What is in Your Hair Product — Part Two

Here are five more ingredients that should give you pause when next you go shopping. I do not want to be an alarmist; I just want you to be aware. I remarked to my mother the other day that people are getting cancer left right and center and there is seemingly no cause for this, even persons who are supposedly eating right and exercising. Is there some part of the equation that we are missing?

I am quite sure that many of the things we place on our bodies and in our hair, we are quietly confident nothing could be wrong with because everybody is using it and nothing seems to be going wrong. However, our bodies are very resilient and it takes years of toxicity and chemicals to break it down. Be mindful that’s all I am asking.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (Sls) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (Sles) – These ingredients are commonly found in shampoos and foaming hair products. They are used industrially as detergents, car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers. They are used in hair products and personal care products because they are cheap. A small amount generates a large amount of foam, and when salt is added to these substances they thicken to give the illusion of being thick and concentrated.
I laughed the other day when a certain product that I used to use said that they offered 50% more of the product for the same price. With my knowledge of how products worked, I just had to glance on the ingredients list to confirm what I knew would be there: sodium lauryl sulphate (it was the number two ingredient on the list).
I figured that they just added a bit more to make it thicker.Research has shown that SLS when combined with other chemicals can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens, which causes the body to absorb nitrates at higher rates than would occur from eating nitrate contaminated food. According to the American College of Toxicity report, “SLS stays in the body for up to five days…” Other studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. Shampooing the hair with a product contaminated with these substances can lead to its absorption into the body at levels much higher than eating nitrite-contaminated foods.

Parabens- Curiousity drove me to research this one because I see parabens everywhere I look on hair product labels, skin care labels, underarm deodorants, toothpaste…everywhere there is a processed and package skin or hair care product there is a paraben. What I found out is quite alarming , parabens are preservatives added to products to make them last longer on the shelves. Recent studies have shown that parabens are suspected estrogen mimickers and they are linked to breast cancer concerns. The problem with parabens is that they are easily absorbed by the skin and hence cause a whole heap of problems when it lodges in our system. Hair products that contain parabens and sit on the hair for long, like leave-in conditioners are now a cause for concern.

FD & C Color Pigments- I remember hearing a health lecture when I was much younger and quite naïve about color pigments and how harmful they were. Those were the days when we would guzzle down colored drinks that come in the little sachets, the brighter the color the happier we were. We had no idea that many color pigments cause skin sensitivity and irritation and that the absorption of certain colors can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and even death. According to  Debra Lynn Dadd  in Home Safe Home: “Colors that can be used in foods, drug, and cosmetics are made from coal tar. There is a great deal of controversy about their use, because animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.”

Fragrance- Who doesn’t want to smell nice? I mean some of natures healthiest concoctions are not scented as we would want them, so we have to help it along with delicious scents right? Many of the compounds in fragrance are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic and most of these compounds that are labelled as fragrance are synthetic. The FDA has a list of symptoms that persons have suffered with after using products with fragrances, the symptoms include headaches, dizziness, rashes allergic skin irritation and vomiting. To top things off,  several medical doctors have reported that exposure to fragrances can negatively affect the central nervous system. The best alternative to these synthetic fragrances is to use a natural essential oil like lavender or rose oil or to use unscented products. Here’s a list of oils including fragrant oils.

Formaldehyde- I first met this word in my Anatomy and Physiology class while  in university. One of our labs was actually at a funeral home, where we had to gain first hand experience with the names of various parts of the internal system. This took the form of dissecting dead bodies.
The morgue was unbearable at the time with this heavy smell that stung the eyes, burnt the throat and made me feel as though I could hardly breathe. That smell was caused by the constant release of formaldehyde into the room through a vent.
Formaldehyde is a sort of preserver for the dead. Nearly all brands of skin, body and hair care, antiperspirants and nail polish found in stores contain formaldehyde-releasing ingredients. They have various names like imidazolidinyl urea and dm hydantoin.
According to the Mayo clinic, formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and trigger heart palpitations. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, dizziness and loss of sleep. It can also aggravate coughs and colds and trigger asthma. Serious side effects include weakening of the immune system and cancer.

These are just five more of these dangerous ingredients that are found in hair care products. There are over 1500 of these substances that are banned in Europe, interestingly, a very low number is banned in the US and up to the writing of this article there are no known bans in China. Hence, be careful where you get your products from and be mindful what you put in your hair. Remember that natural is better.



Rapp, Doris J. “Is This Your Child’s World?: How You Can Fix the Schools and Homes That Are Making Your Children Sick,” Bantam, 1997

Winter, Ruth., “A consumer’s dictionary of cosmetic ingredients,” Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1994