Have you ever thought about the hair-washing process? I mean REALLY thought about it?
We scrub it with shampoo to rid it of dirt and oil. Then we condition it to… wait for it…. REPLACE the oil we just stripped out of it. Along with all the other ingredients, the hair doesn’t need. Then all these ingredients just attract more dirt to the hair, so…
Lather. Rinse, Repeat.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of those ingredients.
Ingredients commonly used in shampoo:
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate - foaming agent. Can cause severe allergic reactions in larger doses.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate - water softener. Responsible for making a lather. A known carcinogen, proven to be irritating to the hair and scalp.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate - a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier. This is used in cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners, and present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, and hair color. The manufacturing process is ethoxylation. The result is contamination with 1.4 dioxanes, a carcinogenic byproduct.
- Phthalates - plasticizing ingredients that give hair that beautiful ‘sheen.' They have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system and lower sperm motility in males. They frequently masquerade under the generic term "fragrance."
- Sodium lauroamphoacetate - cleanser and counter-irritant. Also known to clog pores.
- Polysorbate 20 - surfactant and skin irritant.
- Polysorbate 80 - an emulsifier.
- PEG-150 stearate - thickener.
- Citric Acid - antioxidant and preservative. Also a severe eye irritant.
- Quaternium-15 - fungicidal preservative.
- Polyquaternium - conditioning ingredient.
- Di-PPG-2 myreth-10 adipate - a water-dispersible emollient that forms clear solutions with surfactant systems.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) - a preservative used to prevent bacteria from developing. May have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
- Parabens - chemicals shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
Pretty disturbing right? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of these ingredients were never intended for human consumption. That's right; I said human consumption. Because when you rub something all over your scalp, it is a direct link to your bloodstream. Anything you put on your skin goes directly into your body. Although many scientists do not agree that something needs to be safe for ingestion if you are just putting it on your skin. But there has been enough evidence to prove otherwise.
But the truth is, if you wouldn't put something in your body, you should never put it on your body!
The sad thing is because the required labeling for these ingredients falls into a gray area, you will often find these ingredients masquerading as something else; even in products claiming to be natural or organic.
I am not going to get into a full discourse on why these chemicals are used, or what potential threats they could pose. If you want to read more on that, look here.
Aside from the poisonous chemicals, we are rubbing all over our scalps (which, I repeat, the skin is a direct conduit to the bloodstream, so when you rub something on your skin it is just as bad if not more so than if you were ingesting it!). This process is stripping the much-needed sebum from our hair. The body produces sebum in the first place to keep itself clean and healthy. Ironic huh?
When the oil or sebum is constantly being stripped from the hair follicle, the body learns that it needs to make extra oil to keep the hair healthy. This results in the sebaceous glands overproducing the sebum which causes a variety of hair and scalp issues. These problems can include overproduction of cells or psoriasis, and dehydration of the skin tissue itself, usually resulting in dandruff or itchiness. Additionally, a constant secretion of oil will attract even more dirt and an increase in bacteria. This will also strip the skin of its vital nutrients that it needs to maintain a healthy mane.
There are only two steps necessary, and they have been significantly distorted over the years.
They are cleansing and conditioning. The cleansing process only needs something slightly astringent to rid the hair of bacteria and possible harmful contaminants (This is yet another reason I do not think that slathering the hair in chemicals counts as removing harmful contaminants).
The conditioning process is intended to get the plates or scales of the hair to lay flat along the follicle. This prevents hair breakage and keeps it looking smooth and shiny.
I have suffered from Psoriasis my whole life, and I have learned from trial and error, that if I so much as even LOOK at a bottle of shampoo my scalp starts to have a flakey, itchy heyday!
Yet, I get compliments on my hair all the time.
Usually, I just say thank you and move on.
But sometimes they ask what I use to make it look so healthy.
So I tell them I use herbs and oil, instead of shampoo and conditioner.
If they have not walked away from me at this point, the conversation usually shifts to my reasoning behind it, which is that applying any soap or detergent (which includes shampoo, even organic or baby shampoo) to the scalp is drying and horribly irritating for the skin and hair.
Sometimes people hear me out. And sometimes they don't. The usual response is that they could never go without washing their hair because their hair would just get too greasy and disgusting.
This is only partially correct. It is true that if you have been using shampoo and conditioner regularly for your entire life, and suddenly stop, your hair is going to have to go through a transition period.
I recommend slowly weaning yourself off shampoo. This will regulate the sebaceous glands and allow them to start slowing down the overproduction of oil.
If you go cold turkey, you are going to go through withdrawals!
Start going a little bit longer in between hair washing. Eventually getting to about once per week. You can still use conditioner if you like. Some people are advocates for baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I did this for years but eventually figured out that the baking soda was still stripping out too much oil from my hair.
Once your hair is happy with only being washed once per week, try the herb and oil technique the following week. Alternating every other week.
After a couple of months, the herbs and oil are all you will need. Eventually, you will only need to do this procedure to your hair about once per month.
You can still rinse your hair as often as you like in between of course. I also like to spray mine with a combination of witch-hazel (because it is not over-drying) and rosemary tea (because it cleanses and stimulates hair growth) a couple of times per week to keep it smelling fresh. I also occasionally do a sea salt scrub, and an apple cider vinegar rinse depending on the time of year.
The traditional Indian Ayurvedic technique for hair cleansing uses herbs such as Amla and Brahmi, and oils such as sesame and Bhringaraj. This method is still the norm in India today. Keep in mind they have regular soap there nowadays. But they still prefer to take care of their hair the natural way. And there is a lot of beautiful hair there!
If you are interested in the herbs and oil technique, check this out.
The point is, hair care has been around forever, but chemical-laden shampoos and other hair products have not. Try giving your hair the break it deserves. Lay off the poison. Nourish it with vibrant, healthy nutrients, and it will reward you with luxurious locks that will be the envy of everyone you meet!