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10 Common Ingredients That Actually Damage Your Hair

10 Common Ingredients That Actually Damage Your Hair

Your hair is a precious commodity. And you should treat it as such. Most men will experience some level of hair loss - with over half of men ages 40-49 having what's categorized as "moderate to extensive hair loss."

So, naturally, you want to use hair care products that will cleanse, strengthen, hydrate, and generally enhance your hair. But there's an issue.

Lots of common ingredients in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products actually damage your hair.

It doesn't make much sense, right? Why would a company put harmful ingredients into their hair care products? Two of the main reasons are:

  • Cost. Cheap products tend to be packed with fillers, preservatives, and detergents that aren't great for your hair and scalp - but are cost effective.
  • Inertia. Some of these harmful and potentially harmful ingredients have been used for decades. That means there are already established supply chains for them. And since most other products already contain these not-so-great ingredients, there's no industry pressure to remove them.

We think your hair is more important than a shampoo manufacturer's bottom line, which is why we've got this list of the top 10 common ingredients to watch out for in hair care products.


1 - Sulfates

Sulfates are detergents made with mineral salts that contain sulfur. They became ubiquitous in hair care products during the early 20th century - especially sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate.

Sulfates are also surfactants that attract water and oil. They're quite harsh, so they can rob your hair of necessary oils and moisture while also causing scalp irritation for some folks.

Yes, you need a cleansing ingredient to get the dirt and oil out of your hair. But no, it doesn't have to be a harsh, irritating one - gentle alternatives are available.


2 - Parabens

Parabens are preservatives that prevent fungal, bacterial, and viral growth in personal care products. That part is fine - the issue is that parabens can mimic estrogen and have been linked to a possible increase in breast cancer risk.


3 - Coal Tar

Coal tar can be found in shampoos as a dandruff-fighting ingredient and for product coloration. While it can be effective in treating dandruff, there are other natural ingredients that are far lower-risk. Unfortunately, coal tar is a byproduct of petroleum and is therefore a possible carcinogen linked to a variety of cancers.


4 - Selenium Sulfide

Like coal tar, selenium sulfide is a common active ingredient in men's dandruff shampoos. Evidence shows that it's effective at slowing the growth of yeast and bacteria that cause dandruff. But it comes at a cost - scalp irritation is common with this ingredient. Research shows that selenium sulfide’s “side effects include skin irritation, dry skin, oily or dry hair or temporary hair loss.”


5 - Phthalates

Like so many other ingredients on this no-no list, phthalates are a possible carcinogen. They have also been potentially linked to reproductive health issues. While investigations into their health effects are ongoing, the FDA's response has been delayed in the US.

One of the major concerns about phthalates for men is that these ingredients are endocrine disruptors. Phthalates are "known to lower normal testosterone levels and male growth hormones, warp genital development, lower sperm counts, reduce sperm motility, and damage sperm."

Phthalates are also commonly found as part of the next problematic catch-all ingredient.


6 - Mystery Fragrances

Fragrance is often used as a vague term in ingredients lists. The exact combination of ingredients that make products smell the way they do is considered a trade secret. This allows companies to withhold the details of fragrances - some of which can be irritating or harmful. A great example is #5 on this list, phthalates, which are often a part of artificial shampoo scents.

Brands that use scents derived from essential oils are a better choice; they're easier on your hair and scalp while still smelling great.


7 - Mineral Oil

While it can help detangle and shine your hair, mineral oil is not the best choice for shampoo ingredients. It's not able to fully penetrate your hair follicles. So while mineral oil may make your hair look fuller and shinier temporarily, it will eventually dry out your hair and leave it dull with repeated use. Aloe and jojoba oil are far better choices for your hair and skin.


8 - Alcohols

Alcohols are generally used in hair care products to encourage fast absorption by the hair. But shampoo and other products that feature alcohol as a main ingredient are likely to dry out your scalp and hair. They can also be sources of skin irritation due to their drying effect.


9 - Formaldehyde

It can be found in lots of different products across multiple industries, but formaldehyde is not an ingredient you want in your hair care products. It can be used as a preservative or a vapor, but either way it is highly irritating to folks with sensitive skin. Sometimes formaldehyde isn't listed as an ingredient because it's used to make a different chemical compound during the manufacturing process. Still, the end product may contain trace amounts of formaldehyde.


10 - Silicones

Silicones coat your hair and give it an artificial smooth feeling. That's great in the moment. However, silicones build up around the hair shaft with time and eventually prevent moisture and nourishing ingredients from reaching your hair. Dry, flat hair is the result of consistent use of shampoos and conditioners that contain silicone.


Choose Gentle, Natural Hair Care Products

Our hair care products avoid these problematic ingredients. Instead, we opt for safe, natural, hair-enhancing formulas that get results without including the unpleasant side effects.


Daily Strengthening Shampoo

Our Daily Strengthening Shampoo cleanses, thickens, and strengthens hair while also stimulating the scalp for optimal hair growth.

  • Key Ingredients: hydrolyzed wheat protein, amino acids, peppermint and tea tree oil


Relieving Dandruff Shampoo

Our Relieving Dandruff Shampoo cleanses hair, reduces flakes, prevents dandruff, and reduces oil without harsh, irritating chemicals.

  • Key Ingredients: Ziziphus Joazeiro bark extract, jojoba, aloe vera


Revitalizing Hair Conditioner

Our Revitalizing Hair Conditioner boosts hair shine, moisture, and elasticity while soothing and hydrating the scalp for reduced irritating and maximum hair growth.

  • Key Ingredients: aloe vera, borage oil, avocado oil
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