Not So Healthy Hair Products

For more information on the chemicals found in every day toiletries read, Toxic Toiletries and for healthy solutions to these problems read Homemade Solutions for Toxic Toiletries.

I set out on a quest. A quest to find eco-friendly hair products. It was quite a task. The information isn’t as readily available as some because there are so many different products and chemicals that it’s impossible to know about them all much less to know whether they are toxic or not.

More than 10,000 ingredients are allowed for use in personal care products — and the average woman wears 515 of them every day, according to a 2009 British study that looked at the routines of over 2,000 women. Very little is known about the health effects of these chemicals. More than 90% have never been tested for their effects on human health, and complete toxicity data are available for only 7% of them. Even though government agencies are aware of the health hazards of some ingredients, such as hydroquinone or phthalates, they are still allowed in personal care products.

I wasn’t sure how to go about this project. There are thousands of kinds of chemicals that are used in thousands of different kinds of products. I obviously couldn’t look up each one, but I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. I just started looking for different information under different tags and whatnots. I found a website that rated thousands of the different products. They had them rated by how good it was for people’s health, environment and its social policies. I started looking at the different products that I used thinking that it was a pretty good starting point.  I use a couple of different products, heat protecting spray for hair straightening, a serum that that I use before I dry my hair to help with frizz, when I curl my hair I use some curl lock moose stuff. The heat protecting spray is made by CHI. My mom found a good sale and got me a bunch. The other stuff I use to use a brand called DesignLine and I use it simply because it was kind that was used at the salon I went to. I don’t know much about the different brands and which ones worked the best, so I just used stuff that I knew would work.


CHI: they didn’t list the exact product that I used, but all the products from this brand had the same general ratings. Overall, it was rated 3.6. For health, 4.0 and it had five products that could raise health concern. For environment, 3.2, and social policies 3.5. All ratings are out of ten.

Not looking so good for me.

Biolage Shampoo and Conditioner: Overall, 5.8. For health 4.0, 3 chemicals that could raise concern. Environment 7.2, Social policies 6.2.

The other products that I use weren’t available.

The good thing about this site is that it gives better alternatives that are similar to the things that you’re already using. And it doesn’t just rate hair products, but cleaners, appliances, electronics, baby food, all kinds of what nots. And it seems to be a reliable source unlike most rating sites that seem to be swayed with bribes and what nots. This could come very useful in the future.

I found some good information about what you should avoid when looking at hair styling products. On this website there was a list of other toxins that you should avoid and why, but it was too long for one post and I doubt that anyone would want to read it anyways, but the link is there for anyone who does.

Here is a very basic list of the hazardous chemicals that you should try to avoid. Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), a plastic polymer TEA, and potentially toxic FD&C colours. Ethoxylated alcohols and PEG compounds, also common in hair styling products may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Parabens, which can disrupt the endocrine system, are used as preservatives in hair sprays, and DMDM hydantoin, a formaldehyde releasing chemical, is a popular preservative in other styling products such as mousses. Fragrance, which is a mixture of many unknown toxins, is added to most conventional hair styling products.

This website also took the huge list that I mentioned before and found products that don’t include any of those toxins. It was a pretty good sized list and is divided into two groups. Best and good. The best list has the least amount of chemicals or none at all while the good selections have a minimal amount.

Here is list for Hair Styling Products and it includes hair sprays, styling gels, and mousses.

They also have some other good information, so check it out.

Shampoos frequently contain harsh detergents, chemical fragrances and numerous irritating and carcinogenic compounds. Of particular concern are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidiazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea, which are used in many shampoos and conditioners to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of skin infections. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Parabens, endocrine disrupting chemicals which have been found in breast tumour tissue, are also used as preservatives in many shampoos and hair products.

In addition, sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which are used to create foam in shampoos, are also ingredients of concern. Both are irritants, which can be contaminated with ethylene dioxide, a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Ammonium laureth sulfate, sometimes used as a substitute, may also be similarly contaminated. Other potentially harmful ingredients frequently used in conventional shampoos include TEA, which can release carcinogenic nitrosamines,propylene glycol, an allergen and skin irritant, and the preservatives, methylisothiazoline and methylchlorothiazoline, which have shown evidence of being neurotoxic in animal studies. Carcinogenic coal tar may be added as a biocide to some anti-dandruff shampoos.

