Do you like to take care of yourself and dream of naturally healthy hair?
Between the hair products recommended in salons, those touted by bloggers and beauty influencers and the ones available in stores and pharmacies, it can be difficult to disentangle what constitutes a real good shampoo, both in terms of ingredients and results.
We want to take care of our hair and our scalp with natural products, but we do not know where to start? With all these different choices, it can be quite hard to choose. Add to that the fact that companies sometimes have a greenwashing marketing strategy, it can get really confusing.
But don’t stress! We've got you covered! We've put together a handy little guide to help you get a better understanding of what to look for (and what to avoid!) when it comes to hair products. You’ll soon be able to hair flip that beautiful mane of yours with pride!
Why are harmful ingredients found in so many shampoos?
Credit: Instagram / @brookandpeony
The question arises: if so many ingredients are recognized as being potentially toxic or carcinogenic, why aren't they simply banned by the government? Although several organizations, such as the EWG or the American foundation Breast Cancer Prevention Partners with its Campaign for Safe Cosmetics denounce the risks associated with certain ingredients, the government allows their use in supposedly safe small doses in household and personal care products.
On the other hand, consumers wonder (and are right to do so): if the use of these products is frequent, and that we use several of these products containing contaminants daily, should this be cause for concern? Indeed, there is food for thought. Since our epidermis is our largest organ and absorbs the substances that we deposit on it, we should be careful about what we put on our body the same way we are careful about we ingest, for example.
Unfortunately, since the regulations imposed by the government do not sort these things out for us, it is the consumer's role to educate themselves and learn to read product labels carefully, much like reading the list of ingredients of a food product.
The beneficial ingredients to look for in a shampoo
With all that being said, we might wonder what to look for on these seemingly unreadable labels that seem written in a language we don’t understand. Generally, vegetal butters and oils, herbs and essential oils are all natural and effective ingredients. But these ingredients of plant or natural origin are often listed according to their scientific names, which makes them more difficult to identify and recognize. To guide you and help you find the best shampoo for you, here is a list of healthy and safe ingredients * as found on most labels:
- Sodium coco-sulfate: a surfactant derived from coconut oil with excellent cleaning power and which adds consistency to the shampoo.
- Coco-glucoside: a foaming agent (surfactant) of plant origin derived from coconut oil and composed of glucoses (sugars). In shampoos, it cleanses and smoothes the hair fiber.
- Decyl glucoside: a surfactant composed of glucose and derived from cornstarch and coconut oil.
- Lauryl glucoside: a surfactant of plant origin and derived from corn and coconut oil.
- Sodium cocoyl glutamate: a surfactant derived from coconut oil, corn and fruit sugars (glucose).
- Sodium cocoyl isethionate: a surfactant derived from coconut oil.
- Vegetable glycerin: obtained from rapeseed or coconut oil. It is a moisturizing and emollient agent for the skin and the hair.
- Citric acid and sodium citrate: Citric acid and its naturally occurring sodium salt are used as pH adjusters, sequestering agents, stabilizers in a formula.
- Potassium sorbate: Potassium sorbate is a salt of sorbic acid that occurs naturally in some berries. It is used as an antimicrobial preservative.
- Stearyl citrate: naturally occurring and formed from stearyl alcohol and citric acid, it is an emollient that softens, softens and moisturizes the skin or hair.
- Glyceryl oleate: of plant origin, it is an emollient that softens, softens and hydrates the skin or hair.
- Butyrosperum parkii butter (shea butter): extracted from the kernels of shea fruit, it is an emollient that softens, softens and hydrates the skin or hair.
Good to know: All of the above ingredients are of natural origin and fully biodegradable.
* The ingredients listed above are examples of worry-free ingredients, but it is important to note that in pure form, they can be irritating. The secret is always in the right dosage and formulation!
Ingredients to avoid in hair care
Unfortunately, just looking for “natural”, “organic”, “green” or “plant-based” labels on packaging is not enough to ensure that the products we buy are indeed the best for us. This is why it is essential to learn to recognize what ingredients are really in the products we purchase.
This list includes the top ten ingredients to avoid when purchasing a shampoo but is not exhaustive. It's always best to look at a database like EWG and its Healthy Living app to check a product's rating before buying it.
- Formaldehydes. On the label: DMDM hydantoin, dioazolidinylurea, imidazolidinylurea, quaternium-15. All of them release formaldehyde, a carcinogen now recognized internationally;
- Ethoxylated surfactants. On the label: sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and all the ingredients that end in "-eth" (eg: Ceteareth, laureth-4, laureth-23…); they are normally contaminated with a carcinogen: these ingredients are produced by a reaction with ethylene oxide, a synthetic substance recognized as carcinogenic and contaminated by a manufacturing impurity liable to carcinogenicity to humans, 1,4-dioxane . This substance is classified in group 2B of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) because it has a high carcinogenic potential for humans;
- Ethoxylated emulsifiers. On the label: PEG, PPG -..., polysorbate - (20, 30, 80 ...); they are often contaminated with carcinogens resulting from the reaction with ethylene oxide as mentioned above;
- Ingredients containing amines. On the label: cocamidopropyl betaine, triethanolamine and cocamide DEA / MEA (and all ingredients with the suffix "DEA" or "MEA"). These ingredients are contaminated with nitrosamines, a potential carcinogen according to Proposition 65;
- Artificial colors. On the label: FD&C, D&C, name of a color followed by a number or "colorant". Artificial colors can come from petroleum or contain heavy metals. Some artificial colors can cause irritation or sensitivity according to EWG, or even be contaminated with carcinogens presented according to the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest).
- Isothiazolinones. On the label: methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI); they cause skin allergies and eczemas. Many people develop strong sensitivities and more and more cases of chemical burns are now linked to these ingredients;
- Parabens. On the label: propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, and isopropylparaben; they are known endocrine disruptors and can also cause skin irritation according to the EWG.
- Triclosan: Used in several products for its antimicrobial properties, triclosan is recognized as an endocrine disruptor according to EWG and poses an environmental risk according to Health Canada.
- Silicones and artificial polymers. On the label: dimethicone, amodimethicone, acrylate cross polymer. They are synthetic compounds, non-renewable and non-biodegradable sources;
- Fragrances and / perfumes. On the label: Fragrance / Parfum. This term brings together a multitude of "secret" ingredients in which endocrine disruptors and / or carcinogens and / or synthetics and / or allergens are regularly found. It is impossible to know the composition unless it is listed on the label (according to the practices recommended today according to the international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients (INCI).
Now we are armed with practical and useful knowledge that we can apply in our next shampoo and conditioner search. You can take screenshots of both of our lists or save this article in your phone for later viewing.
If you are looking for healthy shampoos and conditioners that will make your hair look fabulous, you can always count on ATTITUDE and its range of vegan, natural, ECOLOGO certified hair care products, which obtained the best possible rating on the EWG website.