Shampoos and Hair Loss: Is Shampoo Bad For Hair?
I have always had a hard time trying to pick the “right” shampoo, spending hours (no, kidding) in the Hair Care aisle at my local Walmart. I would ask myself staring at the different brands of shampoos on the shelf: “What hair problem would I like to address this time?” There seemed to be one shampoo out there for almost every hair concern I could think of: Anti-Dandruff, Anti-Frizz, Volumizing, Anti-Hair Fall, Lengthening, Color Protectant, Shine Booster, etc.
And if this wasn’t hard enough, then there were the many different kinds of amazing scents to choose from, each with a different color! How do you know which shampoo to choose when there are so many options out there? And then there is the price tag…
Perhaps the ingredients will help? As I would read the backs of the different brands of shampoo bottles, I noticed that I did not only understand the long list of ingredients, but I could not even pronounce 95% of them! And here I am wondering why I spend so long in this aisle.
Has this ever happened to you or am I the only crazy one out there who spends an unnecessary amount of time choosing a hair shampoo? Why does it have to be this hard? They are all supposed to basically do the same thing: clean out my hair, right? Then how come they are loaded with so many hard-to pronounce ingredients?
After finally choosing a shampoo and using it for a couple weeks, your hair still doesn’t feel as soft as it should. Not to mention, the amount of fall out you see in the shower or after you style your hair, is way more than what is considered normal! Maybe it is the stress or you are not eating the right kinds of foods. There could be many reasons for why hair loss can occur and you can read the list here.
But have you ever wondered if your shampoo is to blame for your hair problems? Choosing the wrong kind of product to wash your hair might just cause damage to your hair rather than cleaning it out. Perhaps the product that we heavily rely on to help with our hair is the exact product that is responsible for harming it the most.
In this article I will explain how commercially available shampoos are not just harmful to your hair but in what ways they may be the reason for your hair loss.
Hair & Health Damage
When you wash your hair, what you are essentially doing is washing out the dirt and debris that has accumulated on your scalp over time. Therefore, the real purpose of a shampoo is to clean out the scalp, not so much the hair (conditioner is for hair). Your scalp naturally produces oil called sebum that is meant to protect and lubricate the hair follicles from root to tip. With time, sebum causes the scalp to become oily and so a shampoo helps to clean the oils out.
Since everyone’s hair is different, their hair concerns will also be different. This is why shampoo-making companies market their products to target a whole variety of hair concerns so they can reach a wider customer base. In doing so, the products we see on the shelves are loaded with chemical-based ingredients that are not only harsh on the hair and scalp but they also compromise your overall health!
The ingredients in the shampoos have little to do with cleaning the scalp and hair. They do not remove dirt, grime, and oil from the scalp as they claim they should. Instead, they leave behind leftover chemicals that stick to the scalp and hair shaft, creating buildup. Some of these ingredients poison the scalp and vital organs like kidneys and lungs and could trigger allergies or skin irritations. Yet others are proven to be linked to cancer-formation in your body. Yikes!
When you are using commercially-available shampoos, you are at risk of exposing yourself to a large amount of nastiness that can potentially damage your body’s tissues and organs, not just damage your hair!
Harmful Ingredients To Avoid
So what are these “nasty, harmful” ingredients that I keep mentioning? If you are anything like how I used to be, the list of ingredients found at the back of your shampoo bottles are not going to make much sense to you. But let me be honest: it is worth understanding what those harsh compounds are so you can avoid them next time you are shampoo-shopping and your hair can thank you for it later (or you can thank me too!).
Let us take a look at what these ingredients are and why you don’t want them anywhere near you, let alone your hair.
1. FOAMERS & THICKENING AGENTS
- Sulfates are the most damaging of all chemicals found in hair products. They are added to shampoos to create foam and lather. They are also the same ingredients used in car wash detergents and engine degreasers! Of the many different kind of sulfates, the two you must be most aware of are:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate: these are surfactants that break down the proteins hair needs to grow, stripping the hair of its protective natural oils. In some cases, SLS can also lead to lung or eye irritation.
