Are Your Hair Products Exposing You to Cancer-Causing Ingredients?
Hair Conditions

Are Your Hair Products Exposing You to Cancer-Causing Ingredients?

Studies Showing Hair Products Can Link To Cancer

There are so many hair products that are a part of our daily, weekly, or even monthly beauty routines.

Though, there are hair products marketed in the hair industry that contribute to our daily habits, a portion of these products includes cancer-causing ingredients that can potentially cause one harm in the long run.

In 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency made a report that only 11 percent of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products were safety tested. This means that 89 percent of chemical ingredients were not tested. That’s 9,345 chemical ingredients.

There is an increasing awareness of the harsh chemicals used for hair products, and companies have made an effort to use safer ingredients. But, let’s remember that even the smallest amounts of toxins that can affect your body over time due to chemicals slowly accumulating through your hair and into your skin. These toxins can cause inflammatory issues and risks of cancer.

According to the DailyMail, over approximately 80 percent of hair products marketed to black women contain chemicals linked to cancer, infertility, and obesity, a research study finds. The statistics here are significant.

The 80 percent comes from a research company, Silent Springs Institute, that tested 18 products that contain high levels of chemicals that “disrupt” the endocrine system–relating to or denoting glands that secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood. The endocrine system regulates metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, sleep, and mood, tissue function, sexual function, and among other things.

These chemicals can directly affect a person’s health depending on the ingredients.

corporate hair

What Are These Ingredients?

Many chemical ingredients on the market are linked to cancer. Here are the most prominent ones:

  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • bisphenol A
  • Antimicrobials
  • Ethanolamines
  • Alkylphenols
  • Fragrances

Many of these ingredients are “endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” chemical molecules that interfere with how natural hormones- like estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormones that work in the body. Endocrine disruptors can be a wide range of natural and synthetic chemicals.

Endocrine disruptors are in everyday products such as plastic bottles, detergents, toys, food, and of course, hair products such as shampoo, conditioners, and more.

They can result in health effects such as cancers and developmental issues.

7 Chemicals to Watch Out For When Shopping for Hair Products

Parabens

Parabens are in products for preservation and an anti-microbial agent.

Preservatives usually used in shampoos or any other substances that are required to have a long shelf life. Parabens have been widely used in products to prevent bacteria growth, and about 85 percent of cosmetics have them.

They are inexpensive and effective, and this probably explains why many companies use them. In 2004, British cancer researcher found parabens present in malignant breast tumors. As a result, many countries advised limits on paraben levels in cosmetic products.

If parabens absorb into the body for an extended period, they can accumulate a health risk.

hair products

What You Should Avoid

If you were to look at an ingredient list of a hair product, the parabens to watch for are:

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben.

What Should You Do?

Start using products that are “paraben-free.” A paraben-free product is the Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo. Remember that just because a hair product is paraben free-does not mean that is doesn’t have other cancer-causing ingredients.

Phthalates

Phthalates are plastic additives, solvents in cosmetics, and perfumes. It is an inert ingredient in pesticides.

This chemical ingredient promotes flexibility and durability, more of a gelling agent in many cosmetic products such as shampoo, hairspray, hair gel, and body lotions. Phthalates also exist in fragrances because they are responsible for making the scent last longer.

There are ways phthalates can be harmful. Phthalates link to breast cancer, asthma, type II diabetes, ADHD, low IQ, developmental issues, behavioral issues, autism, and fertility issues. The European Union and Canada have stringent regulations on the use of Phthalates, more strict than United States rules.

Studies show that phthalates are harmful to us and pregnant women are the most vulnerable because of the adverse effects that can have on their unborn baby.

Women who are pregnant and get in contact with high levels of Phthalates may cause their child to be born with abnormal birth defects.

spraying hair

What You Should Avoid

It is crazy to know that phthalates may not list as an ingredient on a product label but instead listed as “fragrance.” Because phthalates are commercially confidential information, companies are not legally bound to share that chemical on its label. But, if you see these ingredients:

bis(2-ethylhexyl) adipate
bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate
benzylbutyl phthalate
dicyclohexyl phthalate
di-isobutyl phthalate
di-isononyl phthalate
din-butylphthalate
din-hexyl phthalate
di-n-octyl phthalate
di-n-propyl phthalate
diethyl phthalate

Note: Just look for the word: “phthalates.”

