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Shampoo Brands to Avoid Today

Written by Irina Webb

How do you know if the shampoo you are using is right for you?  I used to have to buy a shampoo first before deciding if it was right for me.  Now, just a glance at shampoo ingredients is enough for me to tell how the product will work and whether it is safe in the first place.  The thing is, shampoo ingredients penetrate into our blood system, and we cannot know for certain how they act inside our bodies.  Some ingredients in shampoo are associated with endocrine disruption and cancer.   Other shampoo ingredients to avoid may cause immediate effects such as skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even hair loss.  So, let’s talk about my opinions as to shampoo brands to avoid, and why I think we should avoid them.  Also, read on to see the non-toxic shampoo options to replace what are, in my opinion, the harmful shampoo brands.

Shampoo Brands to Avoid Today. A picture of a woman who may wash her hair with potentially harmful shampoo brands that use shampoo ingredients to avoid.

My mission is to expose chemicals in consumer goods to improve the quality of health.

Is there an area in your life about which you can say you know it inside out?  For me, it is reading shampoo ingredients.  My label-reading began with researching shampoos when I was looking for a healthy shampoo for my soon-to-arrive baby in 2011.  Since then, I have studied the industry inside out and know a thing or two about shampoos.

My first research back then raised my awareness about various chemicals with which we surround ourselves without even realizing it.  It occurred to me our healing can be within our reach, and we can take charge of our health.  Specifically, I used to have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (that’s right, not any longer!) and am recovering from Addison’s autoimmune disease now.  Besides, my father died of cancer, so I know what it is like. 

As a result, helping you reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and improve the quality of your life and health has become my passion.  I use multiple resources, including comprehensive chemical databases, extensive scientific studies, detailed laboratory reports etc.  Plus, I have developed a multi-step research approach about which you can read on my Start here page.  And if you are curious about my journey to recovery, visit my posts Can Breast Implants Cause Autoimmune Diseases and My Health Update After Explant Surgery.

That said, let me turn your attention to the list of harmful shampoo brands and shampoo ingredients to avoid.

Shampoo brands to avoid

To begin with, the list below is by no means comprehensive. 

Also, there may be other shampoos within some of the mentioned brands that do not contain toxic ingredients.  Or, vice versa, in addition to the mentioned shampoos there may be others within the brand with the same ingredients.

Based on my experience, if a company chooses to use harmful chemicals in one product, it will most likely use them in other products, too.  Hence, if I see toxic shampoo ingredients in one product, I avoid the whole brand. 

Importantly, I encourage you to read ingredients by yourself instead of relying on the word of the industry or even on my opinions.  Plus, it is a good idea to contact companies with questions to show interest in what they do.  This will help build bridges between consumers and manufacturers and make change for the better even more feasible.  

I consider the following brands harmful shampoo brands.

In my opinion, these are brands that can be harmful to our health, and that I recommend avoiding:

Shampoo brands to avoid

Shampoo ingredients to avoid

Aussie Miracle Curls Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance

Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo

Fragrance, methylisothiazolinone

Deva Curl No-Poo and Low-Poo Original

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance

Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin

Eden BodyWorks Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Farmasi Dr C Tuna Vitalizing Garlic & Capixyl Shampoo

Cocamide DEA, ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Finesse 2-in-1 Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin

Fudge Clean Blonde Violet Toning Shampoo

Cocamide DEA, ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, diazolidinyl urea, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate

Got2b Phenomenal Thickening Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, DMDM hydantoin

It’s A 10 Miracle Shampoo Plus Keratin

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin

Keratin Complex Color Care Smoothing Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin

Kristin Ess Extra Gentle Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance

Leonor Greyl Bain Traitant a la Propolis Gentle Dandruff Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Maui Color Protection + Sea Minerals Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, diazolidinyl urea, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate

Nature Lab Tokyo Repair Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance

Nexxus Therappe Ultimate Moisture and Clean & Pure Nourishing Detox

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin

OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, diazolidinyl urea, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin

Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo

Ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone

Now, let’s discuss their ingredients.

