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12 min read

Redefining Beauty: How To Avoid Harmful Contaminants In Your Hair Care Products

Redefining Beauty: How To Avoid Harmful Contaminants In Your Hair Care Products

When it comes to skincare, haircare and personal hygiene, we all like to make an effort. But what if that effort to be look good and be healthy was actually detrimental to you? It’s easy to get caught up in the latest way to minimize your wrinkles, make your hair shinier and moisturize your skin to its absolute softest, but there can be some serious long term consequences to these quick-fix products. In fact, over 10,000 ingredients in common cosmetic products are considered to be hazardous chemical products. 

Many products that you happily apply to your skin contain contaminants and toxins such as carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disrupters, plasticizers, degreasers and surfactants. Once these products have been applied to your skin, the residue is washed down the drain, which in turn damages the environment.

While we all want to be aware of the ingredients we’re using, reading labels on hair and beauty products can be way too much work, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for.

That’s exactly why we created this article: to help you understand which toxic ingredients you should be looking out for, and what natural products you can use to maintain your hair, skin and beauty regime without causing damage to yourself and the environment.

Chemicals You Should Avoid At All Costs

Heading to the drug store to buy your healthcare products is easy. However, if you value your health and the longevity of your environment, it’s worth your while to spend a little extra time reading the labels. Here is a list of commonly used main ingredients that you should try to avoid at all costs:

1. Parabens

These are included in a wide range of personal care products, such as deodorants, shampoos and moisturizers. In lower levels, you can even find them in some foods. Thankfully, your natural metabolic process reduces the harm they cause when you ingest them. When used in healthcare products, parabens can increase the risk of certain types of cancers and interfere with the male reproductive system. While parabens are an incredibly common ingredient, it is possible to find ‘paraben-free’ products to help you reduce your exposure.

2. Synthetic Fragrances and Perfume

We tend to focus our beauty buying decisions based on scent, which can be a huge mistake if those fresh fruity notes are synthetic. These ingredients can be hazardous to your health and the environment, even in products labelled as ‘fragrance free’ or ‘unscented’. They can cause allergic reactions and migraines, trigger asthma, and contaminate our waterways. These chemicals are also found in other products, such as laundry detergent and cleaning products.

3. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs)

PEGs are chemicals that are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture carriers. With that in mind, you’re likely to find them in creams, moisturizers and conditioners. They are also used in pharmaceutical laxatives. The major concern for PEGs is their carcinogenic contaminants and the fact that they are designed to be quickly absorbed into the skin (think of all those moisturizer advertisements), increasing their toxicity levels within your body.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

These ingredients are commonly called lathering agents, and they make your soaps and shampoos bubble or foam when you use them. Due to this property, it may come as no surprise that they are also found in dishwashing detergents, car washes and engine degreasers. Over-exposure to SLS can cause eye irritation and liver damage. Both SLS and SLES are toxic to aquatic life. The good news is that there is no real need for your hair and beauty products to contain either SLS or SLES. The foaming and lathering effect is really only there for the consumer to feel that the product is “working,” but it serves virtually no practical purpose.

5. Triclosan

Triclosan offer anti-bacterial properties that are considered by many to be crucial to your health and wellbeing. Found in cleansers, hand sanitizers and toothpastes, triclosan is easily absorbed into the skin and can interfere with hormone function and cause damage to fish and wildlife. Many natural ingredients also boast strong anti-bacterial properties, so you can easily avoid (or at least minimize) your triclosan exposure.

6. Aluminum

The most common care product that contains aluminum is anti-perspirant deodorant. Aluminium is linked to some cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease, but because it works by plugging the sweat ducts that stop the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface, it also plays a part in preventing your body from eliminating the natural toxins found in sweat. Keep your eyes open for deodorants advertised as “aluminum free.”

7. Heavy Metals

You would be hard pressed to find a woman that doesn't apply some kind of cosmetic to her face on a semi-regular basis (and some men, too). Common cosmetics such as foundation, concealer, lipstick, blush and mascara contain toxic heavy metals. These include lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel, and cadmium. These metals can build up over time and cause health problems such as cancer, headaches, memory loss and muscle disorders. Finding metal-free cosmetics is becoming easier with the larger range of natural cosmetic brands available on the market. You don’t have to stop wearing your favorite shade of lipstick, but it might be worth checking out the ingredients on your current products.

8. Talc

Common in baby, face and body powders, talc is widely used due to its moisture-absorbing properties. However, it does contain carcinogenic toxins and cause serious lung damage if inhaled. It is best not to put babies and small children at such a risk, and opt for other ways to get rid of unpleasant moisture.

9. Mineral Oil

Baby oils, cosmetics and lotions contain this petroleum by-product, which acts as a preserving agent and moisture retainer. It is often used in personal care products that are designed to help dry skin, but it can clog pores which returns toxins back in to the body. Long term use can affect the function of the liver and because it is cheap, many manufacturers will still use it, so carefully check your labels.

10. Siloxanes

These are the reason that your hair products dry quickly and your deodorant rolls on smoothly. They can also be the reason that your liver and hormones stop functioning properly. While extensively used in moisturizers and facial treatments, siloxanes are also found in building sealants and lubricants. Read the ingredients label carefully and avoid products with ingredients ending in ‘siloxane’ such as cyclotetrasiloxane.

