Next in our series of posts exploring healthier alternatives to common house hold items I decided to take a look at shampoo. The reason for this being that I just had a nice visit with my lovely stylist Laura at my neighborhood salon Crimpers and we had serious discussion about hair products; and she cut my bangs for me so I don’t have to look like Dave Foley, in that Kids in the Hall sketch where he is playing his character Jocelyn, any more.
I know there has been a great deal of debate over whether there is a difference between drugstore brands and salon brands. As someone who has fine textured hair and a lot of it (it often gets mistaken for thick hair because there is so much of it – but it’s just so much fine hair it looks thick, it’s sort of a trick!) I definitely can notice a difference in quality right away. Even between salon brands, even they are not created equally as I have learned in the last little while. But that is neither here nor there – what I’m trying to get to the bottom of is why people are abandoning their bottles of shampoo in favour of alternatives; which ingredients in particular are causing the most concern?
As with most things: alcohol, fragrance, and parabens are high on the list. Alcohol, of course, is a solvent, irritant, and poison – and while you don’t generally drink shampoo I guess a few people have tried it so it is a concern. For example, did any one else see that horrible Freddie Prinze Jr movie where he tried to kill himself by drinking his ex girlfriend’s favourite shampoo brand? That was a horrible movie. Moving on – fragrance is generally disliked for its carcinogenic and toxic properties, as well, so many places are fragrance free now so opting for a fragrance free product can just be practical as well as a healthy. We covered parabens in the last post, and while the industry is still at odds about this one but it is really starting to look like this could be a serious hormone disruptor and very bad news.
The most contentious item in our shampoo bottles is likely sulfates. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate is one of the most common products in most brands of shampoo. There are many different variations of this ingredient and they are definitely not all created equal and not all brands use it in the same proportions. It has been compared to a washing detergent and is generally the item that will cause lather – hence grocery store brands will tend to use more, salon brands on average use less. The concern with this ingredient is that it is an eye irritant, a potential carcinogen – and may cause damage to your central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Research is still being conducted.
The alternative I use is just a product line that contains less of the ingredients that irritate the scalp and pose health risks. I use a line that my stylist highly recommends and that I really enjoy (I’ve mentioned it before on this blog) called Vida of New Orleans. Their big thing is cold processing and a commitment to non-toxic and biodegradable products. The biggest difference I have noticed in my hair is that it feels like hair again – might sound ridiculous but feeling is believing. I used to put my hair up in clips and due to all of the waxy build up from the shampoo and conditioners I was using (and keep in mind these were still salon quality products) my hair would slip out constantly through out the day. Since switching to Vida, my hair stays put. I just had a cleansing treatment and now my scalp and hair feel even more amazing, this is certainly a product line I can stay with – and the bottles last a long time. They are free from most things except for the sulfates which they do have a very tiny amount of (it’s been compared to the same amount present in toothpaste) and the manufacturer says when used properly it is not harmful. Given their huge commitment to having safe and healthy products I would be more inclined to believe that. They have all sorts of information on their website which I will link to at the bottom of the post.
If you don’t want to try Vida or you can’t find it in your area there are many fine shampoos are the market that are pretty paired down in ingredients. I’ve even heard of people using Dr.Bonner’s soap as a shampoo. Nothing a little internet search can’t cure.
Another option is the unfortunately named “No poo” movement, where people ween themselves off of shampoo, usually using a combination of baking soda and vinegar or one or the other. While on the surface it does sound like it has the potential to become a grade school science experiment gone horribly wrong, you aren’t actually supposed to mix the two ingredients on your head, so no volcano explosions in the shower (unless you really want – but I don’t think it’s recommended). Most people seem to recommend apple cider vinegar and there always seems to be a period of greasiness after which your hair recovers and is better than it ever was on shampoo. I will include a few links in case you want to try it yourself. I never have myself so I don’t really feel qualified to remark much on it, other than the fact that I know it exists. This might be an option I would consider looking into if I end up going to school full time as the economic benefits are highly appealing!
So here are some clicky links for your enjoyment. I have included a few on the health risks of shampoo, one to the Vida of New Orleans website that is full of information on not only their products but also more information on sulfates if you are interested in that (they actually have a PDF that breaks down all the different types, what they do, and analyses them a little – gives some examples of popular brands for most of the different types – it’s an interesting read), and then a few articles on going without shampoo – enjoy!
Absolutely Organic – Toxic Free: Ingredients to avoid – shampoo.
Livestrong.com: Ingredients to avoid in shampoo.
E-How Style: Ingredients to avoid in shampoo.
Surviving Hairloss.com: Things you need to know about your shampoo ingredients.
The Druid Network: An experiment in giving up shampoo.
Bubble Trouble: One green girl’s story of ditching shampoo altogether; she (and her gorgeous new hair) never looked back.
A Sonoma Garden: My no-shampoo hair saga.
Goin Crunchy: Giving up shampoo.