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

Shampoo ingredients to avoid

In my opinion, the following ingredients in shampoo brands to avoid arouse some concerns: cocamide DEA, fragrance, and ethoxylated ingredients. 

Additionally, certain preservatives in these, in my opinion, harmful shampoo brands are considered potentially harmful to human health.  They are methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin, and diazolidinyl urea.

Cocamide DEA is on the list of chemicals known to cause cancer.

To start with, the full name for cocamide DEA is coconut oil diethanolamine condensate (cocamide diethanolamine).  In 2012, California added it to the list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.  The main role of cocamide DEA in a shampoo is to make it foam, which is appealing to many people.

Even though cocamide DEA originates from coconut oil, it is a harsh chemical to avoid.  Because of chemical reactions and toxic chemicals involved in its manufacturing process, it resembles coconut oil in no way.  So, the next time you hear that an ingredient is made or “derived” from coconut oil, do not assume it is safe.  Clearly, cocamide DEA is one of the shampoo ingredients to avoid.

To clarify, it is not illegal to use cocamide DEA in personal care products.  However, companies that use it must also use the California Proposition 65 warning in order to sell it in California.  The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) sues those companies that fail to use the warning on their products.  As a result, several lawsuits forced companies to agree to remove cocamide DEA from their products (source).  Yet, as you can see from the table, some shampoos still contain potentially carcinogenic cocamide DEA. 

Fragrance in shampoo brands to avoid may cause allergic reactions.

Essentially, fragrance, aka parfum, in what are, in my opinion, harmful shampoo brands is a blend of undisclosed ingredients.  The FDA does not require that companies disclose ingredients added to provide pleasant scents or to mask bad ones (source).  But, according to the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, fragrance mixes are associated with various kinds of allergic contact dermatitis.

Thus, “fragrance,” “fragrance oils,” “parfum,” and “aroma” are shampoo ingredients to avoid.  Even “natural fragrance” is not safe. 

Evidently, there is no legal definition for the word “natural.”  So, there is a chance that what you mean by “natural” differs from what a company means by this word.  To learn more about this issue, please read my thorough post Is Natural Fragrance Safe.

Ethoxylated ingredients may contain carcinogenic contaminants.

Have you seen such words as PEG, polysorbate or a stem followed by “eth” (e.g., laureth) among product ingredients?  Most of the shampoo brands to avoid presented in the table have them.  These are ethoxylated ingredients, or ingredients produced by the process of ethoxylation.  The latter helps make the raw materials less irritating to the skin. 

The problem is, manufacturers use carcinogenic ethylene oxide to carry out this chemical reaction.  Not only is it harmful in and of itself, but also the reaction produces a byproduct, called carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.  Unless properly removed, it may end up in the final product.

For consumers, there is no way to know whether the manufacturer removed this contaminant from the product.  That is why I call it one of the Hidden Ingredients in Cosmetics and consider ethoxylated ingredients one type of shampoo ingredients to avoid.

Preservatives in the harmful shampoo brands may increase the risk of contact dermatitis.

Harsh preservatives used in shampoos are another reason I made this list of shampoo brands to avoid.  Although manufacturers are doing the right thing using preservatives to prevent microbial growth, I believe it is possible to use safer preservatives.  Stay with me to find out which brands use non-toxic shampoo ingredients whose products work just fine. 

In the meantime, let’s talk about methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), methylisothiazolinone (MI), and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC). 

Apparently, the number of allergic reaction cases caused by MCI/MI or MI alone has been increasing (source and source).  This study shows that prolonged exposure to low levels of MI may have damaging consequences to the developing nervous system.  Additionally, the American Contact Dermatitis Society called MI “contact allergen of 2013.” 

Likewise, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate may cause dermal irritation or contact allergy.  The American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists it as one of the core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 0.1%. 

Hence, there is no doubt that methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate are shampoo ingredients to avoid.

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives may have both short-term and long-term health effects.

