Harmful Chemicals Lurking in Your Shampoo

 Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Photo by: Bigstockphoto

You might not know it, but your favorite shampoo might be making you sick! Just like most personal care products, regular shampoos are packed with a cocktail of toxic compounds. These compounds affect the body in many ways too. Some can disrupt the endocrine system, others cause cancer. So always check the label and avoid shampoos with these chemicals:

Sulfates: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Sulfates are a sudsing ingredient that creates a luxurious lather in shampoos. This detergent is widely used in shampoos, body wash, soaps, toothpaste, and shaving cream. Unfortunately, traces of these compounds accumulate in the organs, particularly in the heart, brain, liver, and lungs. According to the American College of Toxicology, the body absorbs SLS and SLES through the skin. Then, the compounds will start building up in various organs, causing tissue damage and inflammation. Studies show that SLS cause DNA damage while SLES is a known carcinogenic.


Parabens are a group of preservatives that extend the shelf life of your favorite shampoo. But even at low doses, these chemical preservatives can cause organ damage and reproductive disorders. In one study that assessed the breast tissues of 40 women who underwent mastectomy, 99% of the samples have traces of parabens. This suggests that parabens may increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Apart from causing cancer, parabens are linked to reproductive problems. The chemicals mimic the estrogen in the body, causing unbalanced hormones and disrupting reproductive functions in women.

Synthetic Fragrance

Most women love scented shampoos because they make the hair fragrant. But be warned, the more fragrant the product is, the more concentrated the toxic chemicals are! Most personal care products contain more than 3,100 chemicals. These chemicals cause a variety of health problems ranging from liver toxicity to allergies and disruption in the central nervous system. Some are known carcinogen and others cause learning disabilities and developmental abnormalities in children.

Unfortunately, the fragrance industry is not keen on labeling scents in personal care products very well. According to consumer watchdog Environmental Working Group, an average scent contains 14 “secret” chemicals. The chemicals are undisclosed because they are considered “trade secrets.” The industry is literally using a loophole in the law to use hazardous compounds in body care products.

Polyethylene Glycol or PEG

PEG is a petroleum-based compound that gives shampoos their rich, creamy texture. But apart from causing cancer, PEG also cause genotoxicity, developmental problems, and systemic toxicity! Worse, some baby care products contain PEG! Studies show that infants exposed to this compound are at risk of stunted development.  Even some products marketed as “natural” aren’t really natural at all because they contain chemicals like PEG! To avoid PEG, you have to use certified organic products. So always read the label.

Diethanolamine or DEA

DEA helps create a luxurious lather in shampoos. But this compound irritates the skin and eyes. Worse, studies link DEA to cancer. When combined with anti-corrosive agents, DEA could potentially form nitrosamines. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, nitrosamines are potentially cancerous to human beings.