Bathe At Your Own Risk: The Evils of Shampoo

By Rachel Cernansky | March 30, 2009 12:10 pm

baby.jpgThink washing your hair is a harmless act of hygiene? Think again! That is, if researchers into the dark sides of shampoo have anything to say about it.

It turns out that a fragrance used in many shampoos is a common allergen that may even cause eczema. Air-oxidized linalool, which is present in up to 80 percent of shampoo products, has been ranked as the third most common eczema-causing substance, falling behind only nickel and cobalt.

And even if you escape the eczema, once you wash and send those suds down the drain, they start spreading drug-resistant bacteria, according to new reports. Sewage sludge collected by municipalities contains antibiotic-resistant microbes that grow faster in the presence of chemicals in shampoo and household detergents.

Bad news for clean freaks—but hey, the no-shampooing look has certainly worked for some.

Image: Flickr / joeltelling

MORE ABOUT: bacteria, hygiene
  • ArgosyCasinoLawrenceBurg

    omg… good post.

  • brando

    i dont care im going to wash my hair anyway.

  • loopyloop

    I read that ‘the Elvis of Shampoo’.

  • okaasan59

    I once met a young woman who had done volunteer work in Africa where there was not enough water for hair washing. She said basically the same thing–that after a few weeks the scalp stops producing oils and you can’t tell the hair is unwashed.

  • Rasselas

    Two points:

    First, there is a carcinogen in almost all shampoos as well, sodium laurealate (and derivatives). At least that’s my understanding. It’s the suddsing agent(s).

    Second, if the scalp really stops producing oils after a month or so, wonder if we could just invent a HAIR washer, that didn’t get shampoo on the scalp or such, and use it for a month, and thereafter, we would never have to wash our hair again (unless it got dirt on it or such)… at least on account of oils???


  • Alicia

    Actually, there are a lot of people who have successfully stopped using shampoo and use a combination of baking soda to wash and dilluted apple cider vinegar to rinse. Google “no poo” (um, yeah, idiot phrase) for more info.

    My kids and I did it as a sort of a science experiment with some friends a few years ago and it was suprisingly effective. You mix some baking soda with water and clean your scalp area with that (it gets rid of oils but is drying so the hair further down typically doesn’t need it) and then rinse with water with some ACV.

    I thought the vinegar would turn my long hair into rope but it made it surprisingly soft and pouffy. Apparently the vinegar smooths the hair shaft and keeps it from getting tangled. I got a lot of compliments on my hair the few months I did it (it was very shiny and light), and it was a super easy way to wash my little kids’ hair without worrying about buying expensive natural products.

    The ACV smells when you use it but you can’t smell it on your hair afterwards. Each of us that tried it had slightly different results since we had different hair but nobody fried their hair or anything.

    It’s a little more trouble and after a while I missed my fancy scented glops and went back. :)

  • Claire C Smith

    Hya Rachel,

    I am really bothered by shampoos and conditioners.

    I really hate having a dirty scalp and hair but just as much hate having to use what seems now, many modern shampoos and conditioners that really itch my scalp.

    About two months ago I gave all my oldish bottles of shampoo and conditioner to my mum (half of them were nearly un opended), as I decided to use ones that that didn’t have that strawberry chemical smell in them. Try this. Go to a store and see how many smell of this strange strawbeery wiff and you might find that not many are without it. The expensive ones have loads of it in.

    It took me a few weeks to find some without this chemical (which I am not sure what it is), but they are far and few.

    Hhere’s what I found:

    Tesco’s baby shampoo was my choice (I dont have children or babies, so it was amusing buying thses for myself). I am sure some adults do use Baby Shampoo, so I have many bottles now! I aslo use a conditioner that is not a babay product, but supposed ot be kind to your scalp, but it’s quite expensive and padded out with water and other agents. The Tesco’s baby shampoo is very cheap, so it balances out. I once experimented and used just soap, which I love to use only on the body, but it apparently leaves calcium carbonate on your hair shaft making it a bit dull, even though it feels quite clean but soap can also have nasties in it. It made my hair dull so I gave that idea up.

    When my hair is dry (as it’s longish and often in ponytail) I use a little bit of Pure Extra Virgin Olive Oil as a serum only on the ends, but as a warning here, only ever use s small amount, it is very concetrated. It seems to close the hair shaft and smooths quite well and creates a really natural shine.

    If anyone thinkas about using natural stuff for hair I often wonder whether if using water with crushed lemons and salt (salt to soften water?) lemon to freshen hair and clean, might be a good option. The conditioner could be crushed banana, beer and olive oil!


  • Rick

    According to a specialist in Ottawa, Canada who deals in contact dermatitis, allergic reactions to chemicals in health care products is increasing. A chemical called (DMAPA) otherwise known as 3- Dimethylaminopropylamine and other chemicals similar in structure appeared to be responsible for impaired breathing in workers exposed at concentrations of 0.55- 1.38 mg/m3. This chemical can be found in most shampoos and according to the national cancer institute merits further study as there is a lack of chronic toxicity data and some dermal reactions warrant more study.

  • Daisy

    I had starting shampooing only once a week a few months ago. I started doing it because my hair is so fine and thin & now that Im in my mid thirties, I want to avoid at all costs it getting any finer or thinner at all costs (I know alot of women with the babyfine hair problem start to get the whole balding thing ahappening when they age). It took a few weeks at least for my head to get used to it & not get oily and gross but it happened & now……my hair is more full and healthy than ever! OF COURSE I still bathe everyday to all those who are grossed out! But I do notice towards the end of that week how when I rub my fingers on my scalp then smell them….it smells like when my kids were babies and they had cradle cap or the way a babies neck sometimes smells….deos anyone know how to deal with that without having to go back to ruining my hair with shampoo? Ive heard that some people rub baking soda into thier scalp or acv but will that mess with the whole ph balance thing?


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