Shampoo: What May Harm You, and What’s Just a Wash

Avoid these three worrisome ingredients — and be sure to do your own background research on your favorite brands

by Manny Alvarez, MD | Updated 16 Jul 2017 at 9:20 PM

Of all the things you have to worry about, you may not even think about the dangers lurking in your … shampoo?

It may contain many harmful ingredients that you need to avoid. In theory, you should have more concern over what you put in your body. Still, topical beauty products can prove unsafe, and an extensive report made public by the FDA proves the problem.

Recently, the FDA released information on adverse reports related to food and beauty products. These data came from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and is extensive, since it goes back to 2004. It provides a good basis for further research on the health effects of beauty supplies. Steve Xu, a physician in dermatology at McGaw Medical Center, says hair and skin care products topped the list of adverse events in this report.

Unfortunately, products meant for babies and personal cleanliness had the most instances of serious injury, including hospitalization and death. This finding shows that beauty products need guidelines to protect consumer safety.

At the same time, reports of adverse situations have actually doubled in the last year. This influx has largely resulted from hair loss and skin irritation complaints about WEN Products. WEN manufacturers had been receiving thousands of complaints for their conditioners, with only a mere 100 making their way to the FDA.

When the FDA called for WEN customers to file complaints directly to them, thousands came rolling in. According to WEN Products' marketing agency, there is still no hard evidence that its conditioners cause hair loss.

Few restraints. While you might assume that the shampoos on store shelves have regulations, consider the facts. The beauty industry actually makes many of its own regulations. Without realizing it, you might just be putting something medically harmful all over your body.

According to the FDA's website: "Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients."

Related: Second Degree Burns from the Sun: A Reality?

To calm your concerns a little, the FDA does restrain the cosmetic industry from using certain ingredients. In addition, the organization may step in if a product is clearly adulterated or misbranded and the company doesn't issue a recall itself. However, you can see some problems with this self-regulated system.

What to avoid. While the FDA and beauty companies figure out how to combat this problem, you should learn to recognize and avoid the worst ingredients in beauty products.

Look at this list to get started and do your own background research on your favorite brands.

1.) Sulfate. This ingredient is well-known as a skin, eye, mouth, and even lung irritant, making the product hard on people with sensitive skin. In addition, sodium laureth sulfate may contain a chemical known to cause cancer in laboratory mice. Researchers have not found a direct link to cancer in people.

Related: Four Homemade Hair Masks That Might Actually Work

2. Formaldehyde. Believe it or not, many hair care and other household products use this preservative ingredient. Studies have shown an inconsistency with a link to cancer, although a more consistent link exists with topical applications on mice. (go to page 2 to continue reading)  

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