5 Reasons to Ditch Your Cheap Shampoo and Conditioner


Taking a stroll down your local grocery store’s shampoo aisle can be very intimidating. Between specialized formulas for hair types, chemically treated, or even curly hair, well, needless to say, there isn’t a shortage when it comes to shampoo and conditioner being accessible to everyone and their mom’s hair type. But, whether you’re shopping in a drug store, health store, or even your beauty salon, you need to arm yourself with knowledge to combat the toxic chemicals or irritants that lurk inside even the most popular brands of shampoo and conditioner!

5 reasons to ditch your cheap shampoo and conditioner

You may think you’re playing it safe sticking to “salon” brands, however, you’ll be shocked to hear about some of the ingredients that are hidden inside the ingredients label. Some brands have toxic ingredients, and some brands are simply diluted and full of harsh skin irritants. Don’t be fooled by touts of “all natural” marketing on the label; turn the bottle around and read the ingredients yourself!

But do you know what you’re looking for and what to avoid?

1. Parabens:

  • Parabens began popping up in the 1950’s, and were developed as a preservative for most beauty products. Parabens are known as the following chemicals: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. Parabens are added to almost all deodorants, toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and makeups to stop the growth of fungus and other damaging microbes to the chemical component of the product. “The greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). The CSC also refers to a 2004 British study that detected measurable traces of parabens inside breast tumors of 19 of the 20 women studied. CSC reports that parabens have also been linked to reproductive, immunological, neurological and skin irritation problems.
  • Europe banned the use of parabens in all products, however, the plea to the United States FDA to follow suit has been unanswered. Until then, consumers are warned to read all labels carefully to avoid this hidden known carcinogen.

2. Sulfates

  • In 1930, Proctor & Gamble used the first ever sulfate-based shampoo that was a “game-changer” in the shampoo industry. Nowadays, when a product claims to be “sulfate free” it is typically lacking the following chemicals: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. Sulfate is a surfactant, and it’s a mixture of chemicals that attract both water and oil. It allows the dirt and oil to separate from your hair, and the water to wash it away. Sulfates are not proven carcinogens; they are known irritants. Their ability to effectively cleanse the dirt and oil from your hair can also strip out your natural oils, and cause a chemical irritation.
  • If you’ve ever gotten shampoo in your eyes, the stinging sensation is caused by sulfates. Gentler sulfates will still strip your hair’s natural oils, and even “sulfate free” formulas contain sulfates, because it is the main component to a cleansing shampoo. However, sulfate free shampoos use gentler and milder versions of sulfates in their products, and are still effective, yet non-irritating.
  • Many women report sensitivities with specific sulfates around their genital regions, because it throws off your vagina’s pH and can result in irritation, rash, or hives.
  • Ammonium laurel sulfate is the harshest of all sulfates, and is found in most drug-store shampoo brands.

3. Phthalates

  • Phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-lates) are ambiguous and scary, because they are basically everywhere and in everything. Phthalates are found in plastic food and beverage containers, however, their reach far surpasses just those simple items. It’s estimated that a billion pounds of Phthalates are produced every year, so completely avoiding them is practically impossible in today’s age. “You’ll find phthalates in perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. (When you smell “new car,” you’re smelling phthalates.) Medical devices are full of phthalates — they make IV drip bags and tubes soft, but unfortunately, DEHP is being pumped directly into the bloodstream of ailing patients” (3)
  • The effect of phthalates, especially on male reproductive development, has been observed since the 1940s, and phthalates are now widely known to be “endocrine disruptors.” (3) In laymen’s terms, Phthalates are known to mimic and displace hormones and interrupt their production.

