It’s no secret that some of the ingredients used in mainstream hair care are not exactly the best options when it comes to your personal wellbeing. But those harmful chemicals in hair products don’t just end up on your skin and in your body. They also have detrimental effects on the world you live in. Find how cosmetic ingredients are harmful to the environment and ways you can help to protect the earth.

How do Cosmetics Affect the Environment?

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It’s not just about your physical exposure, though that is certainly a big deal when it comes to using cosmetics with safe ingredients. When you consider what happens to a product after you use it on your skin and hair, you can see the exposure to the ingredients involved goes way beyond humans.

Once a product is rinsed off the skin, it goes down the drain and eventually enters our waterways. These pollutants are then absorbed by the soil and enter the oceans, reaching natural habitats, plant life, and wildlife.

Even if you are using products free from sketchy ingredients at home, there are other ways toxins are introduced into the environment. Pesticides used while growing crops run off and seep into the soil and enter waterways.

Sourcing and processing methods are also of concern when it comes to the environmental effects of cosmetic ingredient production. Take cheaply produced palm oil for instance, which is a leading cause of deforestation, as well as wildlife extinction and climate change.

Then there are the product packages. Sure, these plastics and other hazardous materials are filling up landfills. But they are also leaching into our soil and waterways, and some materials take hundreds of years to break down. Marine life also eats and gets tangled in plastic packaging, which can lead to death.

Which Harmful Chemicals in Hair Products Affect the Environment Most?

Here’s a quick look at which chemicals in hair products have the most detrimental and widespread effects on the environment:

• Studies show that chemical sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone (BP-3) and benzophenone-2 (BP-2) negatively impact the reproduction of some marine life and damage coral reefs, thus the call for use of “reef-safe” sunscreens, like zinc oxide.

Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen and can cause health concerns even at low levels. This contaminant can be found in some hair care products like shampoo and conditioner when they contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and polyoxymethylene urea).

Phthalates are a group of chemical plasticizers that research has shown to be potential reproductive toxicants and possible human carcinogens. Phthalates are often found in "Fragrance," therefore can be easy to spot on an ingredient label. Opt for "fragrance-free" products" when shopping for haircare products.

Parabens are synthetic preservatives widely used in cosmetics and are suspected of having the potential to disrupt hormones. Said to be safe in small amounts, many conventional hair care products use more than one type of paraben per product. Look for ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben on product labels.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS are used in hair care to create a water-resistant quality and are linked to potential human health effects. These chemicals do not break down in the environment, they contaminate soil and drinking water sources, and bioaccumulate in marine life and wildlife.

• Hair dye ingredients m- and o-phenylenediamine have been shown to irritate and sensitize the skin, damage DNA, and are suspected carcinogens.

• Sulfates are used in hair products to provide a lather, as in shampoos. But sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is known to be contaminated with ethylene oxide (a known human carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane (a possible human carcinogen). 1,4-dioxane is also persistent, meaning it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment for long periods of time after being rinsed down the drain.

Chemicals to Avoid in Hair Products and How to Find the Good Stuff

Now you can see the importance of using hair care products made without cosmetic ingredients harmful to the environment. That’s why we stock only the best products made with sustainable and natural ingredients that actually work.
How do we know which are the best? Ours are the strictest standards around. We take a close look at EVERY ingredient in EVERY product we carry and independently test each product to make sure what you see on the label is what you get. We also only carry products with recyclable packaging and promise you that anything you shop at North Authentic is free from the nasties on our Hair Crimes list.

written by Liz Thompson
Liz Thompson
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Shop "Free Of"

All North Authentic products are free of: Sulfates, parabens, EDTA, 1,4 Dioxian, and many more all provided in our Hair Crimes List. While we work with our brands to become even more conscious, we identify additional "Free Of" ingredients on every product page.

Shop "Free Of" ingredient preferences using our Filters. You can also take the North Authentic Hair Quiz to get your personalized hair care prescription of the best products for your hair curl type.