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Top toxins to avoid in your shampoo

by Cherie Pasion
Cherie Pasion
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on Thursday, 08 September 2011
Green Living 0 Comments

Here’s a scary thought for you.  When you put shampoo or conditioner on your scalp, there are 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands and 1,000 nerve endings that soak in what you put on it.  Bad news if that happens to be toxins! 

Here's another scary thought for you. While I'm sure you wouldn’t eat your shampoo, you may actually absorb fewer toxins when you eat something than when you put it on your skin.

In green-living, one of the easiest switches you can make is in body and hair care products.  Unlike a few years ago, the trouble isn’t finding an organic and healthy option, it’s narrowing down which one to choose. 

I was prompted to write this blog entry after having impossible luck recently to find a shampoo that really works for me at the moment.  Our hair constantly changes, depending on our hormones, our diets and other health and environmental factors.  At the moment my hair is driving me insane, as about two months ago I became vegetarian, and like the last time I was vegetarian, it makes my hair go a bit haywire.

I’ve been trying out different brands, as I’ve only got a few washes left in my only trusted shampoo, which unfortunately I buy from the Philippines and won’t be getting a replacement until the end of the month. 

Earlier this week I went to the hairdresser and we spent a fair bit of time discussing it.  Knowing I only choose non-toxic shampoos, my hairdresser gave me $60.00 worth (for free) of what she considered organic shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner.  I was pretty chuffed about my score, until I got home and read the labels.  What she considered to be natural and organic contained about 20 chemicals, and some of them were nasty.

Conventional shampoos are full of chemicals.  In fact, if you are using a conventional shampoo, go and take a look at the ingredients – chances are you’ll find around 10-20 chemicals listed down.  Not all chemicals are necessarily bad, just as not all natural ingredients are necessarily good for you (I don’t want us to be romantic about being ‘natural’ as nature has a lot of toxic booby-traps out there). 

What toxins to watch out for

These are the chemicals that I try to avoid at all costs (not just in hair care but in all products):


This is a nasty little chemical that is unfortunately used in most body and hair care products. Paraben is a synthetic preservative derived from petroleum or gasoline base (that alone is more than enough to turn me off).  They are known to mimic estrogen, which can increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, and a male exposed to this hormone as a fetus may develop fertility problems as an adult.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

These two are easy ones to watch out for – as they are in almost all conventional body and hair care products.  They are responsible for the ‘foaming’ that you experience when washing your teeth, hair and body.  We are used to using foaming agents, as the more foaming there is, the cleaner we feel.  In fact, that’s the main question I get from people inquiring about my experience with organic care products – do I still feel like I am clean? Yes, of course I feel clean, and in many cases there is still foaming, but maybe not to the same degree.  

There has been some debate as to whether SLS is toxic, but accordingly to Human Heart Nature, it is a known irritant.  Other sources show that it can cause organ toxicity and developmental/reproductive toxicity.  The main reason why I avoid SLS is because it has been linked with manufacturing contamination with 1,4 Dioxane, which is known to be a carcinogen and can cause damage to your central nervous system, liver and kidneys.

While we are on the Lauryl Sulfates, I generally avoid Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate for the same reason.


Triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and monoethanolamine (DEA) are generally chemicals which should be avoided.  They are often used to adjust the pH, and used with fatty acids to convert acid to salt, which becomes the basis for a cleanser.  Unfortunately, they cause allergic reactions, and the amines react with nitrosating agents to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogens.

Those are the main ones that I avoid (and truth be told, most of the care products I use don’t contain any chemicals at all), but I just wanted to finish off by sharing one of the chemicals that was on the shampoo that my hairdresser gave me:  Methylchloroisothiazonlinone.

Wowser.  That can’t be good for you.  I googled it, and yep, it’s not.  It’s a preservative which is an allergen and irritant.

I reckon that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter – which is:   "If you can’t pronounce it, probably steer clear of it!"


Tags: Bodycare
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