Shampoo is a product most of us use on a daily basis, so it’s quite important to know what the ingredients that we use on our scalp and hair are. That can be easier said than done as many manufacturers load their labels up with ingredients the average person has never heard of. Fortunately, there is one word on your shampoo bottle that is easily comprehensible, and according to experts, it's presence means that you should toss the bottle or leave it on the supermarket shelf. That word is fragrance. Read on to find out why this word actually contains many harmful ingredients, and what other components you should look out for when picking a shampoo.
What’s the problem with fragrance?
In the US, scents are proprietary and classified as trade secrets. That means personal care and perfume companies are not obliged to disclose the hundreds or even thousands of unregulated chemicals that comprise their recipes. When you see the word ‘fragrance’ on an ingredients list, it is usually a blanket term for a myriad of synthetic chemicals, some of which can be hazardous to our health.
"The lovely smell in every bottle is a blend of a variety of toxic ingredients such as phthalates that are linked to reproductive and developmental damage," explained Jolene Caufield, senior advisor specializing in healthy living, wellness, and healthcare, to Best Life. "And all in all, synthetic fragrances are known to be carcinogenic (have the potential to cause cancer) and are linked to hormone disruptions. In the long run, these can damage the scalp and cause extreme hair fall." Another risk factor is that a lot of blood vessels tend to form in the scalp, which means these chemicals could potentially absorb into your bloodstream.
Of course, not all fragrances must be avoided. If they come from a natural source, they are absolutely fine for your hair. Knowing whether a company is using natural components in their formula is easy enough - most companies will usually be very apparent with natural ingredients. If a fragrance comes from a natural essence, it will be listed by its actual name - orange peel oil, for example. So unless the label specifically says ‘natural fragrance’, the scent is created with one or more chemical compounds.
Other shampoo ingredients to look out for
If you decide to inspect labels more carefully on your next shopping trip, there are a few other undesirable ingredients that you should be aware of. Many hair experts strongly advocate for sulfate-free shampoos. Until the early 2000s sulfates were a legitimate ingredient used in most products to enhance their soapy, sudsy texture. However, sulfates were found to cause irritation and be extremely harsh on the hair and scalp, to the point they’re now seen as toxins. While the use of sulfates in shampoos has drastically declined, some products might still contain them.
Another thing experts caution against is formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Although these materials can keep a shampoo intact for longer, they are also designed to kill things like yeast, mold, and bacteria. That might seem like a good thing, but it actually means these materials are too harsh for human skin and can cause irritation. According to Caulfield, the most common preservatives you may see on a shampoo label include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and imidazolidinyl urea.
Lastly, triscolan is a harmful ingredient that can be found in many kinds of toothpaste, soaps, and shampoos. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that triclosan "alters hormone regulation in animals, might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, and might be harmful to the immune system."
In conclusion, to make sure you’re making the best choice for your health when buying shampoo, experts advise you to look for fragrance-free shampoos and take the time to scan the labels for the other less than great ingredients you are now familiar with.
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