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Avoid These Bad Ingredients in Shampoo

5 mins

Rahul Bhatia

Sulfates, parabens, phthalates, alcohols: Do you avoid these bad ingredients in shampoo? Let’s discuss how to avoid them and choose natural ingredients instead.

Although you use your shampoo to benefit your hair, it could actually be having the opposite effect. There are a whole host of harmful ingredients commonly found in shampoos that could be harming your hair and scalp. So ditch these harsh and artificial ingredients in favor of more gentle and natural alternatives. 

What Ingredients Should Be Avoided in Shampoo and Why?

Here are some of the worst shampoo ingredients that you should definitely avoid whenever possible: 


Sulfates are commonly used in shampoos to clean the scalp and remove dirt and sebum. They are also used to create a lather in shampoo products. 

Specifically, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES), and ammonium lauryl sulfate are all different types of sulfates that can potentially cause allergic reactions on the scalp or hormone issues after prolonged use. 


Parabens are a type of preservative used to increase the shelf life of hair care products like shampoos. Furthermore, they are used to prevent the growth of bacteria within shampoo products. Specifically, butyl, propyl, and ethyl parabens are often included in shampoos but are hormone disruptors that mimic the female hormone estrogen. 


Phthalates are used in hair care products to improve the spreadability of the product. They also help perfumed scents stick to your scalp and hair. 

While this may make you smell good, phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors that can trigger early puberty in girls and reduce sperm count in men. 


Formaldehyde is another type of preservative that is commonly used in hair care products like shampoo. Specifically, bronopol, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternion-15, and Diazolidinyl urea are all formaldehyde releasers known to be carcinogenic.

Polyethylene Glycols

Polyethylene glycols or PEGs are derived from petroleum and are used as a thickening agent in hair care products. PEGs come in different numbers -- so you may see things like 100, 120, 30, 32, 40, and 75 on your shampoo label. 

PEGs are thought to have a negative impact on your scalp health. 


Like PEGs, alcohol is used in shampoo products as a thickening agent. However, they can also be extremely drying. In turn, alcohol can dry out your hair and scalp -- leading to brittleness and potentially increased irritation. 

Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride, also known as salt, is another thickening agent used in shampoos and other hair care products. While this may be a relatively natural substance, it can cause dryness and itchiness on the scalp, leading to further issues like hair loss

Artificial Fragrances and Color

Finally, you need to look out for artificial fragrances and colors in your shampoos. Artificial fragrances are often made up of thousands of different chemicals that don’t have to be disclosed on the label. On the other hand, synthetic colors going by “FD&C” or “D&C” with a number can have negative health consequences. 

What Are Some Good Ingredients To Look For in Shampoo?

Instead of using harsh artificial ingredients in shampoo, you should instead look for more gentle and natural alternatives. Specifically, you should look for beneficial shampoo ingredients like natural oils, natural butter, natural vitamins, and essential oils. 

Natural Oils

Natural oils, including plant oils, are excellent shampoo ingredients that you should look for within your next formula. Some of the best plant oils in shampoos include argan oil, jojoba oil, and almond oil. 

  • Argan oil is made from the kernels on argan trees that are native to the North African country of Morocco. This natural oil is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants that can work wonders for your hair. 

Specifically, argan oil moisturizes the hair, prevents hair loss, provides sun protection, improves scalp health, and prevents styling damage. 

argan oil

  • Jojoba oil is derived from the seeds of the jojoba plant that is native to the southwestern United States. This wax-like oil is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, B, E, copper, and zinc. Specifically, jojoba oil is known to moisturize, strengthen, and protect the hair from dryness and breakage. 
  • Almond oil is made from pressing the seeds of the almond tree that is native to southwestern Asia. This natural oil is rich in protein, omega-9 fatty acids, and vitamin E. specifically, almond oil promotes hair strength and shine. 

Natural Butters

Natural butter is another example of great shampoo ingredients that you should look for within your following formula. Butters are thicker than oils and are known to be highly nourishing. 

Some of the best natural butters in shampoos include shea butter, mango butter, and cocoa butter. 

