…And the Ingredients to Avoid 

 Choosing a healthy, natural, pure baby shampoo involves gaining some knowledge about

Baby in tub, shampooing his own hair his own hair

What ingredients are in your babies shampoo?

some of the ingredients that you want to avoid. The following article will provide that knowledge.

It is very important to do everything possible to limit a baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. One of the ways that we can do that is to educate ourselves about choosing a natural, pure baby shampoo that is free of harmful chemicals.

“Children are more susceptible to the impact of toxic chemicals than adults are because their central nervous systems and immune systems are still developing. One consequence of that reality is that they are less able to expel toxins from their bodies. Furthermore, babies and children breathe more air per body weight than do adults, which means that they will have a higher exposure by way of inhalation.”*

There are many healthy, pure alternatives to choose from. It is my belief that reducing the amount of chemicals that children are exposed to, will go a long way towards diminishing the incidence of allergies and chemical sensitivities and lower the risk of other illnesses as well. We need to do everything in our power to give babies the best chance possible for a healthy life. Making informed choices about all of the products both internal and external that babies come into contact with such as shampoo, can have a massive impact upon their future health.

The following is a list of common ingredients in baby shampoo and shampoo in general. I have listed the reasons that they are used by the manufacturers and also some of the negative health implications for each ingredient. It is worth noting that in general, many mainstream companies make decisions on which ingredients to use for a specific need based upon finding the cheapest substances that will be effective for their desired purpose. This practice, improves their margin per unit. In other words, it means their profits are higher. I wish to be clear; I am in favour of business’ making a fair profit for their efforts; just not at the expense of people’s health, or the health of our planet.

Baby Shampoo Ingredients To Avoid

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate-(SLS)/Sodium Lareth Sulphate-(SLES)

The two above ingredients are both foaming/lathering agents however, they are also skin, eye and respiratory tract irritants. (Shampoo does not have to be excessively foamy in order to be effective).


These related chemical additives are used to adjust PH levels and to act as surfactants. DEA and TEA are known to combine with nitrates (which can be present as a contaminant in shampoo) to form nitrosamines which are classified as possible carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Repeated skin applications of DEA were found to cause liver and kidney damage in animals and DEA accumulates in organs. TEA is also used as an ingredient in ‘fragrance’. Incidentally, ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’, as found on ingredient lists can itself contain up to 3000 separate ingredients. TEA is toxic to skin, respiratory and immune systems.

Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone

These are often used in shampoo as preservatives. Animal studies have shown these to be toxic to the immune system and possibly to developing nervous systems.


This is a Quaternary Ammonium Compound and is added to shampoo as a surfactant and/or preservative. It makes hair feel softer immediately after use, but long-term use will cause dryness.  (This fact in turn causes an even greater reliance on hair conditioners, which means more product sold). Concerns about this ingredient include contact dermatitis and asthma-like symptoms even including respiratory arrest.

Dimethyl Phthalates (DMP) and other Phthalates

This is a suspected ‘endocrine disruptor’ (disrupts hormonal system and interferes with reproduction). Unfortunately, phthalates are not generally listed as ingredients on labels because Canada’s Cosmetic Regulations allow them to be included under the heading of “fragrance”. One of the reasons they are used in shampoo is to make the fragrance last longer. There have been several studies completed that have strong implications about fertility for both men and women and for several years many types of phthalates have been banned by the European Union for use in cosmetics.

In addition to phthalates, there are two other prominent items very often found in baby shampoo that will not be listed as ingredients. That is because they are not ‘technically’ ingredients. One of these is formaldehyde, which is released over time by any number of commonly used preservatives such as quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin. The second unlisted ingredient is 1,4 dioxane, which is a by-product of a process used to process certain chemicals to make them gentler. Manufacturers are aware that these two chemicals are produced in their products by virtue of the aforementioned chemical interactions; however, because they are not added to the product intentionally, they do not have to be listed as ingredients.

According to Health Canada,

“Formaldehyde is an irritant, and exposure to high concentrations of formaldehyde can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat”

What Health Canada says in the following quote is somewhat more telling,

“long-term exposure to moderate formaldehyde concentrations (at levels lower than those causing irritation) may also be linked to respiratory symptoms and allergic sensitivity, especially in children”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogenic on the basis of evidence garnered from several epidemiological studies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently classifies both formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane as probable human carcinogens.

Finally, there are often pesticides and other impurities contained in shampoo that will not be listed on the ingredients list because they are contaminants of the intentional ingredients.

One more note of import. Promoters of the products containing these and other harmful ingredients will often steadfastly maintain their position on a three legged stool. 

The first leg of the stool is comprised of the statement that the quantities of these chemical ingredients are so low that they will not have a negative health impact.
The second leg:  they state that there are not enough scientific studies to prove unequivocally that these toxic ingredients cause illness.
The third leg of the stool is that use of these toxins are necessary to make the products safe for use. (?!) (Irony anyone?).

These are invalid arguments and I will deal with these misleading notions in future articles.

At this point, having spent considerable time informing you my reader about some of the harmful effects of these chemicals; I urge you to be reassured, as there are many excellent alternatives now available for people who want to make new choices.  For examples, see Carina Organics and also Living Libations.  Both of these companies make some of the purest, cleanest body care products that I have found anywhere – period.  Juice Beauty also carries great products for children, including shampoo.

*Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia