Most of us don’t think twice when grabbing a shampoo off the shelf of our local store. It says ‘good for hair,’ so that means it is… right?
Truthfully, probably not. The use of fancy, colorful packaging with great-sounding phrases on the bottle is often a scheme designed to get consumers to buy more of the same. Many shampoos sold at the store might be causing your hair more harm than good, which is why you need to read the shampoo label. Packaged food isn’t the only thing with an ingredient list… but it's smart to read the labels on food, too!
Keep reading to learn more about the ingredients on the back of your shampoo bottle.
What Shampoo is Supposed to Do
Before we talk about ingredients, let’s talk about what shampoo is and isn’t
supposed to do, so you have a baseline. Shampoo is basically soap for your hair and scalp. The goal of shampoo is to remove product build-up, sweat, oil, dirt, and other debris that accumulates between washes. Shampoo should not strip the hair cuticle of its natural oils or proteins; instead, it should remove surface debris with a gentle lather.
Shampoo should slightly bubble when emulsified (rubbed between your hands), and it should feel silky and smooth. There shouldn’t be any rancid or unpleasant smells, but there also shouldn’t be any overpowering perfume scents.
What Shampoo is Not Supposed to Do
Any shampoo will cause dry hair if overused, but poor-quality shampoos will dry out your hair with just one use, leaving you with that dry ‘squeaky clean’ feeling. A shampoo should straddle the line between leaving your hair oily or dry. If your hair is oily after washing, that means the shampoo is not high-quality. Shampoo should not leave a residue on your hair that causes your hair to tangle or feel heavy. It also should not cause curly hair to lose its shape or leave any sticky feeling.
Shampoo shouldn’t leave your head smelling like you washed it in perfume. A heavy scent is usually a sign that perfume was used to cover up the smell of other harmful chemicals.
The Dark Truth of Mainstream Shampoos
Many popular shampoo and haircare brands contain ingredients that are known carcinogens or require further testing to confirm whether they’re cancer-causing. Many consumers are unaware of the damage they could be doing not only to their hair, but also to their internal organs and skin by using these toxic ingredients on a regular basis for years and years.
Did you know that many shampoos use the same detergents that are in the stuff you use to wash your clothing? That’s way too much cleaning power, and it might even be dangerous.
The beauty industry is one of the most unregulated markets in the world. Why? The FDA simply does not have enough funding to regulate the $50 billion beauty industry in the United States. That’s why it’s up to us to research what we put in our hair and in our children's hair.
Since many mainstream shampoo companies sell their products in international markets, like China, they are required by law to test on animals. In some circumstances, they choose to test on animals even if they don’t have to do so. Small businesses and USA-based companies that don’t sell in China are able to stay cruelty-free. If there is no bunny icon that says ‘cruelty-free’ on your shampoo bottle, it’s safe to assume that the product was tested on animals.
How to Read Your Label
Like food ingredient labels, shampoo ingredient labels are simple to decipher with some knowledge and practice. The most abundant ingredients are listed at the beginning, while ingredients that only make up a small percentage of the product are at the end. It’s better if you see the hair nourishing and cleansing ingredients toward the top and any scents or chemicals towards the bottom. In a perfect situation, there would be no chemicals or artificial perfumes.
Here’s a pro tip: if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it doesn’t belong near your body, no matter where in the ingredient list it is.
Ingredients to Avoid
There are hundreds of toxic chemicals that you should avoid in any product, but these are some of the most dangerous and most common.
We all know that sulfates are bad because of the plentiful “no sulfates” labels on beauty products, but what exactly are they? Sulfates are detergents that are very effective at removing the oil from your hair and scalp by creating a rich lather. While that might sound like a great thing, especially for those with oily hair, sulfates remove TOO much natural oil, leaving you with straw-like hair. In addition, these detergents cause the sebaceous cells in your scalp to work overtime, causing your oily scalp to become oilier, quicker, while your ends remain bone-dry.
Some sulfates have been shown to contain dioxane, a carcinogen that can reportedly damage kidney function. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are the two most commonly used sulfates in shampoo.
This mouthful is a silicone commonly found in haircare products designed for curly and wavy hair. The problem is that polyethylene glycol (PEG) is derived from petroleum (yeah, as in the stuff used gas for cars is made of), which is completely unregulated by the FDA. Since petroleum contains various carcinogens, beauty companies are not held responsible for the purity levels of PEG. Because of this, your shampoo could be full of carcinogens that aren’t even listed on the ingredient label.
It doesn’t matter how you spell it; if you see any of the above in your shampoo, toss it. Perfumes and fragrances might make your hair smell nice, but the FDA gives haircare companies a loophole in the ingredient label by allowing them to list any of 3,100 chemicals by labeling them as ‘fragrance.’ Shampoo companies are quick to mention when their smells are naturally-derived from essential oils, so if you don’t see that anywhere on the packaging, but ‘fragrance’ is listed, throw that bottle out ASAP.
You probably know you should avoid parabens, like sulfates, whenever possible. There is a reason for this. Parabens are classified as xenoestrogens due to their chemical similarities to naturally-occurring bodily hormones. Because of this, parabens are thought to disrupt the hormone cycle and have even been found in samples of breast cancer tissue.
