9 Dangerous Ingredients To Avoid In Your Hair Products

Everyday we get into the shower to wash our bodies and hair. When we wash our hair with shampoos and conditioners the goal is to remove the dirt and oil leaving our hair healthy and clean. However, this may come at a very significant cost due to some harmful chemicals in living in your products. 

Similarly, the different hair care products we like to use that make sure our hair looks exactly how we want it look can also produce negative side effects and impact our natural hair. These negative effects are caused by harmful ingredients where the ingredients could ultimately cause dry hair, hair thinning or even worse permanent hair loss

Below we will provide you with facts on several different harmful chemicals that present a danger for your precious hair and potentially other health risks. After reviewing this page you will be trained to identify the *right* products that are safer for your hair.

Contact Dermatitis

For those with skin allergies, harmful or toxic chemical ingredients in regularly used beauty products can cause reactions in the form of a rash on your skin known as contact dermatitis. This is a common condition that impacts people with sensitive skin. These rashes can form anywhere on your body and even on your scalp from use of shampoos and conditioners having known skin irritants. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itchiness, swollen or dry-cracked skin.

Bad Hair Ingredients You Should Be Aware Of


What Is It? 

DMDM Hydantoin is an antimicrobial agent used as a preservative to keep products from spoiling. This chemical allows your products to stay fresh for a very long time by preventing the growth of bacteria, yeast, and fungi.

Common names for hydantoin are Glydant, Dantoin DMDMH, and Mackstat DM.

Risks and Side Effects

This toxic chemical can cause contact dermatitis stemming from hydantoin releasing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde classifies as a carcinogen and can cause eczema or even cancer. 

There have been claims of hair loss, skin irritation, and other allergic reactions caused by the chemical hydantoin although minimal research exists. There is an ongoing class action lawsuit against shampoo companies claiming these harmful effects.  

Found In: Shampoos and Conditioners, Hair Styling Products, Moisturizers, Facial Cleansers, Exfoliants, and Scrubs


What Is It? 

Dimethicone is known as the smoothing silicone that provides the products you use a luxurious, silky, and flush feel. However, the main reason this chemical is in your hair products is because dimethicone has detangling and smoothing effects. This known irritant is especially prevalent in products designed to handle naturally curly hair. Dimethicone coats your hair strands and weighs them down making detangling hair easy.  

Names for dimethicone include silicone oil, dimethyl polysiloxane, and polydimethylsiloxane.

Risks and Side Effects

Over time, this harmful ingredient builds up on your hair shaft. This build up then disrupts the moisture balance of your hair leaving you with dry and brittle hair. Finally, if your hair is more dry and brittle then you are prone to additional breakage causing excessive hair loss.

Found In: Hair Styling Products, Shampoos, Lotions, Serums, Sunscreens, and Lip Balms


What Is It? 

Parabens are another type of antibacterial chemical used to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast in your hair care products. Manufacturers add this ingredient to maximize the shelf life of the product packages. 

The main types of parabens are methyl, ethyl, propyl, isopropyl, butyl, and isobutyl parabens.

Risks and Side Effects

This chemical ingredient has a number of harmful effects on your hair due to it being easily absorbed by your scalp. Parabens can cause dry or irritation of the scalp and fading of hair color. The drying effect of this chemical can exacerbate breakage of hair leading to hair thinning and loss.

Additionally, paraben sensitivity is not uncommon where repeated applications of products with very small concentrations of this chemical can cause contact dermatitis. Allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis can develop into a red itchy rash that may take several weeks to go away.

Found In: Shampoos, Moisturizers, Suntan Products, and Shaving Gels


What Is It? 

One of the main reasons your hair is left feeling clean after a wash using shampoos and conditioners is due to sulfates. Sulfates create a lathering effect, due to foaming agents, to remove dirt and oil from your hair and scalp. Compared to other ingredients, sulfates have the *deepest cleansing effect*. 

The two main types of sulfates you will see in hair products are sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate.

