I was in The Warehouse the other day. I don’t normally frequent The Warehouse. For non-Kiwi readers, The Warehouse is best described as bargain shopping where you can buy everything and anything under the one roof. I needed some small plastic bottles to hold some shampoo in, so visited my nearest Warehouse.

Cruising down the aisles, I stopped to look at what shampoos were on offer and spotted Universal Brands’ Body Sensitive range. Never heard of Universal Brands but seems it’s Australian. I checked out the conditioner as I was intrigued by the claim that it has no sodium lauryl sulphate, harmful detergents, animal derivatives, soap ingredients or artificial colours. I’ve told you before why you should be avoiding sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulphates (SLS).

Based on the ingredients list, I would not use the conditioner. I must add a caveat here – I’m not a scientist. Just someone who has taken the time to study the various ingredients in shampoos, conditioners, shower gels and so on.

I’m not saying that the Body Sensitive conditioner or range isn’t safe or natural but let’s look at the ingredients list for the conditioner, starting off with propylparaben (see photo below). I haven’t read great things about propylparaben. In conditioners and shampoos, the amount of propylparaben isn’t necessarily a cause for concern but many products are now avoiding parabens so why use them?

Methylparaben is also listed and is a synthetic preservative that has been linked to breast cancer. The cosmetics industry uses low levels of methylparaben and the link is therefore a weak one. But again, why create products with controversial parabens when you can have paraben-free products?

Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride caught my eye. This is also known as guar gum and is a conditioning agent that makes hair feel softer and smoother. It’s one of three conditioning agents normally present in shampoos and conditioners: Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Quaternium-33. They are referred to as Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or quats, which can cause skin and respiratory irritation.

This chemical safety database has this to say about quats:

Quaternary ammonium compounds can cause toxic effects by all routes of exposure including inhalation, ingestion,dermal application and irrigation of body cavities. Exposure to diluted solutions can cause mild and self-limited irritation. Concentrated solutions of quaternary ammonium compounds are corrosive and can cause burns to the skin and the mucous membranes. They can produce systemic toxicity due to their curare-like properties. They can also cause allergic reactions.”

From what I’ve read, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride should not exceed 0.2%-1.0% in a product. There are plenty of shampoos and conditioners that don’t contain this conditioning agent: Burt’s Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar and Aubrey Organics Blue Camomile Hydrating shampoo being examples.

DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that has replaced formaldehyde. It’s known as a formaldehyde donor because it slowly releases formaldehyde. It’s a strong skin, eye, and lung irritant and is a known human immune system toxicant.

Cetearyl Alcohol consists of Cetyl and Steareth Alcohol and it’s a fatty alcohol (as opposed to a harsh, stripping alcohol). I’ve read good and bad things about this alcohol derivative. As a fatty alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol acts as an emollient or humectant to moisturize skin – that’s the good part. The bad part is that it’s a known common allergen. I found this patient information leaflet that explains the allergic reaction. Cetearyl glucoside is an emulsifying wax extracted from vegetable fats, corn sugars or coconut and appears on a fairly lengthy list of corn allergens.

Not sure I’d want any shampoos or conditioners containing any of the above ingredients splashing onto my face or absorbing into my skin thanks. You’ll note the product is also made in China – a country not exactly famous for strict safety regulations. Just look at this scary list from 2007 of dangerous Made-In-China products.

I’m sure things have changed since 2007 but we all need to start learning how to reverse-engineer the ingredients list on products that claim to be safe or natural. There’s a ton of variety out there and a ton of ingredients listed on thousands of products. It’s our responsibility to educate ourselves so that we are in control of the ingredients that go onto, or are absorbed into, our bodies.

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Ingredients listed on reverse side.

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