The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please read our disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more information.


Buying shampoo can be a whole lot harder than you think, particularly when there are certain shampoo ingredients to avoid if you want to keep your hair looking and feeling its best. Shampoo is an important product to help us keep our hair clean and healthy, and many of us use it multiple times a week. So what happens if you’re using one that has harmful ingredients lurking inside?

There are a number of ingredients that are damaging to our hair and scalp, and even to our overall health! Continued and regular use of these dangerous chemicals can cause untold issues, ranging from irritation and itchiness, to damaged lengths and even hair loss! So next time you’re scouring the supermarket shelves for your next hair care regime, make sure you take note of these shampoo ingredients to avoid.


Here is a list of some of the common ingredients that are considered to be bad for your hair:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Synthetic colours
  • Dimethicone
  • Triclosan
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Petroleum
  • Mineral Oil


Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a chemical called a surfactant which is used in shampoos to create a lather when mixed with water. This allows it to bind with dirt and oil and remove them from the hair. This nasty additive can also be found in commercial-grade cleaners and degreasers, including engine cleaners and floor detergents! And while it’s very effective at cleaning, the reason it’s a shampoo ingredient to avoid is that they are incredibly drying and damaging to hair, stripping it of the natural oils it needs to keep healthy. In some cases, they can even cause hair loss!


Parabens are cheap preservatives that are commonly used in cosmetics and hair care to prevent them from going ‘bad’. They have been found to disrupt the normal hormonal cycle of the body as they can mimic estrogen, the female hormone. This reduces the important production of estrogen in women which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. They are believed to be the cause of early puberty in girls too. Not only that, but they may also lead to testicular cancer in men. While the effects of parabens haven’t been proven, its best to mark them among the shampoo ingredients to avoid until more is known.


Yep, this scary-sounding chemical can be found in shampoos as it can get released from certain preservatives. The effects of formaldehyde have been widely publicised over the years, but it’s considered a known carcinogen that can cause cancer, as well as a significant irritant to our skin. Definitely, a shampoo ingredient to avoid!


While not all alcohols are necessarily bad for hair, Isopropyl alcohol is on the list of shampoo ingredients to avoid. Widely used as a dissolving agent in cosmetics, Isopropyl alcohol can draw moisture from the hair and skin, causing dry, brittle and frizzy hair. The ingredient also exacerbates dry skin and disrupts the skin’s natural balance.


This chemical is found in cosmetics and hair care and is used to keep formulas melting in the heat or freezing in the cold. Propylene glycol is on our list of shampoo ingredients to avoid as it can alter the structure of the skin by enabling chemicals to penetrate through and increasing their likelihood of reaching the bloodstream. It’s also categorised as a moderate health issue by the Environmental Working Group as it has shown links to allergies and skin irritation.


Ever wonder how your shampoo is bright pink or pale lavender? It’s because it’s packed with synthetic dyes to fill the product with colour. And while it may be pleasing to the eye, artificial colourants are a shampoo ingredients to avoid thanks to the toxins they leave behind. As well as increasing sensitivity and irritation, they can also block the follicles which inhibits hair growth. While many synthetic colours have been banned from foods, there is very little regulation of their use in hair care products, so it’s important to take extra precautions.


Dimethicone is a form of silicone and is used for a number of benefits, including moisturising properties, anti-frizz, and thickness. But silicones can also build up over time, causing it to become lank and hard to work with. They can also mask damage by coating it and making it look shiny, which means you’re less likely to treat and repair damaged hair and more likely to keep damaging it.


This controversial ingredient is a potent antifungal and antibacterial agent used in all sorts of cosmetics and toiletries. The Cosmetics Database states Triclosan as a high hazard ingredient as it may cause a number of issues, including cancer and reproductive toxicity. The EU also considers it an irritant.


This form of vitamin A is a shampoo ingredient to avoid since studies suggest it may be making us more susceptible to cancer. Not only that, but because it converts to retinol on the skin, it can cause peeling, redness, scaling and itchiness, which is bad news for our scalps.


Thanks to its emollient properties, petrolatum is used in a lot of cosmetic products, but it’s actually made from the same product that makes petrol. It blocks the skin’s pores which prevent the body from moisturising its own skin, leading it to become dry and chapped. In terms of our scalp, a dry, flaky environment inhibits hair growth and can cause breakage.


Another descendant of petrol, mineral oil makes our list of shampoo ingredients to avoid. It can clog the hair follicles and prevent the skin from ridding itself of toxins. Not only this, but it can limit the skin's natural moisture, causing dryness and dehydration.


It is easy enough to look for ‘no parabens in shampoo’ or ‘no chemicals in shampoo’, however, never take a product or brand name by face value, or statements such as ‘sodium-free shampoo’ or ‘shampoo without sulfate’. Something that might sound ecological or organic, may in fact not be so. The safest way to ensure that you have found chemical-free shampoo is to go through the shampoo ingredients list on the packaging. Check the ingredients to avoid in shampoo as listed above.

Look for these ingredients:

  • Pea sprout extract: Stimulates hair cell production, helping hair to become thicker and more dense.

  • Salicylic acid: Exfoliates the scalp to remove dead skin cells and create the perfect environment for hair growth.

  • Beta glucan: A natural, plant-derivative that stimulates collagen, improves strength and reduces breakage.

  • Aloe vera: Soothes and heals the scalp while preventing free radical damage.

  • Chamomile: Gentle and calming antioxidant with anti-bacterial properties to promote a healthy scalp.


We do believe the Nanogen shampoo range is amazing quality and also chemical free. But let’s open the conversation, what ingredients are you staying away from in your shampoo? What do you think is the best shampoo without chemicals? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram.


While our aim is to provide you with up-to-date and relevant information, drugs affect each person differently. As such we can not guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects and this information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss treatment options and possible side effects with a healthcare professional who knows your specific medical history.