Test: 25 shampoos without unwanted chemicals

17. okt 2019

Shampoo can contain unwanted chemicals which can be allergenic or suspected of being endocrine disrupting. This test shows that it is possible to find a lot of shampoo without unwanted chemicals, but be aware: many shampoos get the lowest marking.

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Test of shampoo
Photo: Niels Søndergaard

Shampoo: Plenty of good choices, but be aware

Shampoo can contain unwanted chemicals. To see which chemicals are used and in which shampoos The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals checked the ingredient lists in 82 different shampoos for chemicals that can be allergenic or suspected of being endocrine disrupters (EDCs).

25 shampoos pass the test with flying colors and are good choices. But more shampoos fail the test and receive the lowest marking "C" because they contain unwanted chemicals.

See all the tested shampoos (in Danish)

Unwanted chemicals: Preservatives can be problematic

The test shows that 16 shampoos contain chemicals that are suspected of being endocrine disrupting. On top of that a number of shampoos contain allergenic preservatives.

Unwanted chemicals in one product do not pose an immediate risk. But it contributes to the total amount of unwanted chemicals that we are exposed to every day – also known as the cocktail effect. Scientists are worried about this cocktail effect because the many small contributions are not included in the risk assessments of chemicals.

Allergy: Be aware of perfume

30 shampoos get the B-rating in the test primarily because they contain perfume. Perfume increases the risk for perfume allergy and even though shampoo stays on the skin and in the hair for a short while, the content of perfume in some shampoos can be high.

Non-perfume shampoos could therefore be a good choice if you want to minimize your exposure and risk. All the shampoos with an A-rating do not contain perfume.

For further questions contact head of project Claus Jørgensen at cj@fbr.dk.

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals went shopping for shampoos in many shops and supermarkets. Many of the shampoos included in the test have been scanned frequently in our cosmetics app Kemiluppen. But we have also included many other shampoos in order to have a fair representation of the shampoo market in the test.

The test is a so-called ingredient-check where we check the ingredients on the label up against list of unwanted chemicals.

We do not perform chemical analysis and therefore we do not know the concentration of the substances, i.e. the quantity of substances found in the product.

Our assessment is based solely on whether or not the product contains hazardous substances.

We have written to the producers/retailer to make sure that we are not checking products that are no longer being produced.

A variety of shampoos are included, i.e. fine hair, normal hair, dry hair etc. We have also included a few dandruff shampoos

Be aware that dandruff shampoos should only be used for shorter periods of time, they are not for everyday use.

Our test score

In tests we give the scores A, B and C. The scores have the following meaning in labelling tests:

‘A’ – The product is a good choice. It does not contain a number of problematic substances.

‘B’ – The product is free from a number of problematic substances, but it contains perfume or substances that may affect the environment. You may choose to avoid the B products if you want to minimize the risk of fragrance allergy and take maximum account of the environment.

‘C’ - The product contains problematic substances, e.g. substances suspected of being endocrine disrupting. The substances are usually permitted for use and each product is not harmful in itself, but they contribute to your overall exposure to problematic substances.

How we conduct tests in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

What we found

In total 82 shampoos have been checked:

  • 25 shampoos get the best rating ”A”
  • 30 shampoos get a ”B” rating and
  • 27 shampoos receive the lowest rating ”C”.

The unwanted chemicals found in the check are all allowed for use in shampoo and generally there is not a risk in using the products.

But the unwanted chemicals have unwanted properties – e.g. some are suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects and other of causing lifelong allergy. Therefore it is advisable for consumers to avoid exposure to these particular chemicals.

The check shows that some shampoos contain these chemicals that are suspected of being endocrine disrupters:

  • Salicylic acid – 9 shampoos
  • BHT – 2 shampoos
  • Methylparaben and propylparaben – 1 shampoo
  • Butylphenyl methylpropional – 7 shampoos

In total shampoos contain chemicals that are suspected of being endocrine disrupters.

In the check we also found a number of allergenic preservatives:

  • Methylisothiazolinone – 10 shampoos
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone – 9 shampoos
  • Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate – 2 shampoos
  • Dmdm hydantoin – 1 shampoo
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate – 1 shampoo
  • Diazolidinyl urea – 3 shampoos

In total 13 shampoos contain one or more allergenic preservatives. The check however also showed that many producers have removed methylisothiazolinone from their products.

One shampoo contained a fluorinated chemical (octafluoropentyl methacrylate). The fluorinated chemicals are problematic for the environment and are suspected of having unwanted health effects.

Most shampoos contained perfume or plant extracts that can cause allergy, and among these limonene and benzyl benzoate are also a problem in the environment.

We also noted two other chemicals which could be problematic in the environment: disodium EDTA and trisodium EDTA.

What the companies say

Dagrofa (First Price Shampoo):

"... the ingredient list is correct and we are working on replacing Bronopol from our First Price series in the near future."

 

Maria Nila (Head & hair HEAL shampoo):

"We do not use the 26 fragrance substances which must be labelled when present in cosmetics ".
 

Origins:

Origins is proud to provide our customers safe and effective products. All our products and ingredients go through a thorough safety check and evaluation. We are working hard to ensure that our products and the packaging lives up to or even surpasses the standards which are required through law nationally or globally, or from scientific bodies including our own strict demands for quality.
 

Procter & Gamble (Pantene Pro V, Aussie Miracle og Head & Shoulders)

"At P&G nothing is more important than the safety of the consumers who use our products including our shampoos. Our experts make sure that our products and packaging fulfills all local standards and regulations, ensuring they are safe for use and safe for the environment. We use the highest scientific standards and have the same rigid approach to safety assessment used globally by authorities, safety experts and regulators.

The specific ingredients which Forbrugerrådet Tænk Kemi have focus on are evaluated and approved by the local authorities in Europe and Denmark as safe for consumers and the environment when used in cosmetic products. We always ensure that we abide to any specific regulation or guidance on any given type of product including limit values for the chemicals in the products."