The Truth about Chemicals
in Hair Products
Why it's important to use natural hair products
September 27, 2013
By Sonya Shepard
Is Gluten Free Healthier?
Your scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of your body. It is basically a sponge that will soak up anything and everything you put onto it. Yet many of us use hairspray packed with toxins and colour our hair with strong chemicals without thinking twice about it.

There is a large disconnect between the importance of looking after our hair and subsequently looking after our health. There is very minimal awareness about the negative effect that mainstream hair products are having on our health.

Shampoos Contain Many Toxic Ingredients

The main ingredients in our shampoos consist of detergents, water, surfactants and alcohol. Surfactants, better known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), help to trap oil and the dirt stuck to it so that water can easily rinse it all out of our hair to make it "clean". However this process strips our hair of its natural oils and can cause rashes.

Sometimes the surfactants are ethoxylated (process to soften the harshness of the chemical) and it produces a carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane, which is not required to be listed on labels by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA regulates cosmetic safety under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Their definition of cosmetics includes any product made to use on the human body. We all know that carcinogens are cancer causing and yet if they are not legally required by the regulating authority to be listed on the products how on earth are we supposed to avoid them?! By switching to certified organic and natural shampoos.

Another reason to switch from mainstream shampoos are preservatives such as DMDM hydrantoin and methylparaben, fragrances and additives such as lauramide DEA or cocamide DEA and MEA. These dangerous ingredients are soaked up by our spongy scalps and can potentially disturb thyroid and oestrogen levels and interfere with hormone and neurological functions.

It is important to note that when adjusting to using organic and safe shampoo, it will not lather up like chemical filled shampoos. Natural shampoos don't lather the same way because they don't contain foam boosters and harsh detergents. It may take a while to get used to less suds but rest assured your hair is still clean and your hair will feel smoother and look shinier within days. Natural shampoo can also help to relieve psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and dandruff.

Conditioners Are Loaded with Hair-Coating Chemicals

The majority of conditioners include humectants, artificial fragrances, preservatives and silicones. Many mainstream brands like to market their conditioners as "repairing" and "filled with vitamin E and protein" when the truth is they will make no difference to your hair. Conditioners are formulated to coat the hair whether it rinses off or is a leave in conditioner. Therefore the chemicals in conditioner stay with you all day and night, seeping into your body through your scalp, rubbing on your skin and clothes and pillow.

The most effective way to improve the shine and health of your hair is to take care of yourself, eat omega-3 and vitamin rich foods and avoid excessive amounts of heat on your hair such as hairdryers, straighteners and curling irons. The main purpose for conditioner is to maintain a pH level between 2.5 and 3.5 because it gives hair a smoother appearance. The best conditioner alternatives would be to use apple cider vinegar, which has a pH level of 3 or a natural and organic conditioner.

Hair Styling Sprays and Gels Can Leak Into Your Skin

Similarly to conditioner, hair styling products are formulated specifically to leave in and therefore can easily leak into our skin or even possibly inhaled on application. Hairspray is highly flammable, fatal if inhaled and contains many toxic carcinogens which can disturb endocrine functions and potentially cause birth defects.

Hair gels are packed full of alcohol, chemicals, toxins and carcinogens, which completely contaminate your hair and dry it out. The best natural options to style your hair would be organic aloe vera-based or natural oil-based products such as MiEssence Shape Hair Styling Gel, Emma Certified Organic Hair Styling Gel or Mukti Stylin' Hair Wax.

69% of Hair Dyes are Carcinogenic

The US Environmental Protection Agency claims that 69% of hair dyes contain cancer-causing ingredients. There have been many studies conducted about the link between hair dyes leading to different types of cancers, particularly those who dye their hair dark brown or black. The most recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that hair dyes are "carcinogenic to humans" and may increase the risk of developing cancer over time.

Most hair dyes contain lead, phenylenediamine, aminophenol, ethanolamine, hydroquinone and 2,4-diaminophenoxyethanol, which can all lead to serious impacts on the central nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, dermatitis and reproductive challenges.

For some natural hair rinses, check out this article: 3 Natural Treatments for Dyed Hair.

You Are What You Put on Your Skin

If you think there is any truth to "you are what you eat" then you should be equally as alarmed about the damage of your cells from the harsh chemicals in toxic hair products being absorbed into your scalp and into your bloodstream!

Our hair is made up of keratin cells, which are predominately nourished by our blood vessels. Each follicle on a person's head can only grow about 20 hairs in a person's lifetime. Separate sebum glands running along the hair follicle provide shine and protection to the new cuticle cells of the hair. It is vitally important to nourish our hair follicles by using natural and organic hair care products and by eating sufficient amounts of good proteins and essential fatty acids.

For more specific information on the potential health effects of using chemical-filled cosmetics, visit

Sonya Shepard is a makeup artist and the founder and owner of Naturally Safe Cosmetics, an online retail shop selling natural, organic, herbal cosmetics, makeup, and hair, body and skincare products.

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- The green beauty guide: your essential resource to organic and natural skin care, hair care, makeup, and fragrances – Julie Gabriel
"If you think there is any truth to "you are what you eat" then you should be equally as alarmed about the damage of your cells from the harsh chemicals in toxic hair products."