Finally, some of the enumerated shampoo brands to avoid use DMDM hydantoin and diazolidinyl urea.  What is wrong with them?  Well, they are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (formaldehyde releasors). 

Specifically, they work by releasing small amounts of formaldehyde which may have short-term and long-term health effects, ranging from skin irritation to cancer (source).  The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” (source).  That is why I consider shampoo brands that use DMDM hydantoin and diazolidinyl urea potentially harmful shampoo brands.

However, the product label will not list formaldehyde among ingredients, which makes it one of the Hidden Ingredients in Cosmetics.  Keep in mind, with long storage periods and high storage temperatures, the amount of released formaldehyde may rise.  As a result, the risk of allergic reaction to formaldehyde or to the preservative itself increases.  For some people, the allergic reaction may evolve into hair loss.

Sadly, formaldehyde may be in many other products that we use daily.  Please, read my comprehensive post to learn how to Protect Yourself from Formaldehyde in Products

In addition to these harsh shampoo ingredients to avoid, most of the listed products contain what I call “middle-of-the-road” preservatives.  You can learn about them and other harmful preservatives in my Savvy Consumer Superpower e-book.  It also has a bonus wallet-size prompt sheet with ingredients to avoid.

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

Safe shampoo options instead of harmful shampoo brands

Which shampoo brands can you use in place of shampoo brands to avoid and enjoy their health benefits?  Well, there are several options you can consider.

My favorite shampoo is Pure Haven which definitely has no shampoo ingredients to avoid.  In my Pure Haven review, you can learn about this brand and other direct sales companies such as Arbonne and Melaleuca.

Next, Innersense hydrating shampoo should work well, in my opinion, for chemically colored, damaged, and curly hair.  Because all Innersense shampoos are concentrated, measure well to avoid wasting the product and stripping the hair of natural oils.  And, of course, you can read my Innersense Shampoo Ingredients review, too.

Then, there is Hairprint shampoo which, reportedly, works well with naturally coiled and dry hair.  I rate it as one of the safest soap-free shampoos in my Shampoo Rating List.  Here is my review of Hairprint – The Non-Toxic Shampoo to Know About.

Recently, I have reviewed Evolvh Hair and Body Care, namely, their sulfate-free color-safe shampoo.  And you can enjoy a generous discount with them in addition to their inexpensive and well-performing products, too.

In addition, there are Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender Shampoo and my husband’s favorite Seaweed Shampoo.  When we had hard water, it was the only shampoo that worked for us.

Plus, if you are into dry shampoos, consider Primally Pure dry shampoo.  Definitely, this Non-Toxic Dry Shampoo Guide can help you make a decision.

Curious about other safe shampoo options?  My Shampoo Rating List is for you!

Summary about shampoo brands to avoid

In sum, for me, harmful shampoo brands are those that contain ingredients of concern.  These include cocamide DEA, ethoxylated ingredients, fragrance, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, diazolidinyl urea, and DMDM hydantoin.  All of these are shampoo ingredients to avoid.  While some of them may potentially increase the risk of contact dermatitis, others may have carcinogenic contaminants.  Personally, I avoid products with these ingredients.

Fortunately, there are safe shampoo options that work well.  Thus, my favorite one is Pure Haven shampoo that I have been using for years now.  And my husband likes NYR Seaweed shampoo.  Please, visit my shop for other healthy hair, skin, and body care product options.

If you need assistance with your journey to health, feel free to book a consultation with me.  You are also welcome to check out my e-books and become a member of my Savvy Consumer Circle.

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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4 thoughts on “Shampoo Brands to Avoid Today”

  1. Hi Irina,

    Have you looked into purple shampoos for gray hair yet? I am curious if there is a safe(r) purple shampoo as I am letting my gray hair grow out finally! Thanks!

  2. I used Kristin ess extra gentle shampoo and conditioner and it caused me to lose more hair than normal while washing it and it caused my scalp to burn for two days. It also made my hair look and feel awful plus the scent was way too strong. I could still smell it in my hair even after washing and conditioning with something else.

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