By Judith Tovey
Complaints about shampoos are among the most frequent
made to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation,
tangled hair, swelling of hands, face and arms, and split and
fuzzy hair. (A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients,
Ruth Winters, MS, Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1994)
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient in 90% of
commercial shampoos and conditioners, corrodes the hair
follicle and impedes hair growth.
A study cited by the Wall Street Journal (November 1, 1988)
linked SLS to cataracts and nitrate absorption. The nitrate
absorption occurs when the SLS becomes contaminated with
NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) during processing. This
contamination comes about as a result of SLS coming into
contact with any number of chemicals including
triethanolamine (TEA), which is commonly used in shampoos
as a detergent. Put simply: SLS + TEA= NDELA (a nitrosamine
and a recognized carcinogen.
"It can actually damage the outer layer of the skin, the stratum
corneum, causing dryness, roughness, scaliness, fissuring, loss
of flexibility and reduction of the barrier functions of normal
healthy skin. The lipid dissolving action of some detergents,
including SLS cause damage to the moisture retaining ability
of the cellular level resulting in water loss and loss of water-
binding ability" (Cosmetic Science, C. Prottey, 1978)
Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surface-active agent and a common
surfactant used in shampoos, was found to increase the
absorption of certain chemicals. Simply put, SLS in your
shampoo could be increasing the rate of skin absorption of
other chemicals in your shampoo and conditioner which may
include preservatives, fragrances and color additives.
(Cosmetic and the Skin, F.V. Wells, Reinhold Publishing
Corporation, New York, 1964)
SLS has been blamed for many cases of premature hair loss in
both men and women. It takes hair longer to grow when it
has been affected by SLS. Studies are ongoing in this area.
SLS is cheap and available and cost is definitely a factor
when manufacturers are deciding on their formulations. The
irony is that we as consumers rarely see any of this saving and
pay high prices for products that contain the same cheap
ingredients as a lower priced product that doesn't have the
benefit of a well-known name and a huge advertising budget.
There are safer products on the market. There are safer
alternatives to SLS but they can cost up to ten times more than
SLS. One manufacturer said "I know it's not a good ingredient,
but everyone uses it."
Did you know that many companies put formaldehyde in their
shampoos? Do you really want to be embalming your hair?
Formaldehyde is not only an inexpensive preservative and
disinfectant; itís also a suspected cancer-causing toxin. In
1983, researchers from the Division of Cancer Cause and
Prevention of the National Cancer Institute recommended that
it be further investigated since there is a suspected link to
some cancers. It was found to cause DNA damage and inhibit
repair. It cause lung cancer in rats and increases the effect of
the toxicity of x-rays in human lung cells.
Many kinds of shampoos designed to treat dandruff and flaky
scalp contain coal tar, although you wonít find it on any
productís list of ingredients. Itís disguised with the names
FD&C or D&C color. Coal tar has been found to cause
potentially severe allergic tractions, asthma attacks, headaches,
nausea, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration, and
Alkyl-phenol ethioxylades are chemicals in shampoos that have
been proven to reduce sperm count. "Boys exposed to such
chemicals before puberty could suffer disruption of their
hormonal processes," says Jorma Toppari of the University of
Turku in Finland." (Vancouver Province September 29, 1995).
In this same article, Jorman Toppari states that "We know that
these compounds are hormonally active, and we know that
you can influence sperm counts by exposing a child or a fetus
to hormones that act like these compounds."
A study done at The University of California found that
cosmetologists and manicurists had four times the usual rate
of multiple myeloma. The article published in the American
Journal of Industrial Medicine, stated that "The number of cases
of multiple myeloma was found to be excessive for females in
the occupation cosmetologist, hairdressers and manicurists."
and further goes on to say, "People in this occupation have
potential exposure to a number of chemicals that produce
mutation in bacteria." (Multiple Myeloma in Cosmetologists,
Sylvana Guidotti, William E. Wright, John Peters, American
Journal of Industrial Medicine, 3:169-171, September, 1982)
What were these mutagenic chemicals? A list of the worst
offenders that cosmetologists are exposed to on an everyday
Shampoos: Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate,
DEA, propylene glycol, formaldehyde.
Hair dye: 2,4 diaminoanisole, 2, 4-diaminotoluene, n-nitro-o-
phenylenediamine, 4-ethoxy-m-phenylenediamine, H≤O≤
Permanent Wave Solutions: ammonium thioglycolate,
Nail Products: acetone, ethylacetate, toluene, butyl acetate,
ethyl methacrylate, benzoyl peroxide
Make Up: Talc, mica, various dyes
Hair Sprays: isobutane, methylene chloride, alcohols
To Dye or not to Dye....
A few years ago the headlines screamed across the nation.
Hair Dyes Linked to Cancer. It pretty unnerving to think that
the use of hair coloring could effect our chances of getting
cancer. Then, almost as fast as it erupted, it was over with
the publication of a study that seemed to contradict earlier
findings. Those who colored their hair breathed a collective
sigh of relief and returned to the use of hair dyes. If you read
the articles dispelling all previous findings, you may
remember coming across very low-keyed cautions, usually
near the very end of these articles. This barely whispered
caution concerned the use of black hair dyes and very deep
red dyes as they were a suspected link to non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma. The main reason for concern is well founded in
years of previous studies linking coal tar colors, a major
ingredient in hair dyes and other cosmetics, with many forms
of cancer in animal studies.
In 1978, a New York University Medical Center research
reported that comparing 129 women with breast cancer with
193 women without breast cancer showed the likelihood of
developing breast cancer was higher among those who used
hair dyes. (A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients,
Ruth Winters, MS, Crown, Trade Paperback, 1994)
A 1988 study published in the American Journal of Public
Health summarized its findings stating that the "use of hair
dyes in this case-control study was associated with elevated
risk of leukemia and lymphoma, and risk increased with
extent of exposure." (Hair Dye Use and the Risk of Leukemia
and Lymphoma, Kenneth P. Cantor, et al., American Journal
of Public Health, May, 1988. Vol. 78, No. 5)
Protect yourself from dangerous shampoo ingredients.
Spending a few minutes now to read the ingredients on the
back of that bottle may save your hair and your life.