Ingredients of shampoo

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The basic ingredients used in the shampoo have undergone much improvement in the last five decades or so. The plethora of shampoo brands available in the markets today promise bouncier, dandruff free, stronger hair and less hair loss, touting ingredients such as "Pro V", ZPTO. What do these ingredients mean? Are most of the ingredients used in a shampoo more or less same or different? What is their impact on health and environment?

Why should I be aware of this?

Do the shampoos deliver what they promise? Is there a long term impact of applying shampoos on your hair? We need to be conscious of what we wash our hair with. It is thus important to be able to decode the labels and understand what the shampoo is actually made of. The ingredients of the shampoo might have a direct impact on your health and harm the environment too.

All about ingredients of shampoo

A "Pro V" shampoo is suposed to be entriched by vitamins and gives healthier looking hair. ZPTO is the short form of Zinc Pyrithione, a chemical compound used as anti-fungal and antibacterial agent.

However most shampoos have a combination of these ingredients, Some of which hare harmful to our skin and some have long term impact on the health. Any of the folowing ingredients listed on the lables of your shampoo, then

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate are alkyl sulfates and are surfactants widely used in most shampoos, toothpaste, lotions and creams today. In high concentrations they both are very irritant, drying to skin, hair, irritating to eyes, cause damages like cracking, severe inflammation and cause allergic reactions and have the potential to become contaminated with nitrosamines. Sulfates are used to manufacture these synthetic surfactants and are harmful to marine life and the environment.
  • Alkyloamides have actions that are thickening, gelling, emulsifying, foam boosting, foam stabilizing and opacifying, which changes appearance from clear to cloudy, sometimes making white pearl-like appearance. 4 Main groups of alkyloamides are: diethanolamides (DEA), monoethanolamides (MEA), monoisopropanolamides (MIPA), ethoxylated or PEG alkanolamides. All are harmful to environment and can become contaminated with nitrosamines.
  • Amodimethicone is silicone fluid used to give a smooth feel which causes allergic reactions.
  • CA-24 (chloroacetamide) also known as acidamide is used as antimicrobial in shampoos and bath lotions at concentrations up to 0.3%. People have had allergic reactions from it using as little as 0.1% dilution. The European Economic Community requires label warnings on products containing chloroacetamide.
  • Cocoamide DEA is a synthetic foam stabilizer and thickener which may be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine causes eyelid dermatitis.
  • Sodium Myeth Sulfate is a synthetic detergent and not biodegradable.
  • DMDM Hydantoin is a form of formaldehyde and is used as a preservative.
  • Ext. D&C Color certified as safe for drugs and cosmetics, not for food. It is a synthetic, coal tar color and is toxic. Coal tar has been shown to be carcinogenic in animal tests and many people are allergic to it.
  • Ext. D&C Violet #2 is in the anthraquinone family of coal tars which is made from phthalic anhydride and benzene. This chemical mix causes tumors in lab rats and causes serious skin rashes. Benzene is a petrochemical solvent known to cause depression, convulsions, coma and death with prolonged exposure suspected to cause leukemia. Even inhaling the vapors can be absorbed through the skin and cause irritation.
  • Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and found in many preservatives including the hydantoins. It’s extremely toxic when inhaled or swallowed. Nearly half of all people exposed to it experience a toxic reaction. In the past the FDA banned formaldehyde in cosmetics but is still used in shampoos. EEC requires label disclosure if it used in a certain percentage.
  • Glyceryl Stearate S.E. a synthetic used for a pearlizing effect, emulsifier and opacifier (changes appearance from clear to cloudy) which can cause irritation and clogged pores.
  • Imidazolidinyl urea (also known as Germall and phenoxyethanol) is a synthetic preservative that can release formaldehyde at temperatures over 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Irgasan DP 300 ( also named Triclosan) is phototoxic, an environmental pollutant because hydrocarbons are known to pollute the air, water and land, and a suspected carcinogen because it comes from coal tar.
  • Lauramide DEA is a surfactant, foam-builder, can be irritating to the skin and can be contaminated with nitrosamines.
  • Laureth 1-40 a synthetic surfactant and foaming agent.
  • Laurylmyrist-oleamidosulfo-succinate a synthetic fatty alcohol used as a dispersant and a surfactant that causes allergic reactions and damages the environment.
  • Linoleamidopropyl ethly dimonium ethosulfate can be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Methylparaben a synthetic preservative.
  • Mineral Oil is manufactured from petroleum and causes allergic reactions with topical use and many be phototoxic.
  • Propylene Glycol is considered safe by the FDA and is a petrochemical used in antifreeze and brake fluid. It is a cheap synthetic humectant and emulsifier made from mineral oil.
  • Quaternary ammonium salts including stearalkonium chloride, quaternary-15 (a fungicide) are used in the paper and fabric industries, as fabric softeners, water repellents, anti-static agents and corrosion inhibitors. They are very common in hair conditioners and crème rinses. While initially giving a soft feel to hair they eventually make the hair dry and brittle
  • Nitrosamines All "amines" and "amides" are capable of forming N-nitroso compounds which, in animal experiments, have been found to be quite carcinogenic.

