Did you know that 1 in 12 beauty products for black women has been rated highly hazardous? (Source.) You probably know that relaxers contain toxic and dangerous chemicals, but you may not realize that many products for natural hair contain toxic chemicals as well.
We have put together a list of toxic and harmful ingredients commonly used in hair and beauty products, which we will update periodically. We encourage everyone to be as informed as possible about their hair and beauty products, so read those labels!
Natural hair has an oval-shaped cuticle, a looser cuticle layer, and has more trouble retaining moisture than other hair types. The result is that some of these ingredients are especially harmful to naturally curly hair while they may not damage straight or wavy hair. But other ingredients on the list are toxic and potentially carcinogenic, making them hazardous to use on any hair type.
Unsafe Ingredients Found in Natural Hair Products
This is a toluene, which can damage the respiratory system, irritate the skin, and cause developmental damage in fetuses. See "Toluene" for more information.
Diethanolamine (DEA) Triethanolamine (TEA)
These stabilize the pH of hair products, and are common allergens and eye irritants.
Formaldehyde is another preservative and extremely irritating to the skin and eyes. It is a known animal carcinogen, and may increase cancer risk for humans as well. Keep in mind that certain preservatives release formaldehyde! So by extension, also look out for
- Diazolidinyl urea
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Polyoxymethylene urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
This is a catch-all ingredient. If the manufacturer put this on the bottle, it means they don’t want to tell you what else is in the product (and Fragrance is often a term used to hide Phthalates as an ingredient.) Note: at NaturAll Club we only scent our hair products with all-natural, phthalate free fragrances.
This does its job of stripping away oils from your scalp a little too well, leaving your hair dry and brittle. Ethanol Alcohol, Ethyl Alcohol, Isopropanol Alcohol, Propyl Alcohol, and SD Alcohol are also known to do this.
A common preservative in hair products, linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions, and possible neurotoxicity.
Mineral Oil and Petroleum
These are petroleum products that coat your hair and scalp so effectively, they suffocate them! These ingredients can cause acne, hindered skin respiration, imbalanced oil levels in your scalp, and skin irritation.
Parabens are xenoestrogens, included in shampoos as a preservative. They can disrupt hormones and even pose a cancer risk. You'll see them labeled on hair products as propylparaben, benzylparaben, etc.
These were banned from use in toy manufacturing in California, 2009, because of links between them and cancer. However, they are still often used in hair products. They are often a hidden ingredient in Fragrance.
This is very common in skin and beauty products, but has potential associations with developmental and reproductive toxicity. While it is usually safe to use, it might not be safe to use during pregnancy.
Considered a gentler version of retinol, but it is often added to personal care products in greater concentrations than retinol in order to be effective. It still has potential associations with developmental and reproductive toxicity, and has been found to enhance photocarcinogenicity (heightening the risk of cancer when exposed to UV rays.)
Sulfates strip oil and dirt out of your hair so well, they deplete the naturally produced sebum that moisturizes your hair. While sulfates can be beneficial for hair that gets oily quickly or has looser curls, they're usually a no-no for naturally curly hair. Common sulfates: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Synthetic colors such as D&C Red 27 or FD&C Blue 1, are derived from petroleum or coal sources. These synthetic colors are suspected to be carcinogenic, skin irritants, and linked to ADHD in children. The European Union has banned the use of these ingredients, which is a big red flag.
Also used as a solvent that can dissolve paint and paint thinner, but it is also found in some hair color/bleaching products. This chemical can affect the respiratory system, irritate the skin, and even cause developmental damage in the fetus if expecting mothers are exposed to it. Commonly labeled as benzene, tuluol, phenylmethane, or methylbenzene.
This is a common antimicrobial chemical used in personal care products, but it is also a known endocrine disruptor and skin irritant.
Looking for all-natural, non-toxic hair products?
It can be overwhelming to learn about all these harmful ingredients to look out for in hair products. If you're looking at the ingredient lists on your hair products, you've likely already seen a couple from this list. Wouldn't it be great if there were a brand you could trust to NEVER use these ingredients?
Contrary to so many other hair products and brands on the market, NaturAll is fully committed to using only safe and non-toxic ingredients. It's nice to have a hair product you can trust, right? Check out the natural ingredients we use in our products, and browse our all-natural hair products.