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“Bad” Cosmetic Ingredients: Fact or Fiction?

Ingredients found in your hair and skin care products are important. It's vital to grasp what makes these products toxic or beneficial, but phrases like fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and paraben-free can make trying to understand them all feel daunting.

As social media expands in popularity, it is becoming easier to distribute statements that lack scientific backing. It's crucial to remember that while some elements in a product may be the reason it doesn't work for one hair type, they may be the reason it works so well for another.


Sulfates can be found in many household products such as detergents and cleaners. They can also be found in haircare, such as in shampoo where their main purpose is to create a lathering effect. Sulfates’ initially began gathering a bad reputation in the 1990’s when claims began circulating that they can cause cancer. Sulfates are a petroleum product and as a result are correlated with greenhouse grasses, pollution, and climate change.

There is no actual scientific evidence that sulfates found in hair care or skin care can cause cancer. Sulfates strip your hair and scalp of its natural oils and therefore if you tend to have sensitive skin or eczema, using a sulfate-free shampoo would be beneficial. If you have normal skin and hair then using a shampoo with sulfates should have no downsides, in fact cleansing your hair with a shampoo containing sulfates is the most effective way to clean your hair due to the way it lathers.


Silicones can be found in a variety of hair care products, including shampoos and lotions. Silicones are non-toxic, can improve shine, help with heat protection, and manage frizz, but they can build up on your hair over time, resulting in a dry feel and dull appearance. They can also cause hair loss by clogging hair follicles with possible accumulation. Because silicone isn't water soluble, it can be tough to get rid of with a normal wash.


Parabens are a class of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and hair care products. They're most commonly found in products with a lot of water, including shampoo and conditioners, and they can be used in both leave-on and rinse-off treatments. Although parabens are used in goods to inhibit the growth of mold and germs, they have attracted unfavorable attention in recent years due to their ability to operate as endocrine disruptors and cause cancer when used in higher concentrations.

The truth is that the level of parabens contained in most skin-care and hair-care products is insufficient to cause harm to human health (per FDA). Shampoos are typically made with parabens in order to preserve the product and keep it safe from growing viruses, however, many shampoos are also formulated without them.

Mineral Oils

The effect of mineral and vegetable oils on human hair has received very little research. Oils are essential for preventing hair from damage. They have the ability to permeate the hair and lower the amount of water absorbed. As a result, there is less frequent swelling and drying, which can harm the hair. The oil can bridge the gap between the cuticle and the follicle, allowing surfactants to enter. Applying oil to the hair shaft on a daily basis can improve lubrication and help prevent hair breaking. Mineral oils have a greater spreading capacity on the hair surface, which increases gloss, combing ability, and minimizes the creation of split ends.


Alcohol has been demonstrated to deplete the hair shaft of oils that are essential for hair lubrication and protection against environmental stresses such as UV, thermal, and irritant damage. Alcohol-free shampoo is ideal for people who have a sensitive scalp, eczema, or chemically treated or colored hair because alcohol can fade the color. Alcohol-free products are particularly beneficial to people who have fine, brittle, or thin hair since they aid in preventing additional hair thinning and keep hair moisturized.

Short-chain alcohols can be drying and irritating to the scalp, but fatty alcohols can serve as a surfactant, retaining moisture and moisturizing the scalp and hair.

Shampoos may include alcohol , which can harm hair by depleting it of essential nutrients. Ethanol or ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol are examples of these alcohols.

Knowledge is power and ‌therefore it is crucial to understand the scientific credibility behind claims that could lead to misinformation. No matter which cosmetic product you choose it is important to conduct your research Through reputable sources such as cosmetic experts, or scientists.

Works Cites

Duggan, Caitlin. “Here's What Dermatologists Think about ‘Bad’ Hair Ingredients.” Byrdie, Byrdie, 8 Oct. 2021,

Gould, Hallie. “These Shampoos Are Free of Bad Alcohols.” Byrdie, Byrdie, 23 June 2022,

Sharma, Ayushi & Kulshrestha, Sunanda & Goel, Anjana & Singh, Shoorvir. (2021). An Insight into Chemicals Toxicity in Cosmetics and Their Health-Related Perceptions. 1773-1794.

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