Decoding Shampoo Labels: Ingredients That Could Be Sabotaging Your Hair Growth

hair health

There’s nothing more relaxing than washing your hair. Letting the warm water flow over your body as you get rid of all the grime and freshen up your strands feels amazing, but did you know your favorite wash day products might actually be damaging your hair?

It’s sad but true. Many mainstream beauty brands rely on shortcuts and quick fixes to make your hair feel clean, with ingredients that do more harm than good. Fortunately we’re here to help, with our ultimate guide to the hair-harming ingredients you need to avoid—and the best gentle, hair health promoting products to switch to.

Stay away from silicones

Sometimes listed as dimethicone in the ingredients list, silicone is public enemy number one when it comes to hair thinning and loss. Some experts think that this ingredient can build up on your strands over time, clogging hair follicles. This not only strangles strands, preventing them from accessing the nourishing, oxygen rich blood they need to grow, it may cause hair to shed.

It’s especially worth avoiding silicones if you’re someone with fine strands. The products may build up over time on your strands as well as your scalp, causing hair to get weighed down and take on a greasy, limp appearance.

Steer clear of sulfates

Sodium laurel sulfate, commonly known as SLS, is one of the most commonly used ingredients you’re likely to spot on your shampoo label. Sodium laurel sulfates creates that rich, robust lather that looks so great, and makes you feel like you’re getting a true deep clean.

Unfortunately, experts say that it may also strip your strands and scalp of essential moisture, leaving your hair depleted and dry. Because sulfates help your shampoo remove dirt and oil from your hair, they often do too good of a job, leaving your hair dry and unhealthy, and your scalp prone to irritation. Your hair needs a little natural moisture and oil to look its best.

Picket phthalates

It sounds like a frothy, caffeinated treat, but phthalates in shampoo formulations are actually used as perfume fixatives and solvents. However, dermatologists say that you may be paying a price for smelling so sweet.

These compounds may cause hormone levels within your body to change—which is not only totally creepy, but may be linked to hair loss. Hormonal balance is essential to hair health, but with phthalates on the scene they’re likely to be out of whack. And when your hormones are out of balance, your whole body will be too. Look for products that are free of artificial scents to enjoy the sweet smell of hair health success.

Prevent yourself from using parabens

Brands often include parabens as a preservative to lengthen shelf life, since it’s great at limiting the growth of mold and other nasty things growing in that shampoo bottle before the formulation reaches your scalp. Purity sounds like a good thing, but when parabens are involved it’s not so simple.

When you apply parabens to your hair, experts believe that they can penetrate the skin, causing your scalp to become irritated and leading to hair loss. The American Contact Dermatitis Society has even recommended against the use of parabens, saying they may be unsafe.

Forget formaldehyde

Used in hair relaxing and straightening treatments like a traditional Brazilian blowout, formaldehyde releasing ingredients are also used in many hair products for their smoothing effect, created by protein bonding to the hair shaft and patching damaged areas.

However, experts say that these ingredients can actually cause hair loss, as well as extreme irritation to the hair and scalp. DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15 are two names to look out for, but since a number of ingredients release formaldehyde, it’s best to look for a shampoo and conditioner that are formaldehyde free.

Making the switch to cleaner products

With so many harmful and even dangerous ingredients to worry about, how can you make sure your shampoo is hair health safe? First, read your labels. By law, beauty companies have to list every ingredient that goes into the products they sell, so if you do a little googling and a little close reading, you can learn more about every ingredient—and its potential impact on your hair and overall health.

If that sounds like a lot of work (right there with you!), you can always stick to an expert recommended brand that’s free of all those nasty, potentially harmful ingredients. We love this hydrating shampoo and conditioner from Vegamour, which is not only created without any of the ingredients we listed, but is formulated using essential oils and powerful plant based bioactives.

By using more naturally inspired, responsibly formulated products, you’ll be supporting your hair and overall health, and setting yourself up for success. Here’s to good hair days to come—the cleaner, healthier way!

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