5 shampoo chemicals to avoid, 4 natural shampoos to try

5 shampoo chemicals to avoid, 4 natural shampoos to try

  • Social media users – including Cardi B – credit their healthy hair to natural alternatives to shampoo.
  • dr Alexander Dane, a board-certified dermatologist, said some natural alternatives, like rice water, can benefit hair.
  • Other products, like baking soda and castor oil, can be more damaging to hair and skin.

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The growing awareness of how ubiquitous toxic chemicals are in personal care products could encourage people to buy shampoos made with fewer, all-natural ingredients.

Tribal peoples have used natural ingredients like yucca root and chickpea flour to wash their hair for centuries, but social media has sparked renewed interest in these shampoo alternatives.

Cardi B jumped on the trend, telling her Instagram followers this week that she washes her hair with boiled onion water.

“For my last two washes, I boiled onions and used the water to wash my hair,” she said in an Instagram post. “It’s odorless and I find it adds shine to my hair.”

A post by Cardi B (@iamcardib)

Shampoo naysayers may be right, said Dr. Alexander Dane, a New Jersey-based board-certified plastic surgeon. Chemicals in shampoos can strip hair of its natural oil, and some are even known to cause cancer or disrupt your body’s hormones.

“People are becoming more conscious of what they are putting in and on their bodies and we are seeing people turning to natural alternatives as an alternative to these store bought, synthetic shampoos which can sometimes actually do more harm than good,” Dane told Insider.

Shampoos can contain chemicals that strip your hair of color, natural oils, and moisture

According to Dane, the “clean beauty” trend likely has something to do with Americans becoming more aware of the dangerous health effects of chemicals in their beauty products.

“Often if you go to your local drugstore and take a bottle of shampoo and turn it over to see the ingredients, you’ll see that there are 20 to 30 ingredients listed, most of which are synthetic with numerous chemicals that are actually banned other countries,” said Dane.

The dermatologist said some of these chemicals include:

  • sulfatea foaming agent in hair care products that strips hair of its natural oils and dyes and can cause irritation.
  • triclosana chemical added to extend shelf life in antibacterial products that affect the body’s hormones and have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems.
  • parabens, a chemical that strips hair of color and can cause dryness and irritation. Researchers are studying the effects of parabens on breast cancer.
  • benzenea known human carcinogen that may have contaminated Procter & Gamble’s shampoo products in 2021, prompting a recall.
  • formaldehydea known human carcinogen that is still used in some shampoos.

Natural shampoos that damage your scalp

  • baking powder, although touted on social media as a hair and scalp exfoliator, contains a high pH balance that can irritate the scalp and pull hair out, Dane said. He would avoid using baking soda as a standalone hair treatment.
  • Dane also warned of this castor oil. Too much castor oil in hair can cause “acute hair matting,” or when hair becomes matted, twisted, and tangled in a way that resembles a bird’s nest, according to a 2017 article in the International Journal of Trichology.
  • The acid inside lemon juice can help restore dry or frizzy hair, but using too much can lead to excessive dryness and brittle hair. Additionally, if lemon juice leaks from your hair onto other parts of your skin, interaction with the sun can cause a rash or discoloration.
  • Dane said while hair can benefit from natural alternatives to shampoo, overdoing it can have negative effects on skin and hair. “Just because something’s natural doesn’t mean you should overdo it,” Dane said.

    Homemade laundry detergents you should try, from eggs to chickpea flour — but in moderation

  • Chickpea flour mixed with milk. According to Dane, research confirms the use of this centuries-old homemade shampoo in India. Chickpea flour, as well as rice flour, contain proteins that may help strengthen keratin — the protein that keeps your hair and nails strong.
  • rice water. Many people in China, Japan, and parts of Southeast Asia use the starchy water from soaked rice as a hair cleanser. Dane said it’s “packed with nutrients” like folic acid, vitamin B, vitamin E, amino acids and antioxidants, which increase moisture in the hair and scalp and add volume and definition. Limit use to once or twice a week, he said — too often can cause dandruff.
  • eggs — whether applied topically or eaten as part of your diet — can help produce shiny and healthy hair, says Dane. That’s because they contain biotin, iodine, and vitamins A, D, E, and B12. The sulfur in eggs has antimicrobial properties, and egg yolks contain vitamins that can make brittle hair more resistant to damage. Apply and wash off an egg and water mixture once or twice a week, says Dane.
  • Coconut Oil Spray is rapidly developing into a promising natural hair care product. One study found that it can treat head lice better than chemical treatment. Studies also show that coconut oil protects hair from sun damage by filtering UV rays. And a paper published last year found that it can treat dandruff. Dane said you shouldn’t use too much coconut oil as the buildup can clog pores in your scalp, but using it every now and then and rinsing it out completely can help maintain healthy hair and scalp.