by Sarika Periwal
(Mumbai, MH, India)
Do you know how many chemicals are added to the hair products that we use on a daily basis? They are added to improve shelf life, to improve the look and consistency of the product, to produce suds, to make it smell nice, to prevent it freezing and for several other reasons.
As with packaged food, it pays to read the ingredients lists for hair products as well. This makes it possible for you to make an informed choice about what to use for your hair and skin.
Formaldehyde has long been a known culprit that can cause problems from triggering asthma to increasing cancer risk. Its use is known to cause severe allergic and other reactions such as headache, fatigue, nausea and rashes.
Because it is well known for its toxicity, it is not very widely used. However other chemicals such as dimethyl-dimethyl hydantoin, quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, and imidazolidinyl urea are known to release formaldehyde so watch out for them.
Propylene glycol is the active ingredient in antifreeze and if found in hair products, makeup, creams, mouthwashes, deodorants etc. It is absorbed easily into the skin and could cause problems with organs such as the liver, kidneys and brain.
Sodium lauryl sulfate and Sodium laureth sulfate are ingredients that are found in a vast majority of shampoos and conditioners and other products such as toothpaste, detergents etc. While many claim that this is a very dangerous chemical, that causes DNA alternation and cancer, many studies have said that this is not so. However it is known to diminish the sense of taste temporarily, irritate skin after prolonged contact, irritate the eyes and could also worsen chronic skin conditions.
Parabens are also to be avoided. They are sometimes listed in the ingredients list or at times may be named differently. These are known to cause a host of problems – the chemicals have been implicated in early puberty because of their estrogen like properties and have also been known to play a role in breast cancer.
Diethylamine may be listed only as DEA and is widely used in moisturizers, shampoos and so on. Contact with this chemical could cause burns, irritation of the skin and so on. It is known to inhibit the absorption of choline in the body. Choline is very important for the brain; also for the developing brains of unborn babies. MEA (momoethanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine) are also thought to have carcinogenic (cancer causing) properties.
Polyethylene glycol is an ingredient that is also found in a lot of personal care products. It is a petroleum product and according to some experts, using products containing it could cause premature aging of skin.
What to look for in the ingredients list
When choosing shampoos and other hair care products, look for a short list of ingredients. The fewer the ingredients, the less is the likelihood of toxic chemicals finding their way into your system. Look for organic products that use natural ingredients. Also look for fragrance free products or products that use essential oils extracted from flowers and seeds as a perfuming agent.