Green Girl Sacks Sickening Shampoo

It seems as though shampoo can fix any and all hair woes these days. If you have dry hair, simply try one of the many that brags of its nourishing qualities. For thin hair, try a shampoo that yields “real volume,” “extra volume,” “pure volume,” or even “max volume.” There is a shampoo for every hair color, every hairstyle, and every hair trauma.

I have always seen friends use Herbal Essences, Pantene Pro-V, Dove—brands that seemed like heaven to me. Surely these could fix my thin, lifeless hair! But I could never have such things. Once I used Herbal Essences shampoo (with synthetic scent) for one day when my mom was away for a week. I thought, surely she will never know! Yet, four days after I had used it, she returned and immediately asked me, “What is that smell?!” Apparently, the fruity scent had stuck in the upstairs shower and I was forced to confess my misdemeanor.

Most of my life has been spent, not in the hair care aisle of CVS, but instead, in the body care aisles of numerous health food stores. My search was not necessarily for a shampoo that catered to my particular hair needs, but one that was sans parabens and synthetic perfumes. So, now that I’ve gotten to college and am free of my mother’s need for me to use completely natural hair products, you would think that I would immediately go out and buy that max volume, full shine and body, seemingly magical shampoo.

Well, I didn’t. Last year I did a school project on harmful chemicals in our everyday lives, and I knew that I would never be able to switch to commercial shampoo. Most shampoos have some combination of sodium lauryl sulfate, tri- di- and mono-ethanolamines (TEA, DEA, and MEA), synthetic fragrances and parabens. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a regulated pesticide and a known skin irritant—it is used in clinical studies to harm skin in order to test soothing lotions. Sodium lauryl sulfate is not a recognized carcinogen. However, the chemical is frequently combined with TEA, DEA, or MEA, which can cause the formation of the carcinogenic substances nitrosames. Parabens are coming into their own light as a cause for major health concerns and their relationship to endocrine disruption, breast cancer, testicular cancer and skin cancer.

I have to believe that something is wrong with these chemicals if they have such a strong correlation with such terrible diseases. For now, I’ll stick to my Giovani shampoo and conditioner, a brand that I have fallen in love with and find just as good as any commercial shampoo (or better, in fact, because I do not run the risk of contracting cancer from it).

Note to self: Do not get mesmerized by the apparent magic of commercial shampoo. Stick to natural instead.

Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.


Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson4 years ago

I like Burt's bees.

Silvia M.
Silvia M.4 years ago

thanks for the info!

Pamela Anne
Pamela Anne5 years ago

sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent, and they all have it. I saw a documentary where they tested that chemical as a shark deterrent. A small bomb of it exploded in the water around a swimmer when sharks started circling and they shot away--what does that tell you?

Every time I go to a salon and they try to sell me on their outrageously priced "professional" shampoos I tell them to find me one product on their shelf that doesn't have SLS. They never can. Right now I'm using Beauty Without Cruelty products. They're not much more expensive but unfortunately I have to order them online and pay shipping.

Bon L.
Bon L.5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Julia J.
Julia W.7 years ago

Thanks so much, Linda. It's great when somebody on here is actually understanding of what you're asking, and not just trying to push their product. That said, I will save a link to your comment o that if I run into some money any time soon I can try it.

I kind of live out in the boonies and have no idea where the closest natural food store is (I just moved to the area recently). We don't even have a used bookstore within 40 miles! So thanks for providing the website.

Now that I'm researching it though, I remember using Shikai a while ago. It did work pretty good for my hair but I stopped using it when I found Pantene Smooth & Shine, which I loved, but it is toxic and also if you use it for too long (like more than a year) it ends up damaging your hair for some reason. Is Shikai actually safe?

Linda Murdock
Linda Murdock7 years ago

Oh, Walmart is OK! We all use it sometimes. They do have great prices!

I sell a truly USDA certified organic brand of personal care products called MiEssence. I'm afraid we are pretty pricey, however. Unfortunately, most of the best ones are.

Dr. Bronner is an old and well respected brand of truly organic products. They have "liquid soaps" which can be used as shampoos and they recently added hair conditioners. You might try a Tea Tree Oil Liquid Soap, 8 oz. for $5.99. Then he has a conditioning rinse, 8 oz. for $9.99 and a "leave-in" conditioner and styling creme, 8 oz. for $7.99. Most Natual or Health Food stores should carry his products or he is online at

My products are better but cost over twice as much. There are some other good brands in health food stores, but Dr. Bronner will probably be the least expensive, and it is definitely safe.

Good luck!

Julia J.
Julia W.7 years ago

I'm a little afraid to admit that I got it at Walmart. I know Wal-Mart is bastion of evil but I'm young, poor and disabled so cut me some slack! I try not to buy my food there, but I do purchase beauty products and health supplies there because the prices are just so outlandish everywhere else!

So anyway, I don't think they'll refund my money. I walked up and down the aisles and read all of the available selections and sadly, the "Organix" was the safest they had. I'd love to hear of a non-toxic shampoo that actually helps fight frizz. Any suggestions?

Linda Murdock
Linda Murdock7 years ago

Hi, Julie,

I've never heard of a brand named Organix. It looks like you're the vicitim of "greenwashing." If it contains disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, you probably should not use it. SLS is a carcinogenic chemical.

Where did you buy it? Maybe you can take it back and ask for your money back because of false advertising.

I think you can find that chemical (SLS) listed at the "skin deep" database as toxic. And if you can't find a brand in that database, it's most probably NOT organic or natural or safe.

I'm happy to suggest some better options if you like. Just let me know.

Linda Murdock

Julia J.
Julia W.7 years ago

Okay, I just bought Organix smoothing shea butter shampoo because it says "sulfate free" on the back, but it also says it has "disodium laureth sulfosuccinate". Isn't anything with the word "laureth" unsafe? I can't find this brand on the "skin deep" database.

Wild Wild
Wild Wild7 years ago

I have just purchased an Eco Organic Shampoo with ingredients you describe- SLS- but with a bit different name-does it suppose to trick us or are these really safe (I am not a chemist to know...)
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Lauryl Glucoside, Lauroyl Sarcosine, Alcohol, Parfume, Limonene, Linalool
and the other shampoo of the same contains another SLS name:
Sodium Coco Sulfate, Coco Glucoside, Sodium PCA, Sodium Chlorid, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate??????????????????????????Are these ingredients ok or dangerous?
And could anyone tell me, how to make natural shampoo from pharmacy bought GLYCEROLUM 85% (and perhaps H2O2 to make a foam...and Tea tree oil-I do not know the exact mixture I should make...)Many thanks