Every year at least 350 million gallons of liquid shampoo and conditioner that contains harmful and legally unregulated ingredients, toxic to our environment and aquatic life, is washed away down drains just in the USA alone. Did you know that if all the empty bottles were laid out flat they would fill over 1,000 football pitches?
When I thought about this for a second and considered how much time it would take to fully decompose this amount of material, it really did send a shiver down my spine. What disturbed me even more, was the fact that I had been lathering up my hair and body with these toxins every day as well, damaging my skin, my hair and contributing to environmental damage also.
This really is bad news, right? Unless you really know what you’re looking for in that great list of chemicals on the back of your favorite shampoo bottle, you are likely leaving nasty chemicals on your scalp every time you bathe or shower, giving these harmful invaders the chance to slowly penetrate your skin, enter your bloodstream, and cause you harm.
WARNING :: Many ingredients listed on the back of shampoo bottles are in such small print and barely legible. Most of us have never heard of the chemicals we’re looking at and find it hard to object to what we can neither read nor understand. Here’s what you should be looking out for and why.
Parabens are used in hair products as an effective and inexpensive preservative to prevent the growth of mould and bacteria. They mimic and could interfere with production of oestrogen in the body and too much oestrogen may increase the division of breast cells and the growth of tumours. Parabens have been known to aggravate and make existing skin conditions like eczema far worse.
Sulphates are used for cleansing hair, ammonium lauryl sulphate or sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) are extremely strong detergents. They bind with water and the oil from our scalps and their powerful cleaning action causes damage to hair making it brittle. They are the cause of one of our worst nightmares FRIZZ. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is the ingredient that creates that lovely bubbly foam we all seem to love, if you dye your hair watch out for this one as it will strip your hair of natural oils and fade your colour.
POLYETHYLENE GLYCOLS (PEG)
PEGS are compounds used to thicken, soften and carry moisture. They can often be contaminated by ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane, also a carcinogen known to affect liver and kidneys. PEG is the abbreviation for polyethylene glycol which are combined to make a thin and sticky liquid.
Good old salt, is also added to shampoos and conditioners to thicken them up. Continually rubbing salt into your scalp can make it extremely dry and itchy and could eventually lead to hair loss.
Any product with alcohol ingredients listed towards the top rather than the bottom will contain high amounts of them. Look out for the ‘bad ‘ones as they dry out your hair. They contain ‘prop’ in their name for example Isopropyl alcohol or propanol.
If you see the word fragrance listed it’s worth noting that the product could possibly contain thousands of hidden chemicals, some of which can cause cancer or asthma and irritate your skin/scalp.
To make them more appealing, many shampoos have harmful synthetic colours added to them usually listed as FD&C or D&C containing or followed with a number.
This one comes from coconut oil and used to create the lovely bubbly foam. It can irritate the skin and be the cause of rosacea and eczema.
TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) AND DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)
These chemicals allow oil-soluble and water-soluble ingredients to be blended together. They are banned in cosmetics by The European Commission. Research into the cancer effects on humans is unclear.
Dimethicone is commonly used as a key ingredient in hair products, it gradually builds up in your hair to form a protective cover making it feel very greasy. This protective cover collects all kinds of residues and dirt and prevents nutrients and moisture from coming in.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent well known for causing disruptions to hormones which could go on to cause problems with fetal development or cause cancer.
Retinyl palmitate irritates the skin causing redness, peeling, scaling and itching. It could also cause reproductive problems and cancer.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen used to preserve products. The one to look out for is quaternium-15.
Today the majority of shampoos are produced in laboratories, we have become far removed from what is natural, and that which is healthy and good for our environment. These synthetic products are being vigorously rubbed into our hair and scalps before being rinsed down drains into our national supply, turning up in surface, ground, and waste water, sediment and even drinking water, which fortunately is treated, unlike oceans, rivers and lakes.
Time to wake up.
If you’re not quite ready to go “completely green” with your hair care yet but keen to avoid shampoos with any of the nasty ingredients listed above then look out for eco-friendly ones where every “all natural” ingredient is listed individually, and not under one label of “fragrance”, you could also search for re-usable shampoo bottles while you are at it.
If you want to go completely natural eliminating all liquid shampoos from your hair care routine then opt for a shampoo bar. I can’t promise you that results will be instant, it may even take up to a couple of months for your scalp to balance out its own natural production of oils, but the effort and wait will be 100% worth it! A point to note; your hair may go through a period of transitioning where it will very likely become very oily whilst your body adjusts to catch up with all that has been previously stripped, but hang on in there and stick with it, no matter how tempted you are to revert to synthetic products. Remember, if you do, you’ll have to start all over again.
If you’re going to continue to condition your hair YOU MUST go the whole way and use a conditioning bar also. Never combine a shampoo bar with a traditional liquid conditioner. Shampoos that are 100% natural will not create that lovely bubbly foam as easily as synthetic products are designed to, this is something you will have to work a little harder on to achieve, and you may find you are using more shampoo bars in the beginning whilst you are getting rid of the build up of harmful and damaging chemicals on your hair.
Synthetic laboratory made shampoos do make your hair look super healthy, glossy and feel great. But under the surface there’s a very different tale to tell. Underneath all those layers upon layers of chemical build up your hair is screaming out for moisture, gradually becoming dryer and dryer until it eventually begins to show. Opting for 100% natural shampoo and conditioning bars rather than liquids in plastic bottles is a much better choice for the environment and also for you. Your hair will thank you for the swap, and once you’re passed the initial period of adjustment you will look and feel fabulous once again.