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What are Toxic Ingredients? Are they an Issue of Science or Dosage?


  1. Is there such thing as a toxic ingredient?
  2. Should you be avoiding parabens and sulphates?
  3. What about relaxers?
  4. What is white labelling?
  5. How can you protect yourself from toxic ingredients?

Key Points

  • Formulator Tumi Siwoku, emphasises the need for context and the correct dosage, before we start labelling ingredients as toxic.
  • Parabens have been given a lot of bad press, however there is no scientific data to support claims that this ingredient is toxic, when used at the standard dosage.
  • Sulfates are renowned for ‘getting the job done’ when it comes to cleaning the scalp. They can be quite harsh and stripping on the hair, so make sure you are moisturising your hair afterwards. 
  • Relaxers should not be toxic if used at the right dosage and left to sit for the correct amount of time. They contain lye, an ingredient that's received bad press, however this is used in your standard bar soap.
  • White labelling is when a manufacturer makes a range of standard products, and then resells them to other customers who can personalise the branding, and go on to sell them as their own.
  • You can protect yourself from potentially toxic ingredients by checking to see if they have an CPNP notification next to them online. CPNP is a government approved website that checks that products are fit for the UK and EU market.

Is There Such Thing As A Toxic Ingredient?

Toxic ingredients have been all the talk in the black haircare industry, but is there any truth to the unsettling articles out there? Formulator Tumi Siwoku, emphasises the need for context and the correct dosage, before we start labelling ingredients as toxic. Anything at the wrong dosage can be lethal, even ingredients that seem harmless, like water. Toxicity is relative to the dosage of the ingredient. In the UK and EU, toxic ingredients are strictly monitored, with over 1300 ingredients currently banned. However you might want to check the ingredients on American products as their regulations are a lot less rigid, with only 14 ingredients currently banned by their regulatory body the FDA.

Should You Be Avoiding Parabens & Sulphates?

There’s been a big shift away from parabens and sulphates in recent years, but are they really all that bad? Since the mid 90s parabens have been developing a bad name for themselves, when in reality, there is no reliable scientific data to suggest that they are harmful. Formulator Tumi remarks that especially at the regulated dosage that parabens are currently used in products, they cannot be considered toxic or harmful to us. There has also been a big movement away from sulphates in the haircare industry, in favour of products that are less stripping to the hair. But should sulphates be avoided completely? Well, it’s up to personal preference with this one. Sulphates in cleansing shampoos are amazing for getting rid of product build up on the scalp, but can be harsh on your hair strands. To combat this you would have to make sure you’re replenishing your hair after using a sulphate based product, by making sure your hair is well moisturised afterwards. 

What About Relaxers?

Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide is one of the main ingredients used in relaxers, and the press surrounding this ingredient hasn’t been great. But did you know that sodium hydroxide is actually the same ingredient used in your everyday bar of soap? If the correct amount of relaxer is used and the length of time that the relaxer is allowed to sit on the hair is right, relaxer should not be harmful to use. Relaxer works in a way that weakens the bonds of the hair, which straightens the hair strand in the process. The longer it sits on the hair the weaker the bonds become, so be cautious as if left on for an excessive amount of time you could experience breakage. 

What Is White Labelling?

Ever heard of the term white labelling? In our LIVE, Tumi Siwoku defines this as ‘private labelling.’ This is when a manufacturer makes a range of standard products and then resells it onto other companies who can brand and label it as they wish. Whilst there is freedom in personalising the branding of the product, the formula remains the same. Unfortunately there is no current way of determining whether a product is white labelled or not. We just thought we’d make this practice known!

How Can You Protect Yourself From Toxic Ingredients?

So if toxicity depends on the dosage of an ingredient…then how exactly do you protect yourself from toxic ingredients? In the UK  and EU it’s quite simple, especially as there are high health and safety standards already in place in this market. Formulator Tumi explains that a regulatory body called the CPNP (cosmetic product notification portal) creates a notification by products that are fit to be sold in the UK and EU markets, after complying with health and safety regulations. If a product is approved by this body then it will be safe to use!


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