From dry tresses to allergies, you’ll be shocked to hear how your shampoo could be affecting you. In this blog, Laura Elliott, head of education at Neäl & Wølf shares four harmful ingredients in hair products to avoid, and the best alternative solutions.

 Why should you check hair ingredients?


In today’s cosmetic world, there are a multitude of products available on the market that cater for all hair types, lengths, and colours. While having such a wide array of choices is beneficial, it can sometimes be overwhelming even for the most experienced shoppers, and that’s before even considering the list of ingredients on the packaging. Often littered with complex and intimidating technical names, it can be easy to forget about the small print on the packaging and jump straight into questioning the simple desires of the product, such as performance, feeling or scent.

The bad news is that many of the ingredients in hair care products today that enhance the fragrance, sudsiness, or shelf-life can often be toxic and harmful not only to the hair, but also to overall wellbeing. For instance, on the scoring system of the EWG's Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, 1 in 12 beauty products marketed to black women were rated highly hazardous based on scientific studies and various toxicity and regulatory databases. Potential hazards associated with some hair care ingredients include cancer, hormone issues, reproductive disruptions, and allergies - the list goes on… and on!

So, while not all the chemicals in your everyday hair care products are harmful, it’s important to recognise those that are. Below, we’ve created a handy list of ingredients you’d be better off avoiding when embarking on your next hair care shop.


What are sulphates?

In your years of hair washing, have you ever considered why the products turn foamy when lathered in water? The foam culprits are often sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate, both commonly known as sulphates. Simply put, sulphates are the ingredients that make products sudsy. Technically put, sulphates are surfactant and work by lowering the surface tension between the skin and product.

Are sulphates bad for hair?


By intensifying the effects of the shampoo, sulphates are great at removing dirt and dead skin cells from the scalp and hair. This also allows shampoo to cover a larger area, making a small amount go further.

Unfortunately, the downside to sulphates is that they can also strip away the natural oils that make it healthy and strong. They are too good at cleaning, removing the factors that need to stay within the hair. (Source: Medical News Today) The result? Weak, dry and brittle locks.

Over the past years, there have been an array of rumours that sulphates can cause cancer; however, it’s important to note these claims are not backed up by scientific evidence. (Source: National Library of Medicine) Instead, if overused, it’s more likely that sulphates in shampoos can cause damage to your hair and scalp, including irritation, colour fade and frizz. (Source: Healthline)

 Best sulphate-free shampoo

Sulphate-free shampoo gives a much gentler clean, washing your hair without removing those crucial natural oils. Usually, this option cleanses hair just as well as sulphate alternatives, making it a switch that your hair will thank you for. (Source: Medical News Today)

Here at Neäl & Wølf, all our shampoos are sulphate-free. However, for hair that has been dried out from the use of sulphate shampoo in the past, we would recommend a choice that moisturises and nourishes the hair. Our HYDRATE Moisture Shampoo will leave hair looking and feeling healthier, with a formula that helps to reduce frizz and increase shine. Find out more: HYDRATE Moisture Shampoo


What are parabens?

Parabens have been used in cosmetic products since the 1920s! (Source: Environmental Working Group) They prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mould in perishable products in order to increase their shelf-life. From shampoos to conditioners, moisturiser to lotions, you’ll likely find parabens included in these cosmetic products, especially those found in supermarket chains. Parabens belong to a family of related chemicals, with the most common being methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben. (Source: Food and Drug Administration)


Are parabens bad for hair?

Parabens are present in approximately 85% of cosmetics products today. (Source: American Chemical Society) The problem with parabens is that once applied to your body or hair, they can make their way into your bloodstream. Proven by scientific evidence over the years, parabens have been associated with various health problems, the largest concern being their impact on oestrogen levels. Parabens are thought to mimic oestrogen in the body, ultimately interfering with the endocrine system and influencing menstrual cycles and fertility rates. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

There are also links to environmental problems, with many parabens ending up in water supplies due to their presence in leave-on, wash-off products. (Source: National Library of Medicine) In the UK, parabens that have been heavily researched are usually deemed safe to use in small concentrations. (Source: Government Legislation) Still, if it’s potentially harmful to our customers, we’d rather not take the risk.

Best paraben-free shampoo

Paraben-free shampoo doesn’t contain any of the harmful chemicals that can have such profound side effects. This means that you can relax knowing that your hair washing has no lasting impact on your body or the environment.

Although all of our Neäl & Wølf products are paraben-free, you may opt for a regular solution like our DAILY Cleansing Shampoo. This everyday shampoo gives the hair a thorough wash, leaving you with easy-to-manage locks. Learn more: DAILY Cleansing Shampoo

Triethanolamine (TEA)

What is triethanolamine (TEA)?

Triethanolamine (TEA) is a non-active compound used in cosmetics to stabilise and increase the PH of products. As an emulsifier, TEA tends to be added into formulas to thicken the product texture, essentially improving the way it feels. (Source: National Library of Medicine)


Is triethanolamine (TEA) bad for hair?

Specifically, TEA has been linked to cancer-related illnesses due to interactions between N-nitrosating compounds in cosmetics. (Source: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) Other health-related issues related to TEA are allergies and skin irritations, which can occur when the ingredient is in a product used in the hair. (Source: National Library of Medicine).


Best triethanolamine-free shampoo

TEA-free shampoo removes the risk of health-related issues, leaving you with the peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing for your body. Many products don’t need harmful chemicals for a rich, thick texture.

Using shampoo shouldn’t cause you to worry - that’s why all of our products are triethanolamine-free. One example is our HARMONY Intensive Care Shampoo, which leaves your hair feeling stronger and more manageable, also offering colour protective qualities. Browse now: HARMONY Intensive Care Shampoo

Diethanolamine (DEA)

What is diethanolamine (DEA)?

Another product to avoid in your shampoo is a compound called Diethanolamine (DEA). DEA acts as a pH regulator and thickening agent in cosmetics, allowing the products to form a foamy lather. (Source: International Journal of Toxicology) As well as shampoos and conditioners, DEA can also be found in laundry and dishwasher detergent. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

Is diethanolamine (DEA) bad for hair?

DEA has been found to cause irritation to the skin and eyes, both of which it may come into contact with if its in your shampoo. (Source: National Library of Medicine) It’s often suggested that DEA on its own is not harmful to humans, yet when combined with other cosmetic chemicals, DEA can form an N-nitrosodiethanolamine compound that can cause cancer. (Source: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) Previous studies also demonstrate animals exposed to the chemical for long periods of time developed liver and kidney tumours. (Source: Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology)

Best diethanolamine-free shampoo

DEA-free shampoo gives you the reassurance that you’re safe from any long-term damage when washing your hair. None of our products have diethanolamine present; to leave your locks feeling enhanced, choose a solution like our AMPLIFY Volumising Shampoo. Simply massage through hair for beautiful, glossy tresses. Shop now: AMPLIFY Volumising Shampoo

All Neäl & Wølf products are free from sulphates, parabens, TEA and DEA. At Neäl & Wølf, if it’s potentially harmful to our customers, we’d rather leave it out and source an alternative. Are you ready to ditch the toxic ingredients? Find out more about our luxurious, cruelty-free haircare approach today: Our Commitment


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