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.