5 Ingredients I Avoid in Shampoo & Beauty Products

This post is sponsored by Morrocco Method.
Megan Gilmore with hair up in a messy bun and a baby in the background

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I take my hair for granted. Typically, I’ll wash it once or twice a week and then I’ll instantly pile it into a bun on top of my head and won’t think about it again until it’s time for my next shower.

When I started cleaning up my diet years ago, I still used shampoos that had a rich lather and left my hair smelling like I had spritzed it with perfume. It didn’t occur to me until much later (when I was trying to get pregnant for the first time) that I should probably upgrade the products I was using on my skin and hair, too.

Most people forget that the skin is our biggest organ, so the ingredients we put on it get absorbed into our bodies almost as if we had eaten them. (Hence, why birth control and nicotine patches are so effective.) If you look on the back of a shampoo bottle, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of ingredients!

morrocco method products including shampoo, hair and scalp masque, and euro oil

So, today I thought I’d share 5 potentially harmful ingredients that I try to avoid when choosing which beauty care products I’ll use. I hope it might help you choose healthier products, too.

Here are 5 ingredients I try to avoid:

  • Parabens. Parabens are a preservative commonly used in many beauty products, and they are suspected to be hazardous because they may slightly mimic estrogen. Extra estrogen exposure has been linked to the development and progression of breast cancer, and one study found that 18 of 20 tissue samples from breast cancer biopsies had detectable levels of parabens. I wouldn’t say for certain that parabens are cancer-causing, but I prefer to err on the safe side and reduce my exposure as much as possible.
  • Sulfates. Sulfates create the foamy lather that you commonly associate with hand soap and shampoo, with the most common ingredient being sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). I first heard of this ingredient from my old hairdresser, who told me to avoid it after dyeing my hair, as it is so effective at cleaning that it might cause my hair color to fade faster. According to the EWG, sulfates are a low hazard ingredient, contributing to organ toxicity, skin irritation, and possible harm to the environment. According to the American College of Toxicology, sulfates are considered to be safe when used in small amounts, ideally in concentrations below 1%. I’ve read that shampoos can contain concentrations of up to 15%, and in studies using that amount in lab rats, the harmful effects included depression, skin irritation, diarrhea, labored breathing, and even death.
  • Fragrance. Fragrance is a vague term that can actually stand for nearly 3,000 different ingredients. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the majority of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances come from petroleum and may contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, cancer, nervous system disorders, and allergies.
  • Triclosan. Commonly used in antibacterial soaps, body washes, and even in some toothpastes, this ingredient may make bacteria resistant to antibiotics and might affect thyroid hormones. It’s also being researched to see if it may contribute to certain cancers. The FDA has recently recommended that you stop using antibacterial soaps in favor of washing with just plain soap and water, so this is definitely an ingredient to skip!
  • DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine). These chemicals are added to shampoos and lotions to help create a lather. According to some studies, DEA may inhibit fetal brain development in mice by blocking the absorption of choline, a vital nutrient for brain development, and it may also have contributed to miscarriages in lab studies.

To easily avoid ALL of these chemicals and more, I’ve recently switched over to using Morrocco Method. What I love about their hair care products is that they are raw, vegan, and paleo, made with truly all-natural ingredients.

hand squeezing morrocco method apple cider vinegar shampoo onto hand

Morrocco Method’s shampoos are unlike any other that I’ve tried. They are earthy-colored, herbal scented, and they’re highly concentrated, so a little bottle will last you quite a while. You dilute the shampoo with 50% water just before using it to help distribute it through your hair, and it won’t lather at all.

Like, no lather whatsoever.

I’m not gonna lie, using a truly all-natural shampoo takes some getting used to when you’re coming from shampoos that smell like perfume and create a rich lather. However, when you check out the EWG’s Skin Deep Database and see how other brands stack-up on their hazard scale, I feel really good using hair products that get the best score they have to offer.

morrocco method healthy hair starter package

Morrocco Method recently sent me their Healthy Hair Care Starter Package to try out, because it contains almost all of their products, including their 5 all-natural shampoos, 6 raw conditioners (including a detox therapy hair mask), a styling gel, facial scrub, and a rubber scalp massager. It basically has everything you need to get started with a super-healthy hair care routine.

5 different kinds of morrocco method shampoo bottles

I’ve been consistently using these shampoos for a month now, alternating which of the 5 shampoos I use each time I shower, and I’m amazed at how clean my hair feels, even without any lathering. I’ve been using the leave-in conditioner to brush out my hair as a detangler, and this combination has been leaving my hair feeling healthy and less frizzy.

morrocco method products including shampoo and euro oil

If you’d like to try out some of these all-natural hair products for yourself, the folks at Morrocco Method are generously offering a special discount for my readers! Use the promo code DETOXINISTA15 at checkout to receive 15% off your entire order on MorroccoMethod.com.

