More and more, people are checking the backs of shampoo bottles for ingredients lists, reading to see exactly what they are putting in their hair. However, that long list of scientific names and numbers can often be difficult to discern. You might as well be reading a foreign language.
As a general rule, you want to be wary of any ingredient name you can’t pronounce. In particular, here are five shampoo ingredients that should be an immediate red flag in any hair care product.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. The mother of them all, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is found in virtually every supermarket shampoo. This harsh detergent has over thirty different names and is the reason why shampoos foam and bubble when lathered. SLS destroys your hair in the long run by stripping your scalp of its natural oils and causing flaky, irritated skin.
Polyethelyne Glycol. This ingredient, commonly disguised as PEG/Polyethelyne or Polyoxyethelyne, is designed to aggressively penetrate and cleanse strands. What it actually does is overtime break down healthy hair proteins, causing dryness and brittleness.
Cocamide Diethanolamine. Here’s a tricky one. Shampoos often advertise themselves as containing “coconut oil.” But if the product foams, check the back; you’ll most likely find cocamide diethanolamine (DEA), a foaming chemical derived from coconut oil in a laboratory. DEA can cause scalp irritation or a bad allergic reaction.
Fragrance or Parfum. You never know what you’re going to get when you see “Fragrance” on the back of a shampoo bottle. This enigmatic ingredient can be a mixture of any 3,000+ chemicals, which shampoo companies are not required to disclose. Many of these chemicals can be scalp irritants.
Synthetic Colors. Usually appearing at the end of the ingredients list, synthetic colors are listed as either FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number. These dyes are entirely for aesthetic purposes and may cause scalp sensitivity or allergic reactions.