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Bad Ingredients in Hair Products to Avoid

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products to Avoid

Not all hair products are made equal; this is obvious to anyone who cares enough to avoid using 5-in-1 body wash, shampoo, conditioner, dish soap, and laundry detergent combos (we’re looking at you, boys). What do these terrible 7-in-1 products have in common? These products are designed to be do-it-all utility knives that can technically do everything poorly. 9-in-1 products usually have the most harmful chemicals in hair products that are harmless enough to pass Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, but that doesn’t mean they’re great for your hair. 

Today, we’ll cover bad chemicals in hair products, why you should avoid them, and what ingredients and chemicals go into quality hair care products.

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 1: Sulfates

You’ve probably seen plenty of high-quality hair care products with a “sulfate-free” label or some other notice that the product is free from sulfates, but why are sulfates bad for hair? When people think of harmful chemicals in hair products, they usually imagine something that “strips away all of your hair’s natural oils,” and they would be right. Sulfates are categorized as a “surfactant,” and this chemical is found in all kinds of cleaning products, from body care soaps to window cleaners. Sulfates are most notable for the lathering effect that occurs to remove oils. What makes sulfates a bad chemical in hair products is that it removes all oils, including the oils that your hair needs to stay healthy. Natural oils help keep hair follicles and roots hydrated and protected against the elements, and products that contain sulfates will end up removing too much. When this happens over time, your hair will eventually become brittle and dry, and in more extreme cases could be some hair loss. Replenishing your hair with conditioner and supplemental oils is a solution to the sulfate problem, but we recommend using a quality hair cleanser that won’t strip your hair to begin with!

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 2: Parabens

Parabens have been around since the 1920s and are an effective preservative used in cosmetics, food, pharmaceutical drugs, and many other products that may need protection against natural mold growth and other microorganisms. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics cites a 2004 study that found parabens are absorbed into the body and noted a link to breast cancer. The FDA acknowledges the findings of paraben research and the human body but currently offers no research of its own. In addition to its link to cancer, parabens are believed to cause excessive drying and fading of natural hair color. In response, many hair care product manufacturers have opted to avoid using parabens altogether for high-quality products that consumers can trust. 

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 3: Phthalates

Similar to parabens, phthalates are used in various products and are primarily used to help products provide a malleable consistency when using the products and aid scent chemicals. For example, phthalates in hair care products are typically used in hairsprays and conditioners to help shape your hair. In addition to this, phthalates help shampoo scents linger in the hair for longer periods of time. Phthalates are believed to disrupt hormones and cause reproductive harm. While the FDA has approved the use of phthalates in American cosmetics, this chemical is banned in European countries and other developed countries. In response to the increasing evidence against phthalates, some hair product manufacturers are playing it safe by offering great hair care products without phthalates!

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 4: Paraffin

The next few ingredients are similar but also different enough to be listed as individual harmful chemicals in hair products. Paraffin of any variation is our number 4 pick. This bad chemical in hair products can come in a liquid paraffin form or even as a wax. Paraffin is usually used in haircare products to provide a sheen to hair and is believed to make hair feel softer. However, paraffin is on this list of harmful chemicals in hair products because it can create an excessive build-up of other oils and chemicals in your hair. Think of paraffin as a chemical magnet that attracts everything you don’t want into your hair. Instead of using paraffin products, look for conditioners and other hair products that have a paraffin-free badge; these luxury hair products will usually use a naturally occurring oil instead or some other (and better) alternative. 

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 5: Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a controversial ingredient in our list; many hair care product manufacturers use it as a detangler to help smooth over unruly hair. However, the detangling properties of mineral oil can backfire by attracting unwanted oils and other chemicals; the side effects are similar to paraffin, and it is ultimately a better idea to avoid using mineral oil altogether. Like paraffin-free products, quality hair care products will usually list them as mineral-oil-free if this oil is not used. Conditioners and hair oils that don’t use mineral oil will usually be lighter and can be very effective in bringing needed moisture to your hair.

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 6: Petroleum

Of the oils listed so far, hair products containing petroleum may be the most difficult to get rid of. Petroleum is used in hair products for the same reasons as paraffin and mineral oil, but what makes this oil unique is that it's used to mitigate excessively split ends. That’s about the only thing that sets it apart from paraffin and mineral oil, but the extra heavy petroleum is extra difficult to get out of your hair, making this one of the most harmful chemicals in hair products. A better option for petroleum products, mineral oils, and paraffin forms is using naturally occurring oils like Mafura, almond, avocado, and other seed oils.

Bad Ingredients in Hair Products # 7: Alcohol and Similar Chemicals

The last ingredient on our list is alcohol. Not the consumable kind, but the kind that is used in hair care products. Alcohol is sometimes used as a solvent in cleansers to help remove oils. There are many variations of alcohol in cosmetic products like isopropyl, benzyl, cetearyl, and many others. However, like sulfates, all uses of alcohol in cleansers and other cleaning products can leave your hair too dry. As a result, your hair will become brittle over time and may be at risk for split ends and breakage. Hair care product manufacturers are beginning to avoid using alcohol in their products, but this ingredient is abundant, effective, and can be useful in certain situations. For these kinds of products, it is best to use little and evaluate whether or not the product works for you.

Quality Over Quantity

We get it; there are plenty of things in the world that are “bad” for you, like fast food, poor driving habits, binging tv and streaming services, and ignoring the check engine light on your car. Unlike eating fast food, quitting harmful ingredients can be easy, and hair care products that don’t have harmful ingredients can help your hair and your overall aesthetic look even better. Luxury hair care products are worth their weight in gold if you understand the importance of using great products that won’t harm your body or your hair. Next time you see a bottle of 12-in-1 personal care product, be sure to use it for all of the things that don’t involve your hair, skin, or body! 

For incredible hair care products or more questions about harmful chemicals, contact the hair care professionals at Miss Jessie’s!