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Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo Ingredients

Written by Irina Webb

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo IngredientsDo you want to know how by looking at a shampoo’s ingredients for just 1 second, you can avoid buying potentially toxic shampoos?  I will tell you right now using Head & Shoulders Classic Clean shampoo as an example.



I spent over 5 years obsessively reading all of the ingredients for each shampoo I can find (check out the results of my long-term research of hair products in my Shampoo and Conditioner Rating Lists), which allowed me to develop this method, which is very simple.



Pick up a bottle of shampoo and look at the end of its ingredient list.  If you see two words that are long, unpronounceable, and both start with the letter M (namely, methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone), put the shampoo back on the shelf.  Using this method, you will eliminate over 50% of the most potentially harmful shampoos, in my opinion.  Why?  Find out next.



First of all, these two M ingredients are commonly used.  Second, they are potentially very harmful on their own.  And third, in my experience, there is a 99% correlation with the fact that other ingredients in the shampoo formulation won’t be good either.



Methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone in Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo



Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) is a preservative mixture at a fixed combination (ratio 3/1), which is commonly used in cosmetic and industrial applications and can be found in cosmetics, especially shampoos, dermatological products (mainly sunscreens), household cleaning products, paints, moist toilet paper, and metalworking fluids.



Recent reports have shown an increase in sensitization to both MCI/MI and MI by itself.  The global frequency of sensitization to MCI/MI remained constant at around 2.1% from 1998-2009, but increased to 3.9% in 2011.



Methylisothiazolinone (MI) was the American Contact Dermatitis Society Contact Allergen of the Year for 2013 because its use in cosmetics and personal care products is rising.



What is sensitization?



It is important to note here that skin irritation is different from sensitization.  A sensitizer is defined by OSHA as “a chemical that causes a substantial proportion of exposed people or animals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to the chemical”.  In other words, if a chemical causes irritation, you will see it on the first use.  With sensitizing chemicals, you may not have an allergic reaction to a product at first and develop an allergic reaction after prolonged use.



Once a person is allergic, he or she is always allergic.  The body won’t forget it and the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is avoidance (source).



Other ingredients that I underlined in red (e.g. worst) in Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo



Sodium Laureth Sulfate



Every foaming shampoo has to have foaming agents, also known as surfactants.  There are two surfactants in the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).  SLES is created by taking Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and adding ethylene oxide, in a process called ethoxylation.  The problem with this process is that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen and if the manufacturer does not use the vacuum stripping method, the by-product of this process, 1,4-dioxane, linked with cancer, may remain in the final product.  There is no way for us consumers to know if vacuum stripping took place.  I recommend avoiding shampoo and all other personal care products with ethoxylated ingredients.



87 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !






“Fragrance” is an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants.  Phthalates are likely to be present in the mixture because they are often used in creating a fragrance so it is statistically likely, although this is my opinion and I simply don’t know if they are used here.



There are a number of different phthalates and some of them are possible carcinogens and hormone disruptors (for detailed information on phthalates, read my phthalate primer here).



Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.  They are rated 8 out 10 (10 being most toxic) in the Skin Deep database.



I highly recommend that families with babies and small children stay away from fragrances, as well as women who are planning to conceive or who are pregnant.



Blue 1, Red 33



Blue 1 (CI 42090) and Red 33 (CI 17200) are synthetic colorants.



Colorants can be of mineral or synthetic origin.  The synthetic dyes are organic, which means that they contain carbon compounds, i.e. the term “organic” is a reference to organic chemistry, and are derived from petrochemicals, as opposed to being USDA “certified organic.” (In other words, they are “organic” in a bad way!)  Both mineral and organic pigments and dyes may contain traces of heavy metals as detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations, FDA 21 CFR.



In addition to heavy metal contamination, organic pigments and dyes may contain traces of additional contaminants specific to petroleum, including carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting benzo[a]pyrene, and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).



You can see a list of potential contaminants for Red 33 here.



According to the Canada Environment Substances List, both Blue 1 and Red 33 are persistent in the environment, meaning that they are not easily degradable and remain in the environment for a very long time.



And lastly, synthetic dyes are tested on animals due to their potential carcinogenic properties.



And do we really need colorants in our shampoo?  With the detailed concerns about Red 33 and Blue 1, I highly recommend avoiding shampoos with any colorants.  Was your day really ruined because your shampoo didn’t have any color to it?  I didn’t think so.



87 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !



This concludes my review of the worse ingredients in Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo.



What is next?



Please let me know in the comments if you are interested in continuing our conversation on how to avoid the other 50% of most potentially toxic shampoo.


Your Superpower To Read Ingredients

Imagine looking at the ingredients of any shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or cream and in a matter of seconds being able to decide if it is safe to use!

With this easy unprecendented method, you will be able to spot potentially harmful personal care or skincare products that may cause irritation, an allergic reaction, or increase the risk of endocrine disruption or cancer.

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21 thoughts on “Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo Ingredients”

  1. Thank you for this post. I use the Head and Shoulders Classic Clean and now I will change. What shampoo do you use? My children and I all have very dry scalps so we have been using that product. Please do share what you use.

    1. Hi, Lisa! I know! This is the irony of it. My husband used to use Head and Shoulders all the time before I met him and he had bad problems with his scalp. The pyrithione zinc in the Head and Shoulders is also linked with scalp dermatitis. I was using Hairprint shampoo exclusively for almost year and recently found another shampoo I like a lot. I will be publishing a post about the shampoos next week. Stay tuned. ~Irina

  2. I’d read about MCI/MI being bad and one of the possible reactions could be dermatitis which is funny because I’d been using Head and Shoulders to relieve my scalp itching. So I read the labels of my body washes and other shampoos and they all had it – along with various dyes!! That lead me to find your website. Thank you.

