Switching to non-toxic hair care - What ingredients to avoid for healthier hair, and how to spot them in your hair care labels

Switching to non-toxic hair care - What ingredients to avoid for healthier hair, and how to spot them in your hair care labels

When it comes to consuming consciously it can feel like a minefield navigating confusing ingredient lists, disorienting google searches and labels promising the world. But choosing hair care products that use clean ingredients means stepping away from common ingredients that can actually be causing your hair more harm than good, can irritate your skin and be harmful to the environment. 

When you make the change to clean ingredients you’re taking the first step to improving the health of your hair and scalp, which is vital for healthy hair growth.

What ingredients you should avoid in hair care

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is a low cost detergent that creates the sudsy lather in many shampoos. It’s a strong detergent that is often too powerful on hair - drying out the hair and stripping it of its natural oils. It can lead to a vicious cycle of your hair overcompensating with more oil production which can lead to greasy hair, which makes you need to wash your hair more frequently. 

SLS is also a known skin irritant, it’s even been used to irritate the skin when testing products which heal skin conditions. So it’s no surprise that it can irritate your scalp causing redness and itching, and has been linked to hair loss. 

How to spot it:

It will be listed as “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” or “SLS” in the ingredients list.


Parabens are used as a preservative in many shampoos, increasing their shelf life. Parabens have been found to disrupt hormone function, they can penetrate the sin and mimic estrogen.

How to spot them:

The most common parabens to look for in the ingredients list are methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben.


Phthalates are industrial chemicals used for softening plastic and they’re also used in some shampoos, hairsprays, mousses and conditioners as a lubricant or fragrance. Phthalates are hormone-disruptors and have been linked with a number of concerning side effects. Some of the nasty side effects include infertility, weight gain, worsening of allergies, changes in sex hormone levels, premature birth and behavioural changes. 

How to spot them:

Phthalates need to be listed as an ingredient unless they make up less than 20% of a fragrance. So you may want to avoid products that list “fragrance” in the ingredients list unless it also says “phthalate free” on the packaging, or get in touch with the company to check if the fragrance contains phthalates if unsure.

Mineral oil

Mineral oil is made from distilling petroleum (crude oil). It’s been used as a scalp treatment to lock moisture into hair. However, mineral oil doesn’t penetrate your hair, it leaves an oily coat on the surface which locks water in, so it’s ok for a temporary enhancement but has virtually no long term benefits. Mineral oil can actually clog your pores and leave your hair dryer than when you started because it also locks water out. 

Steer clear of mineral oil scalp treatments. The best way to care for your scalp health is to detoxify, soothe, nourish, remove product build up, and increase blood circulation to the scalp. Look for treatments that include charcoal, coconut oil, peppermint or spearmint extract, or aloe vera extract.  

How to spot them:

Mineral oil could be listed as "mineral oil", "paraffinum liquidum", "ozokerite", "ceresine isoparaffin", "paraffin", "petrolatum", "cera microcristallina", "microcrystalline wax", or "synthetic wax".


A study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found the application of Diethanolamine (DEA) to be associated with cancer in laboratory animals. 

Cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA) is a chemically modified form of coconut oil used as a foaming agent or thickener in many shampoos, conditioners and soaps. In small doses it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. In larger doses it’s potentially carcinogenic to humans. Cocamide DEA has been banned in California since 2012 because of its potential to cause cancer. We recommend checking the labels of shampoos and conditioners and avoiding any that contain DEA.

How to spot them:

Look out for these common ingredients that may contain DEA: Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, and Triethanolamine.

Harsh sulfates

Harsh sulfates are commonly used as detergents in shampoos and give the foamy lather. Using harsh cleansers like these strips the hair and scalp of its natural oils making your hair dry and brittle. 

How to spot them: 

Which sulfates should you avoid? Sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate are common sulfates to be wary of.

Sulfates that won’t damage your hair:

Magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, is non-damaging. It strengthens hair and acts as a natural volume and curl boost. We use this in our clean formula sea salt spray.


Triclosan is added to some products as an antibacterial agent. The use of triclosan is linked to some troubling side effects like weakening the immune system, throwing off the hormone regulating system (the endocrine system), and increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema in children. 

How to spot it:

It will be listed as triclosan in the ingredients list if present.


Triclocarban is another antibacterial agent used in soaps and lotions. when flushed down drains and into river and ocean systems triclocarban can be very harmful to organisms and the surrounding environment.

How to spot it:

It will be listed under ingredients as triclosan.