Top 20 Bad Ingredients In Shampoo To Avoid

Have you ever been curious about the ingredients of your shampoo? Do you know using bad ingredients in shampoo can not only damage your hair follicles but also impart permanent hair loss?

According to the recent research carried out by the American Society of Dermatology, about 90% of hair fall and skin diseases are associated with certain bad ingredients in shampoo.

Avoiding bad ingredients in shampoo is extremely vital to have long, healthy, and luscious hair.

This article will discuss the top 20 bad ingredients in shampoo, why they are “evil”, and why they are present in our shampoo.

What are the bad ingredients in shampoo?

  1. Formaldehyde

It is the most toxic ingredient in shampoo. It is a known carcinogen associated with more than twenty known malignancies. Quaternium fifteen is the most typical form of formaldehyde current in our daily use of shampoo.

Formaldehyde is very harmful to living organisms. It enters a living cell and destroys it immediately.

It’s used because they are anti-microbial, cleansing your hair, scalp, and body from bacterias. However, it also strips away important, good organisms.

  1. Synthetic fragrances

Companies are much more concerned nowadays about adding fragrance to shampoos. After all, you do tend to smell the shampoo before buying.

You do that completely unaware that about 90% of the fragrances present in our shampoo are dangerous to our skin, hair, and body cells. You read that right, ninety percent. That’s only one out of 10 shampoo bottles is safe. I think it’s safe to qualify them as one of the bad ingredients in shampoo.

Apple blossom, coconut, and apricot are the most commonly used fragrances to impart a typical smell to your hair. Most synthetic fragrances contain chemicals that induce allergic reactions in the body and are proven carcinogens in the long run.

  1. Synthetic colors

Colors are one of the bad ingredients in shampoo that play a role in your purchase as well. Colorful shampoos have this luxurious and expensive feel to them. But most of us are unaware that these colors are chemicals that induce irritant and allergic reactions in the body.

Many of the well-reputed companies have now stopped using colors in shampoo. So don’t fret over a transparent shampoo, it’s not water.

Furthermore, some colors are FDA-approved and should be used, but there is limited data to support them.

  1. Dimethicone (Silicone)

We all want our hair to look straight, shiny, and fresh. Silicone is used for many years in shampoos for this purpose. With its known hundreds of forms, dimethicone is one of them and is used in our daily shampoos.

Dimethicone is a skin irritant and clogs the pores of hair. It all results in hair loss and skin damage. Dermatologists like me advise against buying shampoos with silicone in it.

  1. Retinyl palmitate

The retinyl palmitate is a retinoid, an active form of vitamin A. It’s in shampoo to remove hair greasiness and impart a fresh and sebum-free look.

Despite that, it is essential to avoid this bad ingredient in shampoo because it is a strong irritant of the skin and leads to eczema, itchiness, and skin sores.

According to the American Society of Dermatology, all eczema and asthmatic diagnosed patients should avoid shampoos with retinyl palmitate.

  1. Triclosan

It is a synthetic antibacterial agent qualified as one of the bad ingredients in shampoo.

On the one hand, it prevents the growth of bacteria in our hair, but researchers have proven its harmful effects too.

It enters the cell and alters its development. It eventually results in cancer.

It is contraindicated in breastfeeding and pregnant females.

  1. Cocamidopropyl Butane

It is a natural ingredient obtained from coconut. It is used widely in our daily use of shampoos to impart a foamy texture to shampoo. It also helps as a preservative for shampoo.

It’s not to be confused with Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

Yes, it is natural but it’s not without its bad consequences.

Its active ingredient is a skin allergen and irritates your skin to a stage till you develop erythema redness and hair loss. So, it is another bad ingredient in shampoo.

  1. Alcohol

Alcohol is an essential ingredient present in most regular shampoo. It can maintain the moisture in the hair. But, it is also proven to wreak havoc on your hair.

Some forms like cetearyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, instead of moisturizing, actually do the opposite thing.

It is essential to check the alcohol composition, too, as high concentration damages the hair follicle and inhibits their growth.

  1. Triethanolamine

It is present in shampoo to promote the mix-up of oil and water ingredients. On the one hand, it gives a smooth consistency to the shampoo, while on the other hand, it has carcinogenic effects. It is essential to avoid such bad ingredients in shampoo.

  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate

The cleanliness effect of shampoo comes with the amount of detergent in it. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a detergent that is one of the active (but bad) ingredients in shampoo. On the one hand, it removes the dirt, sebum, and oil from hair, but on the other end, it enters the hair follicles and prevents the growth of hair.

