The proud hint “without silicones” is already emblazoned on many shampoo packaging – and the trend is rising. It’s great, thinks many consumers and access. Since it has become known that silicones seal hair and scalp and cause long-term damage, more and more consumers are switching to shampoos without silicones. But what about the many others, mostly chemical additives in our shampoos? Are they all harmless? Not even close. The list of potentially dangerous ingredients is very long. Hormonally effective and carcinogenic substances are not uncommon. In order to know which ingredients you should pay attention to the next time you buy, we introduce you to the most important shampoo NO-GOs.
1. Propylene glycol
Sounds chemical, it is! It is often found in shampoos and other care products. Propylene glycol is extracted from crude oil and is often used in shampoos as a humectant. However, propylene glycol makes the scalp permeable due to its aggressive irritating effect and can thus accumulate in organs and lead to long-term kidney and liver damage.
How you can recognize propylene glycol: 1,2-propanediol, propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate, propylene glycol dicaprate, propylene glycol.
Shampoos and other care products often contain formaldehydes, which can cause many health damages in the body in the long run. Formaldehydes have the ability to combine substances and make them strong and resistant. This special property is often used in cosmetics: Formaldehyde is therefore very often used in nail varnishes or hair smoothing shampoos. Formaldehydes are also used by the industry for preservation purposes and are not only highly irritating to the skin but even carcinogenic. Formaldehyde is used to preserve corpses. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is difficult for the layman to recognize, since innumerable derivatives of formaldehyde exist and it can come with other substances to splits, so that the term “formaldehyde” rather rarely on shampoo or other product packaging to be seen will be.
How you can recognize formaldehydes: Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Sodium HydroxymethylGlycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bromopol).
3. PEGs (polyethylene glycol)
PEGs are particularly inexpensive and versatile surfactants in production. Therefore, they are also widely used in conventional shampoos. From the consumer’s point of view, however, PEGs have fewer advantages: PEGs soften the cell walls and thus promote the penetration of harmful chemical substances into our body. Shampoos containing PEGs can also contain residues of the carcinogenic substance dioxane. Unlike formaldehydes in the INCI list, PEGs are easy to see because they usually have the capital letters PEG and a number in their name, such as PEG-9 or PEG-14 glyceryl oleate. In addition, you should pay attention to the syllable “eth”, as substances with this syllable also belong to this substance group. Did you know that sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) is one of the best known polyethylene glycols? The surfactant is one of the most frequently used detergent substances in shampoos and other care products. But more about that later…
Alternative names for PEGs: Polyglycol, Polysorbate, Copolyol.
Parabens prevent shampoos and other aqueous cosmetics from being attacked by bacteria and moulds and are therefore very often used as preservatives. The danger of this group of substances lies in the fact that it is very similar to the hormone oestrogen and can thus upset our hormonal balance. In women, the consequences of an excess of estrogen range from mood swings and severe depression to uterine and breast cancer. In men, an excess of estrogen promotes feminization (for example, breast development). No nice idea…
5. SLS (sodium laureth/lauryl sulphate)
Now we finally come to the most commonly used surfactant in shampoos: Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate are among the most aggressive surfactants on the market, which severely dry out the scalp and often trigger allergic reactions and scalp itching. Sodium laureth sulfate is another form of sodium lauryl sulfate. It is slightly less irritating than sodium lauryl sulfate, but can cause even greater drying of the scalp. But why are these surfactants still used when it is known that they are so aggressive? Due to their strong degreasing, foam-forming effect and their inexpensive production, they are very popular with many manufacturers and can be found in almost every conventional shampoo or conditioner. These surfactants are synthetic and can even contain residues of dioxane and nitrates, which are suspected of triggering many cancers. Among other things, they are highly controversial because they are said to be jointly responsible for organ damage to the heart, liver, eyes (cataract) and brain. However, there are still no reliable studies on this subject, which is why we would like to point this out without going into it in more detail. Did you know that vegetable surfactants clean at least as well, but are particularly mild? Only the foam formation is lower (which has no effect on the washing power, even if we automatically associate a lot of foam with cleanliness). But we are happy to accept this for our health.
