We all want great hair… including me and I’m a man!
Unlike my wife, it only takes me about mmmm I’d say about 3 minutes flat to spike my hair. ☺ Conversely, like most women she sometimes spends hours a week conditioning, washing, drying, curling… then refining with various other hair products (gels, mousses, hair sprays)—all in an attempt to create that healthy glowing look.
Now here’s the thing. Most of us would never think to blame our shampoos for being the root
cause of today’s modern health challenges… we use them every day without giving it much thought.
This is all despite the fact that most of us can’t even pronounce the ingredients listed on the back of the bottle. Since we’re applying them topically, how much harm could they really cause?
But it’s common sense if you think about it. You are literally applying it and scrubbing it into to your head, which is closest to what is, without question, the most important part of your body – your BRAIN.
The evidence-based scientific verdict is in.
There are certain ingredients found in most over-the-counter shampoos that may lead to cancer as well as dementia—and below I’m going to give you the 10 scariest ingredients to look out for so you know exactly what to avoid.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #1: Diethanolamine (DEA)
Is it a coincidence that the first three letters of this chemical are ‘DIE’? Maybe. But this is no laughing matter.
This ingredient is used to help create a greater lather from the shampoo and may not be that harmful by itself, but when mixed with other chemicals, can cause carcinogenic effects.
As it starts to mix with the other ingredients, it becomes a chemical called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which absorbs directly into your skin.
Remember that as you shampoo your hair, the shampoo isn’t just being rubbed into your hair and into the skin on your scalp. As you rinse the hair, it’ll run down the rest of your body, putting all areas of your skin at risk.
And then there’s folks who choose to use their shampoo lather as a body wash. That’s about the worst thing you could do—especially when this toxic ingredient is present.
This ingredient actually hides under a number of different names, so you’ll need to be a bit of a sleuth to figure out if your shampoo in fact contains it.
Avoid any shampoos that contain these imposters of diethanolamine:
• Cocamide (DEA)
• DEA Lauryl Sulfate
• Lauramide DEA
• Linoleamide DEA
• Oleamide DEA
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #2: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Many of you ladies may have already heard that you should avoid sulphates in your shampoo simply for the reason that it can really dry out your hair and leave it feeling brittle and damaged.
Sulphates are a cleaning agent that attracts dirt and oil and may do too good of a job.
Since hair requires natural oils produced by your scalp, the use of sulphate containing shampoos means that your hair can be stripped of its moisture and become rather lackluster.
Those who have naturally curly and frizzy hair… or hair that is dyed frequently should completely avoid sulphates found in shampoos.
New research is showing that sulphates are now being linked to Nitrosamines, which is another carcinogen. When this toxin is present in the body, it can cause the excess retention of nitrates, which would normally be excreted. High levels of nitrates are very unsafe and can have a direct link to cancer formation.
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Scary Shampoo Ingredient #3: Sodium Laureth Sulphate
The risk of this particular chemical is all dependent on the manufacturing process being used to create the shampoo in question. When Sodium Laureth Sulphate gets mixed in with Dioxane, this is when problems begin to occur. A process called ethoxylation occurs and now you have a real carcinogen on your hands.
Dioxane is a compound that the body struggles to properly metabolize and remove from the system as waste material, therefore it resides for lengthy periods of time. This is what then increases your risk for cancer development.
While an acute run-in with Dioxane is not likely to pose much of a threat, it’s when this is being used for weeks, months, and years on a regular basis that concern is warranted.
It’s also important to note that Sodium Laureth Sulphate isn’t just found in shampoo either. You can find it in other personal hygiene products including toothpastes, mouthwashes, body wash, as well as some soaps.
Apart from the carcinogenic effects of this compound, many people often find that it irritates the skin as well. So if you find that you have dry, itchy scalp or possibly even are noticing symptoms of dandruff, this could be irritation due to the Sodium Laureth Sulphate in your shampoo.
Likewise, if your skin is becoming irritated, don’t be too fast to always assume it’s your body wash. While body washes can have this ingredient, if yours doesn’t, it could be the shampoo you are using having the effect.
Interestingly, it’s been documented in research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that women may be more prone to experiencing irritation due to this compound when they are in day 1 through 8 of their menstrual cycle.