  • Shea butter is made from shea nuts from the Vitellaria paradoxa tree native to West Africa. This natural butter is rich in Vitamins A, E, and essential fatty acids. Specifically, shea butter is known to moisturize the hair, prevent breakage, and reduce scalp irritation. 
  • Mango butter is made from mango fruit kernels native to India. This natural butter is rich in Vitamins A and E. Specifically, mango butter is known to protect the hair from sun and heat damage, prevent scalp irritation, and strengthen strands. 
  • Cocoa butter is made from roasted cacao beans native to Mexico. This natural butter is rich in natural saturated fats and antioxidants. Specifically, cocoa butter is known to moisturize, soften, strengthen, protect, and add shine to the hair. 

Natural Vitamins

You should also look for natural vitamins within your shampoos. Think of this as supplementing your hair with the nutrients it needs to grow healthy and strong -- similar to how you supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals. 

Specifically, vitamin B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B9 (folic acid), and Vitamin E are all great hair care vitamins that you should look for. 

Essential Oils

Another excellent shampoo ingredient is essential oil. Essential oils are commonly used for aromatherapy or even skincare and have a beneficial role in hair care. There are so many different essential oils out there that you can use for hair care. 

Some of the best essential oils for hair include lavender essential oil, peppermint essential oil, rosemary essential oil, cedarwood essential oil, and geranium essential oil. 

What Are Some of the Best Natural Shampoos To Use?

Some of the best natural shampoos come from WOW Skin Science, which is dedicated to producing effective yet natural, vegan, and cruelty-free beauty products. So check out some of our amazing shampoos and the corresponding conditions to transform your hair into a healthier mane.  

WOW Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

WOW Skin Science’s
Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo is a natural clarifying shampoo. This product can be used to clarify the hair and effectively remove stubborn build-up from any previous use of bad shampoo ingredients like sulfates and silicones. 

This powerful shampoo should be used once a week to clarify and detox the hair, containing natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar, nettle leaf extract, saw palmetto extract, almond oil, and argan oil. 

WOW Skin Science Coconut Milk Shampoo

Coconut Milk Shampoo

WOW Skin Science’s
Coconut Milk Shampoo is a natural nourishing shampoo. This product can be used to hydrate, rejuvenate, soothe, and smooth out your hair for a healthy bounce and shine. 

Containing natural ingredients like coconut milk extract, nettle leaf extract, saw palmetto extract, almond oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, and aloe vera extract, this shampoo can be used to clean and nourish the hair on a daily basis. 

WOW Skin Science Argan Oil Shampoo

WOW Skin Science’s Argan Oil Shampoo

WOW Skin Science’s Argan Oil Shampoo
is a natural moisturizing shampoo. This product can be used to repair damaged hair -- improving gloss and shine while nourishing the scalp and hair strands. 

Containing natural ingredients like Moroccan argan oil, saw palmetto extract, nettle leaf extract, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, and aloe vera extract, this shampoo should be used along with WOW’s Argan Oil Conditioner for the best results. 

WOW Skin Science Activated Charcoal and Keratin Shampoo

Activated Charcoal and Keratin Shampoo

WOW Skin Science’s
Activated Charcoal and Keratin Shampoo is a natural cleansing shampoo. This product has two-fold benefits -- it can deeply cleanse the hair and scalp of dirt, oil, and impurities before nourishing and fortifying the stands for clean and healthy hair. Containing natural ingredients like activated charcoal, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (keratin), sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, and aloe vera extract, this shampoo should be followed with a cold and thorough rinse to seal cuticles for the best results. 

Wrap Up on Shampoo Ingredients

Take a look at the ingredients on your shampoo label. If you’re finding a high number of these bad ingredients, you should consider a more natural and healthy alternative. 


Sulfate in Shampoo: What to Know | Medical News Today

What Are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics? | EWG

A review on plant importance, biotechnological aspects, and cultivation challenges of jojoba plant | NIH 

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Rahul Bhatia

Rahul is the published author of "Heads Or Tails" and Quora writer with over 1.6 million views. He is a keen observer who enjoys the simple joys of life. He strongly believes true beauty is not how beautiful your face is but how beautiful your heart is.

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