Things to Avoid in Hair Care

There are so many ingredients in our hair care from shampoo and conditioner, to styling products. In the short term, these are making our hair look fab, but are wreaking havoc on our locks from the core of each strand out, and from scalp to tip! Read your labels, and keep an eye out for these sneaky ingredients.


There’s a reason many drugstore brands come to a satisfying foam when you suds up. Sulfates are a foaming agent, but can cause damage to the skin resulting in itchiness and irritation, rash, and lack of moisture to the top layers of the skin. They even weaken our immune system once absorbed into the body. They’re definitely not something you want to massage into the delicate skin on your head.


Pesky parabens are types of preservatives that can also cause irritation, and have even been linked to breast cancer. They are a known hormone disruptor, especially in women, because they mimic estrogen in the body and mess with our normal function. Not cool.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

Typically used as a thickening agent in shampoos, PEGs are a hard no because they strip hair and the scalp of their natural moisture. That can cause irritation and a flaky scalp, under the guide of feeling luxurious to apply and making hair feel soft to the touch (at first). But PEGs can also be found in coloring products, and many of these PEGs contain toxic contaminants like ethylene oxide, a component in antifreeze.

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

Many people have allergic reactions to these chemicals, even subtly, over time, and misinterpret the symptoms for dandruff or dry scalp. They also strip your hair of natural keratin, making your mane frizzy and unmanageable—one of the reasons it makes it into the Beauty Schools Directory’s dirty dozen.

Isopropyl Alcohol

This ingredient is pretty standard in a lot of products, helping to stabilize the formula for a long shelf life without losing the ideal consistency. However, it’s also in wood shellac, varnish, and antifreeze, which should be a pretty good indicator of how drying and irritating it can be. It’s also super easily absorbed through our skin, and the skin on our scalp is delicate and thin.

Cocamide DEA

This tricky one is derived from coconut oil, so we tend to brush it off and think it’s safe. However, it’s so far modified from its original form that it is completely toxic, and is deemed a known carcinogen with a high potential for irritation.


Silicones coat the hair shaft, making the hair gleam and feel shiny, soft, and healthy. However, it’s false advertising. They prevent the hair from absorbing other nutrients and generally suffocate it while clogging pores and follicles on the scalp. If used in a heat-protectant product, keep it as far from the scalp as possible to avoid causing icky buildup.

Read your labels! Here are some products from brands I do recommend:

Modere Moisturizing Shampoo

Modere Moisturizing Conditioner

Acure Organics Shampoo + Conditioner

Living Proof Dry Shampoo

Rahua Sea Salt Spray

Article contains some affiliate links – I would never promote products that I do not believe in. * Article citing chemical descriptions from Poosh

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