You’ll also want to be especially careful about using this compound in children’s hair care products.
Young kids are more vulnerable to this threat and tend to be more reactive to smaller amounts of substance. In some children, Sodium Laureth Sulphate has been linked to eye irritation and poor eye development. It’s worth the effort to make sure you use products that are all-natural and organic whenever possible.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #4: Propylene Glycol
Next up on the hit list of ingredients to be on the lookout for is one of the most popular toxic ingredients, Propylene Glycol.
Believe it or not, this toxin is used to create of all things; anti-freeze, which could obviously kill you if you were to drink it.
Sadly, it’s also being used in many health and beauty care products as well.
You’ll find it in hand sanitizers, moisturizers, conditioners, shampoos, and even baby products.
You’ll also find it in a large number of processed foods, which is yet another reason to avoid processed foods altogether.
Electronic cigarettes also contain this ingredient as it gives them that smooth taste that most people like and you may even find it in your medicine cabinet as some pharmaceutical companies are using it to help with the absorption of the active ingredients in those medicines.
Obviously the dose you are getting from these products is much lower than you’d ever get in anti-freeze, but make no mistake about it… this is a chemical and can be absorbed through the skin. When doses of it get high enough, it can be linked to liver and kidney damage.
When we look at the Environmental Working Group’s4 assessment of this particular compound, it earns a grade of ‘3’, which means it’s right between the low to moderate hazard range. The biggest concerns related to propylene glycol are allergies and immuno-toxicity. It can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, or lungs.
Avoiding this toxic compound should help your skin feel better and it may even help prevent serious toxicity issues with various systems in your body.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #5: Benzalkonium Chloride and Benzethonium Chloride
Next up on the toxic ingredient shampoo list we have two different types of Chlorides, Benzalkonium Chloride and Benzethonium Chloride.
These are chemicals that serve the purpose to act as an antimicrobial and a surfactant in various shampoo products. These chemicals are often referred to as Quats, which have been around for over 70 years. The biggest issue in today’s day and age is that the mass production of these toxins has climbed to dangerous levels and it is becoming nearly impossible to eliminate them from the environment.
On a human scale, they also present some serious issues related to health and disease.
Some side effects to exposure include serious skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Many people also report being allergic to these chemicals, so it could bring on a full blown allergic reaction.
It’s also believed that these chemicals could be linked to the development or worsening of asthma, as well as chronic dermatitis when you are exposed for long enough.
In addition to these toxins being found in shampoo, they’re also found in other common places as well such as antibacterial hand wipes, antiseptic creams, anti itch ointments, rash cream, foot odor powder, facial lotion, facial cleanser, various types of make up and sunscreen.
It’s unfortunate because many of these products you are applying directly to your skin and as you do, they are absorbed and move directly into the blood stream where the potential damage can occur.
Read your labels carefully and make sure to bring your bifocals. Many of these companies intentionally use the smallest font legally possible to deter you from seeing all the man made toxic chemicals found inside their products.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #6: Formaldehyde
If it sounds like a scary name it’s because it is…
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that is used in resins when manufacturing composite wood, building materials, household glues, paints, lacquers, and finishes.
If you’ve ever smelled this poisonous gas, you would instantly cringe. It’s not something you’d ever dream of putting in your body, but you very well may be without even realizing it.
It’s used as a preservative in some medicines, cosmetics, as well as in dishwashing liquids, and yes, it’s also found frequently in many shampoos.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, when the body is exposed to formaldehyde, it can lead to irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.
If exposure levels are high enough for a prolonged period of time, this could be linked to some types of cancers.
To be fair, everyone is exposed to some degree of formaldehyde in day to day life as it’s found in the air we breath every day, but the naturally occurring levels are usually low enough not to warrant a threat to your health.
When we are applying it right to our skin however, the game changes.
It doesn’t break down as quickly and instead, is absorbed directly into the body which can be significantly more harmful than the amounts we breathe in through the air.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has noted that nasal and eye irritation, neurological effects, and increased risk of asthma and allergy has been observed in humans breathing harmful amounts.
Eczema and changes in lung function have been observed, as well as gastrointestinal ulcers, liver and kidney damage when orally exposed to excessive amounts of this toxin.
