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What are the Different Types of Harmful Chemicals Found in Hair Products? Part II

Synthetic colors:

Most shampoos and conditioners are dyed with a synthetic color to make them look nice. These colors come from petroleum or coal-tar sources, all of which come with harmful health effects. Many have links to various diseases – even cancer, and are already illegal abroad. Synthetic colors will normally go by FD&C or D&C combined with a number.


Mineral oil:

Mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of higher alkanes from a mineral source, particularly a distillate of petroleum, as distinct from usually edible vegetable oils. The name 'mineral oil' by itself is imprecise, having been used for many specific oils over the past few centuries.



Triethanolamine is a colorless alkaline liquid that is used in many shampoos to increase foaming capacity. Triethanolamine is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child. It has the potential to trigger scalp irritation and harm the hair’s keratin, leading to brittle and dry hair.


Retinyl palmitate:

Some shampoos contain retinyl palmitate, which when in contact with skin, converts into retinol. This is a known skin irritant and can cause peeling, scaling, redness, and itching. There are warnings about side effects from retinyl palmitate including cancer, reproductive problems, and organ toxicity.


Coal tar:

Coal tar is used to dye all kinds of cosmetics. It’s a petroleum byproduct — specifically from coal processing — and like many petroleum products, it is a possible carcinogen that can contribute to the development of cancer in the lungs, digestive tract, kidneys and bladder at high concentrations.


Sodium Chloride:

Sodium Chloride is simply salt. It plays the role of maintaining thicker consistency in shampoos and conditioners. Salt can make an already sensitive scalp dry and itchy, which can eventually be a cause of hair loss.


BHA and BHT:

BHA and BHT are similar chemical compounds used as antioxidants and preservatives in cosmetics such as lipsticks, moisturizers, deodorants, fragrances, and hair products. BHA and BHT allegedly are found to cause allergic reactions on the skin.


Cocamidopropyl betaine:

Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) is a viscous pale yellow solution, used in personal care products and hair products - which can cause skin irritation, allergies, rosacea, and eczema.



(DEA) is an emulsifier and foam agent that reduce surface tension so water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can blend together. In 1998, researchers found a link between the topical application of DEA and cancer in animals, but the effects on humans are unclear. The European Commission has banned DEA in cosmetics.



Methylisothiazolinone is a common preservative in hair products, linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions, and possible neurotoxicity.



Benzene is a Toluene, which is a colorless liquid hydrocarbon found in coal tar and petroleum. It is incredibly toxic, as it's a known carcinogen linked to cancer and reproductive issues. It's also known to affect our bone marrow, decreasing the production of red blood cells. It's used as a solvent to dissolve dirt and oil across a number of commercial products, and it's in many of our basic hair care products.



Ethanolamines are emulsifiers found in skin care and beauty products, including foundation and mascara. They are known to be allergens and shouldn’t be used by people with sensitive skin.


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