How harmful ingredients in your shampoo can permanently damage your hair and even cause hair loss
The hair care industry is worth millions thanks to its promise to provide just the right solution for whatever hair type you may have: curly or straight, dry or greasy, natural or dyed, there is a sham-poo and conditioner for every hair type. To have full, strong, shiny and healthy looking hair is something both men and women are aiming for.
But what the commercials do not tell you is that using these products can literally turn into a hair care nightmare. Many ingredients are everything but nourishing and cannot only make your hair dry and brittle but can even lead to increased hair loss — the exact opposite of what was promised and surely not the result you were looking for.
The truth may burst some bubbles
To give you that extra foamy and bubbly experience whilst washing your hair, the beauty industry resorts to one of its most prominent cleaning agents: surfactants. They are not only able to trap oil and dirt, to then be rinsed away with water, but create wonderful foam, giving us that extra clean feeling. They can be found literally everywhere, in all types of detergents. There are both natural and synthetic surfactants, whereby the surfactants of natural origin are somewhat less harmful than the purely chemical variant. The more aggressive the surfactant, the more harmful for the en-vironment and, of course, our body and hair.
One of the most aggressive surfactants is sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). Unfortunately, SLS is the most widely used ingredient as it is cheap to produce. Due to its strong degreasing effect, it dis-turbs the natural balance of your skin and hair. In an attempt to balance out the dryness, the skin produces more sebum, however, surfactants remove the skin’s natural protective hydrolipidic film over and over again.This can lead to itching of the scalp and, in the worst case, even to hair loss. Other potential side effects include dry hair, dry scalp and allergic reactions such as inflammation of the skin. Moreover, surfactants are also known to inhibit new hair growth.
But at what cost?
If you want to be on the safe side, it makes sense to take a good look at all the ingredients listed on the back of your shampoo bottle, as not only SLS can be harmful to your health and negatively affect your hair growth but also a range of other aggressive sulfates. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium myreth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), methyl gluceth, laureth‑2 and laureth‑3, methyl isothiazolinone, sodium cetearyl sulfate and sodium cocoyl sarcosinate are all ingredients you should avoid. They often contain residues of formaldehyde and are suspected of being carcinogenic.
Although SLES is often praised for being a less aggressive alternative to SLS, its by-product1,4‑dioxane, which is very similar to the female hormone oestrogen, has been linked to hormonal imbalances in both males and females. It can have a negative effect on sperm production in men, lowering fertility, and studies have also shown menopausal symptoms in women as lauryl sulfates are absorbed by the skin and then stored in the body.
Check your choice
Numerous apps can help you avoid unwanted ingredients
Most of us are not fluent in chemistry, hence, even if we started reading the back of our shampoo bottle, we would hardly know what each ingredient really meant. Thus we are left to believe the industry’s promising commercials, where ingredients like milk and honey, creamy avocados or expensive argan oil supposedly transform any type of hair, no matter how brittle and dry, into voluminous, healthy and shiny hair.
But the truth is just a scan away…
Depending on where in the world you are located, there are various apps available in the Google Play and iTunes Store that can help you make healthier choices when it comes to personal and hair care products. Once downloaded, you can simply scan the barcode with your mobile phone when shopping and you will get all information at a glance.
“Think Dirty” is the right app for you, if you are located in Canada or the U.S. It is free and offers easy barcode scanning of over 850,000 cosmetics and personal care products, letting you know whether a product contains toxic ingredients or not.
“CosmEthics” offers in depth information on over 140,000 products of which the majority are sold on the European market. Although the basic version is free of charge, it does allow for in-app purchases. By paying a premium annual or monthly fee you can have your favourite products analysed that are not yet inside the existing database.
Using these apps can make your life much easier by helping you select cleaner and healthier options as you shop. The above mentioned apps even allow you to select different lifestyle options for a more personalised scanning experience. You can, for example, select to be only shown vegan products or ask to alert you in case the products contain ingredients you are allergic to.
The dose makes the poison
When it comes to surfactants less is more
If you already suffer from hair loss, or if your hair is dull, brittle and fragile, then it is definitely worth taking a good look at the hair care products in your bathroom. Remember that your shampoo is notthe only product that may contain surfactants. Most cleaning products, especially those that produce foam, use surfactants as a cleaning agent. Unfortunately, they are easily absorbed through the skin and are then accumulated in the body.
Moreover, when found in hair care products, sodium lauryl sulfate accumulates exactly where hair loss begins: the roots. This causes for the roots to no longer be sufficiently supplied with nutrients, inhibiting new hair growth. Therefore, long-term use can even lead to hair loss. Hence, every time you wash your hair with products that contain surfactants, such as SLS, the risk of premature hair loss increases significantly.
As you can see, advertising, as so often, does not quite live up to its promises. No matter whether you buy the cheap shampoo from the drugstore down the road or use expensive salon products, you should always take a close look at the list of ingredients and not just rely on the promising packaging or advertising.
When it comes to surfactants, less is definitely more.
Important: If you are planning on or are already using Factor Hair Activator for your personal hair care and/or to stimulate new hair growth, please do not use shampoos or hair care products con-taining silicone or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).