The Dirt on Shampoo Ingredients: 8 Tips On What to Look For and What to Avoid


You can probably pick out shampoo faster than it takes you to read this sentence, but accidentally snagging a bad one can strip your hair of protective oils, cause breakage, and even contribute to hair loss.

Here's a breakdown of ingredients to avoid, along with a list of the most beneficial for sudsing up.

Biggest Offenders

1. Sulfates
They're strong chemical detergents (also found in kitchen degreasers like dishwasher soap) that give shampoo that foamy quality, but they can cause scalp irritation, redness, and itching.

2. Isopropyl Alcohol
The petroleum-derived substance cleans and dissolves oils, but it's also found in antifreeze, wood finish, and shellac. Alcohol is also extremely drying and strips hair of moisture, which can lead to hair damage and loss.

3. Formaldehyde
The chemical preservative kills bacteria, but it's also a known carcinogen that irritates the eyes and respiratory system and can cause skin inflammation.

4. Propylene Glycol
The detergent helps cleaning ingredients penetrate hair, but it also breaks down healthy-hair proteins and irritates sensitive skin and eyes.

• • •

The Good Guys

1. Glycerin
It acts as a protective barrier to follicles, helping hair retain moisture long after you've rinsed.

2. Nut and Seed Oils
Jojoba, avocado, and shea naturally add moisture and shine to hair while also removing oily build up.

3. Acidic ingredients
Sodium citrate or citric acid helps keep shampoo at the right pH balance to wash away dirt and oil while also causing hair cuticles to lie flat so hair looks shiny and smooth.

4. Panthenol
A form of vitamin B, it thickens hair follicles and helps to retain moisture and shine.

• • •

Recommended Shampoos

For Daily Shampooers: Apivita Shampoo for Frequent Use ($20)

For the Spare-Haired: Apivita Shampoo for Thinning Hair ($22)


For a Little TLC: Dr. Harris Therapeutic Shampoo


Best for Less: J.R. Liggett's Jojoba and Peppermint Bar Shampoo ($7)

• • •

Also on
The 5 Best Clay Masks and Volcanic Scrubs
Best Men's Hairstyles and Cuts
Get the Look: Modern-Day Don Draper Hair

Photo courtesy of Corbis
Details Newsletters
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, and Privacy Policy.
Subscribe to Details
Newsletter Sign Up
  • Get the latest in men's style, grooming, diet, fitness and pop-culture trends every Wednesday. See Sample
  • Get the most popular articles, blog posts, and slideshows of the past week every Saturday. See Sample
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, and Privacy Policy.
Powered By ZergNet
Subscribe to Details

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest in men's style, grooming, health, and pop-culture news every day.
Will be in accordance with our Privacy Policy