Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

Oct 9, 2021

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The following ingredients, among others, are either harmful to hair or to overall health and are found in most beauty products, not exclusively hair care. Most are synthetic and manipulated to enhance the hair care experience (that satisfying lather, too-good-to-be-true shine, fragrance that lasts for days and days), but have underlying issues. But just because ahimsa omits these ingredients doesn’t mean our shampoo doesn’t lather and smell fantastic! We just use all-natural ingredients that adhere to our “do no harm” policy.

Harmful ingredients in shampoo we avoid


Purpose: Strong detergents that get sudsy. Sulfates do a good job of washing away dirt and oil, leaving hair feeling squeaky clean.

Why we don’t use this ingredient: They do too good a job at stripping away oil, going so far as to rid your scalp of necessary oils. This is especially damaging for dry or fine hair. Sulfates may strip color from color-treated hair and can be irritating for people with dry or sensitive scalps. It can also lead to dry, frizzy hair, and therefore require even more products to put back the oils it stripped away. Ahimsa uses ingredients that are gentle on the scalp while still creating a satisfying lather without sulfates. Shop our sulfate-free shampoo here.


Purpose: Preservatives that extend the shelf-life of a product by preventing bacterial and fungal growth.

Why we don’t use this ingredient: Parabens are estrogen-mimickers that easily absorb into the bloodstream via the skin and scalp. On the surface, they can dry hair, cause scalp irritation and fade color, and many people have allergies to them. While paraben exposure hasn’t been concretely linked to negative health outcomes in humans, the collective practice of washing them away into wastewater contributes to environmental damage. Why use them if you don’t have to? (We don’t!)


Purpose: Used as a gelling and lubricating agent to make a product smooth and spreadable. Also present in most synthetic fragrances.

Why we don’t use this ingredient: Phthalates are synthetic ingredients that may disrupt or interfere with the hormone system. While currently allowed in the US, they are restricted in the EU and Canada. They aren’t in any way necessary in shampoo or conditioner, so again, if there’s reason to suspect they are harmful, we don’t use them.


Purpose: Silicones form a thin, waterproof coating around the hair cuticle, which keeps hair hydrated from within and aids in detangling. They also prevent moisture from penetrating the hair shaft, which causes frizz. They provide protection from the damage caused by repeat usage of heat-styling tools like blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons.

Why we don’t use this ingredient: While silicones are naturally derived, they are synthetically manipulated in a lab. Silicones aren’t necessarily dangerous from a health standpoint, though their repeated use on hair can damage it more than help it. With continued use, they build up and can make hair greasy, which collects dirt and residue, clogs pores, and causes scalp irritation. Then you’re having to wash your hair more often not because of your hair’s natural oiliness or your workout routine, but to wash away the added residue! Their main function of blocking moisture and nutrients from entering the hair shaft may initially tame frizz, but eventually will dry out the hair, leaving strands brittle and prone to breakage. Instead, we opt for all-natural ingredients that still leave hair shiny without residual buildup.

Synthetic Fragrances

Purpose: Synthetic fragrances are formulated to be strong and longer lasting than natural fragrances.

Why we don’t use this ingredient: Synthetic fragrances can contain thousands of hidden chemicals. Some ingredients in fragranced cosmetic products are known carcinogens. They can also irritate the skin and scalp, which can lead to hair loss. Instead, ahimsa is fragranced with natural fragrances and essential oils.