What shampoo ingredients should I avoid during pregnancy?

What shampoo ingredients should I avoid during pregnancy?

Once the pregnancy hormones are deployed into a woman’s bloodstream, cravings and nausea are not the only result. Unfortunately even her hair will not be spared. And in typical hormone style, the particular manifestations can be quite unpredictable. For some women dry hair could become oily, others could see their curly hair relax or still others might find that a dye suddenly produces a different hue to what they’re used to. Not to mention the fact that some women might sprout new hair in places they’d only ever seen on their most annoying uncles (that’s right, we’re talking face and back).

There’s no changing those hormones, sadly. There are however other risks associated with pregnancy that you can do something about. For one thing there are a number of chemicals in shampoos that could be harmful to your baby. PureRescue has compiled a list of some of the most troubling ones to steer clear of.


Maura Henninger, a naturopathic doctor from New York City, discussed the dangers of parabens in an interview with mom magazine. According to Henninger, parabens (often listed as sodium methylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben) are ingredients found in shampoos that you should avoid. The main concern with these substances is the fact that they act as estrogen (the female sex hormone) mimics. “Research shows that they may disrupt hormone balance and are thus a danger to the proper development of the fetus,” Henninger warns.

Further studies are required to ascertain exactly what effect parabens will have unborn babies. It is possible that they are more vulnerable to effects of hormone irregularities.

Vitamin A

A study in the 1990s indicated that excessive amounts of vitamin A can lead to birth defects in children. The babies of women who consumed more than 10,000 units of vitamin A every daily — which translates to four times the recommended levels — were more likely to be born with abnormalities in their head, heart, brain or spinal cord.

It must be noted that these studies refer primarily to supplements. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, supplements should remain below 3,000 mg/day. The amounts of vitamin A found in shampoo is generally lower but the conclusions reached in the studies are enough to warrant caution with the ingredient — at least for the first trimester of pregnancy.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which is not the same as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, is a foaming agent found in soaps and shampoos that has been linked to cancer and some birth defects. Be sure to read the packaging to make sure that the phrase “SLES free” appears.

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

MIT is a substance used to kill harmful bacteria that would otherwise thrive in the moisture of shampoos or lotions. The substance aroused concern in the early 2000s when a study found that MIT can disrupt our cells’ ability to communicate with their neighbors.

The study found that prolonged exposure to even small amounts of the chemical damaged the development of nerve cell structures called dendrites and axons. These structures play an important role in allowing cells to transmit signals to each other. The initial tests were done on rats but the researchers expressed the concern that the effect could be similar with unborn babies.

Ingredients to seek out

Fortunately there are a number of natural shampoos and conditioners that avoid the harmful substances mentioned above while still providing you with healthy, radiant hair throughout your pregnancy. When you are selecting your brands, try keep an eye out for a few ingredients that are particularly helpful. Shea butter is one such substance. It helps hair retain its moisture and thereby prevent breakage. Similarly coconut oil also helps infuse your hair follicles with moisture and vitality.

Of course aloe vera is another wonder ingredient that can help prevent hair loss as the gel provides your scalp with essential amino acids for a healthy sheen.

Bottom line

Pregnancy can be stressful enough without having to spend your time screening shampoos for harmful chemicals. By choosing plant-based alternatives you can skip all that and gain much needed peace of mind.

What are the most potentially harmful ingredients in conventional shampoo?

The marriage between modern science and commerce has produced some beautiful children over the years. For example, space rockets, segways and Michael Jackson. But of course science and capitalism have also produced some weird children too. That’s right, we’re looking at you, cosmetics industry.

Over the last 100 years or so big companies have enlisted the help of the best geeks to produce products that make our lips more luscious, the angle of our cheekbones more acute, and of course our hair more vibrant. Because these scientists have also been instructed to keep costs low, eventually society has ended up with a whole bunch of chemicals that may do all of the above, but at considerable risk to our health. In other words: while they were focusing on the cosmetic aspects, some health concerns may have fallen by the wayside. Below is a brief overview of two of the most worrying ingredients found in your shampoo.

Sulfate self-hate

Sulfates are a frothing ingredient found in many cosmetics and cleaning materials. They will usually be listed as SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), or ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS) — all words worth at least 35 points in scrabble. Basically, they are used to dislodge dirt and oil from your hair.

SLS and ALS are both considered anionic surfactants but are quite different in their molecular structures. ALS is much larger which means that it’s less likely to penetrate your pores. SLS, on the other hand, is the chemical that often gets written about because it is small enough to literally get under your skin and possibly cause irritation, reddening and erythema of the epidermis.

In America the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required that manufacturers carry a warning label about the dangers of swallowing too much toothpaste (which contains SLS) because of the risk of diarrhea. Also, some studies have shown that SLS has been linked to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes.

To be fair, when it comes to toxicity you have to keep dosage and exposure in mind. After all, high concentrations of cinnamon oil would be toxic on your skin. A shampoo containing 15 percent SLS can be sold to the public because it generally comes into contact with your skin for just a few minutes and is diluted by water. Still, these levels are broadly determined with the average person in mind. The fact that you’re reading this probably means that you have had some kind of negative reactions on your skin as a result of using conventional products, which means you have reason to be more cautious than most.

Parabens bans

Parabens belong to the family of esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. There are all sorts of technical names for the various kinds, such as methylparaben (E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) and butylparaben, which are the most common. They are antibacterial and antifungal agents, which is why they are used as preservatives. They can even be found naturally in food such as strawberries or peaches, as well as in the human body.

Like sulphates the toxicity of industrially produced parabens depends on the degree to which you are exposed to them. Though each product typically stays within government stipulated limits, it becomes harder to track the cumulative effect of these products given that they are found in so many products. In other words: Using one manufacturer’s products won’t be very problematic. Using many different ones over a lifetime could start to add up.

Parabens are worrying because they tend to disrupt hormone function, an effect which some have linked to breast cancer and reproductive toxicity, according to the NGO Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). Parabens function as estrogen mimics. That means your body perceives an increase of estrogen levels which is said to trigger a more rapid division of breast cells. It must be said that new research suggests that the link between parabens and cancer is inconclusive. But this is not just a matter scientific “he said, she said”. At the end of the day, the risk parabens pose is so severe that in 2014 the EU banned five specific parabens from being used commercially.

Bottom line

There probably isn’t a mass conspiracy to give you cancer through your shampoo. Regulators are very careful about the concentration of chemicals that they allow you to get exposed to. At the same time, specifically sulphates and parabens have made their way into so much of our everyday products that the cumulative effect is beginning to be problem — especially when it comes to a product that some literally use every day. Fortunately there are a number of natural alternatives that clean you well without incurring unnecessary risks.

So what are the safe alternatives? Well yes, this is the part where we make a shameless promotion of our products because they are safe, natural alternatives. Have a read about them here, or first read on about the wonders of natural alternatives.