8 Hair Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Thinning Hair

8 Hair Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Thinning Hair

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While plenty of hair care products promise to prevent further hair thinning, some of them may actually contain ingredients that cause hair loss without you even realizing it. Not all shampoos and conditioners are created equal, and many of the products you find in the hair care aisle are loaded with chemicals that do more harm than good. Before you step into the shower for your next lather and rinse, take a moment to get to know the bad ingredients in hair products that you should be wary of.

What Ingredients Are Bad for Hair?

When dealing with thinning hair, you’ll want to ensure you’re not using products that don’t do your hair any favors. Shampoo ingredients that cause hair loss are sometimes hidden in plain sight, so it pays to be extra meticulous with what exactly you’re washing your hair with. Here is a list of the most common ingredients that cause hair loss.

1. Sulfates

Sulfates (often listed as sodium lauryl sulfates and sodium laureth sulfates), also known as surfactants, are highly effective cleansing and foaming agents responsible for that squeaky clean feeling you get after every wash. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. These chemicals can be too powerful for their own good. They can strip away your hair’s natural oils and damage your follicles, leading to dryness and breakage and exacerbating hair loss.

2. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a common preservative in cosmetics, including hair growth and straightening products. The FDA has linked it to side effects that include eye irritation, headaches and dizziness, nausea, and respiratory problems. 

While no studies conclusively associate formaldehyde with hair loss, some research shows that straightening products containing this preservative can potentially damage the hair shaft, cause scalp inflammation, and trigger hair loss.

3. Parabens

Like formaldehyde, parabens are added to cosmetic products to make them last longer and prevent mold and bacteria from growing. In high concentrations, they’ve been linked to cancer and environmental damage, earning parabens one of the worst reps in the world of cosmetics ingredients. 

They have also been classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with normal hormone functions and affect your overall health in several ways. This is also bad news for your hair, as hormones and hair growth go hand in hand. Certain hormones regulate hair cycle, growth, and density; an imbalance can lead to hair thinning or hair loss.

4. Ethanolamines

Ethanolamines such as diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA) are known as pH stabilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives in hair products. But what the labels don’t tell you is that these ingredients are also considered allergens and may cause organ toxicity and harm the liver and kidneys. 

Ethanolamines can also damage hair keratin and irritate the scalp, leading to hair loss. A study has also found that MEA, along with hydrogen peroxide, is the leading cause of hair dye-induced dermatitis and hair loss.

5. Phthalates

Phthalates give shampoos their rich and smooth consistency. They are also used as scent enhancers, so you won’t always see them on product labels since they’re sometimes only listed as “fragrance.” But don’t let the sweet scent fool you. Studies have linked certain phthalates to cancer, reproductive issues, and—like parabens—endocrine disruption. And we know by now that wreaking havoc in your hormone functions is one of the surest ways to mess up your hair growth cycle.

6. Synthetic fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are some of the most common allergens and skin irritants in cosmetic products. The problem with synthetic fragrances is that labels don’t list the exact substances used in creating a scent (hello, phthalates!), so which potential irritants are in the formula is really anyone’s guess. In hair care products, synthetic fragrances can irritate the scalp, damaging hair follicles and affecting hair growth along the way.

7. Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol acts as a humectant and is often used in hair loss treatments for its solvent properties: it helps in the solubility and effective absorption of active ingredients. However, it’s also been shown to cause skin allergies and bring about hair loss by stripping away natural oils and irritating the scalp.

A better alternative to propylene glycol is propanediol. This natural substitute is generally deemed safer and gentler than its synthetic counterpart. An essential component in hair growth products, it provides all the good stuff that propylene glycol does—enhancing product absorption and aiding hydration—without having to deal with risks and side effects.

8. Silicones

Silicones give your hair a protective coating that locks in moisture and makes hair smoother. While this sounds like a dream for dry, brittle, and thinning hair, silicone can also weaken and weigh down hair strands and leave hair looking lifeless. That same protective layer can also work against your hair by preventing moisture from penetrating the hair shaft and aggravating dryness over time.

Fight Hair Loss With Clutch

combat hair loss with clutch

Stocking up on hair growth products may be the easiest way to do damage control for thinning hair. But without knowing what exactly goes into your hair products, you could just be making the problem worse. Fortunately, with the help of Clutch Thick AF Hair Density Serum—a natural hair growth product that’s formulated with the cleanest ingredients and works precisely as intended without unwanted side effects—you’re not only stemming hair loss, you’re also making sure your hair and scalp are always in fighting form!