Hair loss treatment: The 11 common but harmful ingredients in shampoo to AVOID

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The average human adult loses between 50 and 100 hairs a day, but any more than this can be a sign of a medical condition such as male or female pattern baldness. Sometimes hair loss is temporary and caused by an illness, cancer treatment, stress or weight loss, but either way you can help the situation by using the right shampoo. chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox online Pharmacy to find out the 11 common but harmful ingredients that could be lurking in YOUR shampoo.

Never settle for a shampoo that could be agitating your scalp and making an existing problem with hair loss worse.

A quick glance at the ingredients list on the back of your shampoo and conditioner can show you how many potentially harmful chemicals you’re putting onto your hair and scalp.

However, it’s hard to understand an ingredients list without understanding which ingredients make hair loss worse by irritating the scalp and damaging the follicles.

Luckily for you, Dr Lee has spelt out the top 11 shampoo ingredients to AVOID.


Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is a cause of allergic contact dermatitis, an inflammatory reaction that can happen on the scalp and skin if you’re allergic.

Around 10 percent of the UK population are thought to be suffering from allergic reactions due to MIT allergy, but it’s a very common ingredient in shampoos and conditioners.

Dr Lee said: “In acute dermatitis, the skin look reds, swollen and often blistered.

“It can feel hot, itchy and burning, sometimes the blisters burst and the area may be wet and oozy.

“If dermatitis becomes chronic, there may be recurrent bouts of dry, itchy skin, or soreness.”

Sodium lauryl sulphate

Sodium lauryl sulphate is the stuff which makes your shampoo lather into a foam, but you should always try to find a sulfate-free shampoo where possible.

There’s lots of misinformation about sulfates being carcinogenic – sulfates don’t cause cancer, but they aren’t harmless.

This chemical is typically used as a cleaning agent in household cleaners and detergents as well as shampoos so they get the job done, but they also cause skin irritation and damage hair follicles.

The ingredient is too strong for lots of people and should be avoided if you have sensitive skin or a condition such as eczema, rosacea or contact dermatitis.

Sulfate shampoo can cause redness, skin rashes, inflammation, itchiness or hives in people who are sensitive to it.

Sodium chloride

Sodium chloride, also known as salt, is a useful ingredient in shampoo as it gives shampoo a thick consistency and makes sure a little of the product goes a long way.

While sodium chloride doesn’t directly cause hair loss, it can damage your hair and scalp.

Salt makes your hair dry and weak, damages the natural protective barrier in your strands, and leaves your hair scalp itchy.

Polyethylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is normally included in shampoo to thicken it and improve the texture, but it can be bad for hair health.

PEG is derived from petroleum, meaning it could be contaminated with known human carcinogens such as ethylene oxide and dioxane.


You’ll see Formaldehyde on the ingredients lists of shampoos or conditioners designed to keep your hair straight or smooth.

The chemical was initially put into beauty products as a cheap preservative, but in gas for Formaldehyde is extremely dangerous and even found in some cigarettes, industrial cleaning products and building materials… so you definitely don’t want it in your shampoo

Formaldehyde is another possible carcinogen and products containing it can cause nasty reactions to the eyes, nervous system and respiratory tract.

This ingredient can also contribute to hair loss and scalp irritation.


Nowadays, beauty brands brag about their products being ‘paraben-free’, and there’s a reason why.

Parabens are normally added as a preservative to make products live longer without a build-up of mould and bacteria, but more recently they have been linked to hormone-related illnesses.

Scientists have found that parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, which means they interfere with the endocrine system and can potentially cause hormonal imbalances.

This could affect anything from periods and fertility to weight loss and hair loss.

Diethanolamine (DEA)

Diethanolamine‘s main role in shampoo is to produce foam and bubbles, which are nice but not necessary.

DEA by itself isn’t harmful but it can combine with other ingredients to form a human carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine.

DEA doesn’t directly cause hair loss but it can damage your keratin and irritate your scalp, which could make you lose hair.

Triethanolamine (TEA)

Up to 40 percent of shampoos contain Triethanolamine.

Just like DEA, Triethanolamine is used to make shampoo lather when it meets water.

While this is what we expect from a shampoo, Triethanolamine is harsh on the skin, scalp and hair and will leave your hair feeling stripped and brittle.

This chemical can also totally destroy keratin, the protein that keeps your hair strong and shiny.


Alcohol isn’t always a negative ingredient in shampoo, it depends which alcohol it is.

Cetearyl alcohols such as coconut oil, for example, are useful thickeners to make the formula creamy and thick and they’re not normally bad for your hair.

However, some alcohols such as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol and isopropyl alcohol strip your hair of the oils and nutrients it needs, so opting for an alcohol-free shampoo is probably best if you’re experiencing hair loss.


Petroleum or mineral oil are dangerous ingredients to have in a shampoo.

If they build up on the scalp, your scalp will feel greasy and clogged up.

Your hair can tend to be weighed down and lifeless with products containing petroleum, causing you to continue to over-wash your hair and strip it of nutrients essential for growth.


Lanolin is the naturally occurring fat in wool and it’s used in a number of beauty products, including shampoo.

It’s not harmful by nature, but lanolin is very waxy and heavy.

If you allow lanolin to build up on the scalp, it can cause irritation and lead to hair loss.

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