The Haircare ingredients experts say you should avoid at all costs

Given the lack of regulation when it comes to haircare products and the fact that many ingredients banned in Europe and Canada are often found in products here in the U.S.A., it’s important to read ingredient labels of all the products we use on a regular basis. Often times the dryness, rashes, and/or inflammation we experience is a direct result of what we’re applying. But what should we be looking for? Allison Gandolfo, a master colorist at the salon at Bergdorf Goodman, breaks it down.

Here are the ingredients to try to avoid to maximize your chances for healthy, hydrated, and shinny hair.


“Now it’s easier to find a bottle of shampoo and it will clearly say ‘sulfate-free.’ Sulfates are the strong detergents that strip the oils from your hair, which means they strip your hair of its moisture. Sulfates are a type of surfactants (a compound that lower the surface tension), and are very common shampoo ingredients. They bind with the sebum on our scalp on one end and with water on the other. When you rinse out the shampoo, the surfactants take all the oils and residue with them. These cleaning agents are so harsh they can damage the hair, make it fragile, and increase frizz. They may also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin.”

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

“This detergent basically does the same to the hair as sulfates. It also creates the lathering foam that we love. Some people may think they do not get sufficiently clean without the foam, but that is not the case! SLS is also a component in many common household products, including body wash, toothpaste, and some cleaning products. It can have mutagenic properties and other toxic effects on the human body – not good!”


“Products labeled ‘paraben-free’ are now increasingly common and that’s a great thing. Other than sulfates, parabens are probably the shampoo ingredients that are nowadays most known as harmful. They’re used as a preservative to help prevent bacteria from growing in shampoos and it is likely that our skin can absorb them during topical use. They are also a common ingredient when keeping processed or canned food fresh, which means that we also get them in our system orally.

According to the American Chemical Society, 85 percent of American personal care products contain parabens, and an experiment in 2005 found parabens in the urine 99.1% of the people whom were tested. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to an increased growth of breast cancer cells. Multiple experiments have shown that women have a higher concentration of parabens in their bodies compared to men, which could be a result of using more cosmetic and healthcare products.”

Sodium Chloride

“Sodium chloride is simply salt. Salt exists in shampoos mainly to make the consistency thicker. Salt can make an already sensitive scalp dry and itchy, which can eventually be a cause of hair loss. It can also irritate and burn your eyes if you get shampoo in them.  In my opinion, it’s just not necessary.”


“Silicone is almost like rubber and/or plastic. It’s used as a sealant against water and its side effects are bad for hair. It gives the hair the illusion of shine, but this is not the shine we want—you get a fake shine from the plastic. Besides the bogus plastic shine in your hair, silicones will clog your pores and dry your hair from the inside out.  They should not be in your conditioner and try to find styling products that do not contain silicones.

Image: Vogue

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