Are There Toxins in Your Shampoo? 9 Reasons to Start Buying Certified Organic Hair Products

black and white portrait of a young woman

Since switching to certified organic hair products, my hair has been amazing!  Shiny, soft, and NOT oily.  That was the biggest change I saw: I went from washing my hair every day to 2-3 times a week (depending on how many times I do hot yoga).

But using certified organic hair products isn’t just about shiny hair.  Okay….maybe it’s a little bit about shiny hair.  But it’s also about sustainable agriculture and getting rid of all the toxic chemicals that we expose ourselves to everyday.


Are There Toxins in Your Shampoo?

When you consume toxins in your food (pesticides, for instance), the enzymes in your body as well as your kidneys and liver work at breaking down those toxins and flushing them out of your body.  When toxins are absorbed through your skin, however, they bypass your liver and enter your bloodstream and tissues — with absolutely no protection whatsoever.

When you put shampoo or conditioner onto your scalp, the 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands, and 1,000 nerve endings soak in the toxins.

The truth is, while you wouldn’t ever eat your shampoo, you may actually absorb fewer toxins when you eat something than you do when you apply it to your skin!

woman using a blow dryer

What Difference does Certified Organic Make: 9 Reasons to Start Buying Certified Organic Hair Products

First of all, let’s start by acknowledging that not all organic certifications are created equal.  If you want the best certified organic hair products out there without hidden synthetic chemicals in them, you need to go with the ACO, the NASAA, Organic Food Chain, or the USDA certified brands.  

Want to know more about different levels of organic certification?  Read this post to find out which certifications you should look for, and which to pass up.


Reason #1. No DEA (diethanolamine) Compounds

DEA is on David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen List of Cosmetic Toxins to Avoid.

DEA and DEA compounds are used to make cosmetics (and hair products) creamy or sudsy. DEA also acts as a pH adjuster, counteracting the acidity of other ingredients.

Short term exposure to DEA and DEA compounds can cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation.  Long term and high dose exposure can cause liver cancer and changes to the skin and thyroid.  The European Union classifies DEA as harmful on the basis of danger of serious damage to health from prolonged exposure.  DEA compounds can also react with nitrites in cosmetics to form nitrosamines, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as a possible human carcinogen.  Cocamide DEA is also acutely toxic to aquatic organism (i.e. it kills fish).

Reason #2. No SLS or SLES

SLS is a synthetic surfactant that originates from coconuts, but it’s far from natural.  It’s used in most shampoos (as well as body washes, toothpastes, and other things that foam) to make them foamy.

The real problem with SLS is that it is often ethoxylated to make it ‘softer’ on the skin or the hair, creating SLES.  SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen (i.e. likely causes cancer).

SLS is the sodium salt of lauryl sulfate, and is classified by the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as a “denaturant, surfactant cleansing agent, emulsifier and foamer,” rated as a “moderate hazard.”

Research studies on SLS have shown links to:

  • Irritation of the skin and eyes
  • Organ toxicity
  • Developmental/reproductive toxicity
  • Neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes
  • Possible mutations and cancer

Reason #3. No Parabens

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in many personal care products.

Studies have shown that parabens can affect your body much like estrogens, which can lead to diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage, and male gynecomastia (breast growth). Other studies have also linked parabens to breast cancer, and one study found traces of parabens in every sample of tissue taken from 20 different breast tumors.

The EPA has linked methyl parabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers.

Reason #4. No Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is derived from petroleum and it is the active ingredient is found in engine coolants and antifreeze, airplane de-icers, tire sealants, rubber cleaners, polyurethane cushions, paints, adhesives, enamels and varnishes, and in many products as a solvent or surfactant.  While the FDA has categorized propylene glycol as “generally recognized as safe”, let’s just err on the side of caution and get rid of it.

Reason #5. No 1,4-dioxane

The CDC classifies 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen and EWG’s Skin Deep Database classifies it as a high health hazard.  1,4-dioxane is a possible contaminate of SLS and SLES, various PEG compounds, and polysorbate compounds.  Ingredients that are likely contaminated with 1,4-dioxane are often found in shampoos, body washes, bubble baths, and other personal care products.  (Johnson & Johnson is one of the most well-known companies whose products have been shown to have 1,4-dioxane in them.)

Reason #6. Organic Agriculture is more sustainable

If you are using certified organic hair products, then you are supporting sustainable agriculture.  Certified organic farmers use no synthetic pesticides and no GMOS.  Does the term “neonecorticoid” mean anything to you?  Are you worried about the declining bee population?  Then you really should be using organic everything.  

Reason #7. No synthetic fragrances or preservatives

“Fragrance” in the cosmetics industry is a catch-all term for up to 3,000 unlabelled chemicals.  Because fragrance is considered a trade secret, companies are not required to list the ingredients in their fragrances on the bottles of their products.  Even products marketed as “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may in fact contain fragrance along with a masking agent.

Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms.  Fragrance can also cause skin irritation and runny eyes and nose.  In addition, laboratory studies have found some individual fragrance ingredients to be associated with cancer and neurotoxicity.

Reason #8.  Use less product = spend less money

One of the benefits of using certified organic hair products (if they are certified by the ACO, the NASAA, or the USDA) is that you get less (or no) filler and less water in your products.

What?  There’s useless fillers and water in your average shampoo and conditioner?  You bet there is!

Certified organic hair products have more active ingredients in them and therefore they LAST LONGER.  This was one of my favourite things about switching to organic.  My shampoo bottle now lasts me 3-4 months (and I have hair halfway down my back).

Reason #9. No Worries if the kids drink the shampoo

Have you heard those horror stories on the news where someone’s kid gets into the cleaning products and then has to be rushed to the hospital?  Or drinks a bottle of mommy’s body wash and makes himself (or herself) sick?  (The Women’s and Children’s Health Network has some scary comments about shampoo, cleaners, and dish detergents.)

One reason that I LOVE using certified organic bath products is that I don’t have to worry if my 3 year old twins eat the bath bubbles, or if they drink mommy’s shampoo.  No big deal.  It’s just aloe and essential oils.  In fact, because I don’t want to be one of those people who says “it’s so safe you can eat it!” when I’ve never actually done so, here is me actually eating the body wash.

After all, if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, why would you put it on your skin?

How Much Does Certified Organic Really Cost?

Rebecca with long hair using certified organic hair products

1 bottle lasts me 3-4 months on long hair

1 bottle Miessence Shine Herbal Hair Conditioner: $27.55 CAD / $24.95 USD

1 bottle Miessence Lemon Myrtle Shampoo: $27.55 CAD / $24.95 USD

Last about 3-4 months

Roughly $15/month for no synthetic chemicals, no artificial fragrances or perservatives, nothing but plants and minerals.

(Buying your shampoo and conditioner with your body wash and face products?  Get 10-40% off retail price.  Score.)



Free Organic Hair + Skin Care Samples
Subscribe to our mailing list and get your FREE certified organic hair care + skin care samples, plus your own Consumer's Guide to Cosmetic Toxins. Ditching the synthetic chemicals has never been easier.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.


I am a Ph.D. candidate at McMaster University, a twin mommy, and a health and wellness entrepreneur. I am in the process of building a sustainable online business to support my family, and helping others to build sustainable businesses themselves. Find me on Google+.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply:

CommentLuv badge