In 2011, this agency determined that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen based on sufficient human and animal inhalation studies.
The research shows it’s a powerful compound that you should be avoiding at all costs.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #7: Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB)
This particular compound is ranked much closer to a moderate risk than low risk on the EWG’s Skin Deep database and is noted for having the potential to cause allergies and immuno-toxicity.
This is a surfactant, which by definition is a substance that tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved.
CAPB may cause allergic contact dermatitis either due to the actual compound itself or because of the impurities present within it.
It’s primarily used as an antistatic agent, in hair conditioners as well as many shampoos, in skin conditioners and creams, as a foam booster in cleaning agents, and as a viscosity increasing agent.
The EWG Skin Deep reference guide claims there is sufficient data available on this particular compound so the reasons for its health threat is quite reliable.
Research has also shown it can cause organ toxicity.
Another study published in the Dermatitis Journal noted that the use of this compound in cosmetics and personal hygiene products has been on the rise, increasing exposure and risk.
CAPB was also named Allergen of the year in 2004. It’s another one on the toxic shampoo ingredient list to avoid.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #8: Methylchloroisothiazolinone
It might be impossible to pronounce, but methylchloroisothiazolinone is another threat to look out for.
On the EWG’s Skin Deep database9, it’s ranked even higher than CAPB in terms of its risk factor. It also has been a concern that it may be linked to cancer so not something to take lightly.
Other known negative side-effects from this toxin are allergies and immuno-toxicity, irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #9: Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
Another major chemical you need to be aware of that should immediately be banned from your home is methylisothiazolinone, otherwise known as MIT for short.
This is a powerful biocide that is designed to help control or kill harmful microorganisms and also works as a preservative in many shampoos and body care products.
Pregnant women should be especially mindful about this particular compound as it may put their developing baby at risk for abnormal brain development.
In addition to that, if you are exposed, it may put you at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease along with other disorders of the nervous system.
It causes these harmful effects by reducing the speed of the networking neurons so your body is essentially not as effective with translating information from the brain to the body tissues.
Lab tests show that being exposed to this toxin for only 10 minutes can elicit a damaging effect.
This compound is very dangerous to your overall health, and it’s one that the FDA still allows in shampoos so please be cautious.
The EWG’s Skin Deep database lists this particular chemical as a moderate to high risk and notes that it’s a known irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs, and may also be linked with ecotoxicology and neurotoxicity.
Manufacturers of most shampoos claim that because the total volume of this chemical in their products is so low, it’s not something to be of concern…
However, do you really think they have your best interests in mind?
You be the judge.
Scary Shampoo Ingredient #10: Fragrance
Typically, when we open up a bottle of shampoo we are greeted with a fresh scent that is appealing, but in reality this pleasant smell is really a warning sign.
The fragrances used in shampoos may contain thousands of chemicals, some of which are phthalates and may be linked to conditions such as attention-deficit disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, reduced IQ levels, neurodevelopmental issues, behavior issues, autism spectrum disorders, as well as altered reproductive issues in both men and women.
And many people also show skin sensitivities or even allergies to fragrances as well, which also presents a problem with ongoing use.
Many of the fragrances used in shampoos and other beauty products are endocrine disruptors and can alter the natural hormonal state you’re in, triggering weight gain and other diseases if exposure is continual and constant.
Remember, it’s not necessarily the minimal exposure you have to one of these compounds that can potentially cause the damage.
It’s the cumulative load over time of being exposed to several of them at once that can really do the damage.
The bad news is that you’ll have to spend a little time analyzing labels to avoid these compounds… it’s just not worth the risk.
The good news is that in today’s world you have dozens of all-natural and organic alternatives to use instead. Yes, they typically cost more, but you can’t put a price tag on your health and longevity!
I view it as an investment to spend the extra money to protect my wife and two little girls from this toxic burden.
Have a good look in your bathroom and see just how many products you’re using with these potential hazardous chemicals inside them and I think you’ll be surprised.
Many of them tout to be “all-natural” when in reality it’s just a labeling loophole tricking you into using their shampoo.
You may feel like it’s not worth going out of your way to avoid these dangerous shampoo ingredients because it’s “no big deal”, but over time, it does add up.
Here’s to your long term health and longevity.