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Worst substances found in hair products

Worst substances found in hair products

Do you really know what's in your shampoo or hair styling products?

In this day and age, the market is loaded with hair styling products that promise amazing results within a few uses.

These brands develop their products by including several ingredients that could potentially improve the quality of your hair. However, the story does not always have a happy ending.

You see, there are many substances that could potentially wreak havoc on your hair, especially when used for a prolonged period of time.


The worst substances to avoid:



Often labeled as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, this substance strips the oil and dirt away from your hair. However, using sulfate for a long time could lead to counterproductive results.

Your hair needs to retain some quantity of its natural moisture and oil to remain healthy.  Stripping away too much oil leads to dry, thin hair follicles. This substance also predisposes the scalp to dermatological conditions and irritation




Phthalates are commonly used as solvents and perfumes in hair and cosmetic products.

According to studies, phthalates interfere with the endocrine system and reproductive function of males and females. It could also cause birth defects when a pregnant woman gets exposed to it.

In the cosmetic department, phthalates get advertised as lubricants that soften other substances and promote their spreadability, absorption, and fragrances. However, the prolonged exposure to this substance can lead to devastating consequences.

Aryl amines


Aryl amines are commonly used in the hair dye industry.

According to research, aryl amines could potentially be carcinogenic substances. In other words, they could lead to some types of cancer by inducing a genetic mutation in your DNA. Exposure to these chemicals in the workplace increased the risk of bladder cancer.


Note that the research in this area is lacking, which mandates further clinical studies.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)


Another detergent, this ingredient also creates the lathering foam action we love in our shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and cleaning products. But did you know that SLS’ can have mutagenic properties and other toxic effects on the human body? If your hair is in need of a bit more moisture, you might consider avoiding this ingredient in your next shampoo!




Silicones create the temporary illusion of healthy hair. But as you use the silicone added shampoo more and more, this silicone builds up layer by layer, eventually weighing your hair making it appear greasy, dull and lacking shine. Tip: look out for words ending in ‘cone’ on the ingredient list, e.g. dimethicone.



Quaternium-15 is a surfactant and preservative in hair care products like shampoos and conditioners. It is an ammonium salt that is carcinogenic. It is also a formaldehyde releaser. Quaternium-15 is also a possible eye irritant.

Selenium sulfide


Selenium sulfide  is a proven carcinogen (cancer causing compound). Lab tests on mice showed the development of tumors due to selenium sulfide. Read the ingredients of your anti-dandruff shampoos to stay away from selenium sulfide.


Synthetic fragrances


Technically speaking, synthetic fragrances are not the worst thing you can do to your hair. However, it could lead to impactful effects. These chemicals could damage your hair, especially when you do not inspect the ingredients found in the product.


The vast majority of synthetic fragrances are made from harsh alcohol (e.g., ethyl alcohol), which dehydrates and thins your hair.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that ethyl alcohol leads to substantial hair dehydration. Therefore, most cosmetic brands are shifting to other types of alcohols. Note that when you let your hair get dehydrated, long-term damage incurs, including split ends, fizziness, and breakage.




Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are used in many cosmetics to prevent mould and bacteria growing in water-based products such as shampoo. Formaldehyde can be absorbed through the skin and has been linked with allergic skin reactions, hair loss and some cancers. Tip: look for ingredient names such as quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and polyoxymethylene urea and Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.



Denatured alcohols


Denatured alcohols are extremely common in cosmetics and hair styling products. Companies use these substances for various purposes, including the preservation of the product and the prolongation of its shelf-life. However, you should not use denatured alcohols on your hair since it leads to dehydration and strips your moisture.

Tip: the bad alcohols to avoid usually have a “prop” in their name, like Isopropyl alcohol or propanol.


Sodium chloride


Sodium chloride is an irritant substance that could be hazardous in some cases. It is one of the most common ingredients found in shampoos. It also affects your hair color and dehydrates the roots. It can potentially strip a layer of your hair, which predisposes the follicles and scalp to all types of diseases.




Shampoos contain thickeners. Manufacturers do this by adding tiny flakes of the appropriate chemicals like glycol distearate. These help increase the flow of the shampoo. They don’t have any adverse impacts on the health of your hair. Common shampoo thickeners are: Stearic acid, Gelatin, Xanthan gum, Carnauba wax, Stearyl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol‌


Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Growth shampoo

What should I use instead?


Consider choosing natural shampoos to avoid harmful ingredients. A shampoo is natural when it contains no sulfate and comprises plant-based or organic ingredients.


Natural shampoos include essential oils, like:

Peppermint, lemon, lavender, Certified-organic ingredients, Aloe, Coconut oil, Organic hemp, Organic honey, Chamomile, Olive, Plant oils like geranium or jojoba oil

What can I do to grow hair?

Add a hair-healthy vitamin to your a.m. routine. 


If your diet isn’t supplying you with enough nutrition, a supplement could make a world of difference. Look for a multivitamin that’s formulated and labeled ‘for hair, skin and nails,’ Those contain important vitamins like biotin and C and B that can support hair health.”  These vitamins and minerals contribute to healthier hair: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, Iron, Omega-3 fatty acids


Get a Trim. 


How could a haircut help your hair grow? When you get a trim, what comes off is the ends, the weakest parts of the strands. If left as is, those ends could break or split. Split ends can travel up your hair shafts and make your locks even shorter. Just don’t cut too much, if growth is your goal. Your hair grows about 1/2 inch a month, so you might aim for a 1/4-inch trim every 3 months or so.


Stress Less. 


