Writer: Tamara Kristensen

Don’t we just assume that the products we see on shelves are safe for use?

So it was shocking to find out that many commercial shampoos continue to use harmful and toxic chemicals in their products.

In order to make wiser choices as consumers, it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge of what these are and how they harm us.

Here are 7 common chemicals found in hair products, ranked in no particular order. 

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

If you know anything about harmful chemicals, you’ll be familiar with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), ammonium lauryl sulfate, and their variants. Chances are if you pick a random bottle of shampoo in the stores, you’ll see one of these ingredients on the label. These are surfactants, typically used as cleansing agents. Additionally, SLS is also used as foaming agents.

You may have heard these being linked to cancer, hair loss and more – but this is fake newsSulfates do not cause hair loss directly, but they do cause damage to hair protein. This study shows that when you put hair in a sulfate solution, it causes twice as much damage as when hair is immersed in water. This can lead to split ends and hair damage, and easy breakage. Sulfates are also found to be skin irritants and may cause itchiness in the scalp. 


Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in hair products. They prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, which is good, but parabens also have pretty harmful side effects. Most notably, they are linked to breast cancer. A 2016 study found that parabens are able to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. Most of us would never dream that the shampoo we use could increase our risk of breast cancer, but there you have it.

Chemical fragrances

Source: Safer Chemicals

We all want our shampoo to leave our hair smelling like strawberries, but at what cost? Any product that contains ‘fragrance’ comes with a multitude of other chemicals strung together, and they can cause harmful effects such as hormonal imbalance and chronic health issues. Because so many chemicals go into creating one scent (as many as 300), you never know exactly what’s going in your hair and what it may do to your health.

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

These ethanolamine compounds are used in hair products as emulsifiers and foaming agents. Not only do they cause skin irritation and damage hair’s keratin, but DEA especially has been linked to other harmful effects, such as organ toxicity and increased risk of cancer. In fact, the European Commission has currently prohibited the use of DEA in cosmetics to reduce contaminated by carcinogenic nitrosamines. 

Sodium chloride

Source: MedicalNewsToday

Sodium chloride is essentially what we know as table salt, but it is used in shampoos and conditioners as a thickener, and sometimes to adjust pH levels. However, it also causes your scalp to become dry and itchy if overused. You should especially avoid sodium chloride in your products if you are doing a keratin treatment, as it undoes the process very quickly. 

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

PEGs are also commonly used as thickeners, and like sodium chloride, also undo the benefits of a keratin treatment easily. It strips away the natural moisture on our scalp. Furthermore, it has been found that byproducts of PEGs, such as ethylene oxides, are carcinogenic and poses a risk to safety and health. Although these byproducts can be removed in the manufacturing process, we don’t know if they really are. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Selenium Disulfide

Finally, selenium disulfide is an antifungal agent used especially in medicated shampoo aimed to treat dandruff and other issues. While it is essential for our bodies, too much selenium can create too many antioxidant enzymes, causing the body to attack its own cells, such as our hair follicles. You can read more about Conscious Living’s own experience with selenium levels. 

As you can see from the Red List, the above list is not exhaustive, and neither is the Red List. 

Source: Safe Cosmetics

The truth is that hair products contain many more harmful chemicals for you and your hair’s health than mentioned above. 

But with Conscious Living, you don’t have to worry about what these chemicals may do to you or your hair, because our ingredients are all-natural or naturally processed. You can check them out here!

At Conscious Living, we believe in a 100% chemical-free solution to keep your hair luscious and healthy.

Get a bottle for yourself today!