Let me break it down for you
Most shampoos usually tend to have a never ending list of ingredients, fine printed on the back label of their product. These ingredients, depending on the shampoo, usually include sulphates, parabens, PEG’s, synthetic fragrances, etc. – the ‘bad’ stuff or rather the ‘poo’ in your shampoo. This post looks at whether they truly affect your hair in anyway and whether it is worth making the switch to a ‘no poo’ shampoo.
Research on this topic has been going on forever; ever since the synthetic products started hitting the shelves in the 1930’s. However, the ‘no poo’ trend only started picking up steam in the year 2015, courtesy the internet. The theory behind the ‘no poo’ trend is that these ‘bad’ stuff when used to wash your hair, strip the natural oils (sebum) produced by your scalp and so results in the scalp producing even more oil to counterbalance the lost oil.
This could result in a vicious cycle: Wash hair to remove oil -> Oils stripped of scalp -> scalp creates more oil -> wash hair with more shampoo -> scalp produces even more oil.
But how harmful is this process really? Heaps of people use it and their hair looks amazing.
To answer that question, we would have to look at all the ingredients that create the ‘poo’ in your shampoo. Let the Chemistry Class BEGIN! (It has finally come to use)
- Sulphates (Ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate): This ingredient is considered to be one of the most drying ingredients for your scalp and can cause hair loss, eye irritations and skin rashes. According to sulfatefreeshampoos.org, the only reason they are added to your shampoo is in order to help the shampoo spread around or lather really easily. More so, for us ladies that have curly hair – it can be the lead cause for frizz.
- Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben): This ingredient is used as a preservative to ensure the longevity of the product. However, there are some studies that could suggest that parabens could be a cause of cancer. Yikes! It is suggested instead to search for replacement ingredients such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.
- PEG’s or Polyethelene Glycols: This ingredient acts as a binder, emulsion stabilizer and a humectant. This means that it helps keep the ingredients together by ensuring that the oil and liquid components in the shampoo do not split and that the shampoo retains its moisture. The reason why some people steer clear of this ingredient is because it is an alcohol and can cause allergic reactions. However, it is an organic compound that is actually used by your body as well.
- Phthalates (pronounced ‘thalates’ – diethyl phthalate): This ingredient is used as a gelling agent in hair care products. Research says that phthalates can cause asthma, kidney and liver damage. That sounds nasty! BUT, it is also stated that phthalates do not build up in our bodies and the harmful effects caused are due to the continuous exposure we have to this ingredient that is present everywhere – not just in our shampoos.
- Synthetic Fragrance and Colours : These labels are said to be the worst of the lot. To start off, there is no correct way of figuring out how many ingredients are used under the vague label of synthetic fragrance or colour. As per OrganicConsumers.org, these labels can hold up to 200 ingredients. The main reasons for the use of this product is to make the cosmetic product look and smell appealing but they carry the chance of causing rashes, headaches, vomiting, cancer, etc.
To look good – But God, at what Cost?
The list mentioned above was just an inclusive list of all the important and the most harmful ‘poo’ found in shampoos. The main reasons people buy these products is because of the low price, ‘effective’ cleansing of the scalp (courtesy the sulphates) and lack of information present on the topic.
When reading about the drawbacks of each ingredient it is very easy to start panicking about the fact that your shampoo has almost all of the ingredients listed. I know I did. But stop for a second and just breathe. We have over 7 billion people in this world with over half of them using shampoos with all the ‘poo’. Turn around and ask your mother, friends, aunts, or anyone you know – they all probably use similar shampoos and they all turned out alright. More so, there are heaps of regulations in place in every country to control usage of these ingredients in cosmetic products. How effective these regulations are is a question for another day.
I believe that the quantities of each of these ingredients that actually come into contact with our skin is quite minimal for it to cause such a harmful reaction. Thus, if left with no choice for a shampoo, I wouldn’t mind using the regular shampoos that one can find everywhere and with everything in it. No fuss! However, I personally believe that sulphates do tend to dry your hair out extremely, especially my curly mane which results in unruly frizz. It is preferable to stay clean of the other ingredients listed as not only is there risk that they could affect you but they also affect the environment.
So, the question I ask is: WHY complicate the process of hair washing? To truly clean your hair, all you need are a few simple ingredients which can be naturally found. If people before the 1930’s could manage to keep their hair clean without all the ‘poo’, then so can we! Even if the trend turned out to be a whole lot of poo, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Hope it was insightful,