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Harmful Chemicals in Shampoo & Conditioner That You Should Avoid


Choosing the right shampoo for yourself can be a task, especially when considering the harmful chemicals in shampoo. If you have been purchasing shampoos and conditioners inspired by the ads, think again as most of them contain harmful shampoo ingredients. 

Harmful chemicals in shampoo are bad for you and the environment. Most commercial shampoos are made from toxic chemicals such as sulphates, parabens, and other similar ingredients that can cause harm in the long run. These shampoos and conditioners that claim to soothe your frizz and resolve hair fall issues can be one of the reasons for hair fall. Although you should ask how much hair fall is normal, you can expect fifty to a hundred strands a day as usual, but beyond that, your shampoo can be the reason behind it. 

It is crucial that you know which shampoo and conditioner are good for you. Read on to find out the harmful chemicals in shampoo that you should avoid:

1 - Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Sulphates one of the most harmful shampoo ingredients, are surfactants or a kind of powerful detergent that cleans our scalp of sebum buildup and dirt. But that’s not all. This ingredient is used for lathering purposes in your shampoo. Just like sodium Laureth sulfate or SLES, this chemical is all damaging to your scalp. 

In the name of cleaning the dirt and sebum off your scalp, the sulphate and SLES strip off the natural oils of your scalp, making your scalp dry and hair frizzy. When used for a more extended period, these harmful chemicals in shampoo can also affect your hormonal balance. Moreover, these harmful chemicals in shampoo are also toxic to aquatic animals and the environment as a whole. Therefore switching to a sulphate and paraben free shampoo is a good choice. 

Also See: Sulfate and Paraben Free Shampoo 

2 - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS is an anionic detergent, similar to SLES, but stronger. It is used as a cleansing agent in shampoos. It is one of the harmful chemicals in shampoo linked to organ toxicity, skin irritation, endocrine disruption, and even cancer. Moreover, if you have coloured hair, you should altogether avoid these harmful chemicals in shampoo and look for shampoo without chemicals 

3 - Parabens

Parabens are another harmful shampoo ingredient and a kind of preservative used to increase the shelf life of shampoos and conditioners. Parabens prevent the bacteria from growing in your shampoo. That said, this can easily penetrate your skin and imitate the effects of estrogen, which is related to female reproductive functions. Parabens also increase the risk of breast cancer. So you see, these harmful chemicals in shampoo are doing more harm than good. It is recommended to use a sulfate and paraben free shampoo to avoid breast cancer and other hormonal imbalances.

Also Read: Home Remedies for Dry & Frizzy Hair

4 - Sodium Chloride

One of the harmful chemicals in shampoo, sodium chloride, is salt used in the shampoos to thicken them. Salt is not suitable for your scalp, as it can make your scalp dry and itchy, gradually leading to hair loss. In the long run, salt or sodium chloride can damage the cuticle layer of your hair shaft and so one must switch to non harmful ingredients in shampoo. 

5 - Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

A derivative of petroleum, polyethylene glycols or PEG, is used as a thickening agent in shampoos and conditioners and so is considered among the top 5 harmful shampoo ingredients. Although there are not many extensive studies done on the toxicity level, the byproducts of PEG are considered harmful. 

Researchers believe the cancer-causing dioxane contaminates PEG. These harmful chemicals in shampoo, especially PEG, are carcinogenic and can cause skin toxicity when coming into contact with broken skin or cuts.

6 - Diethanolamine (DEA) Triethanolamine (TEA)

The DEA or TEA are harmful foaming agents used in shampoos, and TEA helps maintain the pH level of the scalp. Both these harmful chemicals in shampoo combine and react with other chemicals and form Nitrosodiethanolamine or NDEA, a cancer-causing agent. The human body can easily absorb NDEA, which can lead to various skin-related problems. 

7 - Formaldehyde

Usually labeled as quaternion -15, Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen. This ingredient is often used directly by shampoo brands as preservatives but are carcinogenic and so they are listed as harmful shampoo ingredients.

8 - Alcohol

One of the most common and harmful chemicals in shampoo, alcohol, has a drying effect on your hair and can worsen if you already have dry hair. Some alcohol is not as bad for dry hair, such as Cetearyl and Stearyl alcohol. These alcohols can retain the moisture in your hair. However, you might want to avoid alcohol that has a “prop”, in its name, like Isopropyl alcohol or propanol. These harmful chemicals in shampoo have the potentiality to harm your skin and scalp.

