>We all want healthy, shiny hair, and if you’re anything like I used to be, you probably have an endless stash of anti-aging hair products at home. For me, the scent and feel of the product was always the biggest selling feature—I used to love the way my hair smelled and felt after using them. But then I learned the truth about what was actually in some of my favorite hair products. Needless to say, the smell and color no longer have anything to do with why I purchase any of my anti-aging hair products.
A lot of anti-aging hair products contain additives that are not only bad for your strands, but can also be dangerous for your overall health. When purchasing your anti-aging hair products, always read the label carefully and try to steer clear of the following ingredients:
Mineral Oil (a.k.a. paraffin)
Many anti-aging hair products contain mineral oil because it functions as a cheap filler—mineral oil is derived from petroleum jelly. It’s been shown that mineral oil doesn’t really have much benefit when it comes to conditioning the hair shaft because the molecules in mineral oil are too large to penetrate the cuticle. As a result, it just ends up sitting on the surface, building up until you wash your hair again.
Mineral oil is mainly used in anti-aging hair products like shine serums, conditioners, and moisturizing creams.
Fragrance (a.k.a. parfum)
When fragrances are added to anti-aging hair products, they can cause irritation or allergic reactions, especially for people with sensitive skin and scalps. If you tend to get a lot of dandruff, check to see if the hair products you’re using contain a fragrance. At the end of the day, it’s more important that your hair is clean and healthy than it is to be smelling good. Fragrances are essentially synthetic chemicals, and many of them can be toxic.
One researcher at the University of Washington analyzed 25 popular products that were fragranced, including shampoo, and found that they failed to list 133 different volatile organic compounds, which have been shown to adversely affect health. This could be why so many people experience headaches when they’re around strong fragrances for too long. Furthermore, a 2004 study found that 11% of people reacted when patch-tested with a mixture of fragrances that are commonly used in grooming products.
Fragrances are usually found in anti-aging hair products like shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, and scalp treatments.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):
SLS and SLES are compounds used in many hair and cosmetic products because of their cleansing and foaming properties. Even though SLS comes from coconuts, it’s by no means natural, which is why it can cause irritation, dandruff, and other allergic reactions. SLS has also been shown to cause hair loss if it isn’t rinsed off properly, thanks to deposits that end up penetrating your scalp and can deteriorate the hair follicle.
Depending on how SLS and SLES are manufactured, they may contain trace amounts of two contaminants—ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane—which have been linked to cancer. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that the levels of carcinogenic contaminants are too low in grooming products to be officially classified as hazardous, why take the risk if you don’t have to?
This is what makes anti-aging hair products creamy and foamy. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Haz-Map (a health database for chemicals) describes this ingredient as a “possible carcinogen,” which means it may cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also labeled cocamide DEA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This ingredient, which is derived from coconut oil and chemically modified, can also cause an allergic reaction or irritation to the skin and/or eyes—and yet it’s still used in many anti-aging hair products.
Parabens are used as a preservative in many cosmetics and anti-aging hair products. You may see it listed on the label as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, or E216.
Parabens can penetrate the skin very easily and some studies have shown that they can affect hormone function in your body, specifically by mimicking estrogen. Parabens have been discovered in breast cancer tissues, which suggest that there may be a link between the regular use of paraben products and the development of breast cancer. Although more conclusive research needs to be done, again, why take the risk?
The good news is that there are anti-aging hair products out there that are SLS- and paraben-free, thanks to brands like Yes to Carrots, Burt’s Bees, Kiss My Face, and DermOrganic.