I hope it will help motivate you to take better care of your hair!

READER FEEDBACK: Have you tried a non-lather shampoo yet? I’d love to hear what you think of them, too!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Morrocco Method but all opinions are my own. As always, I only agree to work with brands that I am happy to use in my own home. 

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Comments

SamRI

I don’t use any commercial products anymore and my highly sensitive skin is all the better for it. (Plus, my body doesn’t have to carry the burden of all those toxic chemicals.) I have course, curly hair and don’t do anything other than scrub my head while in the shower. I have a spray bottle of water mixed with ACV which I use as a conditioning rinse. My hair is so much healthier now. If my scalp gets itchy in the dead of winter, I massage it with coconut oil mixed with a couple drops of tea tree oil. I am glad there are healthier alternatives out there but it really isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on personal care products.

If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend Slow Death by Rubber Ducky and What’s Gotten Into Us? By McKay Jenkins. Plastic Purge by Michael San Clements is also a fascinating look at how all the plastic we consume is hurting our bodies and planet.

Thank you for your website! I love how accessible and delicious you make real food!

    Beverly

    Hi SamRI,

    I noticed you mentioned about not using commercial products anymore. I am trying to go that route. I know this is off the subject…but do you know of a good soap or other skincare products, because my skin is sensitive as well. Please feel free to email me at bevpay@twc.com

    Thank you in advance for your response. Have a great day.
    Beverly

Rachel

I use an Australian brand called everscents (I’m from Australia so try to shop local). They too are all natural, no lather and scented with pure essential oils. Definitely takes a bit of getting used to but I’m with you. Once I knew what was in my old shampoo switching over was a no-brainer – its frightening how many nasty ingredients we are unknowingly exposed to just through simple acts like cleaning ourselves. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure this article will be an a-ha for many xxx

Kathleen

Thanks so much for this list! I avoid parabens in my massage lotion, too!

Kalyani

L-O-V-E this post. I often can’t remember which chemicals to avoid and sometimes while it has good info, the EWG can be confusing with which fillers to actually avoid.

Thank you, accessible – simple and accurate. Much appreciated

Jenn

Thanks so much for sharing this! I usually use Acure products when I’m at home, but I travel a good bit for work and have been searching for what seems like forever for high quality, chemical free travel-sized hair products to take with me to avoid using icky hotel products or putting everything in a million tiny plastic bottles. I also like that they have travel sized facial products as well! Definitely looking forward to trying both!!

Thanks again 🙂

Emily

Have you noticed any buildup or waxy feeling in your hair from using their products? I’m just curious because I primarily try using more natural/safer shampoos and conditioners (BeautyCounter, Mineral Fusion, Shea Moisture, etc.) and I always seem to get a waxy buildup where it feels the product doesn’t rinse completely out even when I’ve made extra time for rinsing. Thanks! 🙂

    Megan Gilmore

    I haven’t noticed any sort of build up, but the first time I tried these shampoos I did feel like my hair was oilier for a while. I first tried them when I was pregnant 4 years ago, so I didn’t know if it was my hormones affecting things, but this time around I’ve been sure to use that hair scrubber tool while shampooing, and that seems to help keep the oil at bay!

Linda

Have you found a natural body lotion you like?

Darryl

I purchased Morrocco Method’s apple cider vinegar shampoo, a conditioner, and the sapphire mist detangler. I was so looking forward to these products and wanting them to work. However, I personally found these products ineffective and huge waste of money. Conditioner does nothing; it not a detangler, but makes my hair more tangled and feeling rough. The mist is just water with some essential oil in it.

    Morrocco Method

    Hi Darryl,

    We’re sorry to hear you’re not pleased with our products. You’re welcome to give our customer service a call. We would love to help you with using the products.

Andrea

I tried that Moroccan method stuff. IT was terrible. My hair was never clean. And I can’t deal with the no lather. I get that it doesn’t gave to lather to clean but the lather is Howe I can track which parts of my heD have gotten shampooed! But using the MM, I just felt I was putting dirt on my head and my hair never looked clean. I ci ti us to search for a healthy effective shampoo.

    Morrocco Method

    Hi Andrea,

    Have you tried applying our shampoos onto dry hair first? This way you can really feel where the product is touching and cleaning your scalp. Then do the second round of shampooing under the shower as usual.

Cecilia

I started using a non-lather shampoo about a month ago and my hair has never been happier.

BTW, absolutely looove this web page!! I’m finding diary gives me some strange allergies and the recipes here are sooo helpful and yummy (especially for bae to eat with me 🙂 Just yesterday I made him the chocolate chia pudding, and also today for breakfast. The idea of having dessert for breakfast feels sooo indulging when you are trying to eat healthy.

Thanks for doing this Megan!!

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