Risks and Side Effects

What sulfates do to your hair or scalp is cause skin irritation. This is due to the strength of the chemical being too strong for the individual. It is also possible for loss of proteins in your skin from exposure to this chemical. Sulfates are therefore indirectly linked to male or female hair loss as they can cause breakage of hair follicles.

Found In: Shampoos, Facial Cleansers and Toothpaste


What Is It? 

Mainly a solution for hyperpigmentation or “dark spots” of the skin, hydroquinone is used to lighten the darker patches. However, this chemical has been known to make its way into your hair products, namely hair conditioners as a hidden ingredient. 

Types of hydroquinones in your hair products include tocopheryl acetate.

Risks and Side Effects

Based on studies, very small concentrations of this ingredient can be found in hair conditioners. Hydroquinone is known to cause nausea, headaches, vomiting, lung toxicity, and dizziness.

Found In: Conditioners, Facial Creams, and Facial Topical Solutions


What Is It?

Phthalates are chemical agents in cosmetic products that provide gelling action. They also help lubricate and soften other ingredients, increase dispersion, and increase absorption of the product in your hair. 

Some common types of phthalates are dibutyl, dimethyl, diethyl, and benzyl-butyl phthalates.

Risks and Side Effects

There are a number of harmful effects of using phthalates. Some common issues are reproductive problems in men and women, lower testosterone, behavioral changes, and obesity. Phthalates can also present risk of liver or breast cancer and disruption of natural functionality of the hormone system.

Found In: Shampoos and Conditioners, Hairsprays, and Mousses


What Is It? 

Petrolatum or Petroleum is a highly effective sealant that prevents moisture from entering or leaving your hair. As a hair product the main use of this harmful chemical is to retain moisture where moisture is locked in by leaving a film over your hair strands. However, petrolatums are not responsible for providing any moisture to the hair themselves. Alternatively, if your hair is coated in petroleum then no moisture can enter the follicles and prevent moisturization. 

Other chemicals in the mineral oil family are Paraffin, Liquid Paraffin, Paraffin Wax, and Liquid Petrolatum.

Risks and Side Effects

As this chemical is applied to your hair, your hair will become weighed down by the substances and will experience build up. This will cause the hair follicles to become dormant and stiff. When your hair on your scalp becomes dormant, hair growth stops.

Found In: Conditioners, Sunscreens, Moisturizers, and Lip Balms


What Is It?

PPD is a chemical commonly found in hair dyes where it is prevalent in darker hair shades and other synthetic colors. The beauty industry utilizes this chemical ingredient in hair color to improve results so that color can last longer and provide a natural look after dyeing. 

Alternative names for PPD include PPDA, 1-4 benzenediamine and phenylenediamine base.

Risk and Side Effects

Although PPD is very effective in coloring your hair, this known skin irritant has a reputation for causing contact dermatitis and mild to severe skin irritation. There have also been studies finding that hair loss in the scalp was caused by the use of PPD.

Found In: Hair Dyes and Dark-Colored Cosmetics


What Is It?

To block UV rays from the sun and cause damage to our hair, benzophenone is used as a UV filter. The absorbing properties of this chemical make it effective in blocking out UVA and UVB rays. In addition to blocking sun UV rays, benzophenone is also great at preventing other ingredients from being degraded by the sun. 

A common type of benzophenone is ethyl-hexyl methoxycinnamate.

Risk and Side Effects

Some negative effects of using products having this chemical ingredient are itching, swelling, redness, and enlarged blisters. Furthermore, benzophenone has been tested for allergens in multiple scientific studies.

Found In: Shampoos, Hairsprays, Facial Cleansers, and Sunscreens

Putting It All Together

To summarize, there are many different chemical ingredients used in your daily hair products that impact hair health. Those same shampoo and conditioners can also cause harmful human health effects. However, knowing which substances are dangerous for your hair will benefit you greatly. After reading the above, you are aware of what harmful ingredients to steer clear of and how they affect you. 

We recommend that the next time you are in the process of purchasing hair products that you carefully examine the FDA labels and printed ingredients. The types of products that we think you should be using are organic products with natural ingredients so that you can protect your hair, skin, and body to the best degree.


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