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Drugstore Shampoo Ingredients That Can Ruin Your Hair

The shampoos and conditioners we find at the drugstore are appealing for obvious reasons. They’re affordable, come in fun, colorful bottles, and have delicious scents. However, the same things that make these products affordable might also be damaging to our hair. Below are a few ingredients to be on the lookout for the next time you’re browsing the shampoo aisle.


Water is often the first ingredient in many drugstore shampoos. Why is this a bad thing, you ask? Because water dilutes the rest of the ingredients, making the product seem like a better value than it is. Sure, you’re paying less, but you’ll have to use more of the product to get the same results. Salon products use a higher concentration of ingredients, so they last much longer. If you’re ever trying to decide if a product is watered-down, try checking the directions. If they advise you to use a lot of product, it’s a good indication that it’s low-quality.

Silicone and Dimethicone

“Cones”, such as silicone and dimethicone, are commonly found in drugstore conditioners. Cones are added to increase the hair’s shininess, but can cause buildup in the hair, making it difficult for the hair to absorb or retain any moisture. While these ingredients might make your hair feel soft, shiny, and silky in the beginning, it might become dull or “tacky” feeling instead.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common detergent in many shampoos that causes that foaming lather we often see in hair commercials. Sulfates are very harsh on hair, however, and will strip it of the essential oils it needs to stay healthy, break down proteins, and halt healthy hair growth.

Sodium Chloride (Salt)

Salt is usually listed on the backs of shampoo bottles by its chemical name, sodium chloride. It’s often used as a thickener in shampoos and conditioners containing sodium lauryl sulfate. These days, many shampoos even advertise themselves as “sea salt shampoos”, marketing a tousled, beachy aesthetic. But think of what ocean water does to your hair, and you’ll see why salt is actually quite harsh on keratin (the tough protein hair is made of.)  It can cause dry and itchy scalp, in addition to hair loss.


Used to prolong the shelf life of an average hair-care product, parabens like methylparaben and propylparaben are well known for their toxic nature. Parabens not only irritate the skin (causing scalp issues like dandruff), but they can also affect your hormonal balance, which can result in hair loss.

Bottom Line: Should I stop buying drugstore shampoo?

Think of shampoo as wine. All wine is made of grapes, and some would say that they all taste basically the same. But just like a professional sommelier can tell the subtle differences in many aspects of any bottle of wine when compared to another, a professional hairdresser can do the same with shampoo.

With that said, if all you want is something cheap that gets the job done, then by all means, go with the drugstore option. If you’re experiencing problems like dandruff, breakage, and split ends, that’s when you need to make an appointment with a Cary hairdresser to fine-tune your hair care process.

Artisan Hair is a luxury hair salon in Cary NC specializing in hair styling, hair coloring, highlighting, and balayage. To learn more about our services, click here.

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