaben. 

SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES

What are they?
Scents comprised of man-made ingredients (synthetic materials). A single fragrance ingredient can contain up to 200 individual undisclosed chemicals!

Why are they bad?
Studies have found that 95% of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are created from materials like petroleum and include toxic chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and allergies. They often also include hormone disruptors.

What can you do?
Be wary of the words “fragrance” and “parfum” on ingredient labels. These words are used by both 'natural' brands and ‘not so natural’ brands but in many natural and organic brands, the fragrance is usually comprised of essential oils instead of chemicals. Look for scents that are plant-based and naturally derived. Choose certified organic products or “fragrance free” products.

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Image source: Canva

SULFATES (SULPHATES)

What are they?
Surfactants (cleansing agents), foaming agents. Found in many diverse personal care products.

Why are they bad?
They are corrosive in nature and can strip our skin’s protective barrier. They're also associated with contact dermatitis and some studies have hinted at a link to hormone disruption and even cancer.

What can you do?
Check labels for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate - there's over 100 different types of sulfate (more commonly spelt sulphate in Australia). 

FORMALDEHYDE (AND FORMALDEHYDE RELEASERS)

What is it?
A colourless gas mixed with water and methanol used as a cosmetic biocide, denaturant and preservative. It's a carcinogenic impurity released by a number of cosmetic preservatives. It’s used to preserve biological specimens and in embalming fluids, dyes, plastics and fertilizers.

Why is it bad?
It's a known human carcinogen and is also associated with allergic reaction and rashes and immunotoxicity.

What can you do?
Buy products labelled ‘no formaldehyde’ and look out for preservative ingredients known to release formaldehyde – 'formaldehyde releasers'. These include BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Quarternium-15, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate and more.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL

What is it?
A small organic alcohol used as a fragrance ingredient, humectant (moisture retaining) and skin conditioning agent.

Why is it bad?
Associated with organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) and irritation of skin, eyes, lungs.

What can you do?
Check labels for 1,2-Dihydroxypropane, 1,2-Propanediol, 2-Hydroxypropanol, Methylethyl Glycol, Propane-1,2-Diol

One of the easiest ways to avoid these and other nasty ingredients in your shampoo is to choose shampoo products made with only natural and organic ingredients. Of course, the gold standard will always be certified organic.