The first Blog post, and where better to start than with the first stage of styling. Shampoo is the go-to product for most people. Wether everyday or every week or longer, most people use shampoo. Most of the questions I get asked about styling or home care will be about or have something to do with shampoo. For example “how often should I shampoo?”, “what type should I use for my hair?” “what ingredients should I look out for?” Now, as a hairdresser we do get taught about this topic (some pay more attention than others) but there are so many urban myths around something as simple as washing your hair, that I can get confusing what to believe. This coupled with the fact that hairdressers are taught mainly from reps from companies who obviously put their products and technologies within on a higher platform that others.
So lets have a look at something that we take for granted and use without giving a second thought to. So to start
What is Shampoo
Now we are going to put specialist ingredients and medicated shampoos to the side for a second. We’ll come back to them a little later in another article. Here we’ll just speak of Shampoo in general. Regardless of which one you go for Shampoo is designed to clean the hair and scalp. Shampoo is a detergent working similar to any other detergent. A detergent works a surfactant, A surfactant lowers the surface tension of water. Little side note here, I like the “explain it to me like I’m 5” approach, I personally find thats a better way of learning and understanding. For more information look up the Feyman technique it’s a great way of learning and I use it often especially for language learning.
Back to Shampoo, Basically the detergent molecule is in two parts, mostly refer to as “head” and “Tail”. The head attracts oil, the tail attracts water as one scrubs (lathers) it loosens the oil from the scalp and the hair shaft and can then be rinsed away.
The oil on the hair is called sebum. It’s naturally created from the sebaceous glands by the root of the hair. The sebum is not water soluble this means that no matter how much you rinse you wont get it off the hair or scalp. You may be able to get rid of some but not most. This is why we need a shampoo, to break down the oil and clean the hair and scalp. Keeping it healthy and free of dirt. Obviously this isn’t the only thing in shampoo, so lets look at some of the ingredients.
SO this is the interesting point of shampoo. You may think its dull as dishwater and, to be fair, I never thought I would write the words “this is the interesting part of shampoo”. But it actually kind of is. A question I asked myself in the shower a while ago was, Why are there such a long list of unintelligible chemical names on the back of shampoos? what do they mean? where do they derive from? and most importantly, do they all need to be in there?
Now there are well too many ingredients to go thought in this post, it would get really old, really quickly if I just listed all the possible ingredients in most shampoos. That being said, there are a few that got my attention and may be worth looking out for the next time you get your shampoo.
Where better to start than with the big one, the product that is found so frequently in shampoos, but has recently very much fallen out of favour. Sodium Lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES)
Sodium lauryl Sulphate and Sodium laureth sulphate, are despite their similar looking names quite different. Both however are very effective and inexpensive surfactants found in loads of cosmetic products, and I really do mean loads. As well as being surfactants though they are also emulsifiers and foaming agents.
Foaming agent is actually a key phrase here. A good foam on anything makes you think like its clean. I shall give you an example, if you washed two glasses with two cleaning products and you were told that they both worked equally as well the only difference was that with the first glass, nothing really happened, you just sponged on the product and then rinsed it off. Whilst the second glass and product gave a thick white foam all over the glass and your hands. You would believe that glass two was cleaner than glass one. Even though you were told this was not the case. I fell for this myself, the first time I used a shampoo without a foaming agent, I did not believe the hair was clean, even after two shampoos at the backwash. Now i’m not sure where this belief came from. If the Foaming agents were put in first and we were told that thats a sign of clean. or if it was a byproduct and manufacturers then upped the amounts when people recognised it as a sign for clean. either way, be it a consumer idea first or a marketing ploy. It works,and it works well.
The contentious issue with these products comes from them getting a hammering in the media at the moment, with them being irritants. Now before I write further these products were tested in 1983 and re-tested in 2002 by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and deemed safe. There is a theory about the chemicals being carcinogenic, but I cannot find any actual evidence to back this up at the time of writing this. This does not mean it doesn’t exist and please, if you find good, strong evidence contact me via email and send it over. I always like reading up on new research and discoveries. But with the lack of research I cannot say avoid these on the grounds that they are carcinogenic.
From what I can see though there are two types of irritation from these products. The first is. A person has a reaction or irritation to these products, if thats the case, I am sure this is obvious. But avoid these chemicals. This would have been pretty hard at one point, but now its relatively easy. If you are one of these folk, Don’t just check shampoo, these chemicals are in everything from body wash to toothpaste so read the labels. The second group and I would bet the greater in number, is that these chemicals don’t actually irritate you but there harsh cleaning abilities strip you skin and scalp of sebum a little too well. Leaving your skin exposed and dry.
In all honesty I don’t like these chemicals. That doesn’t mean they are the devil and if you have a product you love and it works fine with your skin and hair then please, carry on using it. I still do. But for the most part i have made the switch. It just seems so easy to now, that, why wouldn’t I?
Salt, basically. Used as a thickening agent in a lot of products. To be honest its obviously not going to be that harmful. Most people should start worrying about the amount of salt in their diet before they turn to their beauty products.
That being said it can dry out the skin, so if you are feeling a little dry on the scalp, maybe switch to a sodium free Shampoo and see if that helps.
The main reason I bring it up here though as this must be avoided if you have had any form of Keratin treatment, be it a permanent Blow-dry or straightening treatment. Whatever name its under. If in doubt, check with your hairdresser. The Salt in it breaks down the treatment and it wont last anywhere near as long. meaning that the benefits of your new expensive treatment will be ruined.
