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Main Ingredients in Shampoo to Avoid

When I met my eventually-to-be wife Wendy I really learned the importance of hair care; to me it seemed like she spent hours every day making sure it was perfect!

It wasn’t until long after we were married that we understood the main ingredients in shampoo to avoid, and even as a long time health professional, although I knew of some of the potential harmful effects of ingredients like these I didn’t really grasp or take it seriously until we were affected.

I won’t reiterate our whole story for you but in the event you’re just beginning to follow us, the short version is removing household chemicals and harmful ingredients from everyday products (such as shampoo and conditioner) changed our lives forever, so much so it’s why we launched our product brand, we began to source for our family and wanted to make it easier for yours! (Read our story here.)

The current state of the healthy and beauty industry is definitely concerning for any health conscious or concerned family or individual.

Ingredient labels are flooded with many long and hard to pronounce ingredients, and in many cases when it comes to fragrances etc there is no EPA regulation of forced disclosure for manufacturers, meaning they don’t actually need to state what’s in their product it can simply be listed as a proprietary blend.

If the product in question has no direct or obvious medical benefit or health claim ingredient use is not greatly regulated and no form of licensing is necessary to support the marketing of the product, as such there are many ingredients that (through independent study) have shown the potential for harm, or may have negative health impacts for a variety of populations but are not restricted or regulated by any national or international regulatory bodies.

Are they harmful? I guess it depends on your definition of harmful, and for each individual their body’s ability to manage “toxic load.”

Everyday we’re constantly exposed to environmental conditions that may stress and strain our physiology, at some point as the system becomes overloaded and overwhelmed things begin to “break down” for lack of a better term.

(One really good, obvious and visual example of this is how we often gain body fat as we age in the midsection for men and in the hips for women, one of the ways the body responds to internal toxins that it can’t readily dispose of is to basically attach them to lipids and put them in storage out of harmful circulation. you may be thinking they can still harm from there, and once taken out of storage they must re-enter circulation where they may cause direct further harm.)

So how do the ingredients that made our list of “main ingredients in shampoo to avoid” affect you? Well it’s a pretty broad range, and somewhat individually specific. But they can range from:

  • Hormonal disruption from what are labeled as endocrine disrupting chemicals or EDCs.
  • Some have links to cancer.
  • Itchiness, redness and all manners of allergic reactions.
  • Hair loss.
  • Acne.
  • Impaired neurological development.
  • Reproductive disruptions.
  • Weight gain.
  • Organ damage.

And the list goes on…

In our personal experience blood tests showed the impact on hormone production and balance, in such a way that normal western medicine completely overlooked. My wife always wanted children but doctors insisted that our fertility challenges may not ever be rectified or would certainly require invasive and advanced conception treatments. 

All this may seem like heavy thinking, when it comes to shampoo, conditioner, and all these products we use on a daily basis and generally take for granted, or at least that was my initial thinking even after years of being a health professional….until it affected us.

Did you know that some studies show that some individuals spend almost 1% of their income on hair care products alone?

No wonder this is a multi-billion dollar industry!

Let’s get familiar with what ingredients in shampoos you should avoid. 

Do you know which ingredients may be harmful in your shampoo?

Phthalates, Sulfates and Parabens are ingredients in shampoos that you should always skip while shopping for a new product to try!


Phthalates are chemical substances that are used in almost every fragrant product, including shampoos and other hair care products.  They usually are Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Di(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP), Diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) etc. They have softening properties and help artificial fragrances stay on the skin longer so you can experience that “fresh” (maybe not so fresh when you think about it?) smell.

According to a number of studies phthalates may have many harmful side effects on our health.

Phthalates have been linked to:

  1. Kidney damage.
  2. Reproductive system disruption in men.
  3. Impaired neurological development and function.
  4. Breast cancer.
  5. Weight Gain
  6. Asthma, and allergies.


Sulfates are a type of surfactants. These create the “lather” or foaminess we’re used to in soapy products, they are used in shampoos to provide that lathering effect and to clean sebum and dirt from the hair and scalp. The two sulfates mostly commonly used are:

  1. a) Sodium lauryl sulfate
  2. b) Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Studies have shown that where they have high detergency properties, sulfates have some pretty major cons. While having a concentrated potency for cleaning, they also draw out natural oils from the hair and scalp along with cleaning the dirt away. 

As a result, they leave hair dull, dry (and often brittle) and void of moisture.  So, if someone already has a dry scalp, then shampoos containing sulfates can do more damage to hair than good.  

Moreover, sulfates may also lead to:

a) Redness of the scalp.

b) Itchiness and flaking on the scalp.

c) Frizzy, dry hair that suffers from breakage.

Just by avoiding sulfates in your shampoo your hair will likely begin to look and feel healthier in just a few washes. (And a shameless plug you should totally try our WIC Family Naturals Organic Shampoo & Conditioner, I think you’ll see what we see, ultra nourishing resulting in soft and healthy hair!)


Parabens are primarily used as preservatives in shampoos. The most commonly used parabens are methyl, ethyl, and propyl. There is a great deal of controversy about parabens’ effects in many research papers. According to some studies, parabens are considered safe.

But others consider parabens to be powerful endocrine disruptors. Based on personal experiences Parabens were a focused effort of elimination.

Parabens can be readily absorbed by the skin, and are found in a wide array of products beyond shampoo and hair care such as many edible products and cosmetics. 

In addition to endocrine disruption there is suggestion Parabens may also be linked to breast cancer. 

Even though Parabens are largely considered as safe and unregulated, it’s certainly our opinion that they have no place in products used by our family, and that further study is definitely needed by regulatory bodies to verify their safety. We definitely suggest you may want to consider avoiding Parabens.

Some other harmful ingredients in shampoos you should probably avoid are:

  • Sodium chloride (common salt) can cause dryness and itchiness leading to hair loss.
  • Similar to artificial fragrances, synthetic colours can damage your hair to some extreme level.  The reason is that petroleum and coal tar is used in making these colours that are harmful to health.

You only have one body, your body and your family are far too important to not consider the long term safety of the products you use daily. Anything ingested, inhaled or applied to your skin for any length of time can have a huge impact on your long term health, it’s truly much bigger than just the ingredients in shampoo to avoid. 

 I’d go so far to say that a large chunk of our society IS AFFECTED by many of these inconspicuous and unregulated chemicals but shrug off the effects as normal on the basis of how our society is evolving.

Much like I used to say all throughout my personal training years, “it’s not normal to be in pain, and pain doesn’t come with age, it is a product of our lifestyle and environment.”

Wendy and I learned first hand just how much is within our control, and not to even take your doctor’s assurance that how you feel is “normal” but you won’t know for sure until you take steps to try something different.

But what we can tell you is all of our products are Pthalate, Sulfate, and Paraben free with no artificial fragrances (or artificial anything!) we’d love to help you live happier and healthier with the same products we have sourced and developed to keep our family safe and healthy.

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