What Should You Do?

Stick to products that are organic and non-toxic; that is going to be your best bet. Because phthalates are everywhere: plastic wraps, hairspray, nail polish. Even when you smell inside a new car, that “phthalates.” Many hair brands in the market embrace being organic.

Bisphenol A

You’ve probably seen those “BPA-Free” stickers on plastic water bottles.

That stands for bisphenol A, a common ingredient in plastics, especially transparent plastics such as plastic wraps. Scientists deem BPA unsafe when some unreacted BPA molecules are not a part of the formation process of the plastic making in the factory. It is possible for BPA molecules to stick around the plastic.

For example, when you heat up a plastic container in the microwave, those leftover BPA molecules can become free and affect your health. They become an “endocrine-disruption chemical.” BPA is a molecule that can interfere with the natural hormones of the body.

What You Should Avoid

It is crazy to know that phthalates may not list as an ingredient on a product label but instead listed as “fragrance.” Because phthalates are commercially confidential information, companies are not legally bound to share that chemical on its label. But, if you see these ingredients:

  • bis(2-ethylhexyl) adipate
  • bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate
  • benzylbutyl phthalate
  • dicyclohexyl phthalate
  • di-isobutyl phthalate
  • di-isononyl phthalate
  • din-butylphthalate
  • din-hexyl phthalate
  • di-n-octyl phthalate
  • di-n-propyl phthalate
  • diethyl phthalate

Note: Just look for the word: “phthalates.”

What Should You Do?

Stick to products that are organic and non-toxic; that is going to be your best bet. Because phthalates are everywhere: plastic wraps, hairspray, nail polish. Even when you smell inside a new car, that “phthalates.” Many hair brands in the market embrace being organic.

woman drinking water

What You Should Avoid

BPA is in the bottle of your favorite hair product such as shampoo, conditioner, or hairspray.

BPA may not be an ingredient on the list because it is merely “not an ingredient of the hair product, but a chemical that can affect your health. But, if you see bisphenol A, please reconsider purchasing the product.

What Should You Do?

Research lets us know that BPA was found harmful in animals, but they haven’t indeed found substantial evidence in humans.

So, we are not sure how BPA is dangerous, but it is always good to watch up for these ingredients. Studies have found that BPA is hazardous, but scientists have not given substantial reasons why or how. Right now, the US Food and Drug Administration has set safe levels of BPA exposure.

Look for products that are labeled “BFA-Free.”

Antimicrobials

An antimicrobial is a chemical agent that kills microorganisms or stops their increasing growth.

Antibacterial soaps include antimicrobials and antimicrobials are great for killing fungi. Though there are many antimicrobials, there are two chemical ingredients: Triclosan and Triclocarban that were found harmful and very dangerous. These are vital ingredients that tie to hormone disruption, bacterial resistance, and potential liver cancer.

After proper research, the FDA announced that companies should not market products with triclosan and triclocarban.

shampoo

What You Should Avoid

Please stay away from the ingredients:

  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban

These ingredients are also in many anti-bacterial soaps.

What Should You Do?

Because the ingredients Triclosan and Triclocarban are found dangerous, it’s best if your hair products are natural and organic. This is the best way to avoid these chemical ingredients.

Ethanolamines

Ethanolamine is a solvent in cleaners and an emulsifier in creams and lotions, a chemical additive that encourages the suspension of one liquid.

They are also known as Monoethanolamine, Diethanolamine, and Triethanolamine (MEA, DEA, and TEA). They are cosmetic foaming agents that are usually in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and dyes. And they also help to adjust the pH levels in these products.

Scientists prefer that you rinse off these chemicals as soon as possible. Animal studies have linked ethanolamines to the formation of tumors and cause developmental problems for an unborn fetus.

Scientists state that these chemicals do no offer any benefit to the skin.

There have been studies shown that ethanolamines increase the risk for cancer with repeated and prolonged use. The European Commision prohibits the use of DEA in cosmetic products.

conditioner

What You Should Avoid

You can find these ingredients listed as:

  • Triethanolamine
  • diethanolamine
  • DEA
  • TEA
  • cocamide DEA
  • cocamide MEA
  • DEA-cetyl phosphate
  • DEA oleth-3 phosphate
  • lauramide DEA
  • linoleamide MEA
  • myristamide DEA
  • oleamide DEA
  • stearamide MEA
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate [2]

What Should You Do?

