These shampoos contain unwanted chemicals.
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These shampoos contain unwanted chemicals

Four out of 10 shampoos contain suspected endocrine disrupters, allergens, or PFAS.

Christel Søgaard Kirkeby · Foto: Getty Images · 29. oktober 2023
shampoo i hår

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals have investigated the ingredient lists of 72 shampoos purchased in physical stores and online.

We have bought shampoos for fine hair, normal hair, dry hair, etc., and checked whether they contain chemicals that are problematic for health or the environment.

These brands are included in the test

We have purchased shampoos that are often scanned in our app Kemiluppen, as well as a variety of other products to cover the market broadly.

For example, shampoos Redken, Schwarzkopf, and Kevin Murphy are included.

Four out of 10 shampoos contain unwanted chemicals

In the test, 30 out of 72 shampoos receive the lowest rating, C-rating, because they contain problematic chemicals.

These include allergenic preservatives such as Methylisothiazolinone or MI, which is highly allergenic and can be problematic for the environment. MI is often found in products like paint and detergents.

In 19 shampoos tested, suspected endocrine disrupters have been found. These include substances such as benzyl salicylate, salicylic acid, BHT, and parabens.

PFAS in one shampoo

In the test, the shampoo "Curl shampoo" from Living Proof contains the PFAS substance Octafluoropentyl methacrylate.

PFAS is a group of substances that are particularly problematic for our environment and health. These substances may be added to care products to make the product dirt- and water-repellent or to achieve a specific consistency.

More than half of the shampoos contain perfume

Perfume is a common ingredient in shampoo that gives freshly washed hair a pleasant scent. A total of 47 shampoos in the test contain perfume.

Shampoo is a rinse-off product that you wash out with water, so your exposure to perfume can belower than, products which remains on the skin for many hours. But the concentration of perfume in shampoo may be higher.

It's a good idea to limit your exposure to perfume, which is found in many cosmetic and care products and can lead to lifelong allergies. You can reduce the risk by using fewer products with perfume.

The front of the shampoo bottle does not always match the back

In the test, there are examples of shampoos that suggest on the packaging that the product is free of many chemicals. However, when you turn the product over and read the ingredient list, the story may be different.

For example, "Curl Wow Hooked Shampoo" from Color Wow advertises itself as "100% Clean Shampoo" on the front. However, the ingredient list shows that the product contains BHA, which is a suspected endocrine disrupter, and a substance rarely seen in care products.

Therefore, it's always a good idea to check the ingredient lists of products if you want to know what's actually in them.

Several shampoos are good choices

There are also several good choices of shampoo without unwanted chemicals. In the test, 24 shampoos perform well and receive the highest rating, A-rating.

Many of these good shampoos have the Swan label and/or allergy labels such as Asthma Allergy Nordic and Allergy Certified.

Be aware of the cocktail effect

It's not the individual substance or product that poses a risk to your health.

It's the combined cocktail of unwanted chemicals in your daily life that researchers are concerned about. Therefore, it's a good idea to reduce unwanted chemicals where you can.

Tips for avoiding unwanted chemicals in shampoo:

  • Check your shampoo for unwanted chemicals using the Kemiluppen app (available in Denmark)
  • Choose shampoos with ecolabels such as the Nordic Swan or the EU-flower, they sets requirements for environmental and health considerations.
  • Choose perfume-free shampoos, for example, by looking for allergy labels such as Asthma Allergy Nordic or Allergy Certified.

About the test

  • The Consumer Council Think Chemistry has purchased shampoos from the Danish market in physical stores and online. Among the shampoos in the test are products that have been frequently scanned in the Kemiluppen app. However, a range of other shampoos has also been purchased to ensure broad market coverage.

    This is a declaration test, meaning that the products have not been analyzed for the quantities of the substances they contain.

    We have contacted the manufacturers to ensure that the products tested are not discontinued.

    Various types of shampoos are included in the test, including those for fine hair, normal hair, dry hair, and so on. There are also several dandruff shampoos included in the test.

    Please be aware that dandruff shampoos are only intended for short-term treatment, not for daily use.

  • In total, 72 shampoos were tested:

    • 24 received the best chemical rating A.
    • 18 received a medium chemical rating B.
    • 30 received a poor chemical rating C.

    The problematic substances found in the test are all legal. Generally, there is no risk associated with using these products. However, these problematic substances have undesirable properties, such as being suspected of affecting the hormonal system or causing lifelong allergies. Therefore, it's a good idea to minimize your exposure to these substances.

    Suspected Hormone-Disrupting Substances:

    Nineteen shampoos in the test contain suspected endocrine disrupters, including:

    • Benzyl salicylate (found in 9 shampoos): An UV filter and fragrance ingredient, suspected endocrine disrupter and allergenic.
    • Salicylic acid (found in 8 shampoos): A suspected endocrine disrupter and potentially harmful to reproductive health.
    • BHT (found in 4 shampoos): Suspected endocrine disrupter.
    • Ethylhexyl salicylate (found in 2 shampoos): An UV filter, suspected endocrine disrupter.
    • Benzophenone-4 (found in 2 shampoos): An UV filter, suspected endocrine disrupter
    • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (found in 1 shampoo): An UV filter, suspected endocrine disrupter and potentially harmful to the environment.
    • BHA (found in 1 shampoo): Suspected endocrine disrupter.
    • Isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate (found in 1 shampoo): An UV filter, suspected endocrine disrupter.
    • Sodium methylparaben (found in 1 shampoo): Suspected endocrine disrupter.
    • Ethylparaben (found in 1 shampoo): Suspected endocrine disrupter..
    • Cyclopentasiloxane (found in 1 shampoo): Suspected endocrine disrupter and problematic to the environment.

    Allergenic Substances/Preservatives:

    Thirteen shampoos in the test contain allergenic substances or preservatives, including:

    • Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (found in 9 shampoos): Allergenic preservatives that can also be problematic for the environment.
    • Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (found in 3 shampoos): An allergenic preservative.
    • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (found in 1 shampoo): An allergenic preservative that releases formaldehyde.
    • Glyoxal (found in 1 shampoo): An allergenic substance suspected of potentially harming our genetic material.

    PFAS:

    One shampoo in the test contains PFAS (Octafluoropentyl methacrylate), a fluorinated compound that can be problematic for the environment and is suspected of having adverse health effects.

    Other substances, that may be problematic:

    • Forty-seven shampoos in the test contain perfume, which amounts to half of the products.
    • Seventeen shampoos contain substances that are potentially harmful for the environment, including Benzalkonium chloride, LAS compounds, and EDTA compounds.