HealthNatural Beauty

Illegal Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found In Nearly 100 Popular Shampoo Brands

Not many people think about their shampoo as something they should worry about. I mean, aside from stinging your eyes, what else could these chemical concoctions do to our bodies?

According to The Centre for Environmental Health (CEH), shampoos can actually do more harm than good – so much so that they’re even being deemed as deadly.

CEH performed a study on shampoos and soaps and discovered that 98 include a possible carcinogen known as cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA). What’s worse is that these soaps and shampoos are manufactured by some of the most popular companies nation-wide.

Cocamide DEA Dangers

Cocamide DEA is a chemically modified form of coconut oil that is added as a thickening and foaming agent. Those suds that envelop your whole head when you wash your hair is likely the cocamide in action.

The health dangers of cocamide DEA are enough to get anyone to stop using products containing the poison. This chemical causes mild to moderate skin and eye irritation and can cause liver cancer, and other precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid. Nitrites present in cosmetics and other beauty products also combine with cocamide DEA to form nitrosamines, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as a human carcinogen.

Cocamide DEA is also harmful to the environment, as it has the capacity to bioaccumulate, and is highly toxic to aquatic organisms (which are often the first in line when exposed to chemicals that run down the drain – especially in rural areas).

CEH actually purchased the shampoos and other products containing cocamide DEA and sent them to an independent lab to determine the total content of the chemical in the products. Most products contained more than 10,000 ppm cocamide DEA, with one shampoo testing at more than 200,000 ppm (20%) cocamide DEA.


The controversial ingredient, cocamide DEA, has landed four personal care manufacturers with a lawsuit in California. The CEH filed the lawsuit after discovering the presence of cocamide DEA in shampoos and soaps.

In the state of California, Proposition 65 requires manufacturers to warn consumers over the risks of certain substances. Cocamide DEA is on that list, because it is a suspected carcinogen, and was even banned as a chemical allowed in the state after a study found that it caused cancer in laboratory animals.

CEH has also sent legal notices to more than 100 other companies that use cocamide DEA in their products, as it violates state law. “Most people believe that products sold in major stores are tested for safety, but consumers need to know that they could be doused with a cancer-causing chemical every time they shower or shampoo,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We expect companies to take swift action to end this unnecessary risk to our children’s and families’ health.”

Companies To Avoid

Cocamide DEA was found present in products sold by popular companies such as:

– Colgate Palmolive
– Paul Mitchell
– Colomer
– Walmart Equate brand
– Target
– Kohl’s
– Lush (Fair Trade Honey Shampoo)
– Trader Joe’s (Lemon Kitchen Hand Soap)
– Babies R Us ( 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner)

Many other major national retailers also made the list (you can find the list here). An updated list on companies who have committed to CEH in writing that they will reformulate their products can be found here.

Even children’s products contain the chemical, such as the children’s shampoo/conditioner from Babies R Us (as mentioned above), and a store brand children’s bubble bath from Kmart. Even falsely labeled organic products from Organic by Africa’s Best tested positive for high levels of this cancer-causing chemical (CEH actually won a legal settlement with this company requiring it to end the use of false organic labels).

Shampoo & Conditioner Alternatives

Most shampoos and conditioners are loaded with unnecessary chemicals, not just cocamide DEA. Ingredients to look out for include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), fragrance, cocamidopropyl betaine, triclosan, polysorbates, polyethylene glycol (PEG), potassium sorbet, phenoxyethanol, retinal palmitate, dimethicone, behentrimonium chloride and quaternium-15.

Shampoo brands that I trust include Morrocco Method, and Sunfood Superfoods. These two companies create amazing haircare products that are free of any concerning chemicals, plus they leave your hair feeling amazing.

You can also make your own natural shampoo by using the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method (washing with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar) or by using the recipe from Wellness Mama below:

Homemade Natural Shampoo

– 1/4 cup coconut milk (homemade or canned)
– 1/4 cup Liquid Castille Soap like Dr. Bronners
– 20 drops of Essential Oils of choice (peppermint, lavender, rosemary, orange, or whatever you choose)
– For dry hair: 1/2 tsp. jojoba or almond oil

Combine all of the above ingredients in an old shampoo bottle or jar. Shake well to mix – this keeps up to a month, and should be shaken before each use.

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