Parabens are preservatives that prevent the growth of molds and bacteria, but there are plenty of natural alternatives that pose no risk to your hormones. The most common parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben, which are pretty easy to identify, but there’s one even named alkyl parahydroxybenzoates. Seriously, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t use it.
You might be surprised to know that the same ingredient used to embalm bodies is in your shampoo. Manufacturers add formaldehyde to shampoo as a preservative that prevents bacteria growth. Due to its long shelf life, it prevents the other ingredients from becoming less potent. However, formaldehyde is a carcinogen. It has been shown in animal testing that it is absorbed through the skin, so it is not safe to apply to your scalp and hair.
Formaldehyde is hidden under a lot of different names, but the typical name in shampoo is quaternium-15.
Ingredients to Look For
Now that we’ve gone over the most common and most dangerous chemicals infiltrating your haircare routine, let’s talk about some ingredients that SHOULD be in your shampoo.
While it might seem like oil in your shampoo defeats the purpose, it’s quite the opposite. Argan oil is an anti-irritant that increases moisture in your hair, decreasing sebum production in the long run. Argan oil is rich in Vitamin E, a crucial antioxidant that prevents dehydration of the scalp and hair. It also contains phenols, special compounds that increase the cell thickness of hair follicles and encourage hair growth.
Cedarwood bark oil helps reduce dandruff and itchiness and improves blood flow to the hair follicles. It also acts as a toner: It balances the pH in the sebaceous glands and reduces any excess oil, or encourages more oil if you have dry hair. As an added bonus, cedarwood has aromatherapeutic properties Click here to learn here how aromatherapy can improve your life.
Like cedarwood bark oil, rosemary leaf oil is an anti-inflammatory that reduces itchy scalp and dandruff. Some Mediterranean homeopathic medicine followers recommend it for reducing hair loss and improving hair follicle efficacy. This essential oil is said to promote both nerve growth and circulation. Rosemary contains a compound called carnosic acid that has been shown in a study to heal nerves, potentially restoring hair growth by increasing oxygen flow to the hair follicles.
Where Can I Find These Healthy Ingredients?
It’s a lot of work to search individually for each ingredient online. That’s why PURA D’OR created Original Gold Label Shampoo with all three ingredients: argan oil, cedarwood bark oil, and rosemary leaf oil. Our clinically tested shampoo has been proven to reduce hair thinning due to breakage and also increases volume, strength, and shine to give you the hair you’ve always wanted. As an added bonus, our shampoo is cruelty-free, gluten-free, 100% natural, and vegan.
More Healthy Ingredients
Tea tree oil is a Hail Mary in the beauty industry. It’s used in acne treatments, skincare products, and haircare products that aim to increase circulation of the scalp. Tea tree oil provides a tingly feeling to the scalp, which means it attracts the blood flow to hair follicles. Additionally, it’s an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory that kills bacteria and reduces irritation. Tea tree oil helps to deeply hydrate the scalp, leaving you with less itchiness, dandruff, and dryness. It also coats the hair shaft, preventing product build-up.
Aloe vera isn’t only great for treating sunburns, but it’s also excellent for your hair. It contains lots of antioxidants and minerals that help to soothe an angry scalp and hydrate from the outside in. Aloe vera contains Vitamins A, C, and E, which help to increase cell turnover rates and lead to faster-growing hair. Aloe vera has been used for centuries to treat dandruff, itchy scalp, and dryness. It may also help hair growth because it contains proteolytic enzymes, which are special enzymes that unclog the hair follicle.
Avocado extract, AKA persea gratissima fruit extract, is full of healthy fats that deeply penetrate the hair shaft for maximum hydration, reducing straw-like, dry, brittle hair. Avocados are known for their essential fatty acids that make a big difference in your body’s chemistry, whether you eat them or put them on your head. These lipids add strength to the hair and prevent breakage and split-ends. If you suffer from dry, damaged hair, avocado extract is a must-have if you want to revitalize your hair from your scalp to your ends. Since it’s so full of hair-strengthening ingredients, it reduces frizz for all hair colors, types, and curl patterns.
Where Can I Find Tea Tree Oil, Aloe Vera, and Avocado Extract?
For itchy, dry, and full-of-dandruff scalps, you’ll need a little extra love that generic shampoos just can’t give you. PURA D’OR Scalp Therapy Shampoo is cruelty-free. You’ll find tea tree, aloe vera, and avocado extract in this shampoo. It's made for all hair types and is free of parabens and sulfates. You’ll notice moisturized, calm, shiny hair without any itchy scalp or harsh scents.
The PURA D’OR Philosophy
At PURA D’OR, we don’t believe in masking symptoms. Instead, we want to help you heal and tackle the root problem. Our shampoos equalize your scalp and hair. No more expensive hair treatments that cause more harm than good!
While we've only mentioned two shampoos, Gold Label and Scalp Therapy, we have plenty of great hair products designed to address a variety of concerns. See our homepage and learn more about which products are perfect for healing your hair issues. Please reach out with any questions! We love our customers and we love making healthy products for you to use!