- Sodium Chloride is commonly known as table salt (yes, you read that right- there is SALT in your shampoo!!) and it is used as a thickening agent. Although non-toxic, when it is combined with SLS, it leads to a dry & itchy scalp that further dries out the hair, making it brittle and weak and very easy to break off, mid-shaft or from the roots. There is a reason why it is said spending too much time in sea water can damage the hair!
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG) (i.e. polyethylene or polyoxyethylene) is also a thickening agent used to allow shampoo to lather easily. However, it strips the hair of its moisture, removing the natural oils that work to keep the scalp and hair healthy.
- Parabens are simply added in shampoos to prolong its shelf life and prevent microbial growth. However, they are known to cause hormonal imbalances and allergic reactions according to the Environmental Working Group. As you may already know, hormonal disruptions in women is a leading cause of hair loss.
- Methylparaben & Propylparaben are the most common parabens found in shampoos. These ingredients are also linked to breast cancer.
- Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing preservative found in numerous shampoos (and hair products) that claim to smoothen or straighten the hair. It is also known to be a skin, nose, eye, and breathing irritant when anyone is exposed to it. Formaldehyde is reported to cause your body’s organs to stiffen, leading to organ & tissue damage. This is the same substance used to preserve a dead body as well! Do you still want to put it on your hair?
3. SCALP/SKIN IRRITANTS
- Chemical Fragrances & Colors are synthetic ingredients that cause inflammation and irritation of the scalp, making the hair dry, brittle and lifeless. Due to these strong chemical fragrances in shampoos, hormonal levels fluctuate, leading to hair thinning and hair loss. Next time when you choose a shampoo, know that not everything that smells good is also going to be good for you.
- Propylene Glycol enhances the scalp’s ability to absorb other chemicals from the shampoo into your body. Yes, all the other nasties go into your body thanks to this bad boy and create organ toxicity. If that isn’t enough, it is classified as a skin irritant and also known as antifreeze for cars! The reason it is added to shampoos is so that shampoos don’t freeze while being in transport!
- DEA (Diethanolamine) & TEA (Triethanolamine) are two chemicals that are known to cause skin irritation and the formation of cancerous cells. They destroy the protective protein called keratin, making the hair dry, brittle and unable to grow healthy.
Lanolin, Petroleum, & Mineral oil are added to shampoos to provide moisture to the hair, but in reality they have no proven hair benefits. All they do is weigh down thin hair and prevent natural oils from being absorbed into hair, impeding hair-health. The result is greasy, dirty looking hair.
5. HAIR SEALANTS
Silicone, Siloxane, & Dimethicone all claim to make the hair shiny as their main purpose is to “seal” the hair. Instead, they deprive the scalp its ability to coat the hair with natural oils, resulting in a dry & itchy scalp as well as dry hair that is frizzy and hard-to-handle. These hair sealants also fail to rinse off from the scalp and hair. Over time, this buildup leads to hair getting weak and breaking easily. No surprise there!
Relatively high concentrations of alcohol found in shampoos can dehydrate the scalp and this inevitably leads to dry hair that looks and feels straw-like and easily breaks. Surprisingly, there are some types of alcohol (i.e. Cetearyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, & Cetyl alcohol) that are actually ‘good’ for dry hair, relatively speaking. But the closer to the top of the label you find a listing of alcohol, the higher its percentage in the shampoo. In other words, if you see alcohol listed within the first five ingredients, you may want to avoid choosing that shampoo as alcohol concentration will be pretty high.
Alternatives to Toxic Shampoo
Wow, that is a pretty scary list if you ask me! Who would have thought that so many harmful ingredients would be found in a simple shampoo? Damaging your hair is one thing but making choices that negatively affect your health and the planet is another. Think of all this toxic chemical waste. Why does the planet need to suffer just because you want no frizz in your hair?
