Is Your Shampoo Killing You?

shampoo lathered hair What brand of shaving cream do you use? Makeup? If its on the shelf it must be safe, right? Think again. According to the Environmental Working Group, “there are currently 10,500 ingredients documented by the FDA as being used in personal care products. Only 11% (or 1,155) have been assessed for safety by the cosmetic industry.”

Those 1,155 assessed ingredients? They’ve been assessed “by the cosmetic industry”—not the FDA, kind of like “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Personal Care Products

“There are currently 10,500 ingredients documented by the FDA?” The FDA doesn’t require that manufacturers of personal care products register with the FDA. Manufacturers do not have to file a list of the ingredients in their products. They are not required to report any injury that occurs due to the use of their products.

The “FDA does not have a pre-market approval system for cosmetic products or ingredients”. The FDA does not test cosmetics (the category all personal care products are classified under.)

It’s really kind of crazy considering that we apply these chemicals to our bodies every day over a very long period of time: we are introduced to lotions as infants. Just because we’re not supposed to ingest grooming products (although we often do) doesn’t mean they don’t enter our bodies. Our skin is permeable, that is, it absorbs what is applied to it.

Dr. Epstein warns, in the book Toxic Beauty, that “What we put on our skin affects our health just as much, if not more, than what we put in our mouths.” Ingredients that you absorb through your skin can result in body concentrations 10x higher than oral doses. They do not pass through your GI tract, so they are not first filtered by your liver. They are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

A concerning development is the addition of “nanoparticles” to personal care products. These “penetration enhancers” are mean to deliver ingredients even deeper into the skin. The Cancer Prevention Coalition lists “penetration enhancers” as one of the major categories of toxic substances in personal care products.

Dyes, detergents, preservatives and other common ingredients are known to be harmful. Fragrances, perfumes and “aroma boosters” are particularly dangerous. Manufacturers are not required to list the individual ingredients that make up a fragrance, and “fragrance” on a label can signify the presence of up to 4000 different compounds.

3 of the worst chemicals commonly found in many cosmetic products are parabens, propylene glycol and sodium sulfates.


Parabens are preservatives used to increase the shelf life of shampoos, conditioners, makeup, lotions, deodorants and toothpaste. They are a component in 90% of personal care products.

Common types of parabens are butyl, propyl and ethyl parabens.

Methylparaben is often used in skin products to fight aging and yet a Japanese study linked the compound to excessive skin aging when combined with exposure to ultra-violet rays.

Parabens have been found to cause skin reactions such as rashes, dermatitis and eczema.

Recent studies have found that parabens mimic estrogren and can affect both male and female reproductive organs. Some research has found that low sperm count and low testosterone levels are directly related to paraben levels.

Increased oestrogen levels are linked to higher incidences of breast cancer. One UK study measured paraben levels in cancerous tumors of the breast and found high levels in 18 of 20.

Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol

PGs and PEGs are organic alcohols used in personal care products such as make-up, deodorants, hair-care products, aftershave lotions and toothpaste to stabilize fragrance formulas and attract moisture.

Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol are also industrially (and in the same forms) used in antifreeze, oven cleaners, brake/hydraulic fluid and plane de-icers.

These organic alcohols are used to break down the structure of cells and proteins. They have been linked to dermatitis, kidney and liver problems, and decreased immunity. They inhibit skin cell growth and are potentially carcinogenic.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

SLS and SLES are surfactants found in 90% of foaming products. Common in bubble bath, body wash, shampoo, toothpastes, make-up, and mouthwash, they’re also used to degrease car engines, clean garage floors and wash cars.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are especially dangerous because of their denaturing properties. When combined with other ingredients,they change the nature of proteins in unpredictable and frightening ways.

The American College of Toxicology reports that these chemicals cause eye malformation in children. Animal studies showed that SLS caused eye damage, depression, diarrhea and labored breathing. There have been many accounts of skin irritation and outbreaks due to SLS and SLES use.

Research has found that these compounds enter the heart, liver, lungs and brain and can become a potent source of the carcinogen, nitrosamine. They also act as estrogen-mimics and may be linked to PMS, menopause, male infertility and breast cancer.

Action Steps

Try these homemade shampoo recipes: Homemade coconut lavender shampoo or Homemade honey citrus shampoo 

SWikipedia: S is the 19th letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Josh Axe

Dr. Josh Axe is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips and healthy recipes in the world...Sign up to get VIP access to his eBooks and valuable weekly health tips for FREE!

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