Ingredients of shampoo and health

Doctors and researchers in USA, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Germany aver that the main ingredients that make up hair and skin cleansing products may cause cataractsdsfadfa sdf agfdgsfg, eye damage or even blindness in little children.

Some harmful ingredients to look out for

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS damages the protein in the eyes of children. In extreme cases, this may also lead to blindness leading to corrosion of hair follicles, impairing the ability to grow and repair hair.
  • Coal tar, a popular ingredient in shampoos, though effective in controlling and reducing dandruff, is a known cancer-causing agent. One should specially beware of D&C Blue, Green # 3, Yellow#5 and 6, Red # 33.
  • ZPTO which is the presence of zinc pyrithione can cause severe allergic reations, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness and lack of concentration
  • Preservative commonly found in shampoos contain the bacteria-killing agent methylisothiazolinone (MIT), shown to restrict the growth of immature rat nerve cells. Formaldehyde used in some preservatives is also a common ingredient in a shampoo and shockingly enough in a baby shampoo. It is a neurotoxin and a known cause for cancer.[1]dfagasdf
  • Two ingredients, cocamide DEA and PEG-55 propylene glycol oleate, may be linked to cancer or other health problems (PEG-55 propylene glycol oleate may be linked to breast cancer).
  • Four ingredients, menthol, propylene glycol, sodium laureth sulfate and tetrasodium EDTA, are penetration enhancers, and five ingredients have not been safety tested.
  • The fragrance in this product may be an allergen, and four ingredients -- the parabensethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben; and propylene glycol may pose additional health concerns.
  • Baby shampoos also contain a higher level of ethylene oxide to reduce irritancy. It is an extremely harmful compound and is a known endocrine disruptor.

Ingredients of shampoo and environment

People do not think much about the environmental effects of the manufacture of shampoo and the far reaching impact of letting it go down household drains. Shampoo is afteral a combination of chemical and it finds its way into our waterways and sea. According to a report from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), shampoos, shower gels and other cosmetic products are finding their way into the environment and are posing a risk to sea life, plants as well as people's health.[1]

What can I do?

You can opt for home made shampoos or herbal shampoo.

A home made recipe for a shampoo, based on kitchen products includes a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar in a certain proportion. This shampoo does not require a conditioner and leaves hair clean. However too much of the baking powder can render hair dry.

A paste of baking soda with apple cider vinegar can also be used to wash hair . however too much of baking soda may dry out the hair. So care must be taken to use it in the prescribed proportion.


  • New research is raising concerns about the safety of the preservative methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a common ingredient in most shampoos. Laboratory studies show that it restricts the growth of immature rat nerve cells.[1]
  • Labeling regulations allow manufacturers to write Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate are alkyl sulfates as "derived from coconut oil". This is untrue today because they are synthetically produced nowadays from petroleum as aginst in the 1940s when they were originally developed from coconut oil.

Unanswered questions

  • How does washing my hair with vitamin enriched shampoo help?


  • Beauty and Hair
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Chemistry
  • Does Your Dandruff Shampoo Cause Cancer?
  • Hair Care Tips: Shampoo Secrets Should You Throw Away Your Shampoo?


See Also