If you’re battling a flaky scalp right now, you’re far from alone. By this time in the season, countless folks are brushing powdery white flakes of skin from their shoulders.
When frigid winter temperatures are slamming you every time you step outside, and dry hot air is blasting you every time you step back inside, your skin pays the price. And that includes the sensitive skin on the top of your head.
Most folks reach for a dandruff shampoo. But that can be a mistake when you don’t know what to look for.
In fact, some of the most popular dandruff shampoo brands you’ll find on your local grocery or drug store shelves contain potentially dangerous ingredients. Ingredients most experts agree you should do your best to avoid too much of.
Dangerous ingredients in top selling dandruff shampoo
One of the worst offenders, according to the independent watchdog group Environmental Working Group (EWG), might be Selsun Blue Deep Cleansing dandruff shampoo. On a scale of one to 10, with one being the safest and 10 being the most dangerous, the EWG gives this popular dandruff shampoo an eight.
And the trouble boils down to four worrisome ingredients that could be in YOUR favorite brand too.
1. Retinyl palmitate (vitamin A palmitate):
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the vitamin A in its name. Retinyl palmitate is far from safe. In fact, it’s so risky that it’s been highly restricted in Canada and all-out banned in Germany.
Retinyl palmitate’s overall hazard rating according to the EWG is a nine, or in the High Hazard range. The FDA has found it can cause cell mutations and cell death. It may be associated with heart disease in certain quantities. And research by the National Toxicology Program has linked the chemical to cancerous tumors, even in small doses.
If your dandruff shampoo contains retinyl palmitate consider switching to another brand.
Whenever you see something as vague as “fragrance” on a label your radar should go up. Put the product down and back away from the shelf. The EWG rates “fragrance” as an eight, or High Hazard.
The problem here is you literally have no idea what chemicals the manufacturers have used. Which means, of course, you have no idea or what chemicals you’re putting on your skin.
From the compounds that create the artificial scents to the ones that help disperse it throughout the shampoo, “fragrance” chemicals are associated with allergic reactions, rashes and even breathing problems. And a troubling study out of Louisiana State University found chemicals commonly labeled “fragrance” could obstruct airways and trigger asthma attacks in some users.
If you spot the generic word “fragrance” on your favorite dandruff shampoo, you might be better off looking for another brand that’s more transparent about their ingredients.
3. Potassium hydroxide:
With the recognizable word potassium in its name, it’s easy to overlook the potential hazards of potassium hydroxide. But unfortunately, this common dandruff shampoo ingredient isn’t harmless. The EWG rates it as a Moderate Hazard.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent trade organization, says there should be limitations on the amount of potassium hydroxide allowed in cosmetic products. And the organization recommends consumers avoid, or minimize, skin exposure.
The Environment Canada Domestic Substance List says potassium hydroxide is “expected to be toxic or harmful.” And they’ve labeled the chemical a “medium human health priority.” Not exactly something you want to read about a product you’re putting on your head.
Potassium hydroxide can cause eye, skin, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches, nausea and vomiting in some users.
4. Benzyl alcohol:
Considered a Moderate Hazard by the EWG, you’re better off using dandruff shampoos that don’t contain benzyl alcohol.
Often used as a solvent or preservative the International Fragrance Association Codes & Standards have recommended its use be restricted in cosmetics. And it’s only considered safe when used within strict concentration limits.
Canada says benzyl alcohol is “expected to be toxic or harmful.” And the European Union has classified it as toxic or harmful when used in products which are used near your mouth.
The bottom line is there are some potentially hazardous ingredients in a number of popular shampoos. And this may mean it’s time to give up your favorite dandruff shampoo. That’s the bad news.
But we have some good news too. There are products that are far safer for you and your family to use. Our favorite ones are those made by Carina Organics. (You’ll find them online.)
Carina Organics Sweet Pea Dandruff Flake Removal Shampoo and Carina Organics Unscented Dandruff Flake Removal Shampoo have both been awarded the best rating the EWG gives, a one or Low Hazard. They’re considered safe with almost all of their individual ingredients rating a one as well.
Winter is tough on your skin. But don’t let a dry flaky scalp lead you to make a hasty and hazardous decision. Choose your dandruff shampoo carefully and you’ll get rid of those flakes without risking your health.