4. Synthetic Colors

  • Synthetic colors originally began being added into shampoos and conditioners for aesthetic purposes and make the formula appealing to the eye, or stand out from the rest, and is prevalent in most drug store shampoos and conditioners. These ingredients frequently appear as FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number (e.g. FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6). Color pigments are known to cause sensitivity and irritation, and the overall safety of the product is questionable. Synthetic colors are derived primarily from coal tar, which has carcinogenic compounds. 
  • “Occupational and animal studies have shown an increased risk of cancer after exposure to coal tar. Many dermatologists have abandoned this treatment for safety reasons, although the risk of cancer after coal tar in dermatological practice is unclear” (5)

5. Water…wait, what?

  • Take a moment and breathe, because we aren’t calling water harmful at all. Water is wonderful. However, if you’re buying a shampoo and conditioner from a drugstore, it probably contains too much water. While that’s not a bad thing for your hair, or your body, it is dangerous to your wallet. Did you know that purchasing salon brands at the grocery store many times differs from the formulas purchased at your hairdresser? In order to offer a cheaper price point, shampoo companies simply add more water to their formula, making you use more each time you wash your hair, and, in turn, purchase more bottles.
  • Have you ever stopped to wonder why that bottle of expensive shampoo purchased from your stylist seems to last longer than your regular cheapy bottle bought at Walgreens? It’s because a small amount goes a longer way! Like we mentioned above, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind when you’re strolling through the aisles of Target. (An added bonus is you won’t run out as quickly- so therefore you will make less impulsive trips to Target. Win, win!)

More and more harmful ingredients are popping up every day. While total avoidance may be impossible for some products based on the availability or your budget, having the knowledge to potentially limit your exposure is key to a good relationship with your beauty products.

If you are unsure of a specific product, the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an excellent place to start. The SkinDeep App makes it easy to scan barcodes while in the store, and it will spell out any and all problematic chemicals present in that beauty product, as well as give a helpful scaled rating for each item.
Product Recommendation

Elite Therapeutics was originally founded by an oncologist doctor who made it his mission to seek to provide relief for cancer patient’s painful external effects of aggressive cancer treatments. During his journey to find products for this specific target-group, he unlocked the potential of using natural Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant with unparalleled restorative qualities. Elite Therapeutics’ clinically proven products are paraben-free, cruelty-free, safe for all skin types, and effective against a variety of skincare concerns— from aging to illness to environmental damage.

The award winning Elite Therapeutics Shampoo is a salon-quality formula that contains essential ingredients proven to nurture the scalp, plus refined silk protein to revive hair follicles and reinforce hair strands.

The Elite Therapeutics Conditioner transforms your hair with the deeply restorative silk proteins and protective technology. It is formulated with advanced nutrient complexes and natural ingredients like Manuka Honey and exotic oils. This ultra-moisturizing crème is clinically proven to protect hair from the damage of heat styling—and helps to boost body, softness and shine. The conditioner is very thick and luxurious feeling, and deep conditions wonderfully.

Both the shampoo and conditioner are:

  • Cruelty-Free
  • Sulfate-Free 
  • Paraben-Free
  • Phthalate-Free
  • Physician-Formulated
  • Safe for All Hair Types
Make sure to check out this post on Deodorant Dangers And Your Healthiest Options


  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-people-be-concerned-about-parabens-in-beauty-products/
  2. https://www.xovain.com/hair/do-you-need-to-worry-about-sulfates-in-your-shampoo
  3. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/maia-james/phthalates-health_b_2464248.html
  4. https://www.thankgodimnatural.com/reading-the-label-10-ingredients-to-avoid-when-shopping-for-natural-hair-products-3/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20016499

Photo Credit: Zon_267 | Elite Therapeutics Photos: The Memoirs of Megan




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Megan lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son. Her days are spent hanging out and doing family projects on her real-life farm, and spending time on the Great Lakes. She loves swimming, celebrity gossip, University of Michigan and Denver Broncos football, trashy reality TV, and writing. In addition to being a Mommy and self-proclaimed urban-farmer, she owns a photography business located in Southeast Michigan, Memoirs Photography, and is a partner in a niche Michigan wedding photographer team called Mulberry & Sage.


  1. […] Taking a stroll down your local grocery store’s shampoo aisle can be very intimidating. Between specialized formulas for hair types, chemically treated, or even curly hair, well, needless to say, there isn’t a shortage when it comes to shampoo and conditioner being accessible to everyone and their mom’s hair type. But, whether you’re shopping in a drug store, health store, or even your beauty salon, you need to arm yourself with knowledge to combat the toxic chemicals or irritants that lurk inside even the most popular brands of shampoo and conditioner!  [READ MORE] […]

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