You've read it all before while walking down the hair care aisle: "No Parabens"..."Sulfate-Free"... and what on earth is a "Pthalate", anyway? We're here to help you better understand these three ingredients commonly found in many shampoos and conditioners - and why you're better off avoiding them!
Parabens are chemicals used in many cosmetic products as preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria. Some of the most common parabens in shampoo and conditioner are methylparaben, propylparaben, thylparaben, and butylparaben. Despite their effort to lengthen a product's shelf-life by preventing fungal problems from arising, they have been found to destroy the hair's protective cuticle, thus causing hair to become lifeless, brittle, and vulnerable to damage.
Not only do parabens affect the quality of your hair, they also pose threat to your health. Numerous studies have shown that parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen. This estrogen-mimicking ability can promote the growth of existing cancer cells in the body - Therefore, it should be no surprise to hear that high concentrations of parabens have been found within the cancerous cells of breast tumors.
Dr. Darbre - a scientist at the UK-based University of Reading - has conducted extensive research on parabens and their link to cancer cell production. Her research suggests that parabens are in fact carcinogenic, meaning they may have the ability to turn perfectly healthy cells into cancerous cells.
Additionally, other research has revealed that parabens become absorbed into our bodies at great lengths, and possess the ability to not only be absorbed into our skin tissue, but also to pass through our metabolic pathways and be expelled through our excretory systems. In one study, test subjects applied a lotion which contained parabens onto the surface of their skin. After just a few hours, their blood and urine was tested and parabens were present in both, proving that these chemicals remain in our bodies for a period of time once we come into contact with them.
Sulfates are cleaning and foaming agents that give many shampoos and conditioners the ability to lather up and get your hair squeaky clean. Although this may make sulfates seem beneficial to cleaning your hair and body, in the long-run, they aren't. They actually pose threat to the well-being of your hair, as well as your overall health.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is known to clean our hair so well to the point that it can completely strip hair of its natural oils, drying-out our strands as well as our scalps. This can result in problematic skin conditions such as dandruff or an inflamed scalp. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can also fade hair color, slow hair growth, cause hair loss, and damage the skin's protective barriers.
Studies have shown that sodium lauryl sulfate has been found to break down proteins, creating a degenerate effect on the membrane of our cells - leading to a variety of health problems, such as premature aging. It has also been discovered that it can leave residue in the heart, lungs, and brain, and according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, can have negative effects on the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.
Pthalates act as lubricants, gelling agents, absorption enhancers, and fragrance-preservers in many hair and cosmetic products. There has been a great deal of research conducted on these chemicals within the past few years, linking them to health problems such as asthma, ADHD, both neurodevelopmental and behavioral issues, autism, and hindered reproductive development.
Because pthalates are known endocrine disruptors, both the EU and Canada have taken action to put forth strict regulations on their use; However, America has not. In fact, the scary thing about pthalate usage in the United States is that these chemicals are not required to be listed as a "pthalate" under a product's ingredients. Rather, they are masked with the name "fragrance", with the excuse that they have the ability to make scent last longer.
Because there are hundreds of chemicals that fall under the phalate group, not all have been studied in depth; However, the ones that have been studied do not show positive results. For example, it has been found that the pthalate known as DiNP is linked to genital birth defects in males, as well as fertility problems. According to professors of the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Council, a mother's exposure to pthalates is linked to numerous reproductive health problems in male offspring - including low sperm count, undescended testes, and hypospadias.
We suggest sticking to all-natural, plant-based shampoos and conditioners that are not made with any synthetic materials or chemical additives. If you are unsure as to what some of the ingredients in your cosmetics are, look them up! This way, you know exactly what you are putting on your body. There are hundreds of companies promoting these types of products, and most all-natural companies value transparency in regards to their ingredients. Luckily, we are one of them!