It may smell like a sea breeze, but does your shampoo harbour nasty chemicals?

If you’re longing for purity, you’re not alone.

There are safer, simpler hair care products out there, but how do we find them?

“As a general rule,” says Janelle Witzel, program manager of Toxics and Health at Environmental Defence, “people should look for products made with the fewest number of ingredients and those made with ingredients that have names they can understand.”

Ergo, citric acid good; sodium hydroxymethylglycinate bad. Labels can be misleading, says Witzel.

“Claims or names that include ‘natural,’ ‘eco’ or ‘organic’ on the front of the bottle should always be verified by looking at the ingredient list on the back.”

A word of warning: safer, healthier shampoos often cost more than mainstream ones.

You may be able to find out more about your shampoo by visiting, which ranks the safety of personal care products on a scale of one to 10.

It is a U.S. site.

Picking up on the purity trend, The Body Shop now offers its Rainforest Hair Care Collection, which is free of silicones, colourants, and parabens. This line of shampoos and conditioners is non-toxic and biodegradable.

Safer suds:
asked Janelle Witzel from Environmental Defence (ED) — an organization
that protects human health — to alert us to some of the ingredients we
should avoid when buying shampoo.

Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate:
These are lathering agents. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a known skin
irritant and suspected liver toxin. Sodium laureth sulfate, like other
chemicals that have “eth” in their name (e.g., polyethelene glycol --
or PEG), may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a chemical which is
suspected of causing cancer.

Cyclomethicone and siloxanes (e.g., cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, or cyclohexasiloxane):
Substances that make things shiny and are suspected of interfering with
the hormonal system. They also irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs, and
can stick around in the environment for a long time.

Often contains some phthalates to help scents last longer. Phthalates
are a group of man-made chemicals that disrupt the hormonal system, and
can cause infertility and birth defects of male reproductive organs.

An antimicrobial/antibacterial agent that can weaken the immune system,
disrupt the hormonal system, and convert to chemicals known to cause

DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate:
Preservatives that release small amounts of formaldehyde over time.
Formaldehyde is a recognized human carcinogen and a substance that has
been linked to various other health effects.

Preservatives that can easily penetrate the skin and are suspected of
interfering with hormonal system and causing cancer. They also irritate
the skin.