Parabens, are a chemical used to increase the longevity of a product, A preservative used to kill bacteria and fungi
More than that though, they are another ingredient that have come under fire in recent years and with good reason. A study found there to be a link to breast cancer. This finding was actually apparently when their metabolites, not parabens themselves were detected in breast cancer tissue samples in a study of 40 women in 2004. More research is being done on this. I looked up on the FDA and ESFA websites and found that they are still deemed safe, but did state that more research was being done.so keep an eye out for that.
My intention isn’t to fan the flames on this debate. It’s to bring your attention to it and so that now your are aware, you can make a choice. As will be my consistent advice on this blog, read up and research more on this if it interests you. This was, as far as I can see, only one study. But it has brought up the request and need for further study and led the market to react quickly and start looking at creating new paraben free ranges. Personally it’s not even a question in my mind. I go without.
Thats right, that was a shock to me too. This shit is actually in shampoo sometimes (and in Brazilian blowdries, so maybe ask your hairdresser that first and you wont need to worry about the sodium free shampoo). I do not care when people say, “Oh but it’s only in small amounts and that wont affect you” I do not care a fig. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen and The National Toxicology Program, also named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. So this is a carcinogen and causes skin and eye irritation and has been linked to hair loss. Its used, as it binds with Keratin (the name of the protein hair is made of) useful note on this, it is a good nail hardener and there isn’t really a good alternative at the time of me writing this. What you do with that information I am not sure. But one thing I am sure of, is do not use this chemical if you can help it. Unless you are Damien Hirst and you fancy preserving some more dead cows and calling it art.
Silicones are the main reason for the myth “you must change shampoo regularly”. silicones are a mineral, or rather a noun used as a collection of ingredients, usually recognisable by their ending in …con, For example cetearly methicone. These products have huge benefits, but they come at a cost.
Their benefits are that when you use these shampoos your hair feels amazing, even the driest of hair will feel better with the first wash of shampoo containing these ingredients. This happens because silicone works almost like a plastic, coating the hair and creating a barrier that reflects light and therefore gives off the shine. This adds another benefit of protection from the environment they are UVA or UVB protective as a whole but from what I have read it seems not to have this effect on the hair in shampoos and defiantly no effect on the scalp. In other-words if it doesn’t say SPF then it probably isn’t. Side note here, you should wear sun protection on your scalp, this is especially true if you have thin hair or if you wear a parting in the same place. A burnt scalp is never fun.
Back to silicones, so shiny hair and protection sounds pretty good. right? as I say this comes at a cost, silicones are none water soluble. remember me explaining thats why we need shampoo in the first place, because sebum isn’t water soluble. now imagine a non natural version of this. that plastic-like coating that is going to give us that shine builds up each time on both the scalp on the hair, Reducing the shine and not letting the scalp or hair breath, as well as obviously weighing down the hair. (especially true in conditioners, but thats for another time).
Silicones need a fairly harsh detergent to get off the hair and because they have just coated the hair and offered no real treatment the hair itself. The hair is in no better condition after using these shampoos whatsoever. The shine and feeling of health was all a fake.
in conclusion I would stay away from them if you can. there are many products that are silicone free, but be aware, once you get rid of that build up, your hair will be back to your hair and may feel dry and brittle. This is nothing to worry about, it just means that you need to bring a bit of love into it again. Good treatments and shampoos are out there, to build your hair up again (Also regular Haircuts).
Good luck finding products without this unless its plastered all over the sides. Shampoos are no exception. If you aren’t going to find one just make sure its lower than fourth on the ingredients list. Any higher and will probably be an unnecessary high amount.
Interesting point on ingredients not all things are as they seem. The shocking one for me was Cetyl alcohol. This little fella originally came from sperm whales. Only shocking to me as I don’t speak latin (cetyl comes from. Cetus is Latin for whale oil). Everyday’s a school day. Now this can also be formed by the catalytic hydrogenation of coconut oils which to me sounds cheaper and much more likely in todays market. I can’t imagine any company using a whale derived product when a vegan option is available. The backlash would be way to big. This being said, rather interestingly it is on a PETA list still meaning perhaps there is still products with the old stuff in. Not sure, like I say I would guess most companies with a brain would opt for the cheaper and less contentious one.
If you are interested more on Vegan products and what chemicals derive from animals heres a link to the PETA website. Personally I am not vegan, but I see that as no reason not to cut down on some products where I can.
So there are a few ingredients like I say there are countless more but these are the main ones that I wanted to bring up. Obviously the message I am trying to put across, is go as chemical free as possible.
However there is a huge elephant in the room here. These products are usually more expensive and price is often a factor. I can’t say buy the most expensive products and then live off bread and milk for the rest of the month. So what I would say is not all ingredients are equal, and if you can avoid the worst then do. (read formaldehyde here) I
want to this to be a platform to get people looking at the labels. And voting with your money on to wether these ingredients should remain in shampoos.
You may notice that I am not listing what shampoos to buy or ones to avoid. the reason is, that
I don’t want to do a marketers job for them. This blog is about Hair, my passion for years. I don’t want to be owned by anyone. My aim is to create an impartial hub of information, that you can take with you and expand on if you choose to.
So for now, I’ll leave you in peace and not throw down countless “must buy” products. We get sold to enough at the moment.
Thanks for reading.