Reading a shampoo bottle can be a little like trying to decipher the writing on King Tut’s tomb without a background in archeology. It’s a long list of Latin-based names straight from the lab to your shower. Unfortunately, not all of the ingredients in the bottle are necessarily contributing to a head full of lustrous locks. In fact, some may be damaging your follicles and pores. 

Here are some shampoo ingredients that may be hurting your hair, your health, or even the environment.


In this article, you’ll learn: 

  1. If phthalates in shampoo is bad.
  2. If parabens in shampoo is bad for you. 
  3. If  polyethylene glycols are toxic.
  4. What is triclosan?
  5. Why dimethicone might make your hair brittle.
  6. Why retinyl palmitate gets negative press.
  7. What's up with PFAs?
  8. Why formaldehyde is better as an embalming fluid. 


1. Phthalates


Often called plasticizers because they make plastics more durable, phthalates can be found in everything from vinyl flooring to lubricating oils. And they are very prevalent in self-care products, including shampoo and gels, which they make more spreadable. Unfortunately, they are suspected of being endocrine disruptors capable of causing everything from early puberty in girls to low sperm counts.  

Geologie co-founding dermatologist Dr. Steve believes the jury is still out on whether phthalates are as harmful as feared. “There has been some data indicating they are endocrine disruptors, that is, they affect the endocrine system,” he says. “Although I think the likelihood is low, it’s worth looking into to learn more, and stay away from them in our products." 


2. Parabens


To increase the shelf life of hair care products and keep bacteria from growing in them, manufacturers commonly add preservatives called parabens. Over the years parabens have been implicated as a carcinogen. 

Dr. Steve believes parabens have gotten a bad rap. “Parabens, ultimately, are excellent preservatives. They're also very low in allergenicity, which is actually really good,” he says. “But they got a bad rap from a dubious study done some years ago. So we don’t use parabens in Geologie products because this misinformation is so widespread.” 


3. Polyethylene Glycols (PEG) 


A thickening agent used in hair care products, polyethylene glycol is derived from petroleum. Although there isn’t enough available research to prove that PEGs are actually toxic, some experts believe it can damage the sensitive skin of the scalp. 

Dr. Steve believes that using PEG is not dangerous. 


4. Triclosan 


In 2016, the FDA told the makers of antibacterial soap to stop using triclosan in their products. Makers of shampoos, toothpastes, and deodorants, however, still use them. In fact, triclosan can be found in everything from playground equipment to clothes. The problem with triclosan is that it accumulates in the body’s fat cells, which can keep the body in a state of toxicity. 

“While some short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones, we still don’t know the significance of those findings to human health,” said Dr. Steve. 

5. Dimethicone 


To add a protective layer to hair shafts, manufacturers often add a type of silicone called dimethicone. While this does protect the hair, it can also build up over time, clogging pores while blocking water and nourishment from reaching the scalp.This eventually makes the hair dry and brittle. It can even weigh your hair down and make it look flat. 


6. Retinyl palmitate  


Retinyl palmitate is what happens when palmitate is added to the alcohol form of  vitamin A, retinol, in order to make that vitamin stable in milk. It has long been used in sunscreens. However, retinyl palmitate has been implicated in itchy skin, redness, scaling, and peeling. There is also some concern that it may contribute to cancer, reproductive issues, and organ toxicity.


7. Alcohol


Frequently used as thickening agents in shampoo, alcohols can also be put to use as emollients, especially when derived from palm or coconut oil. The problem with these ingredients is that they can dry out your hair. 

“Avoid these substances -- especially propanol and isopropyl alcohol -- if you have a sensitive scalp,” said Dr. Steve. 


8. Quaternium-15 


Shampoos and conditioners can also contain a substance known as Quaternium-15. This is an ammonium salt that has a reputation as a common skin allergen and eye irritant. 


9. PFAs


PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are used in many products — waterproof, stain-resistant and nonstick items like baking pans, carpeting and clothing. It's also used in shampoos.  Problem is they're notoriously slow to break down. "We don't know if they have any specific health negatives, but since they don't go away, they're not flushed from your system, we're staying away from them in our products," said Dr. Steve. 


10. Formaldehyde 


A common preservative. formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It's also very irritating to the skin. But some people need formaldehyde to prevent microbial growth and it's used in low doses in some haircare products, which can be tolerated because it's a topical and can be rinsed out.

Still, it's best to avoid formaldehyde. "It's not an ideal preservative," said Dr. Steve. "Not only because it's a known carcinogen and causes a lot of skin allergy irritation, it's also in embalming fluid, and people get queasy about that."


Tired of shampoo that dries your hair and gives you more frizz than you need? Looking for more control of your hair? Say goodbye to bad hair days with Geologie's Co-wash. It's not shampoo, and it's not conditioner. It's a refreshing and cooling low foam wash designed to clean and care for your hair AND scalp.

Check out Custom Control Haircare here.  



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