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Is Your Shampoo Bad For Your Hair? How To Read Shampoo Labels

February 3, 2021

In our previous blog post we talked about some shampoo ingredients that could be harmful to your hair. But how do you actually identify them and read your shampoo labels?

Turning round your shampoo bottle and looking at the ingredients list can be like trying to read a foreign language. We're here to teach you how to decode ingredient lists so you can see if your shampoo is good fit for you.

How to read your shampoo labels: ingredient order

The first thing you need to know about reading your shampoo or hair product labels is that the ingredients are actually organised for you. The ingredients are listed in descending order from the greatest amount to least amount present in the shampoo. This means the first ingredient you see has the highest concentration and makes up the most of the product.

Ingredients that make up less than 1% of the product will be at the end of the ingredients list and are listed in any order.

So if you're considering spending a pretty penny on a shampoo that claims to be rich in argan oil, but argan oil is the last ingredient on the list, it's likely the shampoo is not worth your money.

Ingredients that might be harming your hair

We touched on a few of these in our previous blog post, but here's the ingredients to look out for on your shampoo bottles.


These nasties were added to create a quick shine to your hair, but in the long term can cause extreme dryness and brittleness. Read more about silicones here. The video below shows hair being stripped of silicone buildup:

What do silicones look like on shampoo labels?

Most silicones are quite easily identifiable when you read shampoo labels as they mostly all end in -cone. Here's some examples:

  • Dimethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Ceteraryl Methicone
  • Pheryl Trimethicone
  • Stearyl Dimethicone


Parabens are preservatives that are put in shampoos to make them last longer. Studies have found they can be extremely harmful to the skin and even cause allergic reactions.

What do parabens look like on shampoo labels?

Parabens are also quite easily identifiable on shampoo labels as they mostly have the word "paraben" in their name. For example:

  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Propylparaben


Sulfates are often used as a foaming agent in shampoo, meaning they are what makes your shampoo foam up. Though they may help to remove dirt from your scalp, they have been proven to strip hair of its natural oils, leaving hair brittle and dry. Which means depending on your hair type, you may find it fundamental to start using a sulfate-free shampoo.

What do sulfates look like on shampoo labels?

Sulfates are usually among the first ingredients listed and are usually identified with the word 'sulfate' or 'sodium'. Some of the most frequently used sulfates are:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Sodium
  • Laureth Sulfate Sodium
  • Lauroyl Isethionate
  • Sodium Lauroyl Taurate
  • Lauryl Sulfoacetate Sodium

Sodium chloride

Sodium chloride (a.k.a salt) is added to shampoos and conditioners to create a thicker consistency. However, as you can imagine adding salt to your shampoo can be a scalp irritant - particularly if your scalp is already sensitive. You will particularly want to avoid sodium chloride if you have recently had a keratin treatment. Sodium Chloride is known to strip keratin from the hair, completely reversing the effects of any keratin treatments.

To avoid this, look out for 'sodium chloride' on your shampoo bottles.

Hopefully now your shampoo labels are looking a little less intimidating! Each hair type has different needs, and nobody knows your hair better than you.

Have a question? Feel free to leave us a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!

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