When the Word Chemical Doesn’t Mean Toxic


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Key Takeaways: 

  • The word chemical has become increasingly unpopular in marketing for personal care products, with companies claiming their products are "chemical-free".
  • How much we are exposed to a chemical makes a difference in whether or not it might be dangerous to us. (Eating too many strawberries is a great example.)
  • Solid Roots is proud of the hair- and scalp-loving chemicals we’ve researched and hand-selected for our shampoo and conditioner bars.

I just read a great blog post about how the word “chemical” has become synonymous in modern day society with the words “poison” and/or “toxic”. The gist of the article was that because of this mindset, chemicals as a whole have become increasingly unpopular – especially in marketing for personal care products – with companies claiming their products are "chemical-free". This is both sad and untrue, since water itself is a chemical and most personal care products on the market DO contain water. Even our solid shampoo and conditioner bars contain a tiny bit of water to help bind the bars together. 

The study of toxicology has shown us that the chemicals that are harmful to us, like formaldehyde, are the exception not the norm. You’ve probably heard the saying, “the dose makes the poison.” This means that how much we are exposed to something makes a difference in whether or not it might be dangerous to us. For example, even water can be harmful if we drink too much. My sister once broke out in hives from eating too many strawberries. But if you’re exposed to a tiny bit of formaldehyde one time, you’ll probably be okay.

However, that’s not to say that certain chemicals, even those chemicals that we are exposed to daily in very small amounts such as those in our personal care products, can’t be harmful to us. Repeated exposure to something can potentially lead to some not-so-great outcomes, too. Just as being exposed to a hefty dose of something like formaldehyde once would make us very sick.

I’m trained as a scientist with a Ph.D. in Physiology and Genetics and I use that training when I come up with formulations for Solid Roots products. In fact, I started this company partly as a way to help others avoid ingredients that might have a less-than-stellar safety profile. For example, there have been various health outcomes, such as increased risk of breast cancer in women, that have been linked with certain chemicals in personal care products. (A great resource on personal care products and your health can be found here.) 

Before putting any ingredient into our products, I review all the available safety data. This is no small feat. Through my research, I’ve learned that most chemicals in personal care products, when used at the accepted concentrations, are perfectly safe. However, there are some that the jury is still out on in terms of their safety profiles, such as parabens, phthalates, and certain synthetic fragrances. We choose to avoid those ingredients in our products until we know more. 

Instead of using “chemical-free” claims, which is a form of fear-mongering that I detest and is blatantly false, here at Solid Roots we focus on using chemicals that aren’t harmful for us AND have the benefit of creating a healthy scalp and shiny locks. We choose safe and effective plant-based cleansers, enriching and potent botanical extracts, and omega-rich butters and oils to bring luster and shine to the hair – all chemicals that we are proud to use.

We also think that it’s very important, as a consumer, to find a brand that cares about the ingredients that it uses, but not one that lies to you about being chemical free. As a consumer, you should want transparency, which is why we have an entire webpage and an expansive FAQ dedicated to explaining the ingredients that we chose to include. We want you to feel comfortable knowing that we care about your health as much as you do.