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 choice 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 haircare 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 for black women were rated highly hazardous based on scientific studies and various toxicity and regulatory databases. Potential hazards associated with some haircare ingredients include cancer, hormone issues, reproductive disruptions, and allergies - the list goes on… and on!
So, while not all the chemicals in your everyday haircare products are harmful, it’s important to recognise those that are. We’ve created a handy list of ingredients you’d be better off avoiding when embarking on your next haircare shop.
In your years of hair washing, have you ever considered why the products turns foamy when lathered in water? The foam culprits are often sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, both commonly known as sulfates. Simply put, sulfates are the ingredient that make products sudsy. Technically put, sulfates are surfactant and work by lowering the surface tension between the skin and product. By intensifying the effects of the shampoo, sulfates are great at removing dirt and dead skin cells from the scalp and hair. So far this is sounding good, right?
Unfortunately, the downside to sulfates is that they can also strip away the natural oils that make hair healthy and strong. The result? Weak, dry and brittle locks. Over the past years, there have been an array of rumours that sulfates can cause cancer however, it’s important to note these claims are not backed up by scientific evidence. Instead, if overused, it’s more likely that sulfates in shampoos can cause damage to your hair and scalp, including hair protein removal, irritation and colour fade.
Used since the 1950s in various industries, parabens prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold in perishable products in order to increase their shelf-life. From shampoos to conditioners, moisturises 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.
Parabens are present in approximately 85% of cosmetics products today. However, proven by scientific evidence over the years, parabens have been associated with various health problems, the largest concern being their impact on estrogen levels. Parabens are thought to mimic estrogen in the body, ultimately interfering with the endocrine system and influencing menstrual cycles and fertility rates. There are also links to environmental problems, with many parabens ending up in water supplies. In the UK, parabens that have been heavily researched are usually deemed safe to use in small concentrations. Still, if it’s potentially harmful to our customers, we’d rather not take the risk.
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. Although most countries regulate TEA use in small concentrations (2.5 - 5%), some of the scientific research into its impact on health is quite alarming. Specifically, TEA has been linked to cancer-related illnesses due to interactions between N-nitrosating compounds, which can product carcinogens. Other health-related issues related to TEA are allergies, scalp irritation, and keratin loss.
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. Although scientific evidence of the impact of DEA on humans is slightly lacking, previous studies demonstrate animals exposed to the chemical for long periods of time developed liver and kidney tumours. 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 is carcinogenic in humans.
Luckily, all Neäl & Wølf products are free from sulfates, 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? Check out our range of luxurious, cruelty-free haircare today.