I read an article today about the bad chemicals in shampoo, figured I would do some research and see what I found. There were many articles on the web, including several from the CDC and OSHA. There are chemicals in shampoo, that may be cancer causing agents. Prolonged use of products made with these chemicals may increase your chances of getting cancer. Most of the time we do not even think about what is in the products we buy or if it is safe for daily use.

Chemicals in shampoo can strip your hair of natural oils so that we must use conditioner to put the moisture back in our hair. Shampoo’s ingredients include:

  1. SurfactantsThis is what makes the suds when you lather up your hair.
  2. Preservatives or Parabens:  These are put into Shampoo so that it doesn’t breakdown. Preservatives prevent the growth of bacterias, molds, and yeast. Preservatives can cause a wide range of problems for both humans and the environment. They increase the risk of breast cancer. They are absorbed through the skin. Parabens can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products
  3. Fragrance: This is a catch-all term in which the companies can put all kinds of chemicals in the shampoos. Some of these such as Phthalates are linked to reproductive and developmental issues. The Phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. Also, synthetic musk which is linked to hormone disruption and breakdown in the human body. It can be found in many products such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash, and moisturizers. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.
  4. EmulsifiersConditioners may have emulsifiers which do not break down in the environment.
  5. Synthetic colors: FD&C or D&C are colors found in food or beauty products.Made from petroleum or coal tar it is suspected to be human carcinogens, skin irritants and are possibly linked to ADHD in children. Toluene is one of these chemicals. Toluene can have aliases such as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause damage to the fetus in pregnant women, so should be avoided. Toluene can also cause immune system toxicity. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments, and hair color/bleaching products.
  6. Triclosan: Used as an antimicrobial chemical is a known endocrine disruptor including the thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. This antimicrobial chemical can be found in toothpaste, antibacterial soaps, and deodorants.
  7. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): The Surfactants are found in more than 90% of the beauty and cleaning products made today. SLES may irritate the skin, lungs or eyes. It also has the ability to interact with other chemicals forming nitrosamines, which are a carcinogen. These Surfactants can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
  8. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) preservatives are used in beauty products to prevent bacteria growth. The chemical has been known to cause occupational cancers. Formaldehyde was rated as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) relating it to nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers. It may also harm the immune system. Formaldehyde can be found in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments.
  9. Propylene glycol: A organic alcohol used as a skin-conditioning agent, can irritate or penetrate the skin. It may cause dermatitis or hives in humans. Propylene Glycol can be found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.
  10. Sunscreen chemicals: Chemicals found in sun–screens to absorb ultraviolet light, can disrupt your endocrine system and thought to be easily absorbed by the skin. They can also cause cancer and cell damage. Other names companies can list are benzophenone, PABA, azobenzene, homosalate, and ethoxy cinnamate. They are fond in sunscreen products.

Toxic Ingredients to watch for:

  • Ethanolamines
  • Parabens
  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
    • quaternium-15
    • DMDM hydantoin
    • imidazolidinyl urea
    • diazolidinyl urea
    • polyoxymethylene urea
    • sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
    • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol)
    • glyoxal
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Fragrance

Below is a list of Shampoos that contain very few or no toxic chemicals:






Clairol hair food

Dove men care

Essence ultime

Galvin & galvin london

Head & shoulders

Equate (head & shoulders copycat)

Herbal essences

Jhirmack distinctions

Mustela bebe

Old spice

Pantene pro-v



Ricitos de oro

Renpure s












Burt’s Bees

California Baby

Clean Freak Dry Shampoo

Dr. Bronners

Earth Mama Angel Baby


Fresh Monster Haircare


Johnson’s Baby Naturals

Nine Naturals

Now Solutions

PSSSST Dry Shampoo

Shea Moisture Baby Shampoo

So Cozy 3 in 1 Kids Shampoo/Conditioner & Body Wash

The Honest Company



True Botanicals

This list was made by the Made Safe company, that tests for Toxic chemicals. Made Safe is the first company to perform non-toxic certifications. They screen products that harm humans or the environment. Many of these chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disrupters and are carcinogenic.

You may find the chemicals in your workplace, that are considered to be “environmentally safe” by the government, who considers these to be the “Permissible Exposure Limits.” OSHA has been investigating Salons and salon products for possible formaldehyde exposure. If you believe you have been exposed to high levels contact OSHA.

While you may never be able to make your life carcinogen free, it is a good idea to reduce the levels as much as you can. Changing to organic or natural products, or the ones listed above is a good start. Try to stay informed of the findings the CDC and OSHA send out is another way. You can also write the companies and ask them to create safer products. If they get enough mail maybe your favorite products will become safe.