11. Formaldehyde

A known carcinogen, regular exposure to formaldehyde can cause joint pain, depression, ear infections, chronic fatigue and loss of sleep. It is commonly found in many personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, lotions and mouthwash. Formaldehyde is also one of the most toxic ingredients in nail polish remover. If you use products to help straighten your hair, keep a close eye on the label, as it has also been found in high quantities in these types of hair products.

12. Phthalates

Unfortunately, most of us have probably been exposed to phthalates at one time or another. They are generally used in products to enhance fragrances and make it last longer, and let’s be honest, we all like pleasant-smelling products. Phthalates can be tricky to avoid because they are not often labelled as such on the ingredients list. Instead, they may simply be under the heading of “fragrances.” Over-exposure has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive problems.

Natural Healthcare Product Alternatives

The good news is that you don’t have to stop using deodorant, moisturizer, makeup or shampoo. Reading product labels will help, but unfortunately many healthcare products are not required by law to list all their ingredients – a loophole that benefits them, not you. The are many companies that create their products without the use of the harmful toxins above, but there are also many natural products you can use. Using natural products is a guaranteed way to ensure that you are not exposing yourself to unnecessary chemicals and toxins. They are also significantly better for the environment – wildlife and waterways are far less likely to suffer the harmful repercussions of your beauty product use. Many natural healthcare products are probably already in your home, but if not, they are readily available to purchase. Read on to find out how you can achieve great results with common (and cheap) ingredients.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is incredibly useful on both your skin and your hair. It can cleanse, moisturize, remove makeup and increase immune function. Coconut oil offers antibacterial and antifungal properties and can be applied directly to your hair or skin, or ingested to improve your health from the inside out. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is another versatile product that can be found in the supermarket. Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties that help cleanse your skin. Like coconut oil, it can be ingested and will help balance the bacteria in your gut.

Raw Honey

In its raw, unheated, unpasteurized and unprocessed form, honey retains all its nutrients. It has antiseptic qualities which are great for healing wounds and skin irritations. If you have acne-prone skin, apply raw honey to your face, leave for ten minutes and then rinse with warm water. Just make sure you use the raw stuff, the cute bear-shaped plastic bottles just won’t cut it (save it for the toast).


Not only are avocados delicious to eat, they are great for skin health. Full of vitamins A, D and E, avocados make a useful moisturizing treatment. They can help reduce age spots, soothe sunburnt skin and boost collagen production for a more youthful-looking complexion. The best thing about avocados is that they work to improve your skin from the inside as well as the outside, something you don’t get from most other beauty products.

Shea Butter

Many store-bought moisturizers contain toxins and contaminants that do more harm than good. Shea butter is often an ingredient in many of these moisturizers, but you can gain all the benefits from this traditional African butter without the addition of the nasty stuff. Shea butter is suitable for all skin types, and you can make your own shea butter-based moisturizer or lip balm by adding a few drops of your preferred natural essential oils.

Aloe Vera

Very commonly linked with easing sunburnt skin, aloe vera has a long medicinal history due to its bacteria-fighting, soothing antifungal properties. The gel found inside the leaf can be used to treat skin diseases, burns and frostbite. Be careful when buying aloe vera to ensure you are receiving a product without any additional additives. For the most natural approach, source an aloe vera plant, cut one of the leaves and rub directly onto your skin.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree is a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, making it one of the most versatile and effective skin care treatments you can find. You can combine tea tree oil with a carrier oil and apply it directly to your skin for relief from acne, to remove makeup, soften your cuticles, eliminate fungal disease and fight foot odor.

Natural Cosmetics: How to Make Your Own

As with care products, the only sure-fire way to make sure your cosmetic collection is toxin and contaminant-free is to make the products yourself. It might take you a little experimenting, but it’s definitely a cost-effective way to have your very own bespoke makeup collection. Making your own lipstick is a little harder, but totally worth the effort to avoid lead and other contaminants often found in your handbag essentials.

Synthetic chemicals can be hard to avoid, but with such harsh side effects it is in your best interests to opt for more natural personal care products. Many cosmetic companies are now veering towards organic ingredients, but there are also plenty of natural resources you can access to create your own products. By doing this you can be sure of all the ingredients and will reduce your risk of exposure as well as doing your part to maintain our beautiful environment.

At Hair La Vie, we know that your hair is an integral part of how you present yourself to the world and shape your authentic style.

Join our private Facebook Community for a safe, human-moderated space to share your Hair Journey, discover new natural beauty, and take steps towards becoming “you” with the help of an understanding, supportive community.

Join now for instant access to livestreams, discussions, and exclusive access to new products!

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    At Hair La Vie, we know that your hair is an integral part of how you present yourself to the world and shape your authentic style.

    Join our private Facebook Community for a safe, human-moderated space to share your Hair Journey, discover new natural beauty, and take steps towards becoming “you” with the help of an understanding, supportive community.

    Join now for instant access to livestreams, discussions, and exclusive access to new products!