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Why Shampoo Makes Your Eyes Sting

Why Shampoo Makes Your Eyes Sting

Imagine this . . . you’re in the shower and enjoying a luxuriously warm flow of water. That feeling of relaxation flows through you.

You reach for your shampoo and while you’re enjoying a little scalp self-massage – suddenly out of nowhere, a stray drop of shampoo gets into your eye. That feeling of splendid relaxation is over, and you feel like a red-hot soapy poker has gone into your eye!

What makes this stuff hurt so dang bad? Why does shampoo make your eyes sting exactly?

Well, it turns out it’s all about pH – pH being a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. The liquid that lubricates your eye is approximately neutral in pH, and because eyes are so delicate and sensitive – even tiny changes in the environment upsets them. The normal eye pH is 7-7.4, which is in the neutral range. When the pH is above that, it’s basic; below is acidic. Shampoos tend to be acidic.

More specifically – shampoo triggers the lacrimal and zygomatic nerves sitting beneath the cornea, which perceive the slightest variation in pH as painful. They then trigger our blink reflex and tears in an attempt to remove foreign bodies or chemical contaminants. This is why you can help stop the pain by rinsing your eye with clean water.

So why not just have neutral shampoo, then? Would that not save us all some agony?

Well actually, you can get neutral shampoos, which are less likely to sting your eyes – but these are also slightly less effective at the whole cleaning element AND believe it or not – these can actually be more ‘toxic’!

Baby shampoos for example, in addition to being more diluted – have a pH much closer to seven (the normal eye pH). As a result, they sting less, but they also don’t work as well and can cause more damage to the hair.

In addition, the surfactants used in baby shampoos are usually ‘ethoxylated’. Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals to make them less harsh. Ethoxylation can create small amounts of 1,4-dioxane and leave residual ethylene oxide in the product. This manufacturing process can result in two toxic contaminants linked to breast cancer and other cancers: ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. So ‘no-tears’ does NOT mean safer in many cases and risks are high for babies and pregnant women!

Does shampoo damage the eyes?

Most of the experts and lay people in this thread of Quora suggest that getting shampoo in your eyes is not damaging to the eyes long-term. It is suggested to rinse well with clean water, which of course makes sense.

That being said – Sodium Laurel Sulphate is found in most shampoos and according to research in animals – it can cause long term harm!

From the results obtained, SLS is shown to be toxic to the eye and increased concentration can lead to severe damage of eye tissue.

Effect of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) on the External Adnexia of the Rabbit

So, all in all – keep your eyes closed when shampooing your hair . . . and choose a safety-conscious formula to keep you along with your eyes and scalp safe!

Do you have questions about shampoo and safety? Are you looking for a clear path to follow to create a safer home for your family?

Speak with your Savvy Team Wellness Guide, chat with us via Facebook Messenger or use our contact page. for our current recommended safer products, and we will hook you up with a $10 credit towards your first order. If you have a Savvy Team Wellness Guide already – please ask them.


Request a free ‘How Can We Help’ Discovery Session, and one of our Wellness Guides will help you uncover 3 key action areas for you to reach the next level of wellness!

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