This new year, you’ve decided to take better care of your hair. From applying heat protection sprays before styling your mane to once-a-week deep conditioning treatments to opting for microfiber towels to minimize rubbing your locks up the wrong way – you’ve diligently followed through it all. And yet, with January drawing to an end, your hair is still as dry and lackluster as ever. Far from the thick glossy crown you were aiming for.
Have you ever taken into consideration the fact that you’re perhaps shampooing your hair far too often? While the act of shampooing does remain an essential element of hair care, overdoing it can have a damaging impact not just on your hair, but also on your health.
To understand why, let’s quickly take you through the list of ingredients…er… industrial toxins, common to most shampoos.
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This is the ingredient that makes your shampoo so similar to your detergent. Anything that can work up a foam is very likely to contain SLS.
Exposing your hair to too much of this chemical will end up stripping your hair of all the natural essential oils it needs to stay healthy. Over time, this will damage your hair protein and halt healthy hair growth.
This particular toxin is also notorious for being a common skin, eye, and lung irritant once it penetrates through the fine pores in our scalp. An irritated scalp can lead to dandruff, hair fall, and infection – things that don’t sound too desirable, to begin with. But the biggest concern that researchers have regarding this chemical, is its ability to combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines – a common carcinogen.1 This property of SLS can further lead to kidney and respiratory damage.
Parabens are preservative ingredients that are added to extend the shelf life of your shampoos, that can once again, irritate your scalp. Constant itching can lead to scalp inflammation, one of the main reasons for damaged, unhealthy hair. But what makes this group of chemicals even scarier is the fact that they’re also on the list of common chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. To understand how dangerous they can be, you must first know what happens when these are absorbed by your body.
Parabens can mimic estrogen – the female sex hormone. This means it can trick the body into thinking it’s the actual estrogen hormone, and thus can significantly alter hormone signaling.2 This property of parabens can not only cause premature hair fall but can also cause you to enter into puberty before you’re even ready. According to research, parabens can even lead to decreased fertility in both men and women.3 4
Another preservative agent used in shampoos and other skin care products, formaldehyde is linked to an increased risk of a series of conditions like liver diseases, respiratory allergies, embryotoxicity, sclerosing peritonitis, diabetes/hypertension, cerebral ischemia/neurodegenerative diseases, and multiple aging-associated diseases.5 6
Not only does the long-term use of formaldehyde put your health at risk, the damaging impact of this chemical will also reflect on your hair, making it dry, frizzy, and more prone to premature hair fall.
4. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
This petroleum-based chemical is commonly used in shampoos to create a creamy texture. PEG may not only be contaminated with carcinogenic compounds but may also be a developmental toxicant that could interfere with human development. Studies prove PEG’s genotoxic properties and many health experts claim that it can cause extreme irritation and systemic toxicity if applied to broken skin.7
When you see ingredients like ‘fragrance oils’ or ‘fragrance oil blends’ or ‘fragrance’ in your shampoo, you may think they’re perfectly harmless. But take a look at the chemical composition of these and you’ll probably be afraid to ever go near a shampoo that contains this ingredient again.
Fragrances contain phthalates, chemicals that can disrupt your natural hormone levels, consequences of which will be almost immediately visible through the reduced health and quality of your hair. These chemicals can also cause ovarian aging, obesity, and a drop in sperm count, while some studies show that these can even lead to cancer. 8 9
If this isn’t scary enough, fragrances also contain benzene derivatives, compounds that are not only carcinogenic but can also cause reproductive malformation, hormone disruption, and weaken your immune response.
How To Make Your Own DIY Shampoo At Home!
Limiting your use of shampoo to once or twice a week is usually safe and you needn’t worry about harming your hair or your health. However, most of us tend to wash our hair almost every day and sometimes, each shampoo session involves multiple applications. This is when things can get really bad.
Remember, your skin is highly porous in nature, and it’s highly possible for these tiny chemical molecules to find their way into your system and interfere with your natural biological mechanism.
Unfortunately, these chemicals can even be found in skin care products for babies and infants. Their skin is far more delicate and their internal detoxification process is still fairly underdeveloped. This makes them even less equipped to take on the onslaught of these harsh compounds.
Finding a shampoo and other personal care products that do not contain these harmful ingredients can be extremely taxing; even the ones labeled “organic” and “natural” can no longer be trusted.
Thankfully, here’s a handy-dandy do-it-yourself shampoo recipe that uses natural ingredients that are great for your hair, sans the health-damaging chemicals!
- Coconut milk (homemade or canned): ¼ cup
- Liquid castile soap: 1/4th cup
- Essential oil of your choice: 20 drops
- Olive or almond oil (if you have dry hair): ½ teaspoon
- Mix all ingredients in an old shampoo bottle (you could even recycle a pump soap dispenser).
- Twist the cap on tightly and shake hard so that the ingredients mix well.
This shampoo can be stored for up to a month and you’ll only need a teaspoon of it for each time you shampoo. Just remember to shake your bottle well before you apply; so the ingredients mix well and you get the best out of your shampoo.
Even while using a natural homemade recipe for your shampoo, remember to not over-wash your hair, rub your hair too vigorously, or torture it with everyday use of heating and styling equipment. Stick by all these rules, and you’ll have great hair without having to trade your health for it!
|↑1||Bondi, Cara AM, Julia L. Marks, Lauren B. Wroblewski, Heidi S. Raatikainen, Shannon R. Lenox, and Kay E. Gebhardt. “Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products.” Environmental health insights 9 (2015): 27.|
|↑2||Analysis Finds Hormone Disruptor Used in Cosmetics in Nearly 50 Different Foods. Environmental Working Group.|
|↑3, ↑4||Smith, Kristen W., Irene Souter, Irene Dimitriadis, Shelley Ehrlich, Paige L. Williams, Antonia M. Calafat, and Russ Hauser. “Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center.” Environmental health perspectives 121, no. 11-12 (2013): 1299.|
|↑5||Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑6||Duong, Anh, Craig Steinmaus, Cliona M. McHale, Charles P. Vaughan, and Luoping Zhang. “Reproductive and developmental toxicity of formaldehyde: a systematic review.” Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research 728, no. 3 (2011): 118-138.|
|↑7||Aye, M., C. Di Giorgio, M. De Mo, A. Botta, J. Perrin, and B. Courbiere. “Assessment of the genotoxicity of three cryoprotectants used for human oocyte vitrification: dimethyl sulfoxide, ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.” Food and chemical toxicology 48, no. 7 (2010): 1905-1912.|
|↑8||Diamanti-Kandarakis, Evanthia, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Linda C. Giudice, Russ Hauser, Gail S. Prins, Ana M. Soto, R. Thomas Zoeller, and Andrea C. Gore. “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement.” Endocrine reviews 30, no. 4 (2009): 293-342.|
|↑9||López-Carrillo, Lizbeth, Raúl U. Hernández-Ramírez, Antonia M. Calafat, Luisa Torres-Sánchez, Marcia Galván-Portillo, Larry L. Needham, Rubén Ruiz-Ramos, and Mariano E. Cebrián. “Exposure to phthalates and breast cancer risk in northern Mexico.” Environmental health perspectives 118, no. 4 (2010): 539.|