How you can recognize Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, natrii laurilsulfas, Texapon K12.
6. Artificial dyes
Many conventional shampoos contain synthetic dyes, which often have harmful effects on our body. Most dyes are labelled CI (= Color Index) plus a five-digit number at the back of the INCI. Often azo dyes are used, some of which (not all) are suspected of releasing aromatic amines or aniline, which are considered carcinogenic. Dyes are used purely for marketing purposes and manufacturers hope to increase the attractiveness of their products in this way. However, dyes do not contribute to the effect of a shampoo.
7. Synthetic fragrances
Almost all conventional shampoos contain synthetic fragrances to mask the inherent odour of the chemicals used in the shampoo. In many people, however, artificial fragrances trigger strong allergic reactions. The very frequently used musk compounds even have a carcinogenic and mutagenic effect. They accumulate in fatty tissue and can even be detected in breast milk. Often fragrance mixtures are described with a simple term “perfume”, perhaps to distract from their actual often negative effect. A perfume oil found in a shampoo or other cosmetic product, for example, can contain hundreds of different fragrances. Since 2003, 26 fragrances have had to be labelled separately because they have an increased allergenic potential.
To add: Our shampoos also often have the name “perfume”, but unlike many conventional brands this does not mean a chemical fragrance, but a natural mixture of various essential oils.
8. DEA / TEA (diethanolamine / TEA (triethanolamine))
Both ingredients are used as plasticizers in conventional shampoos and are considered highly allergenic substances and are even toxic. They can react with other chemical ingredients of the shampoo to form dangerous nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are among the strongest carcinogenic substances and are also suspected of causing permanent damage to the liver, kidneys and genome.
Silicones make our hair easier to comb, shinier and smoother. Sounds good at first… BUT they form a film on (head-) skin and hair and cannot be washed out (even if some manufacturers like to claim it), because the group of silicones is not water soluble. So not only our hair but also our scalp is sealed more and more with every wash (build-up effect). It can no longer breathe and can no longer excrete harmful substances, which leads to harmful substances being excreted via other skin areas. Skin problems such as impure skin, pimples and in the worst case neurodermatitis can be the consequences.
Incidentally, organic broccoli seed oil and organic prickly pear oil also have a strong smoothing effect on your hair and help you to comb your hair more easily and make it shine – and without a build-up effect. They have already made their name as natural silicone substitutes in the natural cosmetics industry.
What you can recognize silicones: all dimethicones, cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, polymethylsiloxane, compounds ending in -cone or -xane, trideceth-12, hydroxypropyl, polysiloxanes, lauryl methicone copolyol amodimethicones, cetearyl methicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, and quaternium 80.
Oxybenzone are incorporated as UV protection in shampoos or other cosmetic products, especially in color shampoos they are often found. Oxybenzone are known allergy triggers and are considered carcinogenic as they can cause hormone disorders and cell damage.
Did you know that our organic avocado oil has a natural sun protection factor and therefore has the same positive effect as oxybenzone, but without the side effects?
How you can recognize Oxybenzone: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone 3, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane and Dibenzoylmethane.
The list of dangerous ingredients in shampoos is not complete, the cosmetics industry is very innovative in the development of new “active ingredients” and likes to hide them in the variety of chemical names available. Even if you have read this entry to the end – how much can you actually remember? Since we personally have no photographic memory and no doctor of chemistry, the balance is rather poor. However, we were not concerned here with memorizing chemical substance names, but rather with sensitizing people to the topic in general. We find it scandalous how many consumers are led up the nose by the cosmetics industry, spend a lot of money and often do nothing good for themselves.
If you want to know whether one or the other harmful substance is also slumbering in your shampoo, we recommend the website www.codecheck.info (also available as an app). Here you can also check your cosmetic products for their ingredients before you buy them.
Even with natural cosmetics and organic shampoos you are safe from harmful ingredients. However, natural cosmetics is not a protected term, so it’s worth taking a look before you fill your shopping cart.