Curly, straight, wavy, and everything in between, looking for a non-toxic shampoo for your hair type is challenging. Not to mention that many include harmful chemicals and agents that can have a major effect on your hair's health. Parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and formaldehyde are included in many of the common shampoos that we use daily. These harmful ingredients have a major effect on our hair health and can cause dryness, breakage, and slow and delayed hair growth just to name a few. It is up to us as the individual consumer to choose wisely. Whether drugstore or professional hair care, there are options across the board that are great substitutes.
Chemicals in shampoo, explained!
Many chemicals in traditional everyday shampoo have proven to be toxic to the body. Chemical exposure from shampoo and cosmetics causes the US $40-47 billion each year due to health issues related to phthalates and premature death. Parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates are the ones most commonly found in many popular everyday shampoos, but what do they all mean?
Fragrance: The most important chemical to avoid in shampoo is fragrance. The “fragrance” term, natural or not, should not be on any ingredient list. Although some fragrance is natural or less irritating than synthetic fragrance, we never know just what chemicals are in it – as it usually consists of a cocktail of up to hundreds of chemicals completely unknown and undisclosed to the consumer. The US does not legally require companies to explicitly list out the chemicals in their fragrance on product labels because the government views them to be proprietary information even if it is harmful to humans. Various cancer causing, hormone disrupting and irritating chemicals can be masked as “fragrance”without any explanation. Furthermore, a recent study by the National Library of Medicine said, “Overall, 34.7 % of the population reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products. Further, 15.1 % have lost workdays or a job due to fragranced product exposure in the workplace.”
Parabens: Parabens are commonly used in shampoo as a preservative, but can actually increase the risk of breast cancer and are a known hormone disruptor.
Phthalates: Another toxic chemical commonly found in shampoos are phthalates. This chemical is used in hair care products as a gelling agent. These are highly dangerous as they are endocrine disruptors, reduce sperm count in men, and are harmful to the environment. You can spot phthalates on a label as the suffix like Diethylphthalate (DEP) for example.
Triclosan: Triclosan is used to prevent and reduce bacterial growth in cosmetic products. This chemical is completely banned in hygiene products in the European Union, but still seen in shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and more in the US. This chemical bioaccumulates and keeps the body living in a toxic state.
Toluene: Toluene is a chemical derived from petroleum found in shampoo and hair dyes. It is used as a solvent in personal care products. It has shown to be toxic to the immune system and has been known to cause birth defects. Prolonged exposure (such as an everyday product like shampoo) to sulfates is known to disrupt hormones, and also damage the environment. While the list of chemicals and their harmful effects goes on, there are many shampoos out there who do not include these chemicals and many more.
Sulfates: Sulfates are used to create a lather in order to remove dirt from the scalp. This chemical is not only stripping and damaging to the hair, but can reduce lung functionality and is particularly dangerous to those with asthma.
What to look for in a clean, non-toxic shampoo?
Now that you know what ingredients to avoid, let's take a look at a few ingredients to look for when shopping for a non toxic shampoo:
- Natural plant oils/Essential Oils: fragrant while being gentle.
- Aloe, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter: gives hair a natural hydration.
- Sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate: coconut derived natural cleansing agent that will not strip your hair.
Top 10 non-toxic shampoo alternatives
Alma has an array of naturally derived scents that you too will love! From lavender to pineapple mango. Their organic shampoo options are formulated with Sodium methyl-2 sulfolaurate, a non-drying cleanser sourced from coconuts. Natural foaming agents from lactic acid to gently cleanse the hair. Panthenol is a B5 vitamin coming from rice husks that intensely moisturize that hair follicle. Free from harmful chemicals commonly found in everyday shampoos, we love this substitute.
Attitude’s shampoo line contains gentle to use everyday shampoos that are designed for various hair types. Their products including shampoo are formulated without silicones, parabens, formaldehyde, SLS, and phthalates. Their Curl Moisturizing Shampoo is a gentle shampoo that is sourced with ingredients like calendula extract and moringa oil, both aiding in restoring the follicle and providing bounce to curls. Curly hair tends to be dryer and more prone to damage, this shampoo is an amazing organic alternative. 100% vegan, cruelty-free, and bottle made from recycled materials, this curly safe shampoo alternative is amazing for curly hair!
Available in many natural scents, this pure-castile soap is an amazing option for those who are looking for a powerful cleansing shampoo. Made from pure ingredients such as organic coconut oil to lock in moisture and seal the hair cuticle. This product may also be used as a body wash and facial cleanser. Made with all natural ingredients as well as being biogerdate, this Dr, Bronner’s alternative is one to try. This soap is highly concentrated so a little goes a long way!
Those who suffer with oily hair concerns and want to find a safe option, Josh Rosebrook has a solution. Their Balance Shampoo is suitable for all hair types, however those with oilier hair will find a better result with this product. Aloe vera and other natural gentle cleansers work to cleanse the scalp as well as give exceptional volume. Rich natural plant oils soften the hair and give added shine.
Dip has created a shampoo bar that is not only 100% for color treated hair, but a fragrance free option. This shampoo bar is suitable for everyday use and packed with organically sourced ingredients that you will love. Here are some to mention.
- Sweet almond oil helps give intense hydration as well as assist in scalp health
- Ceramides keep the hair cuticle closed, which helps retain moisture in the hair.
- Vegan squalane increases intense shine and prevents hair damage and breakage.
- Coconut oil seals in moisture and seals the hair follicle, perfect for color treated hair.
Along with Dip’s long line of shampoo options, Dip has winning alternatives!
The idea of a shampoo bar may sound odd. Brands are now pushing towards the bar shampoo method to achieve an organic option. Chagrin Valley Soap has created Organic Shampoo Bars formulated with organic botanicals and butters. Free from artificial fragrances and colors as well as being travel friendly, this an amazing alternative. Whether your concern is frizz and dry hair or protecting your fresh color, there is a shampoo bar designed for you.
Finding a shampoo that assists in scalp health and care is difficult when trying to find a safe alternative. The Herbal Essence Eucalyptus and Aloe Vera Scalp Balance shampoo is formulated with plant botanicals such as real Aloe that nourish the scalp and hydrate the hair. Leaving behind a light eucalyptus aroma. This shampoo has been created without sulfates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, cruelty-free, and formulated by dermatologists. Not to mention the accessibility and low price point, this safe substitute is one to add.
While there is natural fragrance listed on their label, they are transparent about exactly what is included, and for that, we think it is worthwhile to keep them on our list. Innersense is an organically formulated beauty and hair care brand. Their organic ingredients are sourced from natural, organically grown, and without chemicals. Along with being cruelty-free and gluten-free. Shampoos such as Hydrating Cream Hairbath, include an array of ingredients and benefits to nourish and care for your hair accordingly. Pair the shampoo with their corresponding conditioners and add-ons, and you have a winning hair care routine! Sold primarily at Ulta, Walmart, and their official website, Innersense offers accessibility and organic hair care. Innersense hair care is one to watch.
From drugstores to digitally native brands, there are clean, organic, safe, and non toxic shampoo options for everyone and every hair type!