Shampoo ingredients are most likely the last thing on your mind when choosing your shampoo. You're probably most interested in what the shampoo is going to do for your hair. How soft, silky and shiny will it make your hair look? Does it make it look healthy? What about repairing damaged ends? Will it make your hair look thicker? Will it give you great looking hair like those models you see in the TV commercials?

These are the kinds of questions that the manufacturers have conditioned you to think about. They spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns telling you all the wonderful benefits their shampoos offer your hair. Reading the ingredients list on your shampoo bottle before you buy is the last thing they want you to do.


The majority of shampoos on the market contain ingredients that have harmful effects on your body. A number of these ingredients even cause cancer.

Why should you be concerned about cancer-causing ingredients in your shampoo? You only use it on your hair. What's the harm in that?

That's a good question. The ingredients in your shampoo, like in any product you use on the outside of your body, can be absorbed through your pores into your bloodstream. A number of the shampoos containing cancer-causing chemicals also contain ingredients, called penetration enhancers, that increase how much of the ingredients actually get absorbed into your body.

But, that's not all.

There are other ingredients in your shampoo that also cause adverse effects. Some interfere with your hormones. Others irritate your skin. There are even those that can affect your organ systems like your kidneys, liver and your nervous system. Most of the chemicals used in shampoo, as well as other body care products have not been adequately tested.

A few of the ingredients you may find in your shampoo are hidden sources of MSG. And MSG is just as bad or worse in products that go on your skin vs. in your food. It's not just something that causes headaches in a few sensitive people after eating Chinese food. MSG is an excitotoxin. It excites your brain cells to death. MSG is unhealthy for you and everyone else to eat or put on your skin. It's even more harmful for children.

Some of the ingredients that are definite hidden sources of MSG include:

  • hydrolyzed proteins
  • amino acids
  • anything with glutamate in its name

Other possible sources of hidden MSG are:

  • proteins, e.g. wheat protein, soy protein, oat protein, etc.
  • enzymes
  • carrageenan

So, how do you go about choosing healthy shampoo with safe ingredients?

First of all, don't bother looking at the front of the bottle. Never mind all the wonderful benefits the manufacturer says their product will have for your hair. Skip what they say in newspaper and magazine ads and on radio and TV commercials. Don't believe what they write about their products on their website. Go right to the ingredients list on the back of the product first.

By law, in the U.S., ingredients must be listed on the package for products sold to the consumer.

Not surprisingly, however, some manufacturers are getting pretty sneaky about revealing their ingredients now that consumers are getting savvy about ingredient safety. For example, there is one product line I know of where the manufacturer wants so badly to keep you from reading the ingredients that they put them on tiny little stick-on labels on the bottom of the bottle, printed in a type size so minuscule, it's extremely difficult for even those with the best eyesight to read.

If you have trouble reading the fine print, it's wise to invest in a good magnifying glass to carry with you so you can be sure to read every ingredient list, even the tiniest print ... before you buy.

Here are a few more important ingredients in shampoo you want to avoid:

  • anything with PEG in the name - it can be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals
  • ingredients ending in "-eth" also can be contaminated with a cancer-causing contaminant
  • quaternium 15 - this ingredient releases the known cancer-causing chemical, formaldehyde, a component of embalming fluid
  • fragrance – a single fragrance can contain hundreds of different chemicals, some of which have been shown to be hazardous. What's most disturbing about fragrances is that their composition is proprietary so manufacturers do not have to reveal the ingredients in the fragrances they use.

Get started checking your shampoo for the harmful ingredients listed here. But don't stop with these. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more harmful chemicals used in the shampoos on the market today.

Author's Bio: 

(c) 2009 Christine H. Farlow, D.C. Learn more and find resources to help you choose safe and healthy shampoos in the Free Report, "The 10 Worst Chemicals In Cosmetics And Personal Care Products You Absolutely Must Stay Away From!" at