The extensive array of hair products that you use daily - starting from shampoos to serums and setting gels - can severely disturb your health as it contains brutal toxic chemicals. Let's have a look at what's in there that should definitely be avoided.
14 Harmful Chemicals in Hair Care Products
Fragrances are frequently used in shampoos, serums and conditioners to give them a sense of indulgence and mask the formulation’s real, possibly unpleasant smell. The fragrances are often used as a marketing weapon too. More often than not, these fragrances are artificial, despite smelling like the freshest flower right under your nose. These chemicals can include a wide range of life-threatening hazardous ingredients like styrene, resorcinol, dioxane and acetaldehyde.
Alcohol is often added to hair products to protect the products from microbes, aiding the preservation process and keeping them fresh for a longer period of time. It is also used to thicken the texture and consistency of shampoos and conditioners. However, this solvent draws moisture from the scalp, leaving your hair weak and brittle. The label “alcohol” is often disguised behind expressions like "methanol" and "isopropyl".
3. Synthetic Colours
The foremost use of synthetic colours in hair products is to make it visually more appealing and attractive. But you will be amazed to know that these chemicals, used in hair dye are derived from petroleum or coal sources. These are categorized as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. There are an ongoing debate and fear that some synthetic colours can be carcinogenic and cause skin irritation and ADHD in children.
Parabens are one of the sought-after preservatives in the cosmetic industry as they effectively prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast, extending the shelf life of products. Interestingly, parabens can readily be absorbed through the skin and interfere with the natural hormones produced by the body. Often referred to as Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben, these are a potential contributing factor to the development of breast cancer.
5. 1, 4 Dioxane
1, 4 Dioxane might not be an active ingredient in hair products but can be formed as a by-product during the manufacturing process. Compounds like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) produces 1, 4 Dioxane, a potential human carcinogen. 1, 4 Dioxane acts as a foaming agent in hair products but is also associated with hormonal imbalances and fertility problems.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) are added to hair products to avoid bacterial growth and prevent the formation of nitrosamines, which are dangerous carcinogens. Ironically, formaldehyde itself is an animal and a human carcinogen and triggers severe allergic reactions, headaches and drowsiness. Formaldehyde is added as a chemical in shampoo which causes hair loss and is detrimental to the immune system.
Sulphates are inferior, harsh, dioxane producing detergents that are added as ingredients in shampoos and hair washing products for their cleansing and foam-building properties. Sulphates not only get rid of oil and dirt present in your hair but strip it of its natural moisture and encourage dandruff. Often known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, it can cause cancer, skin rash and eye irritation.
8. Propylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol acts as a conditioning agent that can lock in the moisture and used by popular brands to enrich their hair products. But this organic alcohol is basically a synthetic petrochemical mix treated as a humectant. Its side-effects include liver, kidney and brain damage or deformation, dermatitis and hives to name a few. Propylene Glycol can easily penetrate into the skin and is often contaminated with arsenic, lead, nickel, cobalt and iron.
Isopropyl is a repulsive alcoholic solvent that dries your skin and hair by stripping off its moisture and leading to breakage. It is extracted from a petroleum derivative named propylene which is used in antifreeze and shellac. This is added as a harmful chemical in shampoos and hair gels in spite of the fact that it aids to the process of hair loss and prevents hair growth.
10. Polyethylene Glycol
Polyethylene Glycol has cleansing properties and is actively used in shampoos and hair serums to dissolve oil and grease residues. It is also used as a stabilizer and a thickening agent to improve the texture of hair products. It can easily infiltrate your body by absorbing through your skin and scalp, making you vulnerable to cancer and leukemia.
11. Coal Tar
For centuries, coal tar has been used in skin and hair treatments. In a surprising turn of events, recently it has been recognized as a carcinogen and has been banned in the EU. Anti-dandruff shampoos without harmful chemicals often include little proportions of coal tar as it is considered as an organic substance. But in reality, it can stain your hair, making it sensitive to sunlight.
12. Lead Acetate
Lead Acetate, a potent neurotoxin is associated with several other health and reproductive complications. It is used as a colour preservative in "progressive" hair dye products as it provides a subtler colour transition. Moreover, it is often not listed in the packaging as it contaminant rather than an ingredient.
13. Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is derived as a petroleum by-product that coats your scalp and hair in such an effective way that it also suffocates them. It promotes premature ageing of hair by clogging the hair follicles and slows down the skin's ability to eliminate toxins. Overusing hair products that contain mineral oil might result in imbalanced oil levels in your scalp causing acne.
The necessity of using chemical-free shampoo for dry hair lies in the fact that chemicals like chlorine are severely damaging to dry hair and it might take years to repair that damage. Though you might not observe chlorine as an ingredient in hair care products it can be present in the water with which you wash your hair.
Why Use Natural Hair Product?
1. For Avoiding The Impact Of Toxic Ingredients
The lack of adequate information amongst people regarding the presence of harmful chemicals in hair products needs to change. Commercial brands use parabens and sulphates to prolong the shelf life of their products and clean your hair. Parabens and sulphates are not only toxic and carcinogenic but are also one of the chief culprits for hair loss and destroys the hair follicles, inhibiting the process of hair growth. On the other hand, organic shampoos without harmful chemicals include ingredients like coconut oil, vitamin E, and fruit extracts that retain the natural moisture of the scalp as well as deeply cleanses your locks.
2. For Helping The Environment
The harsh toxins that are present in shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays not only can upset your health but has a negative effect on the environment too. Using heavy chemical induced products often pollute the water bodies and poison the aquatic life. On the flip side, you have a win-win situation as organic products contain biodegradable natural ingredients.
3. For A Better Nourishment For Your Hair
Natural products take time to show results. Don’t expect a miraculous change overnight like chemically charged hair products promise. Extended use of herbal shampoos and conditioners will make a difference to your hair by curing hair loss, dandruff and split end. The natural essential oils and ayurvedic extracts will deeply nourish your hair making it strong and healthy for a long time.
4. Value For Money
Most chemically enhanced hair products are made with cheap compounds and are less expensive than their natural competitors. But the price gap is comparatively shallow and once you start using natural products, you will be able to see the payoff. Natural ingredients are effective along with being gentle on your skin and hair, making it worth the price.
5. Improved Health
Natural hair care products are gaining acceptance in the market as people are being more conscious of the consequences of using unhealthy synthetic chemicals. Chemicals present in chemical-based products often are absorbed by the skin, damaging from within too.
Author Name: Shreoshi Mitra
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