So what should you really be looking for when you shop for shampoos so you can avoid all this hair, health, and environmental harm?
Now I am not saying all shampoos are bad for your hair. What I am saying, however, is to do your due diligence and pick a shampoo that does not have all these harmful compounds. You can save yourself from a lot of unneeded damage now that you know what to look for in a good shampoo (or in this case, what “not” to look for).
The better alternative would be to look for a shampoo that is gentle, sulfate-free and provides cleansing capabilities. If you can find a gentle, sulfate-free cleansing shampoo, you do not need a clarifying shampoo. Most “clarifying” shampoos can make the hair feeling stripped and dry, even though they work to remove buildup on the scalp.
Stay away from shampoos that claim to de-frizz, boost shine, thicken, or any added benefit other than cleansing as they will need to leave some kind of chemical residue behind on hair in order to perform those benefits.
The shampoos that claim to be “all-natural” will most likely have little to no cleansing properties and instead be loaded with oils that will only weigh your hair down further.
If this seems too complicated, opt to make your own shampoo with products you already have at home! You will be surprised at how easy it is. You can even do a zero-waste version. Or use herbs and a mixture of essential oils. The options are endless.
Proper Hair & Scalp Care
I hope I have scared you enough to make healthy choices when it comes to your hair. Although scaring you was never really my intent, I would highly encourage you to get into the habit of really understanding what goes into a product before you bring it home and start using it. After all, your well-being is at stake!
Your number one aim should be to take proper care of your scalp and hair. There are a number of natural ways you can do this before you go out and spend money. You can use oils to help repair your hair and clean out your scalp. Throw in a few drops of very effective essential oils in your hair masks to help you grow your hair. Make it a habit to treat your scalp to a good massage to improve blood circulation. These are just a few out of the endless ways you can take steps to caring for the health of your hair at home.
Are you seeing a lot of hair fall in the shower?
Does your shampoo bottle have a long list of scary ingredients?
Has the list scared you as it scared me?
Let me know what you think- I would love to hear from you!
A great read as always,
Wow, I must admit (even as a man) your exteneded stay in the shampoo aisle, trying the find the “perfect” solution for this month’s hair issue, certainly sounds ever so familiar, LOL (yes I’ve been there too).
I remember some months thinking my hair looks too greasy (although that probably had a lot to do with the other products I was adding to my hair), whereas the following month my hair would be too dry. It was like a never ending list of problems.
I must say I am absolutely blown away by your description of what shampoo is intended for and that conditioner is actually for cleaning the hair – now that I think about it, well it makes perfect sense, it seems so obvious now.
I’m not going to lie, I do find your list of things to look out for (or avoid) a little intimidating, but as you have said to me previously, “it’s never too late to start caring for you hair”.
I guess as I get older and I start to worry more about the actual condition of my hair, these seem like very wise words to me.
haha I am so glad to know that I am not the only crazy one who spends so much time in the shampoo aisle! isn’t it so frustrating? Well, now you know its not worth our time reading that long list of toxic ingredients! And neither should we be using them! Sorry to make the list so “intimidating” but an easier option would just be to go for “sulfate-free”.
I have been in that same boat where my hair would either be greasy or dry and you are right, that has a lot to do with the hair styling products ..also the humidity in the weather, and just so many other factors. We put our hair through so much trouble and its high time we make efforts to care for it 🙂
Thank you for stopping by again Partha! Appreciate your feedback 🙂
This was great!!! I used to wash my hair every day, and only recently have started moving towards once a week. I’ve been looking into better shampoos, and this was a fantastic direction to begin. I also hate the plastic waste, and knowing what is going down the drain is mortifying. I wish we could use just bar soaps for everything. I’ve found a few bar shampoos, but I haven’t found an all in one with less waste that I like. Any suggestions? 😀 Thanks for this!!