Here is the link for the best and better environmentally friendly and healthier shampoos

Most mainstream and many “natural” conditioners rely on quaternary compounds to produce thicker, tangle-free silky hair. These compounds – cetrimonium bromide and quaternium 18 – can be irritating to eyes and skin. Quaternary compounds and other preservatives found in conditioners, such as DMDM hydantoin, imidiazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea, release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Other ingredients to avoid: carcinogenic coal tar colours (FD&C), parabens, ceteareth 20, propylene glycol, cinnamate sunscreens, and retinyl palmitate. Most conventional conditioners contain fragrance, a synthetic mix likely to include endocrine disrupting phthalates and other hazardous chemicals.

Here is a list for the best and better conditioners.

At the bottom of each list there are some homemade alternatives.

Simply Clean

How ironic is it that cleaners are often made with the dirtiest ingredients. Toxins, chemicals are making their way onto surfaces that you eat on, clean on and surfaces that in general are places that you want safe.

The cost of using commercial cleaners runs high. It has costs for the economical, environmental, and personal stand points.  The list below names all ingredients in most everyday cleaners that you should avoid at all possible. Below that list is another list of recipes that people can use to make their own cleaning solutions.

Corrosives. Avoid products labeled “Danger. Corrosive.” Corrosives include some of the most dangerous chemicals in the home, such as lye, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, and sulfuric acid — the active agents in many drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and toilet cleaners. These chemicals can burn the skin, cause internal burns if ingested, and explode if used incorrectly.

Ammonia. As I’ve started researching eco-friendly household cleaners, I’ve noticed that ammonia is in some of the recipes. Ammonia is found in home recipes and commercial products.  It’s less dangerous in small amounts, but it is a strong eye and lung irritant and should particularly be avoided by anyone with asthma or other lung sensitivities. In large doses it can scar corneas and cause chemical burns on lungs and skin. In the environment it causes Eutrophication which generally promotes excessive plant growth and decay, favors certain weedy species over others, and is likely to cause severe reductions in water quality. In aquatic environments, enhanced growth of choking aquatic vegetation or algal blooms disrupt normal functioning of the ecosystem, causing problems such as a lack of oxygen in the water, needed for fish and other aquatic life to survive. The water then becomes cloudy, colored a shade of green, yellow, brown, or red. When ammonia reaches the soil surface, it usually reacts with water in the soil and is converted into its ionic form, ammonium and absorbs to the soil. The ammonium in the soil eventually disassociates or is nitrified into nitrite or nitrate by nitrifying bacteria, releasing H+ ions into the soil. If not taken up by biomass and converted to methane, the surplus H+ ions eventually lead to the formation of an acidic soil environment. The nitrogen left over in the soil will either be taken up by plants, stored in the soil, returned to the atmosphere, or will be removed from the soil in runoff or leaching. An ecosystem is a natural system consisting of plants, animal, and other microorganisms functioning together in a balanced relationship. Combinations of the problems mentioned above could make changes in the ecosystems. When changes in ecosystems occur, the natural balance of a system is disrupted and fragile plant and animal species can be replaced by non-native species. The disruption of an ecosystem can cause it to adapt by changing (positive or negative outcome), or a disruption may lead to the extinction of the ecosystem.

Bleach. For the reasons noted elsewhere, but primarily for its toxic fumes. Effects range from coughing and chest pain to water retention in the lungs.  Chlorine irritates the skin, the eyes, and the respiratory system. Human health effects associated with breathing or otherwise consuming small amounts of chlorine over long periods of time are not known.  They are currently under investigation.  Some studies show that workers develop adverse effects from repeat inhalation exposure to chlorine, but others do not.  Laboratory studies show that repeat exposure to chlorine in air can adversely affect the immune system, the blood, the heart, and the respiratory system of animals. Chlorine dissolves when mixed with water.  It can also escape from water and enter air under certain conditions.  Most direct releases of chlorine to the environment are to air and to surface water.  Once in air or in water, chlorine reacts with other chemicals.  It combines with inorganic material in water to form chloride salts.  It combines with organic material in water to form chlorinated organic chemicals.  Because of its reactivity chlorine is not likely to move through the ground and enter groundwater.

Phosphates. Phosphates are naturally occurring minerals used in automatic dishwashing detergents as a water softener. When released back into the environment, phosphates can cause algae blooms in lakes and ponds that kill aquatic life. Look for phosphate-free dishwashing detergents, try a homemade recipe of half borax and half washing soda (a more alkaline form of baking soda), or skip the dishwasher and use a dishpan and regular dish soap instead.

