the most harmful ingredients in hair products that are bad for your hair

The Most Harmful Ingredients in Hair Products That Are Bad For Your Hair

One More Thing to Worry About

When you go into the store, ready to purchase your favorite hair products, did it ever cross your mind that they could be bad for you? Have you ever taken the time to read the ingredients in the products? If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t. We don’t walk into a store expecting hair products in there to potentially be bad for us, especially when it comes to our hair. We trust our products and the government that regulates them, but sometimes we need to double check. A lot of hair products contain ingredients that cause our hair to lose its luster, shine, and overall quality. You may notice that when you use specific products, your hair seems drier than usual. Well, I’m spilling all the tea today! Your hair deserves to flourish, and you deserve to know what you’re putting in it.

Hair Products can be Dangerous

Yes, you read that right! It is insane how we have to worry about other potentially toxic things in the food we eat, the clothes we wear and even our hair products. You might be thinking right now, “Isn’t it the governments’ job to regulate these things?” It should be, but sometimes even the government fails us, what a surprise. The way you watch what you eat, you should also watch what you decide to put in your hair. It may take you a little longer to shop for your hair the next time you head to the store, but your hair’s health is way too important!

How Do I Know What’s Bad for My Hair?

Later on in this article, I’ll give you a full list of the horrible ingredients that you can find in most of your products. Right now I’m going to explain how you can figure out what is wrong to put in your scalp and hair. After all, you won’t memorize the list by heart. It is more so for reference in the future! So, how can you tell what is bad for your hair and how do you find it? Do your research! Read the labels! Ask your stylist! Pay attention to what your hair thrives off of and what makes it look dull. Knowing these things can make your life just a little more straightforward. Go to the store and read the labels. When reading the labels, rule out any products that contain artificial ingredients, sulfates or parabens. These ingredients strip your hair of its natural oils and can be harsh and can be drying. You don’t want that! The porosity tells the state of your hair and can also be a determinant when figuring out what products work.

Every Man (or Women) for Themselves

When purchasing products, keep in mind that not all ingredients are right for you. It’s confusing to think about how the government is supposed to regulate these things, but this industry is highly unregulated. There is no pre-product approval before a product hits the market and enters your home. A minuscule approval process exists, but only for color additives and ingredients classified as over-the-counter drugs. Many of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, and endocrine disrupters and are carcinogenic. Unfortunately, there are too many horrible chemicals and ingredients to keep count of most of the time. On the bright side, I can give you as many as I can think of that would cause the most harm to your hair’s health.

Harmful Ingredients in Hair Products


People use parabens as additives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in cosmetic products. You may be thinking, well this sounds like a great thing to have in your hair! I’ll explain why you shouldn’t want this anywhere near your crown. Parabens do more than what we think. They contain estrogen-mimicking properties that have been known to associate with an increased risk of breast cancer. The chemicals absorb through the skin. You can find these in makeup, body washes, and deodorants. But, you can mainly find these in our shampoos and cleansers. Watch out!


They aren’t quite the enemy of healthy hair, but the problem lies in the fact that silicone offers absolutely zero long-term benefits. Silicones function like petroleum. It coats the hair to make it seem polished. But, over time it builds up on the hair shaft, and the results are sticky, weighed down hair strands. Yuck! So, if you have thin hair, you may want to avoid these ingredients. If you use sulfate-free shampoos (which you need to), it's best to prevent silicones products altogether. Sulfates help with the removal of buildup, but I'll get to that in a minute!


Unlike some of the others on this list, protein in and of itself is not horrible for your hair, but you can have too much of a good thing. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Protein strengthens the cuticle of the hair but overdoing it can throw off the hair’s natural moisture balance, resulting in damage and breakage. Alternating between moisturizing products and protein-rich strengthening products is critical for maintaining the balance in your hair (you can over-moisturize, too!).

Isopropyl Alcohol

We’re never surprised to see some form of an alcohol ingredient in a beauty product, but isopropyl alcohol is one that you should make a conscious effort to avoid. People use this in antifreeze, which should be your first red flag. You may also recognize it by the name of “rubbing alcohol,” which you already well know is something you don’t want to put on your hair. Can you believe this stuff is in hair products? Not only is isopropyl alcohol highly flammable and toxic when inhaled, but it has a significant drying effect on the hair that essentially sucks the moisture out of your strands.


