What Are Parabens And Sulphates And Why Should You Avoid Them?

What Are Parabens And Sulphates And Why Should You Avoid Them?

When it comes to choosing hair products, you can be forgiven for becoming confused. There is an endless stream of options to choose from which can make it feel a little overwhelming – and that’s before you even flip a product over to check the ingredients.

With so many chemical names you don’t recognise, it’s easy to overlook the contents and go with the prettiest packaging, or with the one you have seen advertised everywhere.

However, there’s a lot more to haircare than the packaging.

There are some common toxic ingredients you should avoid if possible. You may have noticed ‘free from xyz’ appearing more frequently on labels these days. That’s because everyone is becoming more health-conscious and aware of what they are using.

Two nasties that stand out are parabens and sulphates. We’re going to get a bit science-y here but stay with us because we think it’s something you really should know. Here goes:


You know the frothy lather you get when you wash your hair with shampoo? This thick lather is produced by a chemical called Sodium lauryl sulphate. Why is it used in shampoo? Because Sodium lauryl sulphate is a surfactant; a product that reduces the surface tension between a liquid and a solid. Many face washes, shampoos, and soaps contain oils, which as we know, doesn’t lather, so a reduction in surface tension is what produces the rich lather. Once there is no surface tension, the barrier between your hair and the shampoo is broken down, enabling the sodium lauryl sulphate to get rid of oil and dirt.

woman in shower washing hair with shampoo

While sulphates may have the ability to get rid of oil and dirt, recent studies have found that it is toxic and carcinogenic. Sulphate has also been identified as one of the key culprits of hair loss and thinning hair, eek! It destroys hair follicles and inhibits hair growth. Not at all ideal.


Parabens are preservatives that hinder the growth of bacteria and fungus in shampoos, giving them a longer shelf life. When you’re checking labels, look out for these names – butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben and isobutyl paraben. 

While not having to share your hair and skin products with bugs sounds preferable, these chemicals do have weak estrogenic effects and have been linked to a potential increase in the risk of breast cancer. Not sure about you, but any link to cancer is enough for us to rethink whether or not it’s worth the risk.

Parabens have also been linked to skin irritation and flare-ups in those who suffer from dermatitis or eczema. 

Why We Think You Should Avoid Parabens And Sulphates

Shampoos that are sulphate and paraben-free keep the hair moisturised. Moisturised hair is less prone to breakage and split ends.

Both chemicals have been linked to adverse health conditions and the potential for increasing the risk of breast cancer. Any risk, no matter how small, is worth weighing up.

Love Medusa 🌸  x