It is one of the most potent and widely used ingredients of shampoo.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate imparts the leathery touch to shampoo. It increases the foamy ness and acts as a preservative. Apart from all the benefits, it irritates the skin and can transform normal skin into carcinogenic skin.

Dermatologists like me advise avoiding shampoo with a high concentration of sodium lauryl sulfate in it. It is a popular but bad ingredient in shampoo.

  1. Parabens

Parabens are essential ingredients in shampoo because of their antimicrobial properties. They prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses on our scalp. However, they enter the hair follicles and acts as carcinogen cells. They increase breast cancer cell production and also inhibit the sex hormone in females.

That’s why you will often see “Paraben-Free” being advertised.

  1. Salt (or Sodium Chloride).

Salt has enormous benefits in shampoo. It acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial and provides a thick consistency to the cells. But, on the other hand, it has some drawbacks too.

Recent research carried out by dermatologists prove that high salt concentration has harmful effects on sensitive skin. Dermatologists typically recommend salt-free shampoo to people with skin prone to redness and damage.

  1. Glycols

Glycols are used in shampoos to impart a specific thickness and consistency. Only one form of glycol is beneficial for our hair. Unfortunately, many shampoos come with harmful variants of glycols that damage our hair and can lead to permanent baldness.

  1. Polysorbates

They provide fragrance to the shampoo and are used for ages in conditioners and shampoos. Yet, we never notice that the polysorbates written on the ingredient are so toxic that they can lead to skin disruption. It alters the pH of the skin and damages the barrier eventually, skin loss occurs. (Nathan 2019)

  1. Methylchloroisothiazolinone

It is a preservative added to shampoos to enhance their lifespan after we open a shampoo bottle. They are potent cancer-causing agents present in an ample amount in our shampoos. Their exposure to our nostrils can even lead to lung cancer.

Dermatologists strictly prohibit the use of methylchloroisothiazolinone.

  1. Potassium sorbate

It is an active ingredient present in our shampoos and gives a typical smell. Different companies use different kinds of potassium sorbate concentrations to provide a particular aroma to shampoo. It should be avoided in sensitive skin people as it is a powerful irritant of the skin and can give rise to eczema.

  1. Behentrimonium chloride

It is a derivative of ammonia used to make your hair wrinkle-free. Nowadays, shampoo companies, despite knowing how hazardous it is, start abusing the use of behentrimonium chloride.

On the one hand, it makes the hair look shiny, glossy, and straight, but n the other hand, it penetrates the hair shaft and causes thinning of hair.

  1. Phthalates

It is a carcinogenic ingredient present in most shampoos. It gives a thick consistency to shampoo, hence making it easy to use. The recent research done by dermatologists has proved that it is associated with more than five cancers. Definitely one of the bad ingredients in shampoo for the books.

  1. Medical ingredients

Many times, we come across fungal and bacterial scalp infections. The doctor does recommend us the use of antibacterial shampoo, but none of us know how important it is to read the concentration of ingredients in it. They should only be used according to the doctor’s advice. Misuse of such powerful shampoo can have negative side effects(Chatterjee 2020)

What can you do about these bad ingredients in shampoo?

Shampoos have increased the grace of our hair, but unfortunately, most of the ingredients in them outweigh the benefits we actually get.

Let’s face it, no one wants to have cancer-causing ingredients because it makes the shampoo foamy.


But we’re not here to fearmonger, if you are a regular person with no known allergy, sensitivity, and genetic history, it will be fine to finish up your current bottle of shampoo.

After that you can either continue using the shampoo but in small and calculated amounts or switch completely to a safer alternative on the market without all the ingredients we talked about.

At the end of the day, it is essential to read the ingredient list before buying any personal product to avoid any harmful complications in the long run.

We also have written about the worst ingredients for pregnant women that might be of use to you, your partner, or your family.

Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
Dr. Ahmad Fayyaz Chaudhry earned his MBBS degree from Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad, in 2020. During graduation, he enrolled himself in the Dermatology Ward DHQ Hospital Faisalabad for all the necessary training required to pass the bachelor's exam and encounter dermatological diseases daily. Currently, he is posted as a House Physician in the Medical Unit 3 Allied Hospital Faisalabad, where he encounters all kinds of hepatic, cardiac, neurological, and dermatological diseases daily.

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