Did you know that your body absorbs up to 60% of what you put on your skin? Well, the human scalp is even more porous and easily absorbs whatever is applied to it. Most hair care products, including the shampoo and conditioners used on a daily basis, are laden with harmful, toxic chemicals that are not only damaging to your hair but they absorb through the scalp, enter the bloodstream and accumulate in your body. Since most of us wash our hair at least a few times a week, imagine how consistently applying harsh ingredients and toxic chemicals to your hair and scalp can affect your overall well-being over time.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), are generally at the top of the ingredient list in leading shampoo and conditioner brands. While they create a sudsy lather consumers enjoy, these harsh detergents have been shown to cause eye and skin irritation, scalp allergies, hair loss, and eczema. Some products containing SLES and SLS have even been found to contain low levels of the known carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), sometimes called methylisothiazoline, is a powerful preservative found in many commonly used shampoos and conditioners. Scientists documenting MIT are concerned that exposure to this chemical by pregnant women could put their fetus at risk for abnormal brain development. In other people, exposure could also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease and other nervous system disorders.
Parabens (Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, p-Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, n-Butylparaben and Benzylparaben) are widely used anti-microbial preservatives found in shampoos and conditioners (and many other personal care products). Research dating back to 2004 found parabens in 18 of 20 breast (cancer) tumors tested. Yet, due to the low cost and an extended shelf life, many manufacturers continue to use FDA approved parabens and other harmful chemicals in most of the personal care products that line the supermarket and drugstore shelves.
With an increased awareness of the harmful effects of parabens, some manufacturers have begun to eliminate them from their ingredient list. Despite the availability of harmless plant based natural preservatives like grape seed extract, even natural and organic manufacturers are surprisingly tolerant of phenoxyethanol which is touted as a safe alternative to parabens. Yet, the use of phenoxyethanol is restricted in Japan and Europe citing "chromosomal changes and genetic mutation effects in testing" and reports of damaging effects on the brain and central nervous system.
Other ingredients to avoid in your shampoo and conditioner include propylene glycol (antifreeze), olefin sulfonate (kerosene), and ammonium lauryl sulfate, each of which cause hair loss, irritate your scalp, clog oil glands, and corrode hair follicles. Synthetic fragrances and dyes used to color products (yellow #5, orange #4 and violet #2), damage hair and disrupt the endocrine system. Still, the low price of these and other chemical ingredients allow manufacturers to increase sales and gain higher profits by offering products with a consumer-friendly price tag. These mass produced name brand items may cost less at the store, but in the long run, their use can result in very costly health problems.
What are the secrets to vibrant, healthy hair? First and foremost, choose a chemical free shampoo and conditioner to help to revive your hair and scalp by infusing them with natural minerals, vital nutrients, herbal extracts, and moisture. If you use styling products or hair spray, be sure they are free of harsh, drying chemicals like alcohol.
Dry, brittle, dull and thinning hair is often the result of a hormonal imbalance. This is especially obvious for women following childbirth and during menopause. Men and women both benefit tremendously from the transdermal use of bio-identical progesterone cream. It safely and effectively restores healthy progesterone levels to create hormonal balance and nurture the entire endocrine system. You'll not only feel better physically by using progesterone cream, if your unhealthy hair is a result of a hormone imbalance, you'll notice a dramatic improvement in the way it looks and feels.
Using a chlorine filter shower head is another secret to full, shiny hair. Chlorine is a harsh, endocrine disrupting chemical that causes dry, brittle and split hair. It also absorbs into your skin. Studies have shown that more chlorine is absorbed into the body from a hot shower than from drinking chlorinated water, and can cause dry skin and skin irritations. Beautiful hair also depends on a healthy diet. In addition to using chemical free products, choose foods from the list below to maximize the health and vitality of your hair.
Water is essential for healthy hair and skin, yet most of us don't drink nearly enough of it. Increase your intake of pure water daily for a positive difference in your hair and an improved sense of well being.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which moisturize your hair and support scalp health. A deficiency of omega 3 results in dry, lifeless hair. An excellent source of healthy protein, salmon is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron.
Dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. This oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body's natural hair conditioner. Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
Legumes like kidney beans and lentils should be an important part of your hair-care diet. Not only do they provide protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin.
Nuts, especially Brazil nuts, offer one of nature's best sources of selenium, an important mineral for the health of your scalp. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help condition your hair. They are also a good source of zinc, as are cashews, pecans, and almonds. A zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding, so make sure nuts are a regular on your healthy hair menu.
Protein sources like pork, sausage meat, chicken, turkey, duck, eggs, milk, whey protein, ricotta, cottage cheese, and yogurt are good sources of the amino acid, cysteine which supports healthy hair. Vegan sources of cysteine include red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, oats, granola, and wheat germ.
Whole grains provide hair-healthy doses of zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes a healthy scalp and shiny hair.
It's impossible to avoid chemicals altogether. But, each and every choice you make to reduce your exposure to them will enhance your well-being and contribute to the health of the planet.