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Scary Ingredients in Your Hair Care Products


Today, there is much more emphasis on a healthier and organic lifestyle than just a few years ago. When you want to remove harmful chemicals from your body, you might first think about your household products and foods. However, you also need to look at the labels in your shampoos. The sad truth is that the FDA doesn’t really regulate self-care products. Here are some ingredients you should watch out for when reading the labels of your shampoos and other products.

Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

This is a water-based preservative that is used in self-care products to prevent germs, bacteria and mold from spreading. However, it is also used in wood and paint industries. It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can be considered toxic. Japan has banned this substance in products, but it still remains heavily used in other countries.

Lead Acetate

Lead acetate is commonly used in hair dye products because it is a common color additive, but it is also a possible carcinogen. It has been banned in the European Union and Canada because it has been linked to infertility, birth defects and developmental delays. You might notice a caution on products containing this ingredient noting, “Caution: Contains lead acetate. For external use only. Keep this product out of children’s reach. Do not use on cut or abraded scalp. If skin irritation develops, discontinue use. Do not use to color mustaches, eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair on parts of the body other than the scalp. Do not get in eyes. Follow instructions carefully and wash hands thoroughly after use.” Scary right?


Phthalates are hair-gelling agents in products and are often listed as “fragrance”. Phthalates are often known for messing with your hormones. A study by the University of Michigan actually found it decreased testosterone in young boys exposed to high levels of this chemical. Canada has strict regulations on this ingredient, but the United States does not yet.

PEG-3 Cocamide

This is a foaming agent in hair products. It has been said to be a human immune system toxicant and an ingredient that may cause cancer in humans.

Amino Methyl Propanol

This is an active ingredient used as a pH adjuster and is considered safe at levels below 2%, however, many hair products contain more than 12% and could cause significant irritation, especially if it gets in your eyes. This can be in chemical hair straightening systems or hair dyes, so steer clear.


These are formed when compounds TEA and DEA are used with preservative to break down into nitrates. These are typically used as wetting agents or pH adjusters so they might be in shampoos, cleaners and detergents that have a rich lather. Nitrosamines are described as more toxic than any other chemical carcinogens and you won’t find this name on any labels. Look for and avoid these ingredients: triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate. Again, Canada has banned these ingredients, but the United States has not yet.

Parabens (methyl, butyl, ethyl, propyl)

Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors, but it is not known yet if they actually cause the cancer. It is used as a preservative in products, but is rarely labeled the same in each product. Look for paraben-free to be sure you are avoiding it.

Were you aware that any of these ingredients were toxic? Do you already avoid any toxins in self-care products? Share with us what you look for on the label and what products or ingredients you avoid most!

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing