If you’re browsing Thyrst’s products, you’ve likely done a little research into the toxic chemicals other, less conscious skincare products contain. You probably know that some of what our regulators allow to be sold in stores isn’t good for us, whether it’s skincare products or deodorant or shampoo. This is particularly true in the United States, where just 11 ingredients are banned from being used in cosmetics, compared to the more than 1,000 listed as illegal in the European Union.

As conscious consumers, it’s our responsibility to choose products that won’t harm our bodies. Just as we have to make smart choices at the grocery store, we should also be thoughtful when it comes to purchasing products to use in our hair.

Here are some of the toxic ingredients you should look out for. This list, while not exhaustive, is long and warns of some pretty disturbing possible risks. 

Parabens, which prolong shelf life, have been blamed for irritation and even cancer. Triclosan has been suspected of contributing to infertility. Formaldehyde has been linked to asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin problems such as rashes. Polyethylene glycol, which strips the hair of its natural moisture and adds silicone to make it feel soft, has been linked to developmental problems. Sodium lauryl sulfate, found in more than 90% of hair products, is known to irritate skin.

Phthalates, known to increase the risk of cancer, were banned from use in toy manufacturing in California more than a decade ago, but are still used in hair products. Sometimes, marketing teams deliberately leave out the word phthalates and instead use “fragrance” in the ingredients list. Diethanolamine, an agent that thickens hair, was added to a list of carcinogenic chemicals produced in 2012 by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. (The Food and Drug Administration currently tells consumers there’s no cause for alarm.)

Triethanolamine has been linked to asthma and allergies. Benzene can damage the respiratory system. Methylisothiazolinone, a common preservative in hair products, is suspected to be neurotoxic. Synthetic colors such as D&C Red 27 or FD&C Blue 1, were banned in Europe because they are thought to be carcinogenic. 

All of these are alarming allegations, many of which have been confirmed by studies published in peer-reviewed journals. What’s perhaps most alarming is not all chemicals are listed on labels.

Generally the rule of thumb is the same for hair products as it is for food: choose ingredients you know and feel comfortable with. Do your research. Here are some ingredients you can feel good about using in your hair:

  • Coconut oil adds shine and locks in moisture. Products containing extracts can be easier to work with than the raw oil, which can be pretty thick. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil is good for your stir-fry, but it’s also good for your hair, adding moisture and preventing breakage.
  • Argan oil, which contains essential vitamins and fatty acids, can be great for making your hair shiny, taming frizz, and protecting your hair from heat-related treatments.
  • Avocado oil is a great source of vitamins and works well as a leave-in conditioner that can actually penetrate the hair and make it stronger and shinier.
  • Tea tree oil works against hair loss and can also make your hair stronger and softer. 

There are many other safe ingredients to use in your hair, so as long as you do your research, you can not only achieve healthy hair but you can also avoid the risks associated with common chemicals.

Written by Allyson Welch

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