Serious stress can send hair into a resting phase, skipping the stage that coaxes it to grow. It may put you at higher risk for a condition called alopecia areata, where your own immune system attacks your hair follicles. It could also lead to trichotillomania, a strong urge to pull out your hair. Your hair might grow back when you reduce the stress in your life or find ways to manage it.


Sleep on Satin. 


Crisp cotton linens feel good against your skin, but they might not be the best choice if you have fragile hair. Some people swear by wearing a satin bonnet to bed or sleeping on satin pillowcases. That won’t make hair grow faster, but it may reduce friction, frizz, and breakage. It feels luxurious, too.


Do DIY Hair treatments

Castor Oil Hair Mask

Use it to treat:


Dry scalp and dandruff. Castor oil is rich in fatty acids that moisturise and has antimicrobial properties that make it a worthy treatment for dry scalp and dandruff.

Ingredients: 1 teaspoon of castor oil.

Directions: Put cold-pressed castor oil in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds. It should be warm, not hot. Using your fingertips, massage the castor oil into your scalp and down the hair shaft. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse well, then shampoo.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Use it to treat:


Flakes and itchy scalp. Thanks to its acidic nature and antimicrobial properties, an apple cider vinegar rinse helps cleanse your scalp and restore shine.

Ingredients: 1 part raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 10 parts water.

Directions: Mix the two ingredients. Apply to wet hair after conditioning, massage into the scalp, and let sit for five minutes. Rinse well.

Avocado and Banana

Use it to treat: Dry, damaged hair. This mask is a deep conditioning treatment that contains nutrient-rich ingredients to add protein back into the hair, making it look super shiny and healthy

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons of banana and 2 tablespoons of avocado.

Directions: Using a fork, mash banana and avocado together until smooth. Apply the mixture from roots to ends to thoroughly saturate each section of hair. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse out.


Coconut Oil, Honey, and Avocado Oil


Use it to treat: Frizzy hair. The fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidant properties of the mixture will help reduce frizz and add shine.

Ingredients: 1 teaspoon refined coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of 100 percent pure honey, 1 tablespoon of avocado oil.

Directions: Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Use your fingertips to apply, starting at your scalp and working down to your ends. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water, then shampoo with a clarifying shampoo and your usual conditioner.

Egg Mask


This recipe is not every woman’s favorite; in fact it is hated for the smell. But eggs are the most effective when it comes to hair growth! Eggs are full of protein which induces hair growth like crazy, eggs also contains iron, zinc, phosphor and iodine.

Ingredients: Crack one egg in a bowl, and then add a little bit of olive oil or lavender oil or any other oil that you prefer and 1 tbsp of honey.

Directions: Mix the ingredients well and apply it to your hair. Leave it on for 20 minutes. Wash your hair with cold water and shampoo.

Essential oils for your hair

Lavender essential oil – can speed up hair growth. Knowing that lavender oil has properties that can generate the growth of cells and reduce stress, researchers on one animal study found that this oil was able to generate faster hair growth in mice. It also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which can improve scalp health.

Mix several drops of lavender oil into 3 tablespoons of carrier oil, like olive oil or melted coconut oil, and apply it directly to your scalp. Leave it in for at least 10 minutes before washing it out and shampooing as you normally would. You can do this several times per week.


Clary sage essential oil – contains the same linalyl acetate that helps make lavender oil so effective in increasing hair growth. It can improve hair strength, in addition to increasing hair growth, making hair more difficult to break.

Mix 3 drops of clary sage oil with your favorite conditioner, or with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. If using it daily, rinse out after 2 minutes. If using it once or twice per week, leave it on for 10 minutes.


Tea tree essential oil – has powerful cleansing, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. When used topically, it can help unplug hair follicles and increase hair growth. Tea tree oils come in many concentrations, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Some are highly concentrated essential oils, and other products are mixed in a cream or oil.

You can mix 10 drops of tea tree essential oil into your shampoo or conditioner and use it daily. Or, you can mix 3 drops with 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil, and leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it out.


Ylang-ylang essential oil – while those with oily hair and skin would want to skip this one, ylang-ylang oil is ideal for those with dry scalps, as it can stimulate sebum production. As lack of enough oil and sebum causes hair to become dry and brittle, ylang-ylang can improve hair texture and reduce hair breakage.

Mix 5 drops of essential ylang-ylang oil with 2 tablespoons of warm oil. Massage it into your scalp, and wrap your head with a warm towel. Leave it in for 30 minutes before washing it out. Ylang-ylang can also be found in preparations such as shampoo or creams.

The benefits of rosemary for hair


Rosemary is very common and easily accessible herb. It is green in appearance with thin, needle-like leaves with a deep, pungent smell. When it comes to its contributions to hair it seems to be all-purpose. Here is a brief list of its uses and benefits to hair…

Hair Growth – Stimulates and improves circulation to the scalp thus encouraging hair growth
Hair Cleanser – Due to its antibacterial quality it gently cleanses hair
Shine – Increases shine
Scalp issues – Relieves irritated, dry, flaky, dandruff ridden scalps

DIY Rosemary Oil


Buy fresh rosemary and crush it within your hands to bring out the aroma.

Put the crushed herb into a GLASS bottle (beer bottle, jelly, jars etc) and pour your choice of oil (olive, almond oil, jojoba, etc) over the herbs. Try to pick an oil that is not temperature sensitive like coconut oil.

Put the bottle in a cool, dark space and allow it to sit for 2-4 weeks.

You can then apply this rosemary infused oil to your hair and scalp for treating dandruff, scalp irritation, to stimulate hair growth, for a scalp massage, or for added shine and luster. 

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