Have you taken a look at your Shampoo and Conditioner labels lately? You love them, but did you know they can contain damaging ingredients to your hair and the environment?

Foremost among the baddies are Sulfates. But just what are sulfates, and what other elements should you avoid wherever possible? Read on and find out.

13 Shampoo Ingredients to avoid

Which Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid?

Instead of calling out brands, we have created this not-so-lucky 13 list of conventional and detrimental shampoo ingredients — the reasons why you should watch out for them with some conditions. And where you should altogether avoid them.


There’s a reason why you see paraben-free in so many places! Parabens have a terrible reputation. They were initially used as a preservative to prevent bacteria from growing in shampoos and makeups.

  • Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, and too many estrogens (amongst other problems) have been connected to an increased risk of certain cancers.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate SLS & Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate ALS

What are sulfates? Sulfates are strong detergents that work by a chemical reaction, in which they lock onto sebum on the scalp with water. When you rinse the Shampoo , sulfates take all the oils and residue.

  • But they can increase frizz and can damage the hair, making it brittle while cleaning it.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

SLS is the well-known sulfate that forms the foam lather some people adore. The bad news is it might compromise follicles when left sitting on the scalp. Other damaging effects are harsh outcomes on your skin and scalps in natural oils. Anyone with dry hair or color-treated hair should avoid SLS, as it can fade your color and leave you with straw instead of silk.

  • Most color-safe formulas are marketed as SLS-free.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is just salt. Salt as a Sodium chloride added to Shampoo and Conditioner is there to create a density in their formula.

  • Too much salt can make an already sensitive scalp itchy and dry, resulting in hair loss.

Polyethylene Glycols, PEG

PEG is a thickening agent and lubricating polymer. There hasn’t been sufficient research to conclude that PEGs are a tested safe shampoo ingredient.

  • PEG is a strong preservative and used to protect the paint on wood.

Diethanolamine DEA and Triethanolamine TEA

DEA and TEA are super-foaming agents, and stabilizers allow water molecules and ingredients to combine and bind. These ingredients keep beauty products from separating.

  • DEA is a banned cosmetic ingredient by The European Commission.


Formaldehyde is an identified carcinogen and has been proven to be absorbed through the skin in testing. Manufacturers have added it to hair care products directly as a preservative in the past. It’s also a by-product of different preservatives released over time through chemical processes. A sneaky alias in shampoos is quaternium-15 if you are wondering what to look out for.

  • Formaldehyde is still found in hair-straitening compounds in salons.


Alcohol can dry your skin and hair. Avoid ingredients if you have dry hair with “prop” in their name, like Isopropyl Alcohol or Propanol Alchohol. The higher up the list, the more alcohol the product contains.

  • Suitable alcohols for dry hair start with a “C” or “S.” These are Cetearyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol; these two help your hair retain moisture.

Synthetic Fragrances & Colors

Products with “fragrance” on their label may contain thousands of hidden components. Some elements in beauty product fragrances are linked to asthmas and other systemic disruptions.

  • In Shampoos and Conditioners, fragrances can irritate the scalp, leading to hair loss.

Artificial Colors

Many shampoos and conditioners are tinted with FD&C, or D&C, colors to make them look more beautiful. These manufactured colors come from coal-tar and petroleum sources.

  • Many D&C’s are linked to allergic reactions on the skin, like hives (amongst other side effects.)


Triclosan was banned from antibacterial soaps but is still permitted in toothpaste, deodorant, and shaving cream. Linked in studies to mitochondria (cellular) damage and now found in freshwater streams and rivers due to “wash off” entries into water and sewage systems.

  • Check your labels and strongly consider a “Green Beauty” alternative if you aren’t already using products without triclosan.

DIY Shampoos

Are you feeling super motivated? With ingredients in the kitchen, you can DIY homemade hair treatments. One word of caution – go light on adding too many Aromatherapy & Essential Oils.

Many DIY’ers have learned the hard way with rashes that a tiny bit of those good things goes a long way!

Natural Shampoo Ingredients

While there are harmful ingredients still being used in some OTC Shampoo brands, tons of companies use only natural, non-toxic, and organic elements. These are very popular, and many natural shampoo brands test in salons, with dermatologists and more for great results.

Looking to Improve Your Hair’s Condition? Avoid Certain Chemicals

Are you experiencing unhealthy hair, hair loss, or slow growth? If you think chemicals like those mentioned are creating problems, try a natural choice. You can also try taking supplements that contain ingredients such as Collagen & Biotin that work in harmony to help your natural hair growth.