Read the label and avoid the ingredients. Unfortunately, these are hard ingredients to avoid when shopping for your favorite hair care product. Find a product that puts you less at risk.

Alkylphenols (APEs)

Alkylphenols (APEs) is a family of organic compounds that are inert ingredients in pesticides.

These act as a surfactant in household cleaning products and hair products like shampoo, conditioner, and dye. Its research concludes that alkylphenol causes endocrine disruption.

The initial use for alkylphenols was for detergents and as additives for fuel. Later on, alkylphenols’ use was for adhesives and paints. The United Kingdom banned the use of APO for domestic products in 1976.

foil hair dye color

What You Should Avoid

These ingredients which include:

  • propylphenol
  • butylpheno
  • amylphenol
  • heptylphenol
  • octylphenol ethoxylates (OPEs)
  • nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)
  • dodecylphenol

What Should You Do?

Try to find hair products that do not include Alkylphenols. Right now, only very few products contain these chemicals, but it doesn’t hurt to look.

Fragrances

When fragrances are in hair products such as shampoos and conditioners, they are often artificial.

If your shampoo smells like fruit such as mandarins and mangos, there is a significant chance that was made in a laboratory. This means that there are chemical ingredients that scientists invent that create the desired smell of mandarin and mangoes, instead of the real trace of these fruits.

When using these hair products, the chemical fragrance ingredients can penetrate your skin and build toxins up toxins. Artificial fragrances penetrate beyond the surface of the skin and the skin on the scalp in particular. Fragrances can cause endocrine disruption and asthma.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mentions that many fragrance ingredients can penetrate your skin and build toxins up toxins. Artificial fragrances penetrate beyond the surface of the skin and the skin on the scalp in particular. Fragrances can cause endocrine disruption and asthma.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mentions that many fragrances are harmful. Fragrance chemicals can cause cancer when combined with other chemicals.

Miss Dior Hair Mist hair perfume

What You Should Avoid

Natural ingredients:

  • benzylcetate
  • eugenol
  • hexyl cinnemal
  • limonene
  • linalool
  • methyl eugenol
  • methyl salicylate
  • pinene
  • terpineol

Synthetic ingredients:

  • AHTN
  • bucinal
  • diphenyl ether
  • DPMI
  • HHCB
  • isobornyl acetate
  • methyl ionone
  • musk ketone
  • musk xylene
  • phenethyl alcohol

What Should You Do?

Use products with natural fragrances or no fragrances at all. We live in a society where most of our beauty products have a scent to it. You don’t have to purchase fragranced products all the time. Keep it limited.

makeup

It is Possible to Avoid the Unnecessary Harsh Chemicals

There are many chemicals out there in our products. Although, we cannot avoid all these chemicals, let’s avoid the harsher chemicals that can potentially do damage to our health.

For one, try purchasing organic and natural hair care products. Organic and natural products are great for getting the job done just like synthetic hair products. They may cost more, but it’s worth it to your health.

3 Great and Safe Hair Care Brands

No fear, there are product brands that use natural ingredients. In Fact, these companies do their best to promote health and wellness for everyday life.

1. Shea Moisture

Shea Moisture is a hair care line that uses natural products. This company claims that it does not include parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, DEA (diethanolamine), petroleum, formaldehyde, and propylene.

curlfest products shea moisture

2. Rahua

Rahua is a sulfate-free and paraben-free product line that includes products for hair such as shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, and texturizers. Their range of products are great and offer a variety of products to use.

3. Intelligent Nutrients

Intelligent Nutrients is a product line that is non-toxic, and there are certified organic products.

Always Read The Label

There are many hair products out there, and some include cancer-causing ingredients since it’s cheaper and more available for the company to use.

The best way to prevent yourself from using products that contain hazardous ingredients is to familiarize yourself with these chemical ingredients and read the label. Yes, it’s hard and something most of us skip while shopping at Target. But, I promise you that the short time used to look at the label will be a first step to prevent long-term health issues.

Have you ever used a natural hair care line, and if you do, which natural hair care line have you used?

About Funke Adeniji

As someone who constantly changes her style, Funke grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s "figuring out" her hair. As the industry of hair grew, she also did--understanding the nuances of hair styles and trends that she has constantly adapted. She's a 9 to5er that holds a Sociology degree and lives in Washington, DC.

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