Cosmetic Ingredient Lists 101: Popular Shampoo Ingredients

Cosmetic Ingredient Lists 101: Popular Shampoo Ingredients As you probably know, the main task of shampoos is to cleanse the hair and scalp from excess oils, dust, dirt, and styling products. The dirtier the hair, the deeper cleansing it needs, and therefore the more “powerful” the shampoo formula should be. But what exactly should this formula include? How to read shampoo labels correctly to understand their effect? Let’s find this out together.

Until relatively recently, people did not have shampoos and used other available cleansers to wash their hair, such as regular soap, clay, chickpea flour, baking soda, soap nuts and other plants, etc. Such products did a good enough job, but let’s not forget that back in the day, people had a slightly different attitude towards hair care. In addition, the air was cleaner, and there were no chemical dyes that could damage the hair.

As a result, today most people need shampoos to keep their hair clean because natural remedies don’t cut it. There are thousands of different shampoos available to consumers, but their basic formulas have remained practically unchanged for years. They include a detergent base, ingredients that provide the desired consumer properties, and conditioning ingredients that take care of the hair. Let’s take a closer look at the main ingredients that can be found in shampoos.


Ever since German chemist Hans Schwarzkopf began selling the world’s first liquid shampoo in 1927, water has been the main ingredient of shampoos by volume. It is usually designated as Aqua or Water on the label. However, some manufacturers of natural cosmetics use herbal decoctions or infusions instead of pure water. In such a case, Decoction or Decoct. will be the first ingredient on the product label.


Surfactants are the principal active ingredients of any shampoo because they are responsible for the product’s cleansing effect. There are a lot of surfactants that are used in shampoos, but sulphates are probably the best known ones. They include, for example, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES).

SLS and SLES are very cheap and common surfactants. They used to be the only surfactants found in mass market shampoos. However, a lot of manufacturers have since switched to milder surfactants because SLS and SLES are irritants that can cause an itchy and flaky scalp, dry hair, breakage and split ends. Because of this, a lot of consumers prefer shampoos formulated with safe and mild surfactants such as sulfosuccinates, sarcosinates, glucosides, and natural saponins found in soap nuts and some other plants.


If shampoos were as liquid as water, they wouldn’t be easy to use. Due to this, shampoos are formulated with various thickeners that make their texture, well, thicker. Common thickeners that can be found in shampoos are natural and synthetic polymers such as sodium polyacrylate, hydroxyethyl cellulose, xanthan gum, guar gum, carboxymethyl cellulose, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, etc.


All industrially produced cosmetics contain preservatives that ensure a long shelf life, and shampoos are no exception. Preservatives prevent the growth of various bacteria and fungi in cosmetic products. Shampoos can be formulated with natural or synthetic preservatives. Some of the most common preservatives used in shampoos include sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, silver citrate, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, bronopol, quaternium-15, benzoic acid, sorbic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, dehydroacetic acid, citric acid, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and ethanol.

Fragrances, Colourants and Opacifiers

Most consumers want their shampoo to not only have a pleasant texture, but also to smell and look nice. Because of this, most shampoos are formulated with colourants, fragrances, and opacifiers. Colourants are usually designated on shampoo labels as CI XXXXX, where XXXXX is their Colour Index Constitution Number according to the Colour Index International database. Fragrances are designated as Parfum. Common opacifiers found in shampoos include styrene/acrylates copolymer, PEG-4 distearyl ether, dicaprylyl ether, etc.

Solubilizers and pH Regulators (Buffering Agents)

These ingredients are functional additives designed to increase the solubility of hardly soluble ingredients, as well as to maintain the optimal pH level of the product. Common solubilizers found in shampoos are glycerine, propylene glycol, ethanol, and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether. Widely used buffering agents include, for example, lactic acid, citric acid, sodium hydroxide, mono- and thirethanolamine.

Conditioning Ingredients

Modern consumers expect that shampoos will not only cleanse their hair and scalp, but also take care of their hair. Because of this, most shampoos contain various conditioning ingredients, the choice of which may vary greatly depending on the tasks that a particular shampoo is supposed to perform. For example, silicones are added to shampoos in order to make the hair more manageable. Nourishing, moisturising and strengthening shampoo ingredients include plant extracts, carrier oils, hydrolysed proteins, clay, vitamins, hyaluronic acid, and more.

Shampoo formulations can vary greatly depending on the ingredients used and their concentration. For example, natural shampoos are formulated with safe natural surfactants. They also contains less fragrances, colourants and opacifiers than mass market shampoos and more natural conditioning ingredients. Their composition is carefully balanced so that not to dry out the scalp and hair.

In our online shop Organic Store, you will find shampoos with mild and safe formulas based on natural ingredients. We offer affordable prices, convenient payment methods, and international delivery to most parts of the world to make your online shopping experience as comfortable as possible.

SLS- and SLES-Free Shampoos in Our Store


Add to Cart


Add to Cart

Dr. Sante Hyaluron Hair

Add to Cart

Dr. Sante Cannabis Hair

Add to Cart

Dr. Sante Collagen Hair

Add to Cart