Ingredients To Avoid In Hair Products

As a black woman so much of our identity lies on top of our head.

Our hair is our crown and a constant statement to the world about who we are.

So it pains me that so many of the hair products on the market today for black women are putting us in harm's way.

The ingredients that make up what we put on our crown must be paid attention to. There is better out there & it’s our responsibility to find it as a way of taking care of ourselves.

Health IS selfcare.

Let’s list the biggest offenders first, then we can dive into what they are and why  they should be avoided.

Avoid these ingredients in your hair products:

  • Benzene

  • Diethanolamine Triethanolamine (DEA)

  • Formaldehyde

  • Fragrance

  • Methylisothiazolinone

  • Parabens

  • Polyethylene glycol

  • Retinyl palmitate

  • Sulfates

  • Synthetic colors (D&C Red 27, FD&C Blue 1)

  • Toluene

  • Triclosan

  • Isopropyl alcohol

  • Mineral oil & petrolatum

  • Propylene glycol


What is it? Derived from toluene and gasoline

What are the concerns? It is carcinogenic, mutagenic & toxic. It can cause damage to the respiratory system & cause developmental damage to fetuses. Long term exposure has been linked to anemia, leukemia, and effects on bone marrow

Diethanolamine (DEA)

What is it? A chemical group of amino acids. Used as a foaming/wetting agent

What are the concerns? When combined with other ingredients & absorbed by the skin it has been linked to stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers due to it becoming a potent carcinogen. Also associated with miscarriages


What is it? A colorless gas with a strong smell. It is used as a preservative to kill microorganisms & extend shelf life of products

What are the concerns? Causes irritation of the skin, eyes, nose & throat. Exposure has been shown to cause cancer


What is it? A mix of chemicals that has no rules surrounding disclosure as to what those mix of ingredients/chemicals are. The AAD says there are 5,000 fragrance molecules that are used in consistent rotation

What are the concerns? Contact dermatitis (like the biggest cause of cosmetic dermatitis). Some of the thousands of ingredients have been linked to cancer, allergies, and reproductive toxicity


What is it? A preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria

What are the concerns? It has been linked to lung toxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin reactions


What is it? A synthetic chemical used to prolong shelf life & help prevent mold and bacteria growth

What are the concerns? The disruption of hormones & the resulting link to breast cancer and reproductive issues

Polyethylene glycol

What is it? A petroleum based ingredient used as a softener, thickener and to hold/keep moisture

What are the concerns? It’s a human carcinogen & can also cause harm to the nervous system

Retinyl Palmitate

What is it? A form of vitamin A that serves as an antioxidant meant to reduce signs of aging

What are the concerns? Linked to speeding up the development of skin tumors due to vitamin a toxicity


What is it? Sulfur that contains mineral salts that are used to attack the oil & dirt on our skin and hair. They are also responsible for the foam & lather

What are the concerns? They disrupt our body’s natural antimicrobial peptides and proteins. They also cause scalp irritation and follicle stress & have been linked to lung irritation and cancer

Synthetic Colors

What is it? A chemical additive that is used to change the shade of products

What are the concerns? Linked to cancer, anxiety, and migraines. Known to increase the risk of sensitivity and irritation


What is it? A clear liquid that occurs naturally in crude oil

What are the concerns? Exposure can lead to memory loss, damage to the nervous system, the reproductive system, the kidneys, and the brain


What is it? A preservative known for its germ killing power

What are the concerns? Hormone disruption, encourages the growth of cancer cells, creates a growing environment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your nose & throat

Isopropyl Alcohol

What is it? Clear & colorless liquid used for disinfecting - commonly known as rubbing alcohol

What are the concerns? It’s flammable & can cause loss of coordination and vomiting

Mineral oil & Petrolatum

What is it? Colorless and odorless oil make from petroleum (a by-product of petroleum used to produce gasoline)

What are the concerns?  Contamination risk and its relationship with cancer

Propylene Glycol

What is it? Synthetic alcohol

What are the concerns? Irritation, organ system toxicity

When we know better, we can do better.

Slay on, sis.