Ingredients to Avoid in Your Hair Products & Things to Choose Instead


Genetics affect the quality of your hair as well as your lifestyle and the quality of the products you use.

Genetics affect the quality of your hair as well as your lifestyle and the quality of the products you use. Some products make your hair look smooth and healthy, but the effects are only temporary. Others may need more time to show the results, but they will nurture the hair follicles in the long run!

Some haircare products are formulated with chemicals that can be toxic and cause more harm than good. So, how to choose your hair care products? 

Check the ingredients list thoroughly and learn which ingredients are a red flag! 

Before we discuss potentially harmful ingredients in your hair care products, let's help you understand how to read the ingredients lists.

Understanding the Ingredients List

First of all, remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to include all ingredients used for formulation. Also, FDA requires the brands to compile a list of ingredients based on the percentage in the product.

Therefore, if you see water as the first ingredient on the list, the largest content of your product is water. In that sense, the first five ingredients matter the most.


 Gather all your hair products, find the ingredients list and start reading. If you find any of the following ingredients, consider replacing the product with a healthier one.

#1 Alcohols

Alcohol can dry your scalp and your hair. However, not all alcohols are bad. The Cetearyl and Stearyl alcohols actually help your hair retain moisture and are common ingredients in good shampoos.

On the other hand, cheaper shampoos often contain alcohols, such as Isopropyl and propanol, which are known for drying the hair and scalp. 

#2 Sulfates

Most shampoos contain sulfates. You can find them labelled as SLES and SLS:

  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth sulfate and
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

These sulfates are harsh cleaning agents that are good for washing the dirt and sebum away. But, sulfates remove sebum entirely during the process, leaving the hair unprotected, brittle, frizzy, and dry.

The SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate is an especially controversial ingredient. It is in charge of rich foam, which you don't need to clean the hair well. The SLS can be toxic to human life and cause skin, eyes and lungs irritation.

Because of its harsh cleansing properties, SLS is a common ingredient in many household cleaning products.

#3 Silicone

You'll find silicone hidden in the ingredients list as dimethicone, a common form of silicone used in cosmetics. Dimethicone gives your hair a smooth appearance and a soft look. It is also used in face primers to smooth the skin temporarily. 

When you use hair products with silicone for a prolonged time, it can pile up on the hair and make it heavier. Silicone build-up also prevents the nourishing ingredients from your hair care products from penetrating the hair.

Silicone can also pile up on your scalp, make your hair greasy and clog your pores. Occasional use of products with silicone isn't harmful if you need an instant smoothing effect, but don't use the hair products containing silicone regularly.

#4 Formaldehyde

Unlike silicone, formaldehyde is one of the ingredients that aren't negotiable. Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen, and it is used in hair products as a preservative. You can also find it under the name Quaternium-15 very often.

#5 Triclosan 

Triclosan is another preservative on the list of harmful hair care ingredients. It has antibacterial properties but is forbidden in some products, such as soaps.

Triclosan is a carcinogen ingredient, but you can find it in shampoos, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and other cosmetics. Large amounts of triclosan can lead to infertility, weight problems, cancer and other health problems.

#6 Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

Polyethylene Glycols (PEG) are derived from petroleum and added to hair care products to thicken them. Even though there is more research to be done to prove the harmful effect of PEGs, current scientific evidence suggests that PEG by-products are toxins. It is especially true for ethylene oxides and 1,4-dioxane.

#7 Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is retinol ester, an important skin vitamin. But, retinyl palmitate can cause burning, itching, redness, peeling, scaling, and other irritations when in contact with skin. Additionally, retinyl palmitate is connected to a list of health issues, such as cancer, organ problems, infertility, etc.

#8 Synthetic Colours

Why would you want your hair care products to look good? Manufacturers dye hair care products with synthetic colours, which can harm your health.

Also, the product doesn't have to look nice to perform well. You can find synthetic colours hidden in the ingredients list under labels - FD&C, D&C and followed with a number.

#9 Parabens

Parabens are controversial ingredients in all cosmetic products. A high concentration of parabens is linked with the growth of cancer cells. More research is required to prove the adverse effects of parabens, but you should restrain yourself from using hair masks and conditioners with parabens.

#10 Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is salt. It is added to shampoos and some hair care masks to thicken the structure. Sodium chloride doesn't have any benefits on your hair and scalp health. Moreover, it can irritate the sensitive scalp, cause dandruff, itchiness, redness, discomfort, etc. 


Even though every hair requires different ingredients and specialized care, some ingredients are universal and beneficial for all hair types. Now that you know what to avoid in your hair care products, let's see which elements to look for in the products for the best results!

#1 Lauryl Glucoside

If you want an effective but gentle cleanser and avoid sulfates, choose shampoos with lauryl glucoside. It will thoroughly clean your hair and scalp without the harsh foam and the cleaning properties SLS offer.

#2 Coconut Oil

Coconut oil penetrates hair follicles and nourishes hair deeply. It is also a good choice for people who prefer natural ingredients, and it improves the flexibility of the hair. Coconut oil is an excellent ingredient in hair conditioners, leave-in products, hair masks, etc.

#4 Various Oil Combo

Coconut oil might be the best oil for hair, but other oils such as olive oil, palm and jojoba oil also have excellent benefits for the hair. Their benefits enhance when these ingredients are mixed in hair masks and leave-in conditioners.

These natural oils have a similar structure to the human sebum, making them easier for the hair to absorb.

Argan and avocado oils are also very beneficial for the hair because they are excellent protein sources. They help strengthen the hair and make it smoother and easier to comb.

#5 Hydrolyzed Keratin

You probably know that keratin is excellent for your hair! It strengthens and softens the hair and is the number one ingredient for damaged hair.

If you choose a hair care product with hydrolyzed keratin, it will work as a filler to fill in chipped hair structure, leaving your hair shiny, smooth and easy to style.

#6 Shea Butter

Shea butter is a rich ingredient that provides moisture to the hair and scalp. It is one of the best ingredients for curly and coarse hair because it increases hair softness and locks the moisture in the hair.

Shea butter nurtures hair deeply and is a great element to look for in hair colours, as it can prevent breakage from colouring the hair and using harsh chemicals.

You can also choose products with mango and coconut butter.

#7 Biotin

People with biotin deficiency - vitamin B-deficiency suffer from hair loss and low-quality nails. A biotin is a form of B-vitamin added to hair products to help stimulate hair growth and strengthen the hair. You can find shampoos, conditioners, masks, and even serums enriched with biotin, or you can take it as a supplement.

#8 Honey

Honey is one of the best natural ingredients you can find in hair care products or use on its own. Either way, honey stimulates healthy cell growth, improves the look and shine of your hair, and benefits the hair and scalp.

Honey also helps lock the moisture in the hair, so it is a great ingredient to look for if you have dry hair.

Final Words

Finding the right hair care product includes research and a trial and error concept. Some of the harmful ingredients you can find in hair care products aren't only bad for your hair. They can affect your overall health and cause severe health issues, especially after prolonged use.

Therefore, learn to read the labels and interpret the ingredients list correctly. Instead of choosing silicone and sulfates-rich products, focus on hair care products based on natural oils!

You'll see the difference in hair quality soon!

Do you read labels on shampoos and conditioners?

Let us know in the comments below.



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published