We’ve all been there before. You’re in your local drugstore, standing in front of rows upon rows of shelves containing different brands and types of shampoo, struggling to decide which bottle to purchase.

Everyone wants luscious and healthy hair, and shampoos that say “paraben-free” or “sulfate-free” are generally marketed as being better for our health. But do you know what ingredients are inside your bottle of shampoo?

Experts say sulfates are generally safe to use in low quantities, as it’s only real purpose is creating sudsy foam. But overuse can also strip hair of its natural oils and irritate the skin.

Master stylist Trey Gillen from Maison Luisant said they're also potentially detrimental to your hair color.

"A high end line that says they have sulfates, but they're using a more refined sulfate can still be better for you then some sulfate-free shampoos that are using a very low grade sulfate-free product,” said Gillen.

If you have colour-treated hair, then you probably know to avoid shampoo containing sulfates. Using sulfates on colour-treated hair can cause the colour to fade. 

Have you ever heard of sodium chloride? You probably have because it’s just another fancy name for table salt. It’s in shampoo as a thickening agent, but it can cause an itchy and dry scalp, and potential hair loss. People who’ve undergone keratin treatments need to be extra cautious of using shampoo containing both sulfates and sodium chloride as it can undo the effects. 

"People will say 'Oh I'm going on vacation'. I'm like ‘Do not get in salt water,’ you'll pull it out just like a sulfate will. If it says sodium chloride that means that there's salt in your product, and it's usually just a thickening agent," said Gillen. 

The real danger lies with parabens. 

Parabens are preservatives that are known to disrupt hormones, particularly estrogen. It’s been linked to certain types of cancer. 

"So parabens are the preservatives that are in most skin care products and we're tending to lean towards taking them out of the products. It's just a preservative that's a good thing, but it also can cause skin irritations. It's also been found...parabens have been found in certain types of cancerous tumors as well as certain types of cancer such as breast cancer," said Gillen.

Some haircare tips include: Don’t over wash your hair, frequently use conditioner, avoid using hair colour, eat a balanced diet, use caution with heat products, trim split ends regularly, and protect your hair when venturing outside into harsh weather.