Let’s face it, navigating the hair care aisle is hard enough without having to worry about all of the potentially harmful ingredients inside your products (seriously, what is sodium lauryl sulphate, anyway?). You’ve probably heard about some common hair products such as shampoos and conditioners containing potentially harmful ingredients,

but may not really know what they do or have yet to actually experience any obvious negative symptoms. One could be tempted to think that because there are so many products with these ingredients in them on the shelves, surely they can’t be too bad, right?

That’s why at Atara, we make it easy by not only making all of our products fully suitable to your particular hair type but also free of any potentially harmful or toxic ingredients.

Listed below are just seven of the nasty ingredients that we’ve banned from all of our products, and the reasons we’re pretty sure you’ll want to banish them from your daily hair care routine too. These are surprisingly found in at least one (if not all) of the hair products most likely sitting in your shower at home right now.

If you ever needed a reason to go ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, here are seven:

Perhaps one of the nastier ingredients you’ll find listed on the back of any consumer product is formaldehyde. A colorless, strong-smelling chemical, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) are still used today in a number of cosmetic products to help prevent the growth of bacteria, or, as is the case with certain types of keratin treatments, to help smooth and lock the hair into place for months on end. As a known carcinogen though, formaldehyde has been linked to several types of cancers, as well as numerous other health concerns, including allergic reactions, skin sensitization, eye problems, headaches, and problems with the immune system. Needless to say, it’s best just to stay away.

 You’d be hard-pressed not to spot the word “fragrance” printed on a hair product label. “Fragrance” can include a mixture of synthetic ingredients. If you have an allergic reaction to a product, fragrances are probably responsible. Researchers have also begun exploring their links to asthma. “In general, there’s enough evidence that some fragrance ingredients can exacerbate asthma in some individuals,” But “we don’t’ necessarily know which individuals would be affected or which fragrance ingredients are the culprit.” If you’re worried, shop for products labeled “fragrance-free.”

Isopropyl Alcohol
It’s almost impossible to find absolutely no alcohol in hair products in some form or other, but one in particular, isopropyl alcohol, is particularly risky. Often found in hairsprays and gels to help keep your hairstyle in place, isopropyl alcohol dries the hair out terribly and studies suggest that inhaling or ingesting the vapour can be harmful, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea, mental depression and even induce a coma.

Phthalates are actually one of the most commonly used chemicals in the world. Considered a gelling agent, these colourless, odourless liquids are most commonly used to soften plastics that would otherwise crack or break. Used as a lubricant in shampoos, and more commonly known for making plastics flexible, phthalates have been linked to a growing list of risk-factors. According to theguardian.com, “in the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.” That’s quite a list. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to avoid phthalates completely as they could be found in any part of a production cycle, but manufacturers and retailers are slowly starting to phase them out and looking for alternatives.

The problem with phthalates, however, is that they may be able to enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, and skin absorption. While there currently isn’t enough evidence to ban phthalates from all consumer goods (they are currently deemed safe by the FDA), we like to take the “it’s better safe than sorry” approach and just avoid them altogether.

Mineral Oils and Petroleum
Mineral oil is a derivative of petroleum and is used in a number of hair products because it is associated with a smooth, gliding action. (Think baby oil which is 100% mineral oil) So the promise is smooth, shiny hair. In actual fact, mineral oils coat and seal the hair shaft, preventing it from breathing. This action negatively impacts the natural functioning of the skin, resulting in acne, skin breakouts, and causes it to age prematurely.

Proplyene glycol (PG)
A mineral oil to take particular note of is Proplyene glycol (PG). This chemical breaks down the healthy protein in your hair, and can cause severe scalp irritation – particularly if you’ve got sensitive skin.

Parabens, in the simplest terms, are preservatives that help stall the growth of bacteria in your favorite personal care products. They are believed to enter your body through your skin and disrupt hormone function by mimicking the estrogen in your body. Too much estrogen may reportedly trigger an increase in cell division and the growth of tumors, which is why paraben use has previously been linked to certain cancers and reproductive issues. While they are currently considered safe to use by the FDA, they are still considered controversial among clean beauty advocates, which is why we prefer to just do without them.

Silicones don’t actually pose any health risk to you and they coat the hair shaft, giving the appearance of smooth, shiny hair. So why avoid? In a nutshell, silicones have zero nutritional value and the shiny locks are short-lived, because with continued used, silicones cause a build-up on the hair, making it heavy and greasy. There are two types of silicones; soluble and non-soluble. The former (water based silicones) are preferred over non-soluble silicones as they can be removed with water, whereas non-soluble silicones require the help of sulphates in order to remove build-up and the paragraph above explains why these should be avoided.  So if you absolutely have to have a silicone-based product, go for the water-based variety.

Used throughout a variety of beauty and personal care items, including shampoo, face cleanser, and toothpaste, sulphates are essentially detergents, meaning they help remove dirt and oil from your hair. They’re also the ingredient responsible for that satisfying lather you get when you add water to your shampoo. Now don’t get us wrong, we love a good lather, but these irritants do more than just that—they’re also responsible for causing sensitivity on the skin and scalp, and can strip the hair of its natural oils. Simply put, they’re so good at cleaning that they can over-clean your strands, causing them to become rough, dry, and brittle. That’s why you’ll never find sulphates in any of our products. Instead, we use a sulphate-free surfactant that gently cleanses the scalp and hair without stripping it of its natural (healthy!) oils.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate/Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS)
This is probably the one name you will recognise from the list of ingredients on the back of the bottle. SLS is the ingredient that makes the shampoo lather like you see in the TV adverts. And who doesn’t like a good lather to make you ‘feel’ like your hair is getting a good clean? Well firstly, SLS is found in many cleaning products because it acts as a degreaser. In the same way, in shampoo it strips your hair of the essential oils it needs to stay healthy, severely drying it in the process. It is also a known skin irritant and a proven carcinogen. In short, avoid, avoid, avoid.

Still not convinced? Try a legit ‘all natural’ product, and let us know if you see and feel a difference. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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