This is awesome that you have reduced washing your hair to once a week- it takes the hair some time getting used to but definitely worth it for the health of scalp and hair both.
Trust me, I worry about all that chemical waste going down the drain every time as well! This is why it is best to make shampoo yourself at home from natural items. Plus, it is super easy to do as well! I will be writing a new post about DIY shampoo (low waste), so stay tuned!
You know I have noticed more and more people are losing their hair than ever before, and what worries me even more I notice many women who are almost bald. There has to be something in the shampoos and hair products causing this, I think people should be using natural shampoo and hair products as much as they can.
I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I look at the older women and men in my family and they literally have a head full of hair which isn’t even grey. And the younger generation is all losing their hair prematurely. It is not just the hair products- it is a long list of factors like stress, hormones, lifestyle, pollution, water, weather, omg… the list can just go on! But yes, there is a natural version of almost everything and that is what people should choose over all those chemical-based products.
Thank you for sharing.
I didn’t know that there are so many harmful chemicals in my shampoo and hair products because most of them claim that they are made by natural ingredients. It’s so terrible. Just wondering is it the reason for my hair loss? Thank you for your suggestion. I think I should try some real natural ways for my scalp and hair.
Thank you for sharing.
All the best,
Hey Alex, you are not alone! I had no idea how harmful the ingredients are in the store-bought shampoos! Natural is definitely the best way to go! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
Thank you for writing about this important topic, Sasha.
For some time now, I have been much more aware of the use of sulphate and paraben-free shampoo. Also, I only have to wash my hair once a week. Whereas this used to be necessary every 2 to 3 days (my hair would become greasier much quicker then). My hair has grown tremendously in recent months and looks shiny and healthy.
Your article gives me confirmation that I’m on the right track! I keep following your website for new interesting posts 🙂
Soo happy to know that you are already staying away from sulfates and parabens and even more happy to know that you are seeing positive results! You are definitely on the right track, girl!
Thank you for following my website- means a lot!
Thanks for this informational post. I learned a lot. I am very picky when it comes the products that I put on my head. I always read the ingredients, but sometimes the list is so long that I don’t understand all the ingredients. You pointed which ingredients to avoid, but I wonder if I could make my own shampoo at home? And also, is there a way you would recommend?
Hi Delyana! The list is always quite long on the backs of most shampoos you would find at the stores, no doubt!
Yes, you can definitely make your own shampoo from scratch and it is really not as hard as you would think! Here is a link to a very basic method for making all-natural homemade shampoo that your hair will love! Hope you like it as much as I do 🙂
It indeed is a pretty scary list. I am glad I hardly use shampoo! My hair is short and I want it to stick out (I am often asked if the electricity socket has hurt me a lot, LOL). At some point I thought it was strange that first I washed my hair to get all the fat out and then rubbed fat in it to get it in a model I want. Now I do neither, I don’t use shampoo, nor the modelling grease.
But for the rare times I do use shampoo I am having a hard time to find a good brand. So thanks for the information you have provided, because now I know better what to look for! 🙂
haha @ electricity socket! My over-imaginative mind automatically painted a mental picture!
It is honestly great that your hair can get away without a shampoo! If you are having difficulty finding a good gentle shampoo, why not make your own? Check this link out if you would like to give your scalp a good clean.
How to Make All-Natural Homemade Shampoo in 2 Easy Steps!
Thank you for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed the information I provided! 🙂
such a useful article- I learned so much!
Thanks for explaining that I should also look closely on the oil contents of shampoos in order to know how safe they are. I’m interested in trying out hair loss shampoos soon because I’m having trouble increasing the volume of my hair. It might be time to get that sorted out before my hair loss gets worse.
Have you tried natural remedies first? Have a look at my DIY herbal shampoo recipe– it’s great for hair loss. Alternatively, if DIY is not your thing, not a problem. Look for shampoos that are sulfate free and contain natural ingredients so that there is less buildup on your hair and scalp. Good luck!