This particular category is pretty scary, because what does “fragrance” mean anyway? This term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” But as the consumer, you could be putting on a concoction that contains tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. You can find this in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash, and moisturizers.


A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. Anything meant for plastic is not intended to be in your hair. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and are known to increase the risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and congenital reproductive disabilities in males and females. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it’s added to fragrances, a significant loophole in the law. You can find these in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

You can find this in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products. You can find these in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment. Perhaps one of the nasty ingredients you’ll see most frequently on shampoo bottles, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates are some of the most irritating compounds you can apply to your skin. They’re commonly used as a foaming agent to create lather in cosmetics, and not only are they terrible and seriously overdrying for your skin and scalp, they’re also proven carcinogens that penetrate the skin and get absorbed into your bloodstream. We’ll take a hard pass on that one.


These preservatives are used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and can link to certain cancers, such as, nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions, and it may also be harmful to the immune system. It is in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments. Avoid this at all costs!

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It is a skin irritant and penetrator. You can associate this with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans these sensitization effects can manifest at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2 percent. You can find this in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.

Sunscreen chemicals

You may be thinking how sunscreen is terrible? It's not the sunscreen itself, but the chemicals that are present in them. These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and they quickly seep into the body. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. You can find these in hair products that are meant for coating the hair while moisturizing it, or so they say.

Don't Panic Just Yet

Whew! That’s a lot. I understand that it may be next to impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the number of toxins you expose your hair to on the daily. Look for products that are certified organic if you want to avoid these toxic chemicals!

Make A Change

Right now, head to your bathroom and discard everything that has the ingredients I mentioned here today. It's time for a fresh start that ends with you taking better care of yourself and being more aware of everything that could potentially be bad for you.

Your Hair's Worst Nightmare

What are some things that your hair will go through if you decide to continue to buy hair products containing these ingredients? Well, for starters, you'll experience consistent dryness and scalp irritation. We all know how it feels when our hair is dry. It's brittle, hard and downright nasty. When our scalp is irritated, the itchiness and redness that occurs after aren't so pleasant either. Another thing to be aware of is how our hair moisture retention. That can go along with dryness. When it comes to how much moisture our hair can hold, we have to pay attention. If we find ourselves always having to moisturize our hair, there may be a problem. I talked about porosity before, and it is the same concept.

What Are Some Good Things?

We've talked about the bad. But, let's discuss the good things that we should put in our hair. Biotin is big on keeping our scalp's flow circulating, which encourages hair growth. Go to your local store and purchase brands that are certified organic, including biotin. You can find biotin in hair products or as a vitamin. Oil and carrier oils are also suitable for our hair. These oils can be olive oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and more! They provide moisture, and they also seal it into our strands so our hair can stay moist for more extended periods. With so many beauty products available on the market, and so many beauty products that we use every day, it can’t hurt to be a little more aware of the ingredients that we’re putting on our bodies. With that said, this is relatively new thinking, as more and more research into how individual components can negatively affect not only our hair or skin but our internal health, too. Whether they’re causing breakage or threatening to compromise your health, these ingredients are an excellent place to kick off your “all-too-common hair care product ingredients to avoid” list.

Practicing Self-care is Self-love

The last thing we want to do is harm ourselves, even if the harm is subtle. It is essential to take care of ourselves and check our health often, even our hair's health. Our hair will warn us if it doesn't like what you put in it, so as I have said before, pay attention to your hair's needs. The way you can tell when you are sick, you should be able to know if your hair is feeling dull. Educate yourself and do your research before you buy. You only have one life to live, and your hair is one of the greatest gifts you were born with on this earth. Take care of it, so you won’t have to pay for your actions later on! I know that from doing my research, I need to cut a few hair products out of my life. Did any of these ingredients sound familiar? What components are in the hair products you currently have? Have you already done the research? Did I miss any? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment.
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