In the frenzy to select ones that work for us, we sometimes get dazzled by the aesthetics of the packaging or the campaigns created around the products.
What we essentially end up overlooking is the one thing that matters the most - the ingredients list. It usually becomes the visual equivalent of white noise to us. But, make a promise to yourself. Next time you go hunting for a hair product, give the ingredients list a read and check if any of the following ingredients are inside the tiny bottle you’re holding. It may look appealing, but end up doing more harm than good in the long run!
Which chemicals are bad for your hair?
Don’t let any of these chemicals near your hair.
- Parabens - Parabens, such as propylparaben and methylparaben, which encourage hair growth and prevent germs, are present in some hair products, even though they are more commonly found in cosmetics. Because parabens have been discovered in some breast tumours, research has connected them to breast cancer, however, the strength of these correlations remains weak at the moment.
- Sulfates - Sulfates are bad for your hair, causing brittleness and, in some cases, eczema. They are cheap detergents that are responsible for the lather effect in most generic shampoos. They are often present in the form of sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate. Because some producers are concerned that this chemical may be carcinogenic or irritating, they utilise alternatives such as ammonium laureth sulphate, which is milder. Sulfate use will weaken your hair over time, make it seem lifeless, and there’s the risk of your hair becoming more prone to breakage, damage, and split ends.
- Formaldehyde - Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer and DNA damage, and it is especially harmful when breathed in. However, it may be absorbed via the skin in liquid form, causing carcinogenic damage and allergic reactions such as asthma and skin irritations. However, formaldehyde is subject to a number of regulations, making it less extensively utilised than some of the other compounds mentioned.
- Phthalates - It’s hard to find them separately in the ingredients list because they’re mostly present in compounds listed as “fragrance” on your bottle. They are used in hair care products to increase the spreadability of a product and make the perfume of the product stick to your scalp and hair. Phthalates are proven reproductive toxins, and shouldn't be anywhere near our skin because they are endocrine disruptors and can cause harm. Choosing a hair care product that actually works for you is no simple feat, especially in today’s age of endless options.
- Silicones - Silicones are emollient slide agents that help to seal in moisture and give hair an immediate smooth, lustrous sheen. They work as a protective barrier in conditioners and styling products, and work by covering the strands, giving your hair a glossy, smooth finish. But, silicones will eventually weigh down your hair, and because they create an outer barrier to our hair cuticles, they will prevent moisture from accessing the hair shaft, causing your hair to dry out over time.
- Alcohol - In shampoos, alcohols are utilised as thickening agents, and, when generated from palm oil or coconut oil, they are sometimes utilised as emollients, however, they might cause your hair to become incredibly fragile. While there’s no real ban on using alcohol in cosmetics, avoiding them, in the long run, can help your hair and scalp stay healthy, moisturised and free from irritation.
- Toluene - Most hair dyes include toluene, a petrochemical solvent. They may wreak havoc on your immune system and possibly result in birth abnormalities, which is why, if you're expecting, it's critical to avoid this substance. It might also have a negative impact on your central nervous system. Toluene is typically labelled as phenylmethane, benzene, methylbenzene, and toluol in products.
- Mineral oil - Mineral oil is a hydrating, low-cost oil that is utilised in a variety of cosmetic compositions because it can minimise knots in the hair, make it shiny, and prevent split ends. While mineral oil is excellent as a protective shield making your hair glossy at the same time, it is unable to really penetrate the hair fibre and get into it to heal real damage. If you want an oil that is more effective in preventing the loss of important hair proteins, seek conditioners or leave-in treatments that use coconut oil instead of mineral oil, as plant oils typically have significantly more extra advantages.
- Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) - PPD is a chemical component present in most drugstore and salon-purchased permanent and semi-permanent hair colours, and is known to trigger allergic responses and enhance UV sensitivity when it comes into contact with the skin. PPD is still present in most traditional hair colours but try and avoid it, especially if you suffer from scalp irritation.
- Propylene glycol - This is a petroleum derivative that is utilised as a thickening agent in hair care products. Its low cost of manufacture and ability to make your hair seem smooth and glossy has made it a huge hit in major beauty products. Propylene glycol is not a health hazard; rather, it is a harsh chemical that removes your hair's natural oils, causing scalp irritation, itching and hair loss. It may even harm the cellular structure of your hair, making it appear brittle and unhealthy.