Do You Know What’s In Your Shampoo?

There are some common ingredients found in most shampoos, including sulfates, parabens and phthalates, that are not only harmful to the environment, but may be potentially harmful to your health, as well. It’s important to understand that many of the potentially damaging effects of these chemicals have only been tested in laboratories, and haven’t necessarily been proven beyond a doubt; however, I think it’s important to have a full understanding of the products we use every day that are being absorbed through our skin into our bloodstream. Following are three of the most common ingredients used in commercially available shampoos, the reasons why they’re used and the potentially damaging impact of their use.

Sulfates are found in about 95% of the shampoos we find in stores. Known as surfactants, the most common sulfates found in shampoo are ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. These surfactants act as a wetting agent and produce a thick foam when applied to the hair. The lathering action helps to easily cleanse the hair of dirt, product residue and oil.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that the use of sulfates is damaging to the environment and may impact your overall health. Sulfates can be absorbed by the liver, and they can also disrupt the body’s hormone system because they mimic estrogen in the body. As far as your hair goes, using a shampoo with sulfates long-term could be damaging to your hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Sulfates can also be irritating to people with sensitive skin.

Parabens are used in thousands of beauty products. In fact, according to the FDA, parabens are the most commonly used preservative in beauty products. Parabens are used in shampoos for their emulsifying and lathering qualities. Paraben ingredients you may recognize from labels are methyl, propyl, and butyl.

Like sulfates, parabens are very similar to estrogen in their chemical composition. When you use cosmetics that contain parabens, your body will absorb the product and may mistake it for estrogen. Too much estrogen in the body can lead to edema, depression, weight gain, and has even been linked to cancer.

Phthalates are used in beauty products to help increase the absorption of the product and to preserve the product’s color. They are also used in shampoo fragrances as they help the product to retain its scent. The primary types of phthalates used in cosmetics are dibutylphthalate (dbp), dimethylphthalate (dmp), and diethylphthalate (dep).

Animal studies have shown that the use of phthalates can be damaging to our health. There are many possible dangers to using phthalates including a link to asthma, cancer, premature or low weight births and genital abnormalities in boys. Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors, and like the preceding elements, can affect our natural hormone system.

If you aren’t aware of what you’re using on your hair, now would be a good time to start reading the labels. Particularly if you have sensitive skin or skin allergies, eliminating these harmful ingredients from your beauty routine may result in healthier skin and scalp.

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