An important thing to understand is that the scalp does act to absorb nutrients (and unfortunately harmful chemicals) which are placed on it. As a result, my recommendation is that you should buy shampoos and conditioners for your scalp, rather than your hair. And you should definitely make sure you are not putting anything harmful on your scalp. So here are my top ingredients to avoid.
Sulfates are my number one ingredient to avoid. Sulfates are most commonly found in shampoos due to their foaming, detergent like action. We have been trained by commercials to think that shampoos are working if they make a nice foam or lather in our hair. Sulfate can come in a couple of different forms, the worst offenders being Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). According to the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, sulfates can cause damage to the immune system, cause separation of skin layers, rashes on the skin and scalp and inflame your skin leaving it dry and irritated. At minimum, just like any detergent, they will strip your hair of the essential oils they need to stay healthy as well as break down protein and retard healthy hair growth.
Parabens are my second chemical to avoid. Parabens are commonly found in both and conditioners. Parabens including methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben have been linked to breast cancer. Parabens also cause irritation of the skin and can also affect your hormonal balance, which as we know can result in hair loss. Definitely not helpful if we are trying to balance your hormones and regrow your hair.
Cocamide DEA also often found in shampoos may seem innocent enough given it is derived from coconut oil. However, it actually is a modification of the natural form into an unnatural toxic. So much so it was added to the known carcinogens by the state of California in 2012.
Silicones are very often found in both shampoos and conditioners. They create the illusion of healthy hair by coating the hair shaft to make it appear smooth and shiny. Unfortunately, they also coat the scalp, clogging your pores and drying your hair from the inside out. These should be avoided at all costs in shampoos and conditioners. Note that many styling products do contain silicones especially those which protect your hair from heating equipment such as straightening or curling irons. In these types of products, they are ok as long as they are applied to the ends of the hair and kept away from the scalp. Also watch out for Dimethicone, another type of silicone which also has bad side effects. The Canadian Government has recently classified it as a potential toxin that requires further study.
Also known as Docosyltrimethylammonium chloride this chemical can be found in some conditioners. It is harsh enough to cause skin and eye irritation in many people.
Diethanolamine and Triethanolamine
Products containing Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) can cause scalp irritation or bad allergic reactions They have also been known to destroy important components of your hair such as the keratin, making your hair dry, brittle, and lifeless.
Isopropyl alcohol is found in some conditions. It is also used in antifreeze, wood finish and shellac – which should give you some indication of how bad it is for you. It is known to strip your hair of its natural oils and can cause damage to your hair. All alcohols should in fact be avoided in large quantities. As a guide you should avoid any shampoo or conditioner which has any alcohol or alcohol derivative in the first four ingredients listed on their label.
Also called PEG, Polyethelyne or Polyoxyethelyne – this ingredient is included in shampoos as a thickening agent. It strips hair and skin of their natural moisture.
Lastly, you should also watch out for synthetic colors and fragrances which many people have reactions to, particularly causing irritation of the scalp.
Please remember that your body (and scalp) is your temple. In next week’s article we will be looking at the nutrients you should be using to clean your hair.
And don’t forget that if the scalp absorbs bad chemicals, it can also be used to deliver goodness like Jojoba Oil in Vita-Myr’s Coco Cabana Shampoo & Conditioner.