Here’s a simple experiment:
Take a walk down the cosmetic aisle of any major supermarket and select a shampoo from the shelf. Turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list. Chances are many of the names sound foreign to you, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, polyethelyne glycol, or cocamide diethanolamine.
The sad news is that most commercial shampoos that you see on the shelves today contain synthetic ingredients that can wreak havoc on your health. Many of these ingredients were originally created for industrial uses and are way too powerful to be using on our hair and skin!
It didn’t always use to be this way. Before the advent of chemical processing plants and corporate shampoo companies, people used natural ingredients to wash their hair. For every synthetic ingredient we find in modern shampoos, a natural ingredient can do the job even better.
Today, I wanted to take a look at the good and the bad of hair care:
Bad: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is a chemical surfactant, which means it is a wetting and foaming agent. The purpose of SLS is to lower the surface tension in the water, allowing the shampoo to spread through the hair more easily. Traditionally, SLS was used in industrial factories as a compound to degrease engines. SLS produces a thick, foamy lather, which consumers typically equate with cleanliness, but in fact this foam is actually stripping the hair of its natural oils. When the hair is stripped of its natural oils it becomes unmanageable, which is why you need to use a conditioner after shampooing. SLS also causes harm by stripping the hair and scalp of its beneficial bacteria. Your scalp is a very delicate ecosystem and once that is thrown off balance you can experience rashes, hair loss, and allergic reactions.
Good: Prickly Pear Extract
Prickly Pear Extract is a great natural alternative to the suds that are produced by SLS in chemical shampoos. Prickly Pear produces a very low sudsing action which helps spread the product better throughout the hair, without stripping the hair of its natural oils.
Bad: Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
PEG is designed to aggressively penetrate and cleanse the strands, overtime breaking down healthy hair proteins, which can cause dryness and brittleness.
Good: Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV is a gentle, pH balanced cleanser that helps remove build-up from the hair and scalp without stripping the hair of its natural oils. ACV also helps promote blood flow through the scalp, which can help encourage hair growth and strengthen the roots. Since ACV is naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal it can help relieve an itchy, flaky scalp.
Bad: Imdiazolidinyl Urea & DMDM Hydantoin
These are just two of the many synthetic preservatives that release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions, and trigger heart palpitations. Exposure to formaldehyde can also cause joint paint, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep.
Good: White Willow Bark
White Willow Bark is a great natural preservative due to its microbial properties, which prevent bacteria growth. Additionally, White Will Bark helps balance oily scalps while still maintaining a healthy level of sebum to protect the hair strand. It is also a natural source of salicylic acid which helps gently eliminate flakes and build up on the skin, making it a great ingredient for face washes.
Bad: Mineral Oil
This petroleum ingredient coats the skin exactly like plastic wrap. This barrier that it produces over the skin can stop the skin from releasing toxins and can slow down normal cell development. Mineral Oil is typically added to shampoos to add moisture to the hair and to prevent frizz.
Good: Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera contains amino acids which can promote strength and add shine to your hair. The enzymes in Aloe Vera help your hair retain moisture, which improves the smoothness of your strands. Aloe Vera can also reduce dandruff and combat an itchy scalp.
It isn’t all bad news! More and more, consumers reading their ingredient lists and becoming aware of the harmful products in their shampoos, forcing hair care companies to take a hard look at what they are putting in their products.
One of my favourite hair care companies right now is Morrocco Method. Many of the beneficial ingredients in this article can be found in their handcrafted shampoo line. I highly recommend checking out their products, which use only 100% botanical ingredients that actually benefit your hair and scalp. Not only will your hair become healthier, but it will look great too!