Having hair that smells good is so important to many of us that one cosmetic company even named a shampoo after a compliment, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific? And while smelling good is always good, fragrance may be the one thing we can do without when deciding on a shampoo — particularly if our scalps start to feel flaky and itchy. New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells Refinery29, ” … fragrances can lead to skin irritation, whether they come from skincare or even haircare products. Shampoos are especially problematic because they directly touch the scalp, and the lather touches the rest of the body as it is washes from the hair and drips down.”
Fragrance in shampoo has also been identified as a cause of contact dermatitis on your scalp, which is an allergic reaction that manifests as redness, itchiness, or a rash (via Shape). If you haven’t had a problem before and are now experiencing dermatitis, your skin might have gotten “sensitized,” which means something in your skin’s environment has altered its ability to function properly, leaving it feeling red and stinging (via Shape).
Fragrance-free shampoo is better for your health
Refinery29 notes that fragrance-free doesn’t mean unscented, because the product could have other ingredients that hide or neutralize scents. Shape warns that you’ll need to look at labels for ingredients like “parfum” or “fragrance” that will indicate that you’re holding a bottle that you need to put down. You also need to watch out for ingredients like sulfates, or SLS, which can irritate your skin (via Ecology Center). These also produce a substance called nitrosamine, which has been linked to cancer. Avoid parabens, which are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, have also been known to masquerade as estrogen, causing unintended consequences from tumors to early-onset puberty. And finally, phthalates, which help give shampoo fragrances their kick, is another chemical you’ll need to give a hard pass on.
In case you’re wondering where Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific went, one user on City Data may have an answer: “Ok I got a couple bottles off ebay because people kept telling me how awesome this stuff smells. it’s a shampoo from the ’70s or ’80s but now only made in the Philippines. I have to admit it does smell really good and lasts all day. But it ended up drying my hair out so severe it broke off!!!!!! I had to go back to using Aveda. Took a year to get my hair back into shape.”
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