4 Ingredients You Should Never Put Into Your Hair

Before you start analyzing the backs of bottles, you should have a solid understanding of why it’s necessary to eliminate harmful products from your haircare routine.

The following ingredients can do everything from strip your hair of its natural oils to cause major buildup on your scalp. Avoid these nasties and be on the lookout for their common pseudonyms to ensure happy, healthy hair.


Table of Contents

    Ingredients You Should Avoid in Your Hair Care

    1. Mineral Oil

    Some hair products include mineral oils, which are liquid byproducts from processing gasoline, to help detangle or condition hair. This ingredient is cheap to manufacture and FDA-approved for use in cosmetics, but mineral oil is a subpar ingredient compared to other nourishing hair oils.

    Why it’s harmful: This oil can lead to buildup on the scalp, weigh down strands with lingering product residue and cause hair to become stiff and lifeless.

    Alternative names to look for: petroleum, white petroleum, paraffin, liquid paraffin, liquid petrolatum and paraffin wax

    2. Parabens & Methylisothiazolinone

    Parabens are a type of preservative originally used to prolong the shelf life of various cosmetics and health products. Along with methylisothiazolinone (MIT), parabens are an inexpensive ingredient commonly added to today’s range of skin and hair care products. These preservatives don’t carry any benefits for your hair.

    Why they’re harmful: These preservatives can cause skin sensitivities, whether that’s an allergic reaction or rash. Some research points out that it can contribute to organ toxicity as well. Some reactions to MIT are so bad that the European Commission has banned it from cosmetics that come into long-term contact with skin.

    Alternative names to look for: MIT, methylchloroisothiazolinone, 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one, 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one and isothiazolinone

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    3. Phthalates

    Found in a wide range of products such as lotions, cosmetics, soaps and even baby formula, phthalates are used in hair products for their plasticizing, gelling and fragrance-boosting effects. Although their ability to act as a plasticizing agent can help improve the hold of shampoos, hair sprays and styling creams, some research recommends avoiding phthalates whenever possible. 

    Why they’re harmful: Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals that are used as solvents in cosmetic products. The FDA and other regulatory bodies have conducted extensive research and determined they are safe to use but are still monitoring the effects of exposure. Other studies have shown that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys and reproductive systems.

    Alternative names to look for: phthalate esters, dimethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate

    4. Sulfates

    Sulfates attract oil and water and are responsible for creating a frothy lather that helps remove dirt, oil and product residue from your hair to make it feel clean and light. In addition to shampoos, sulfates are often included in household cleaners and detergents.

    Why they’re harmful: In some cases, sulfates are too harsh for the scalp and may lead to dryness, redness and irritation. They can also strip natural oils from your strands, which are especially important for coily or curly hair types.

    Alternative names to look for: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium laureth-8 sulfate, lauryl ether sulfate, sodium myreth sulfate, sls, sles, ammonium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate

    Find Your Perfect Formula

    Prose hair products are cruelty-free and don’t contain sulfates, phthalates, mineral oils or parabens. Take a Prose hair consultation and find the perfect shampoo and conditioner that’s designed to keep your hair healthy, strong and beautiful.