12 chemicals to avoid when shopping for natural hair products
We’d like to shed light on an issue that’s a top concern for us here at Saint Seer, and that should be a big concern for everyone—the use of the word “natural” in hair regrowth and other hair care products which, at closer look, are anything but. While the USDA carefully regulates the use of the word “organic” for food products, there is no such regulatory definition provided by the FDA for the words “organic” or “natural” in the names of personal care products and cosmetics. As a result, anyone can use this terms indiscriminately, regardless of the harmful chemicals that you may find on the ingredient list. The following list includes the 12 harmful ingredients most commonly used in these products, and ones that you should be on the lookout for when making a decision about which product to use.
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
One of the most commonly found ingredients in so-called “natural” hair care and regrowth products is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate, also known as SLS, and though it’s derived from coconuts, it’s far from natural. SLS is widely used in many popular hygiene products such as toothpastes, shampoos, soaps, and detergents because, as a surfactant , its function is to loosen the bond between liquids and solids, making it an effective cleaning agent. It’s so effective, in fact, that it’s also used in such products as degreasers for car engines and industrial-strength detergents. SLS is also a skin-irritant, and is often used in the laboratory to irritate skin when testing skin-treatment products. Additionally, SLS has been found to be associated with Aphthous ulcers (canker sores) and Corrosive skin irritation.
Every day, most of us use products that contain fragrance (soaps, perfumes, aftershave, cosmetics, deodorants, et.al.) but we may not realize the health risks these fragrances may pose. Fragrance formulas are often considered to be corporate trade secrets, so we know frustratingly little about many of them. However, what we do know is that there is long-standing evidence that many of the chemicals in fragrances can cause both health and environmental risks. Fragrances can have effects—both transitory and long term—on the brain and nervous system, and has been associated with lung, liver, and renal tumors. In a 2010 government report , phthalates, a common ingredient in fragrances, was shown to be linked to hormonal disruption, causing early puberty, breast cancer and reduced sperm count.
Betaine Like SLS, the foaming agent Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a surfactant and, although deemed “safe” by the government, it has been associated with a number of health risks including skin and eye irritation, and allergic contact dermatitis. The Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database rates Cocamidopropyl Betaine as a “moderate health risk.”
If there’s any chemical you’ll want to avoid, it’s Triclosan. An antibacterial compound found in a number of products, this chemical is the focus of a campaign launched by a coalition of health and environmental groups to have it removed from the market completely, citing “mounting scientific evidence documenting adverse health effects, including impacts to the thyroid hormone.” If that weren’t enough, the compound has also been linked to endocrine disruption, skin irritation, compounded antibiotic resistance, and the contamination of water, leading to a disruption of the aquatic ecosystem. This threat is so severe, in fact, that Minnesota recently banned Triclosan from all hand soaps, and a federal ban also went into effect earlier this year. Despite this ban on Triclosan in soaps, it can still be found in other products including toothpaste and, you guessed it, hair regrowth products.
Another class of chemicals in the surfactant category, polysorbates are used to dissolve fragrance or other oil additives. The most common chemical in this class is Polysorbate-80, which is often found in conditioners, and can leave a residue on the skin and scalp, and disrupt the skin’s natural pH. What makes Polysorbate-80 particularly complicated is that it comes in both “food grade” (used in ice cream, chewing gum, and other food products) as well as “cosmetics grade” which is more commonly used in personal care products. Cosmetics grade is far more likely to contain impurities such as ethylene oxide, 1,4-dioxane and mono- and diethylene glycol, which are known carcinogenic contaminants. Scientific studies have also linked Polysorbate-80 to infertility in rats, and pregnant women going into anaphylactic shock.
6. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
Polyethylene glycols, or PEGs, are petroleum-based compounds used in cosmetics as thickeners, softeners, and solvents. The main health risk with PEGs is that, depending on the manufacturing process, they may contaminated by ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, both classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known human carcinogens.
7. Potassium Sorbate
Potassium sorbate is used as a preservative in hair-care products, and is a known eye, skin, and respiratory irritant . It has also been found to negatively affect immunity because of its toxicity to human DNA in blood lymphocytes.
Phenoxyethanol is another preservative used in cosmetics and hair care products, and is an irritant to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Additional health risks listed by the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on phenoxyethanol include toxicity to the nervous system, kidneys, and liver.
9. Retinyl Palmitate
Retinyl palmitate is a synthetic alternate for vitamin A (retinol), and a component of many topically-applied skin care products. Despite its ubiquity, there is overwhelming evidence of the toxicity of retinyl palmitate because of the number DNA-damaging free radicals, which can cause skin tumors, liver damage, hair loss, and osteoporosis. Retinyl Palmitate is so toxic that the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database has rated it a 9 on their 1-10 scale of health hazards. This is one of the most dangerous ingredients on the list, and one to avoid at all costs.
Dimethicone, one of the most prevalent chemicals in cosmetics and hair products, is a silicone oil that can leave the scalp and skin dry and irritated, as it forms a plastic-like barrier on the exterior of the skin which can trap bacteria, sebum, and impurities within it. While the FDA has officially deemed the chemical to be “safe,” there is increasing concern that it may actually exacerbate aging of the skin because it inhibits the skin’s natural aging process. Finally, Dimethicone is non-biodegradable, and so may also have a negative impact on the environment.
11. Behentrimonium Chloride
Behentrimonium Chloride is a type of ammonium salt used as a preservative, surfactant, antistatic agent, and emulsifier in a variety of hair care products. At concentrations of 0.1% and higher , this compound has been shown to damage the eyes and, for this reason, higher concentrations were banned in the European Union.
Quaternium-15 is another quaternary ammonium salt used as a surfactant and preservative in personal care products. The chemical is a known allergen, which can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals. More importantly, quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde-releaser and thus provides a significant risk of cancer. While the research on the carcinogenic properties of the chemical is, to date, inconclusive, it is significant enough that Johnson & Johnson phased out the use of quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-producing chemicals back in 2015. The chemical is rated an 8 (high hazard) on Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database. While this list is hardly exhaustive, it should give you a pretty good idea of the kinds of toxins that manufacturers can sneak in, even while claiming that their product is completely natural or organic. At Saint Seer, all of our products are absolutely free of any chemicals or preservatives, so you don’t have to worry about the scary stuff. Your overall health and well-being is our primary concern, and you have our promise - that’s never going to change.
At Saint Seer, all of our products are ABSOLUTELY FREE of any chemicals or preservatives, so you don’t have to worry about the scary stuff. Your overall health and well-being is our primary concern, and you have our promise - that’s never going to change. Learn more