Petroleum products. Many surfactants (cleaning agents) are refined petroleum products that are linked with health problems and require environmentally harsh methods to extract and distill. A few specific ones to avoid: diethylene glycol, nonylphenol ethoxylate, and butyl cellosolve.

If you still need more proof or just want more information check the Household Products Database — part of the Specialized Information Services of the National Library of Medicine — a vast compendium of common household products that includes the potential health effects. Just go to and click on the category of the product you’re interested in.

Below, I have some solutions to daily cleaning problems. The only thing on this list that I know for sure works (because we do it at home) is using vinegar as a deodorizer. To me there is nothing worse than the smell of vinegar, but I can’t deny that it gets rid of even the worst smells, besides the smell of vinegar, but eventually goes away and until then I just avoid the area.

 All-Purpose Cleaning Spray:

For countertops, sinks, toilets, and for spot cleaning floors
Mix 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray and scrub.
For really tough soap scum or mineral deposits, warm the solution first, spray, and let sit before scrubbing, or use straight vinegar (but avoid straight vinegar on tile grout – it can cause the grout to break down).

Bathtub / Sink Scrub:

In a bowl, make a paste with baking soda, a squirt of your dish soap*, and a squeeze of lemon, to the consistency of frosting. Dip cloth or sponge into paste and scrub.
For really stubborn grime, allow to sit 10-15 minutes before rinsing.

Mirror & Glass Cleaner:

2 tsp vinegar
1 quart water
Mix in a spray bottle. Spray on mirror or glass, and wipe clean with old newspaper. (The ink doesn’t smear, and it leaves no lint!)

Floor Cleaner:

1/4 Cup dish soap*
1/2 Cup white vinegar or lemon juice
2 gallons warm water
Combine in sink or large bucket, and use with mop.
You can use this on any floor, unless the manufacturer has specified to avoid all detergents.

Some other tips:

• Don’t use vinegar on marble – it can damage the surface.
• If you’re concerned about the smell of vinegar, you can always add a few drops of essential oil to your mix, but know that the odor of vinegar disappears as it evaporates.
• Vinegar is a disinfectant, but for raw chicken juice and other clean-ups involving bacteria, you will want something more powerful, like hydrogen peroxide. Read more.
• For really dirty toilets, you can shake in some baking soda in addition to using the all-purpose cleaning spray, and add a little lemon juice, too, if you like.
• If you don’t want to cut up fresh lemons, keep a squeeze bottle of lemon juice in your fridge. You can buy this, or make it yourself by squeezing some lemons ahead of time. If you buy it, make sure it only contains 100% lemon juice, with no added oils or essences.
• Use 100% cotton microfiber cloths for your cleaning – they will not leave lint behind, and you can throw them in the wash afterward and re-use them.

*About dish soap: when you purchase dish soap at the store, look for words like biodegradable, septic-safe, and non-toxic. Don’t buy anything that contains petroleum distillates or phosphates. If you don’t want to make your own stuff or need a cleaner that’s not on the list then Seventh Generation and Earth Friendly Products are a couple of good companies that make eco-friendly products.




Poisonous Plastics

I think one of the more annoying things I’ve come to have knowledge about is the amount people who use plastic forks and spoons everyday and by every day I mean every day. On a regular basis people waste the money to buy the gas that they will then use to waste money to waste the environment instead of buying a pack of silverware ONCE and just washing them by hand or via dish washer. Plastic use is very hard to avoid, however using plastic cutlery isn’t a necessity. According to the EPA, 12 percent of the solid waste stream is plastic. Out of the 31 million tons of plastic produced last year, only 2.4 million tons were recycled. Approximately 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the USA alone, together with billions of Styrofoam and plastic cups, plates etc. Plastic bags could take up to one million years to decompose and a Styrofoam box could take more than one million years to decompose.

If one doesn’t care about the environment then they should give their health a thought.

