What Chemicals Cause Hair Loss?
With the many conveniences of the modern world come some notable downsides for hair health and longevity. Chemical compounds, while not all bad, may be wreaking havoc on our hairlines at a microscopic level, potentially accelerating thinning and balding.
Chemicals can even take a toll on facial hair, impacting hormones and developmental signals.
Unfortunately, these effects won’t be listed on product labels anytime soon — it’s up to you to identify these harmful hidden compounds in everyday life and do your best to avoid them. With some research and education, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.
Let’s talk about the main chemicals that can cause hair loss, which products contain common culprits, and how to overcome these challenges with natural and safe solutions.
Which Chemicals Are Worst for Hair?
The good news is that certain chemicals are identifiable and more avoidable, especially as consumers and manufacturers become more conscious of these issues. The following chemicals are found primarily in hair and skin care products and should be first on your list of compounds to try to avoid.
Synthetic Mineral Oils
Natural minerals and vitamins work wonders for hair in moderation, but synthetic alternatives may be detrimental. This is due to their instability and potential for oxidation, which could accelerate skin aging or disrupt anagen cycles for follicle units.
When assessing essential oils and mineral oil products, opt for organic only, steering clear of “enriched” products that rely strictly on synthetics.
Synthetic Dyes and Fragrances
Pretty colors and nice smells are compelling marketing techniques for hair care products, and sales numbers confirm this.
However, these dyes and fragrances don’t always promote hair health or quality by any metrics. These additives can hurt hair over time, especially those derived from petroleum and coal tar.
Manufacturers use parabens in various health products to extend shelf lives and create more stable formulations. Shockingly, high concentrations of parabens were found in cancer patients throughout the early 2000s, in addition to disrupted hormones and other issues.
While these connections may not be conclusive, we suggest opting for a paraben-free shampoo or conditioner the next time you’re shopping.
People with oily hair might enjoy the powerful cleansing properties of sulfates in shampoos, but these cheap chemicals have proven harmful after prolonged use. In short, sulfates are industrial-grade degreasers that would better be used for your baking pans than your scalp.
Save your hair’s natural oils and use a natural alternative to sulfates whenever possible.
You might recognize this compound from professions that don’t exactly deal with hair care. Formaldehyde and its derivatives have been banned in many regions worldwide for commercial use but remain in circulation in the USA.
Even products marketed as “formaldehyde-free” may contain trace amounts, so proceed with caution.
Some toners and cleansers contain alcohol for their cleansing effects, but denatured alcohols can be overly drying to the point of harming the scalp and roots.
Your best bet is to try to avoid hair and skin products containing alcohol and use natural cleansers to achieve the same outcomes.
Some beauty enthusiasts enjoy the trademark “shine” created by silicones in shampoos, hair masks, and conditioners. Occasional use is mostly safe, but problems begin when silicones accumulate and seal the hair shaft from absorbing natural oils and moisture.
Over time, this can lead to drying hair from the inside out, so it’s best to leave silicones on the shelf and opt for natural castor or jojoba oils.
Flip over your plastic water bottle or garbage bin to see that plastic polymers like phthalates form the foundation of these products. In short, would you put those same tough plastics in your hair and skin, even if the products claim to be 100% safe?
It’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid plastics when shopping for skin and hair care products.
The 4 Focus Areas of Hair Health
The first step to minimizing chemical exposure is knowing where harmful compounds are found and what they do.
While some elements are beyond our control, you can do plenty to help your hair survive and thrive. Here are four areas to focus on and action steps to take right now.
1. Water Supply
Since water is the basis of all life, impurities and chemicals in the water supply are a top concern when assessing our environment and preserving hair.
No matter where you live, research your water quality and see what’s happening at a micro level in the water you drink and use. Thankfully, there are countless ways to improve your water quality, including faucet filters for sinks, showers, and other utilities.
You can purify water in large batches for drinking and cooking or even buy spring water in greater volumes at more reasonable prices. For instance, reverse osmosis systems remove sediment and chemicals like chlorine from water with ease.
Even if your tap water lacks purity, you can find a workaround to preserve your health and hair. The time and cash are worth investing.
2. Air and Atmosphere
The air we breathe is more than just oxygen and nitrogen. Particulates accumulate in our atmosphere and may accelerate hair loss, even in rural environments.
Over many years of daily exposure to polluted air, scalp hair may become dry, brittle, lose natural color, and generally become more prone to thinning and balding.
However, you have more control over your home air quality than you may think, so fear not. Start by checking your home for mold and reducing particle buildup with frequent cleaning and dusting. Investing in a quality vacuum and upgrading HVAC systems can go a long way.
You can also find standalone air purifiers that run quietly and add a modern look to your space. There are numerous natural alternatives to chemical-laden air fresheners, including essential oils, beeswax candles, and ultrasonic humidifiers.
Even if you live in a crowded city, you can create a clean and chemical-free sanctuary in your living space, benefiting your hair and all aspects of health.
3. Household Items
From dish soap to tissue paper, detergents to plastic kitchenware, the barrage of chemicals in household products might seem unstoppable.
Luckily, awareness is rising, and many alternative products can be found for those willing to research and procure them.
While we don’t suggest you ditch the cleaning supplies and hygienic practices, consider finding products with more natural active ingredients. Keep an eye out for trusted brands, and read ingredient lists before buying and using.
4. Cosmetics and Hair/Skin Care
Unfortunately, many so-called “care products” can do the opposite of their intended effect due to high concentrations of chemical preservatives and synthetic materials.
Skin care products like toners, moisturizers, and cleansers might also contain ingredients that disrupt hair life cycles and accelerate the process of thinning or balding.
Still, the power is in your hands when using these products. Reference the list of “no-go” chemicals compiled above, and cross-check products online or in person before buying.
Many new brands are catering to the conscientious crowd, and there has never been a better time to buy natural beauty products that make you look and feel your best.
Reduce Chemical Exposure: 5 More Tips
Ready to break free from the chemical-heavy status quo and take control of your hair health? Follow these simple steps and get moving in the right direction.
1. Audit Your Hair Care Products
We’ve laid out some potentially harmful chemicals in today’s products, which should help you avoid the worst offenders. Start by auditing your current hair care regimen, then gradually replace those chem-laden products with organic alternatives over time.
2. Opt for Natural Household Goods
Moving beyond the medicine cabinet and shower shelf, look into other chemical-based products throughout your home, particularly in the supply closet and under the sink. The sooner you can swap out synthetics for organics, the better.
3. Clean Up Your Wardrobe and Gear
It’s not just cosmetics and hygienic products that may contain harmful chemicals. Many modern garments and accessories include plastics that can absorb into our skin and scalp after months and years of use.
Combine everyday wear and tear with chemical instability from machine washing and detergents, and those gym clothes may be doing more harm than good for your hairline.
4. Prioritize Lifestyle and Health
Fighting back against chemical accumulation means taking health and fitness more seriously. Rethink your diet and exercise routine, and consider utilizing a sauna and red light exposure to cleanse on a cellular level.
5. Start a Hair Restoration Plan
Hair damaged from water, air, household supplies, or cosmetics can be healed and restored with the right strategy. Connect with a hair restoration expert like Dr. Jae Pak and get a custom plan underway.
Bounce Back from Damaged and Lost Hair
It can be a whirlwind of chemicals in the modern world, and our hair often pays the price. However, knowing the culprits is half the battle, and using the tips in this article can go a long way to protect your hair.
Armed with this knowledge and a plan of action, you can overcome the odds to achieve truly healthy and resilient hair.
Find out if Hair Restoration is right for you.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!