9 - Synthetic Fragrances

Shampoos are known for sweet fragrances. These so-called fragrances are toxic chemicals that can hinder the reproductive system and cause cancer or asthma. Besides, these synthetic chemicals can also irritate the scalp and the skin, which may even lead to hair loss and is therefore considered as harmful shampoo ingredients. 

10 - Synthetic Colors

Shampoos come in different colours, and this is done by using synthetic colours. These colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar and have harmful effects on health. The artificial colours can be identified by the terms 'D&C’ or ‘FD&C’. 

11 - Dimethicone

Dimethicone acts as a protective layer for the hair. But it stops moisture and nutrients from coming in and, in the process, ends up attracting dirt. It results in clogging the pores on the scalp and causing skin irritation. 

12 - Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Although derived from coconut oil, Cocamidopropyl betaine is harmful to your health and so is considered as a harmful shampoo ingredient. It is a surfactant and is used to produce foam in the shampoo. Combined with dimethylaminopropylamine, these harmful chemicals in shampoo can cause skin irritation, eczema, rosacea, and other forms of allergies.

13 - Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent. Due to its harmful properties, it was banned in 2016 from being used in soaps. But most shampoos, conditioners, and toothpaste. This chemical can cause hormone disruption, which can also lead to cancer and other health-related issues. 

14 - Retinyl Palmitate

 Retinyl palmitate is a chemical compound of retinol and palmitic acid. It is terrible for your skin and can cause itching, scaling, redness, and peeling. The chemical may also trouble the reproductive system, toxicity to organs and even cause cancer. 

Also See: All Natural Hair Oil 

15 - Phthalates

Phthalates are used in shampoos to increase their spreadability. Phthalates are also used to keep the perfume of the shampoo linger on your hair for long. These harmful chemicals in shampoo act as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can cause early puberty in girls and reduce sperm count in men. 

16 - Fragrances & Colors

Fragrances and colours are known to damage your hair potentially. Since these harmful chemicals in shampoo are not derived from natural sources and are extracted from petroleum and the like, they do not do what they claim, but damage your scalp and hair, leading to common hair problems like hair fall and more grave issues such as cancer in the long run.

17 - Toluene

Widely used in hair dyes, toluene is a petrochemical solvent and can negatively affect your immune system. It can also affect your nervous system and can even cause congenital disabilities.

18 - Resorcinol

A bleaching agent used actively in hair dyes; resorcinol can cause skin irritation. Moreover, it can also cause functional disabilities of the immune system. 

19 - Selenium sulfide

Selenium sulfide is a carcinogen and is mostly used in anti-dandruff shampoo. Lab tests have found selenium sulfide to have developed tumours in mice. 

20 - Quaternium-15

Quaternium-15 is an ammonium salt and is found to be carcinogenic. It is used as a surfactant and preservative in shampoos and other hair care products. Besides having its ill effects on your scalp and skin, quaternium-15 can also irritate the eye.

Benefits of Using Ayurvedic Shampoos for Hair

Although you cannot stop brands from including harmful chemicals in shampoo, you can ditch those shampoos and switch to toxic free shampoo. Even though it is challenging to find shampoo without harmful chemicals, some genuine natural hair care brands also provide Ayurvedic treatment for hair fall. If you’re looking for a paraben free shampoo, the best alternative would be to look for an ayurvedic shampoo.

Besides, there are many benefits of using Ayurvedic shampoo for hair:

  • They are chemical-free
  • Cleans the scalp and hair in a natural way
  • Promote hair growth
  • It makes hair thicker and stronger
  • Retains hair moisture
  • Prevents split ends
  • Reduces dandruff and hair fall

Herbs You Should look For In An Ayurvedic Shampoo

Unlike commercial shampoos, Ayurveda doesn’t contain harmful shampoo ingredients and is completely toxic-free. Here is the list of Ayurvedic herbs you should look for in your shampoo for hair growth:

  • Reetha
  • Shikakai
  • Amalaki
  • Bhringaraj
  • Ashwagandha
  • Hibiscus
  • Methi
  • Coconut
  • Neem
  • Kari patta
  • Yashtimadhu
  • Ghritkumari
  • Shatavari
  • Triphala


If you are looking for an escape from harmful chemicals in shampoo to something all-natural and full of goodness, Traya has a wide range of shampoo without harmful chemicals and hair care products for you. You will find a complete collection of natural products backed by Ayurveda and science, from hair fall shampoo and hair root serum to herbal hair oil and scalp controller.

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