Polyvinyl Chloride( #3)- This plastic is used mostly in construction and consumer goods, but the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and the Environmental Health Strategy Center have asked companies to limit their use of this plastic. It has serious side effects for its use. It’s made out of highly polluting and cancer-causing chemicals that have contaminated the areas where PVC is manufactured.  Some PVC is made out of plasticizers that will leach out of finished products and have been known to cause developmental and reproductive damage. When PVC is burned it leads to emission of dioxins that cause cancer, reproductive, developmental and immune problems. Putting these materials in landfills can cause the toxic substances to leach into ground water. PVC is difficult to recycle and contaminates other kinds of plastics when recycled with them.

Over 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the U.S. each year. Only 18 million pounds of that, about one quarter of 1 percent, is recycled.3

Polystyrene (#6)- This plastic is used to make foam food trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, opaque plastic cutlery and other disposable food service items. The chemicals used to make this plastic can leak into food and beverages. According to the EPA, extreme levels can cause nervous systems effects such as loss of concentration, weakness, and nausea. Long term exposure can cause cancer, liver and nerve damage.

Polycarbonates and Others (#7): Number 7 plastics are the rejects from all the other categories, but they all usually include one thing and that’s polycarbonates. Polycarbonates are used in plastic baby bottles, plastic liners of metal food cans, sport water bottles and other items. Bisphenol- A (BPA) is an endocrine disrupter that used in making polycarbonates. A recent review of studies regarding BPA’s effects (Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2005) finds that more than 80 percent of published studies assessing the effects of low-dose BPA exposure on laboratory animals found significant effects, including alterations to brain chemistry and structure, behavior, the immune system, and male and female reproductive systems.

Just something to think about

How Long Does It Take- Plastic

Wood, grass and food scraps undergo a process known as biodegradation when they’re buried. They’re transformed by bacteria in the soil into other useful compounds. This doesn’t work with plastic and that’s why it’s not unreasonable to believe that plastic will never biodegrade. To decompose, plastic needs sunlight. This is called photodegradation and happens because UV rays strike plastic and then it breaks the bonds holding the long molecular chain together. Over time this will turn a big piece of plastic into lots of little pieces.  Research says it could take up to or more than a million years for this to happen.

This is a problem because most plastic never gets to see the light of day. Landfills are usually set up as one of two ways. Either the landfill is set up where trash is buried or where trash is piled up like a mountain.

Then there is the plastic that ends up in the ocean or another body of water. It gets all of the sunlight that it needs to break down and it can break down in as fast as a year, but the problem now is those little bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and PS oligomer.

Biodegradable plastics are somewhat better, but not really. There are two kinds, Polylactic Acid and Oxo-degradable plastic.

PLA is made from plant sugars. It does not use oil and it breaks down into water and carbon dioxide when exposed to bacteria. The good thing about this plastic is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels (plastic already takes up 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the United States) and it uses 65 percent less energy than producing regular plastic. The bad news is that it takes a controlled environment. Unless all oxygen is removed and temperatures reach at least 140 degrees for 10 consecutive days then the bacteria can’t do their work. In these conditions it will take as little as 90 days to decompose, but these are unrealistic expectations for lives in landfills. The plastic bags will stay around just as long as the other kind. The last problem is that they can’t be recycled.

Oxo-degradable plastics are by products of oil. They decompose in oxygen rich environments such as large industrial composting tanks, but not landfills.

Although it would not be unreasonable to say that totally ridding one’s life of plastic is impossible, there are some things that people can do to reduce their plastic use.

Try to reduce the number of things that you buy that are packaged in plastic. By a water filter instead of buy bottled water or use a reusable water bottle that you can reuse instead of a one use only bottle. This goes for many other things. Next time you go shopping look at the other options you have in that aisle.  Buy trash bags, detergent, bar soap, cereal, that come in boxes instead of another bag. Also check to see, usually on the bottom, what kind of plastic it is because you might be able to recycle. 1 and 2 plastics are the most likely plastics to be received by recycling centers.

Use reusable bags when you go shopping. At our house we have a trashcan under the sink that is the perfect size for grocery store type plastic bags, but if you don’t have that option bring cloth bags with you to the store or reuse the same plastic bag multiple times. Also, if it’s an option, you can ask for paper instead of plastic.

Use old/used paper or newspaper as packing for mailing packages instead of bubble wrap, air filled plastic or packing peanuts.

Use real dishes instead of plastic dishes.

Make compost for your scraps of food and after it decomposes put it back into the earth. This is great fertilizer for gardens, but you don’t need a garden to have a compost bin. Since my mom has started her compost we have cut our need for trash bags by almost half. That’s pretty good.