Discover the most toxic chemicals found in shampoo

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hair-shampoo(NaturalHealth365) Most people shampoo their hair a few times a week and may not realize the toxic mix they are absorbing through their skin. When you shampoo your hair, the 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands and 1,000 nerve endings soak in these toxins. In addition, when toxins are absorbed through the skin, they bypass your liver and enter the bloodstream and tissues directly – with no filtering.

If you ever tried reading the label on your shampoo bottle you might feel like you’re reading a foreign language, since many ingredients are listed by their chemical name. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about the common ingredients in shampoo which are linked to cancer, asthma, neurological problems, skin irritation and other health problems.

Editor’s note: Looking for an alternative to toxic personal care products?

Visit: Just Natural Hair & Skin Care for ‘made by hand’ (chemical free) shampoo, conditioner, lotions  plus much more.

You simply cannot assume that because a product is for sale in the marketplace it is safe. Deceptive advertising seems common place with many companies, as many products are labelled natural and yet contain hazardous ingredients.

Be warned: Here are eleven commonly used chemicals in shampoo

Some of the basic ingredients in shampoo include surfactants, preservatives, fragrance, color as well as active or inactive ingredients that can include stabilizers, thickeners and products to nourish or strengthen your hair. This is by no means a complete list of chemicals or their side effects.

Diethanolamine (DEA): DEA or diethanolamine is a wetting agent used to create a rich lather that many consumers expect in their shampoo. DEA reacts with other chemicals in the shampoo and can create an extremely potent carcinogen called NDEA (nitrosodiethanolamine).

NDEA is easily absorbed through the skin and is linked with bladder, esophagus, liver and stomach cancer.

To eliminate your exposure to NDEA avoid these ingredients:

  • Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine
  • DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate
  • Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine
  • Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine
  • Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine
  • Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS): SLS is a detergent and a surfactant used to break down surface tension allowing the shampoo to become a more effective cleanser. SLS is also linked to Nitrosamines a potent carcinogen that causes your body to absorb nitrates, another known carcinogen. Over 40,000 studies in PubMed science library include information on the toxicity of this chemical.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES): SLES is a concern as it can become contaminated with Dioxane. This is dependent on the manufacturing process. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen. Because the liver has a difficult time metabolizing this effectively, it remains in the body for an extended period of time.

Propylene Glycol: Although this ingredient is used in anti-freeze for your car radiator, you can also find it in moisturizers, hand sanitizers, baby products, conditioners and shampoos. MSDS sheets warn users to avoid skin contact, yet it remains in many cosmetics. It is linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Benzalkonium Chloride and Benzethonium Chloride: These chemical functions as a preservative, antimicrobial and surfactant in shampoo. They are also associated with severe skin, eye, respiratory irritation and allergies.

Formaldehyde: Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde releasing preservative. There are 85 studies in the PubMed science library that include information on the toxicity of this chemical. On a scale of 0-10, this product rates an 8 on the Skin Deep database. The European Union has determined that this ingredient ‘may not be safe’ in cosmetics.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine- (CAPB): Environmental Working Group Skin Deep lists this as a moderate overall hazard, associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis. According to PubMed, the increasing rates of sensitization led to CAPB’s being named Allergen of the Year in 2004.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone: According to Skin Deep, this widely used preservative is associated with allergic reactions and there is also some cancer concern.

Methylisothiazolinone: According to Skin Deep, this widely used preservative is associated with allergic reactions and lab studies on brain cells of mammals suggest that it may also be neurotoxic. Methylisothiazolinone can be very irritating. For this reason, it is mostly used in rinse-off products. The concentrations in leave-on products are restricted to a minimal amount to lessen the risk of a negative reaction.

Fragrance: Artificial fragrances can contain hundreds, even thousands of chemicals, including phthalates. Since fragrances are protected as a trade secret, the full ingredients do not have to be listed on the label. Fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.

How do I find safe products?

1.Research the company you are buying products from. Go to company websites, look up their mission statement. Check out their product lines.

Are they using synthetic ingredients or organic? Do they offer 3rd party testing and certification of their products?

2. Learn to read labels. This can be a challenge, since many ingredients are listed by a chemical name. Two great resources to help you get started are EWG’s Skin Deep data base and Ruth Winter’s book: A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients has a wealth of information.

3. Understand that certain terms can be ambiguous. There is no federal regulation for the word natural. So just because something states it is natural it doesn’t mean it is safe.

