Shampoos are an essential part of toiletry needs of every individual. Despite knowing that it has chemical ingredients, most of which are harmful to us, few of us can do without it. We all want the cleaner, softer, stronger and bouncier or dandruff free hair that shampoos promise to us.

Most of us take the tall claims made by different brands with a pinch of salt. We know for sure it is not possible for a mere shampoo to deliver that crowning glory we dream of. But it is at this point the clarity ends and the grey area begins.


  1. Every brand of shampoo is unique
  2. Organic/herbal/natural shampoos contain no chemicals
  3. Mild shampoos/ baby shampoos are safe for adults and kids
  4. Harmful ingredients used in the shampoo are within 'safe' limits as prescribed by regulating agencies.
  5. Shampooing with hot water cleanses hair better
  6. Human shampoos are of better quality and would therefore be good for pets too.

How unique are different brands of shampoo which make different promises in their promotions? Is there any brand/type of shampoo which is free of harmful ingredients?

Most shampoo brands are similar with almost all the ingredients being same. These hair cleansing products are different only in their appearance, smell, packaging and marketing. A few might have an additional ingredient in the form of some chemical or an essential oil.

But the primary ingredients in all these shampoos are ingredients that are harmful to health. These harmful ingredients are supposedly within 'safe' limits as prescribed by regulating agencies, but these safe limits are with respect to one time usage. The long term impact or the impact of frequent usage is not mentioned.

Herbal or organic shampoos also might be containing these harmful ingredients. The greatest health risks are faced by children whose immune systems are not as developed. One can minimize the damage done by chemicals in shampoos by following it up with a natural conditioner as an egg mask or coconut oil with lemon skins

What are the harmful ingredients in shampoos to look out for?

Look out for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS, Coal tar, ZPTO ( a popular ingredient in most dandruff resistant shampoos) and preservatives.

SLS has an irritating/ damaging impact on the eyes especially of children. Moreover, the mention of SLS on shampoo labels is an indication that other harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde (preservatives); possible cancer-causing wetting agents such as cocamide DEA; and nitrosamine-forming agents (e.g., triethanolamine) are also present.

Coal tar is a popular ingredient in shampoos, found effective in controlling and reducing dandruff, is a known cancer-causing agent. Avoid shampoos which mention D&C Blue, Green # 3, Yellow#5 and 6, Red # 33 on the label.

ZPTO which is the presence of zinc pyrithione can cause severe allergic reactions, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness and lack of concentration.

Is there anything I should keep in mind while applying a shampoo?

Use a little bit of shampoo for too much of shampoo can make the hair dry and brittle. Apply it gently with fingers and not rub it on the scalp. Make sure that no residue of shampoo is left for these can damage the hair.

Those with dry hair need more conditioning while those with oily hair need to wash their hair more frequently and hence need a milder, daily wash formula. The amount of lather is no indication of a shampoo's effectiveness. In most cases it is an advertising myth.

Are natural ingredients in shampoo perfectly safe?

Contrary to popular belief natural ingredients might not be perfectly safe. The can be an irritant on the skin Ingredients such as lemon, menthol, peppermint, mint essentials, papaya other plant extracts might have an irritating impact on the scalp.

Are shampoos labeled natural/herbal/biodegradable safe?

No itís a myth that shampoos labeled natural/herbal or biodegradable are free of harmful chemicals. Contrary to belief, herbal or natural products are not be 100 per cent soap free or chemical free. If it relied only on herbal/ ayurvedic ingredients for its formula, the shampoo will not give the kind of lather or fragrance associated with good shampoos. Absence of preservatives will also shorten its shelf life.

Additional questions (unanswered)

  • Are mild shampoos/baby shampoos safe and free of chemicals?
  • If I have to use shampoos, what kind of conditioner shall I use?
  • Are shampoos with conditioners different from normal shampoos?
  • What do I keep in mind while selecting childrenís shampoo?
  • Are shampoos promising dandruff free hair effective against dandruff?
  • What should I do get rid of dandruff?
  • For coloured hair, do I need to use a different shampoo or would the usual shampoo do?