Do You Know What Is In Your Shampoo?
Did you know that regular shampoo can have as many as 50 ingredients? Most shampoos contain similar categories such as: detergents, solvents, conditioners, preservatives, additives, fragrance, and pigment — and each concoction may be mixed from any number of chemicals. Shampoos claim to give you: ‘shiny hair’, a ‘healthy scalp’, ‘reduce buildup’, or ‘condition’ yet some ingredients are in fact harsh chemicals that can irritate skin, damage follicles, trigger asthma, and may even be known carcinogens — How can that be ‘health’ for hair!?!
Whether the goal is to use fewer chemicals, cure dandruff, tame difficult hair, or save money, more and more people are turning to natural shampoo alternatives and believe it or not — even skipping shampooing all together. Many feel that trading sulfate-based shampoo for natural shampoo makes hair more manageable and improves scalp health. Some even claim that natural methods cure dandruff, flaking, split ends, and even hair loss — and while all the positive effects of natural shampoos may not have been tested extensively in clinical studies, the ingredients in regular shampoo have been tested and the results are alarming:
The most commonly used detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This type of detergent is found in all sorts of cleansers from body wash to engine degreasers. Although it is still on the FDA’s “Generally Regarded as Safe” list, SLS and SLES have been found to cause skin damage, diarrhea, labored breathing, and eye irritation. According to studies done by the American College of Toxicology, both SLS and SLES may cause malformation in children’s eyes — and despite this study most adult shampoos and some children’s shampoos (such as L’Oreal Kids) still contain SLS.
Shampoos that claim to ‘reduce buildup’ typically contain stripping agents designed to remove excess oil and dulling waxy or dirty residue. Among the most commonly used stripping agents are: propylene glycol (PG), polyethylene glycol (PEG), and isopropyl alcohol. PG is a particularly scary solvent that is also used in antifreeze. In many applications PG is used to break down protein, yet hair and skin are made of protein! Not only does PG strip out oils, wax, and silicone (common conditioning agents), but it has the potential to cause skin irritation and hair follicle damage. PEG is even a common ingredient in other household products that claim to remove grease such as spray-on oven cleaner. And although it is an effective oil-removing agent in shampoo PEG also known to be damaging to the immune system and potentially carcinogenic. Finally, isopropyl alcohol is not only drying to your hair but a hazardous solvent in high concentrations. Isopropyl alcohol is a petroleum-derived substance that is said to be dangerous if inhaled or ingested and exposure can cause: headaches, flushing, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Meanwhile, conditioning agents are often added to counter the drying effects of solvent ingredients, to make hair “more manageable” or lustrous. Even if a shampoo that is not labeled as ‘shampoo plus conditioner’ may contain any number of oils, waxes, polymers, or even silicones. Many shampoos contain silicone emollients like: dimethicone and quaternium-80. Silicones are known to coat hair and skin creating an air proof barrier — and while it might create a beautifully smooth texture on skin or hair for a short time, it has been shown to not allow the absorption of oxygen on the skin and restrict the release of toxins; some studies have also indicated that it may accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes! While most scientists agree that silicone is not harmful in personal care and cosmetic products, the use of these items tend to require the use of the aforementioned dangerous stripping agents in shampoo — in a constant circle of thick buildup and dangerous cleaning agents.
But that is not all — In the attempt to make shampoo last longer on the shelf and to prevent the growth of bacteria or fungus from months of storage even before it is sold, companies add preservative ingredients — the most common of which is formaldehyde. In clinical studies formaldehyde has been proven to cause nasal and lung irritation, rashes, and allergies. Additionally, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is often disguised in your shampoo labeled as imidazolidinyl urea or dmdm hydantoin which, although different chemicals, both release formaldehyde. Other side effects of exposure to formaldehyde or formaldehyde-donors can include dizziness, headaches, coughing, and can trigger asthma. Phthalates are another commonly used preservative ingredient which has been proven to interfere with the hormone system. Also, Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) — sometimes erroneously referred to methylisothiazoline on many ingredient lists — is commonly used in shampoos to prevent bacterial growth. MIT is a known neurotoxin that have been shown to cause damage to brain cells in animal and in-vitro studies.
In addition to all the other chemical ingredients in shampoo, companies use additives to create a better consistency and texture. There are three common additives that are designed to produce a foaming texture: diethanolamine (DEA), momoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA). Recent studies have exposed DEA, MEA, and TEA not only as extremely carcinogenic but absorbable through the skin. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois, “repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of two cancers – liver and kidney cancers”.
Do we really want to lather, rinse and repeat daily with such dangerous chemicals?
Armed with this knowledge, a natural shampoo should be a natural choice; and there are numerous natural shampoos or shampoo alternatives available that are right for your hair and your lifestyle!
Many people enjoy shampoo’s ease-of-use and can simply replace their chemical-filled shampoo with organic or natural varieties. Whether you are battling dandruff, dry, oily, knotty, curly, or flat hair — there are natural and chemical-free shampoo alternatives for each need. Look for brands like: Avalon Organics, Burt’s Bees, Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Hauschka’s and Yarok. Which can be found in natural and health food stores as well as online. And while some may cost a little more than conventional shampoos, they clean just as well, come in different formulas to treat each type of hair, and are well-worth the piece of mind.
If you prefer the slow, home-made shampoo alternatives you’ll certainly enjoy low price, ease of use, and great results. There are a million-and-one recipes out there that include ingredients like: baking soda, vinegar, yogurt, fruit, avocado, oils, lemon juice, rose water, or chamomile — yum! These ingredients are much more gentle, totally natural, and sound downright tasty. Combined in different ways, simple household ingredients can become a shampoo that is tailored perfectly to your hair type — Directions to make your own shampoo can be found online.
If you are worried about the hidden effects of your shampoo on your health then it is time to start looking for more natural alternatives to make your hair look and feel amazing without the chemicals.
Image courtesy of Smart Style Guide.