Let’s be clear, the Food and Drug Administration does not define what it means for a product to be labeled “organic” or “natural” or “hypoallergenic”. The processing of a natural product can involve the addition of chemicals to break it down to a useable formula.

4. Remember, natural and organic are not the same. Natural can mean the product was derived from a natural source, while the tern organic means that the plant was grown without the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides, however just because some organic products were used, doesn’t mean the entire product is organic.

5. Look for organic ingredients. According to the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) site, products with at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” on their label. The other 30 percent…I guess that’s for the consumer to find.

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients must list those items on the label, and can’t have a USDA organic label on the product.

6. Do the products have ‘3rd party certification?’ USDA organic certification means that 95% of the ingredients are organic. NSF certification means that 70% organic ingredients were used.

About the author: After sixteen years of struggling with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Elisha McFarland recovered her health through alternative and natural healing methods. It was this experience that encouraged her to pursue an education in natural health. She has the following designations: Bachelor of Science in Holistic Nutrition, Certified Wholistic Rejuvenist, Diploma in Clinical Homeopathy, Doctor of Naturopathy, EFT-ADV, and Master Herbalist. You can visit her website at

A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Ruth Winter, M.S. Sixth Edition 2005

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  • Immanuel Christian

    The best, easiest and least expensive soap, shampoo and toothpaste is borax. Simply add 15ml borax to 1.5 liter water in a pump-spray bottle and keep in a warm place. It is both nutrition and medicine and so mild that one can shampoo one’s hair every day without a problem.

    • Quetzalcoatl

      No offense is expressed nor implied, but the Borax of which you promote does have a potential to cause liver cancer: http://web.archive . org/web/20081228204459/http://pkditjenpdn. depdag. go. id/English/index.php?page=infodtl&InfoID=8&dtl=1 N.B. Especially when consumed in excess for 5-10 years. Overall though, the substance seems mostly harmless when applied topically and is even used in Elmer’s glue.

      • Sparyk

        Quetzalcoatl – the links do not work. Kindly re-post

      • Immanuel Christian

        It’s all just typical scare propaganda as you can see here: com/borax.htm

        health agencies are concerned about boron toxicity. You might be concerned as
        well if you read the following, pertaining to sodium chloride or table salt
        (17): ‘Acute oral toxicity (LD50 – the dose at which half of the tested animals
        die): 3,000 mg/kg [Rat]. Chronic Effects on Humans: Mutagenic for mammalian
        somatic cells. Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact, ingestion or
        inhalation. Lowest Published Lethal Oral Dose in Man: 1000 mg/kg. Causes
        adverse reproductive effects in humans (fetotoxicity,
        abortion) by intraplacental route, may increase risk
        of Toxemia of Pregnancy in susceptible women. May
        cause adverse reproductive effects and birth defects in animals, particularly
        rats and mice – fetotoxicity, abortion,
        musculoskeletal abnormalities, and maternal effects (on ovaries, fallopian
        tubes). May affect genetic material (mutagenic). Ingestion of large quantities
        can irritate the stomach with nausea and vomiting. May affect behavior (muscle spasicity/contraction,
        somnolence), sense organs, metabolism, and cardiovascular system. Continued
        exposure may produce dehydration, internal organ congestion, and coma.’

        compare the sodium chloride toxicity with the Material Safety Data Sheet or
        MSDS for borax (18): ‘Low acute oral toxicity; LD50 in rats 4,500 to 6,000
        mg/kg of body weight. Reproductive/developmental toxicity: Animal
        feeding studies in rat, mouse and dog, at high doses, have demonstrated effects
        on fertility and testes. Studies with boric acid in the rat, mouse and rabbit,
        at high doses, demonstrate developmental effects on the fetus,
        including fetal weight loss and minor skeletal
        variations. The doses administered were many times in excess of those to which
        humans would normally be exposed. No evidence of carcinogenicity in mice. No
        mutagenic activity was observed in a battery of short-term mutagenicity
        assays. Human epidemiological studies show no increase in pulmonary disease in
        occupational populations with chronic exposures to borate dust and no effect on

        Here you
        see that table salt is 50 to 100% more toxic than borax, it changes the genetic
        material and is mutagenic, while borax is harmless in this regard. Infants are
        most at risk from high borax ingestion. It has been estimated that 5 to 10
        grams can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea, shock and even death, but it also
        says that lethal doses are not well documented in the literature.