  3. Hi Irina, I would LOVE to read more about picking shampoos! I’ve been struggling to find something that cleans my hair with sufficient lather, doesn’t leave a squeaky feel and doesn’t leave my hair greasy a couple of hours after the wash (yes, a big list!).
    I’ve been using Alaffia Everyday Coconut and it meets most of my criteria, but I feel like my hair doesn’t stay clean for longer than a day with it. Here are the ingredients (the only one I’m questioning is “aromatic”, not even sure what that is.
    Ingredients: Zingiber officinale (ginger) aqueous extract, lauryl glucoside, saponified cocos nucifera (virgin coconut) oil*, decyl gluside, sodium chloride, cocos nucifera (coconut) water*, panthenol, aromatic, coco nucifera (copra) extract, *Certified Fair Trade by IMO.

    1. Hi, Natalia: There was a year when I tested a ton of different shampoos on my hair. I ruined my hair back then but I learned a lot including that shampoos with saponified oils make my hair greasy. I will be talking more about that in my upcoming post. Stay tuned. Irina

      1. that’s good to know … I might be in the same boat here.
        Can’t wait for your next post about shampoos!
        I’d try Hairprint, but I had an unpleasant experience with their customer service when I tried their hair color and I’m pretty stubborn 😉

  4. In my research I also came across SheaMoisture Baby Head-To-Toe Wash & Shampoo. I know it’s for babies, but sometimes it’s the only way to stay away from extra ingredients in the list. I haven’t tried this one yet, but the ingredients look impressive.
    Ingredients: Deionized water, decyl glycoside (sugar beets), lauroyl lactylate (palm kernel), butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*, sclerocarya birrea (marula) seed oil, aloe barbadensis leaf juice (aloe vera), persea gratissima (avocado) oil, tocopherol (vitamin E), guar, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower (and) lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, essential oil blend. *Certified Organic Ingredient

    Lately I’ve been using NutriBiotic Everyday Nourish Shampoo. It works well and lathers very well, much better than anything I’ve tried. The ingredients look ok, just the fragrance that worries me.

    Ingredients: A botanical infusion (sage, coltstool, yarrow, balm mint, chamomile, rosemary, althea, yucca, wild thyme, and horsetail in pruified water), disodium olefin sulfonate, oleyl betaine, soyamidopropylkonium chloride, polyguaternium-10, glycereth-7 cocoate, citric acid, grapefruit seed extract, panthenol, tea tree oil, glycerin, soy protein, sunflower oil, macadamia nut oil, kukui nut oil, tocopherol acetate, phospholipids, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and natrual fragrance blend.

  5. What’s your opinion on Acure ultra hydrating shampoo? Here are the ingredients:
    water/eau, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, euterpe oleracea (acai) fruit extract*, rubus fruticosus (blackberry) fruit extract*, rosa canina (rosehips) fruit extract*, punica granatum (pomegranate) fruit extract*, calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract*, matricaria recutita (chamomile) flower extract*, aspalathus linearis (rooibos) leaf extract*, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, betaine, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, glycerin, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, potassium sorbate, argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil*, hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) seed oil*, tocopherol acetate, curcubita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil*, natural benzaldehyde, cinnamomum aromaticum (cassia bark) oil, ubiquinone (CoQ10), argania spinosa callus (argan) culture extract, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) seed extract. *organic ingredient

    1. Thank you, Celeste, for letting me know what you need help with. I am in a process of figuring how I can address your guys’ questions in the most effective way. Please stay tuned. ~Irina

  6. Hi, Irina. Can’t wait for your next shampoo post. Turned out Hairprint shampoo (didn’t try the color) wasn’t for me, so I’m still looking. My hair likes Carina Organics Unscented, but my scalp isn’t 100% happy. Hope you’re doing well!

      1. Hi, Natalia. I didn’t remember, so I looked at the many emails back and forth to the company. The Fermented Bamboo made my hair look and feel dry, lifeless, dull, limp and it flattened out my natural waves. It also made my scalp itch. I’ve been using limited ingredient “natural” shampoos for years, so I don’t think it was detox. I kept at it until I almost finished the bottle. Judy

  7. Love this 1 second method. I basically look for fragrance on the ingredients list and if it has it I don’t buy it. Now I know 2 other ingredients that are definitely on a do not buy list. Thank you!
    I’m currently still searching for a good shampoo. I’ve tried Acure, Alaffia, & EO without loving any of them yet (& I’ve also only tried one type of those shampoos so maybe I need to experiment a little more). I also don’t know how clean those shampoos/conditioners truly are. I’ve been curious about Innersense & BeautyCounter’s new line of hair care. Thank you for all you do!

    1. Thank you, Kendra, for letting me know. It is always great to hear from you. Could you tell me more why you were not impressed by Acure, Alaffia and EO? What are you looking for in a shampoo? Thanks. ~Irina

      1. My hair feels dry with the ones I’ve tried. Looking for something that doesn’t irritate my scalp and doesn’t make my hair feel dry. I was able to only wash a couple times a week with the ones I’ve tried which I do like.

  8. Hi Irina,
    Thank you for the note on shampoos. I avoid using shampoos as much as possible and instead use a mild bodywash or dove soap to wash my hair.

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