3 Dangerous Ingredients to Avoid in Hair Care Products

There have been a lot of discussions about the ingredients we should stop eating because of their toxicity. But what about the toxic ingredients found in hair care products? Have you ever researched the ingredients that make up your favorite shampoos, mousses, or sprays? We bet you have never. 

Most shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, and gels are riddled with ingredients that do more harm than good. While they help you achieve the desired look, they often damage your tresses as well as your health. 

Avoiding these ingredients is important to protect your mane and overall well-being. In this guide, we’ll explore some dangerous ingredients found in the majority of hair care products. 

3 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Hair Care Products

Here’s a quick rundown of three ingredients that are harmful to your hair as well as your health: 

1. Sulfates

Don’t you love the squeaky-clean feeling you get after washing your hair with a foamy shampoo? Sulfates are to be thanked for deep cleaning your hair. 

This ingredient—most commonly sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)—is a staple in many shampoos. Its ability to deep clean the scalp by creating a foamy lather is why it’s found in most shampoos on the market. 

In recent years, however, the use of sulfates has been a subject of controversy. That squeaky clean scalp after shampooing might feel great, but it’s actually a cry for help. These harsh chemicals strip the hair of natural oils, leaving the strands dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. 

Frequent use of shampoos with sulfates also dries the scalp. Long-term use of SLES and SLS also leads to irritation not only of the scalp, but also of the eyes, skin, and lungs. There have also been several rumors that sulfates cause cancer, though there is no scientific evidence. 

2. Formaldehyde

Over 150 hair relaxers contain formaldehyde—yes, it’s the same ingredient that is found in furniture, building materials, and paints. This toxic chemical is used as a preservative to extend the shelf life of hair care products as well as prevent bacterial contamination. 

Exposure to this chemical can result in adverse side effects such as watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes, and skin irritation. 

Formaldehyde—for those who don’t know—is a well-documented carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it as carcinogenic based on substantial evidence that it can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. 

The researchers at Boston University link the long-term use of hair relaxers with an increased risk of uterine cancer. They observed that the risk was high among postmenopausal Black women. Women who used hair relaxers more than two times a year or for over five years had a higher than 50% risk of uterine cancer. 

Thousands of Black women claiming that hair relaxers gave them cancer are exploring legal options. An overwhelmingly large number of Black women have filed chemical hair straightener lawsuits against companies who manufactured and marketed them. Industry giants, namely L’Oreal, Dark & Lovely, Softsheen-Carson, Motions Hair, and African Pride, are named in the lawsuits, notes TorHoerman Law. 

The chemical hair straightener lawsuit alleges that manufacturers failed to warn customers about the risks associated with using their products. The women in their suits seek compensation for the damages incurred due to the use of cancer-causing hair relaxers. 

3. Parabens

A number of hair care products are formulated with parabens, which is an extremely harmful additive. Quite like formaldehyde, it’s used as a preservative to extend the shelf life of products. 

Shampoos aren’t the only ones loaded with parabens. You’ll find them in several hair care products, including conditioners, hair gels, hair sprays, hair mousses, pomades, and oils.

Parabens can cause a number of hair problems. They can irritate your scalp, cause dryness, fade your hair color, and even cause hair loss. 

What’s more concerning is its link to poor reproductive health in women. High levels of parabens have been linked with diminished ovarian reserve. It also decreases the odds of successful pregnancy in women undergoing fertility treatments. 

3 Tips to Avoid Exposure to Dangerous Chemicals in Hair Care Products

Here’s how you can limit exposure to toxic chemicals found in hair care products:

  • Read the ingredients label carefully to see if the product contains parabens, sulfate, or formaldehyde. Steer clear of products that contain SLS, SLES, methylparaben, and propylparaben, or quaternium-15 (formaldehyde-releasing chemical)
  • Use tools like Think Dirty or Clearya. These tools help avoid toxic ingredients by ranking products on a scale of 1 to 10. They also offer cleaner solutions
  • Choose fragrance-free products. Hair care products with fragrance often contain hormone-disrupting parabens and other toxic chemicals

To sum up, several toxic ingredients lurk in hair care products, from sulfates to parabens. The health impact of these chemicals extends beyond short-term side effects like coughing and wheezing. Long-term exposure to these toxins can cause cancer. 

Being vigilant about the ingredients in your hair care products will protect not only your hair health, but also your overall well-being. Reading labels diligently and opting for natural and organic alternatives can effectively minimize your exposure to these dangerous ingredients. 

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