A huge part of remaining healthy involves making good choices. So whether you’re grocery shopping for foods to feed your body or selecting hair products to nourish your hair—you should be reading the labels to learn what ingredients you’re putting into or on your body.
Hopefully you’re always conscious of what you are putting into your body and the same should be true of what you’re putting onto your scalp. If you’ve been in a drug store recently, you know that when it comes to hair products, there are tons of options. But with this vast selection, are numerous formulas containing various ingredients, some of which could be unhealthy to not only your hair, but your overall health.
The next time you’re in the market for a new product for your strands, try to select one that doesn’t contain the ingredients on the list below, which according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have potential health impacts associated with overexposure.
Found in hair dye, lead can be toxic to almost every organ system in our bodies. Elevated exposures are particularly dangerous for children and can be associated with severe central nervous system impacts. High exposure levels have also been associated with reproductive issues.
Also found in hair dye, topical exposure to this ingredient can cause skin inflammation (dermatitis) which results in redness, pain and swelling. Inhalation may cause coughing, headaches, dizziness and trouble breathing. You may see Paraphenylenediamine listed as one of these names: Para-Phenylenediamine; PPD; P-Phenylenediamine; 1, 4 diaminobenzene; 1, 4 phenylenediamine; P-Aminoaniline.
On a label, Sodium Hydroxide appears as: Lye; Caustic Soda; Sodium Hydrate. It’s found in some permanent treatments and hair relaxers or waves. Overexposure is corrosive to all tissues and mucous membranes such as in the eyes, nose and throat. Concentrated exposures often result in severe irritation, swelling and serious skin reactions.
Formaldehyde is most often found in shampoo and bleach. On a label, this carcinogen will read as: Formalin; formic aldehyde; oxomethane; oxomethylene. Elevated exposures have been associated with irritation and swelling to the pulmonary system and mucous membranes. Overexposure also irritates the eyes, nose and skin, and repeated exposures have been associated with allergic reactions.
Fragrance in shampoo and conditioner might contain this ingredient which will appear on a label as DBP; Di-n-butyl phthalate; dibutyl 1,2-benzene dicarboxylate. Overexposure is known to cause in gastrointestinal distress in humans. On animals, they have caused birth, reproductive and developmental effects and some phthalate compounds have carcinogenic activity in animals.
Some children’s conditioners and detanglers contain this ingredient, which is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releasing agent. Overexposure can cause swelling and irritation. Irreversible damage to the eye has been reported due to its caustic nature. It is also considered harmful to human health because of its toxicity on developmental and reproductive systems. Look for it on a label by one of these names: 1-3-Bis (Hydroxymethyl)-5,5-imethylimidazolidine-2,4-Dione; 1,3-Dimethylol-5,5-Dimethyl Hydantoin; Dantogard; Glydant; Gidol; Glycolylurea.
Colorants and Synthetic Colors
These ingredients used to create color in hair products are sometimes derived from coal tar. Some specific dyes and color compounds have been associated with carcinogenic activity at extremely elevated concentrations. Some of these compounds have also been associated with edema and irritation in hypersensitive individuals. Looks like this on a label: D&C; FD&C; azo grenadine; disodium 5-amino-4-hydroxy-3-(phenylazo)-naphthalene-2,7-disulfonate; Acid Red 33; Red 33; Naphthalene Red.
Shampoos and other products that foam can contain DEA/MEA/TEA or Diethanolamine; monoethanolamine; ethanolamine; triethanolamine; Lauramide DEA. Elevated exposures have been associated with eye, skin, nose and throat irritation. These compounds have been harmful to the pulmonary system in some individuals.
Found in hair bleaches, elevated exposures are associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears), nausea, shortness of breath, cyanosis and convulsions. Swelling and irritation to skin, eyes, nose, mucous membranes and intestinal tract have been reported as well. Hydroquinone will appear on a label as 4-Dihydroxybenzene; P-Dioxybenzene; 4-Hydroxyphenol; P-Hydroxyphenol; 1,4 Benzendiol.
Several hair products including gels, dyes, shampoos and conditioners can contain Propylene Glycol ( 1-2-Propanediol). Frequent exposure to propylene glycol is associated with dermal irritation and limited edema of the mucous membranes. Under repeated exposure conditions it is irritating to the eyes, nose and mouth. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is generally recognized as safe for use in food.