How to Buy a Non-Toxic Hair Shampoo

Chemicals in Personal Care Products

Beautiful woman preferring chemical-free shampoos

The cosmetics industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in personal care products. Most of these chemicals are not adequately tested before a product reaches store shelves. 

While most consumers assume that the products they use on a daily basis are safe, these products may hide toxic substances linked to serious health problems. Hazardous chemicals, regardless of the concentration in personal products may cause allergies, skin irritation, hormonal imbalance, or contribute to the development of cancer in people. Some chemicals may pose health risks even when they are present at low concentrations in a personal care product. This is possible because repeated and chronic exposure to those chemicals has cumulative negative effects on the user’s health.

Harmful chemicals in personal hair care products are usually absorbed through the skin or inhaled during or after hair treatments and styling. When it comes to personal care products, special attention should be paid to products that come in direct contact with your skin on a daily basis. Choosing cosmetic products that are labeled as organic or natural can significantly reduce the risks of exposure to harmful chemicals.

Commercial hair shampoos frequently contain harsh cleansers and other toxic and irritating compounds. When those toxic chemicals have been rinsed out, they end up in the groundwater and soil, generating a potential environmental hazard.

How to Know if a Shampoo is Safe for Personal Use?

The average consumer doesn’t care about the ingredient list when purchasing a hair shampoo? Reading product labels can also be confusing because the ingredients are usually listed as chemical compounds. An average user is not informed about the possible side effects of chemicals used in commercial shampoo formulas. However, this should not deter you from reading the labels before making a purchase. There are some easy ways to obtain information about all the ingredients in a cosmetic product before buying it. This way you can reduce the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in your hair shampoo.

The Environmental Working Group runs a Skin Deep Database which analyses personal care products to give consumers complete information about the ingredients in a particular product. They also rate the overall safety of these products.  Obtaining the information you need to make a decision is quite simple.

You need to visit the EWG Skin Deep environmental group’s website and type in the search bar the name of the product that you currently use or plan to buy. When you type the name of your shampoo, you will get a hazard score based on the ingredients the product contains. Each ingredient can be classified as a low, medium, or high health concern.

There are ten possible outcomes, ranging from one to ten (with 10 being the worst score possible). The following is a general guide to interpreting the results:

  • The most toxic products appear in red (7-10) and you should stay away from them because they contain the most dangerous ingredients.
  • Orange colored products (3-6) include ingredients with a moderate toxicity level
  • Green colored products or simply “green” products (1-2) contain only non-toxic ingredients.

In some cases, searching on the website using the product name may not return any result because the EWG database doesn’t contain information about each product available on the market. Certain products may be sold under different brand names. However, it is possible to bypass the problem by refining your search parameters; try the search using the company name, brand or anything related to the product. A list of products associated with a chosen company will be displayed and by taking a look at the various ratings of their products, you can get a general impression about the company and their products. This is a great way to find out if a particular company cares about their customers’ well-being and about the environment. If your current shampoo manufacturer prefers using toxic chemicals, you should consider a different brand.

If you do not get any result by searching for the product, brand name, company, or anything at all, you can analyze each ingredient in the formula. It may seem like a time-consuming task, but it actually isn’t because you do not have to go through the entire ingredient list. When you see the first two “red” or “orange” scores you will be able to find out if the product meets your criteria for safety.

According to online reviews, there are a few products that have an ingredient list that is not compatible with the score they have on the EWG website. Certain products that are rated “1” still contain highly toxic ingredients. This usually occurs when the product rating is based on insufficient data. In most cases, you will be able to notice the lack of rated ingredients as soon as you click on the product name. In such cases, you need to check each ingredient on the label to make sure that the shampoo is free of toxic chemicals.

A helpful tip is that many of the ingredients can be classified into easily recognizable groups such as:

  • The PEG-s which are orange in color and should be avoided at all costs
  • The parabens, which are orange or red in color and are easy to spot because each of them contains paraben suffix in its name.

You can also get valuable information about personal care product safety by visiting the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Cosmetics Info websites.

After several product analyses, you will learn about the toxicity level of certain commonly used ingredients and you will not have to check them up again. You will only need to check those ingredients you are not familiar with.

Chemicals in Commercial Hair Shampoos You Should Avoid

“Fragrances” are the biggest respiratory irritants and cancer-causing chemicals. They have also have been shown to affect the central nervous system. This highly toxic group of chemicals remains unknown to the FDA or consumers and unfortunately, “fragrance” is listed as an ingredient on the labels of most shampoos. The way out is to pick up a fragrance-free shampoo or one that utilizes essential oils from fruits and herbs to create a scent.

The most common “red” chemicals in conventional hair shampoos are Benzyl Salicylate, Butylparaben, Cocamide DEA, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance, Geraniol, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Lilial, Methylisothiazolinone, Propylparaben, and Retinyl Palmitate.

The most common “orange” compounds in commercial hair shampoos are Cocoamidopropyl Betaine, Diazolidinyl Urea, Ethylparaben, Hexyl Cinnamal, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Lecithin, Limonene, Linalool, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylparaben, Octinoxate/Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, PEGs, Phenoxyethanol, Polyquaternium-7, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Sulisobenzone/Benzophenone, and Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E).

Many over the counter dandruff shampoos contain potentially harmful agents like Coal Tar, Selenium Sulfide, Zinc Pyrithione, and Ketoconazole.

Once you start analyzing shampoo labels, the way you buy your everyday items will change. You will always have in mind toxins hidden in your personal care products. The advantage is that you will limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. By using only natural and organic hair products, you will be contributing to your overall health in the long term. The time spent on checking product labels is totally worth it!

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