Have you ever read the ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash? A majority of them you may have never heard of, let alone know how to pronounce. Have you ever thought about what those mystery words mean, or what they do to your hair and skin? The truth is, you could be unintentionally harming yourself and the environment.

Words like “Paraben” and “Sulfate” can be found in the majority of the personal care products at the store. Parabens are used as a preservative, while sulfates are the ingredient that makes shampoos, body wash, and face wash lather. Both are effective at accomplishing their desired effects but at what cost?

Parabens are disruptive endocrine chemicals meaning they can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems. These chemicals are absorbed into our bloodstream and affect our body’s natural functions. After this chemical goes down the drain, it washes into our sewage system and can be released into the environment. Parabens have been found in aquatic species including but not limited to dolphins, sea otters, and polar bears. While the effects of this chemical on marine life require more research, we do know that parabens have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, and linked to increased skin aging and DNA damage. Common parabens include Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Methylparaben.

Sulfate has been identified as an environmental toxin by the Environmental Working Group. It is also a potent pesticide and can cause major damage to your internal organs. When washed down the drain, sulfates, pollute our water and harm our fish and other aquatic animals. Sulfates also act as an endocrine disruptor that alters the normal functions of hormones leading to reproductive defects in aquatic organisms. As other organisms consume fish that have been poisoned by this chemical, they bioaccumulate up the food chain and increase in toxicity. As this process repeats, the toxicity levels rise and pose a greater threat to our ecosystem. Common sulfates include Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.

The good news is that you don’t have to use products that contain sulfates or parabens. You can easily make the switch to paraben and sulfate free products now that you know what to look for. Consider products with healthy natural ingredients like hemp oil, coconut oil, goat milk, and essential oils. These ingredients aren’t just alternatives, they come with a variety of health benefits too. Even the smallest change is worth the effort and can be a positive impact on your health and the environment.