Setting out to research the ingredients of Shampoo and other products, I landed smack dab in the middle of an information dump of OMG. I had no choice but to start assorting it all into some sort of article.
Trying my best, I’m going to try to explain what I found. This one might be a two part-er, or, who knows, we might end up having to make a whole new category!
First off, how do you even read a shampoo bottle? if you look at your bottle, there’s a spot listing ingredients. Ingredients are listed as they are measured– from MORE to LESS. The first ingredient should be the greatest amount in your shampoo recipe.
For example, if the shampoo was made with: 1 tsp of Aloe, 3 TBS of Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, 4 cups of water, 1 drop of essential oil, then the ingredients should read……
Ingredients: Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Aloe, Essential Oil
Hopefully, no matter what brand you’re using, WATER will be listed as the first ingredient. The second is probably, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. Sometimes the “Laureth” is changed to “Laurel“.
Now, before we break that down, I want to explain something. Companies have learned to pull a fast one. First, the huge unpronounceable word they use on their ingredient lists are ruthless and confusing enough. Second, they change up the words either SOME or completely to HIDE what they are using. You, the consumer, read the label and think, “Great, this doesn’t have that certain ingredient I don’t like.” Let’s use Bubbles as an example word. You say, “Great, there’s no BUBBLES in here.” What you don’t know is, you may be wrong. They could have Bubbles in the bottle but the company learned how to use a whole nother word for it. Something hard to pronounce. Something someone will get so frustrated with looking at, chances are, they wont even research it. Chances are, BUBBLES is now sodium blahglochkerideism .
Something else you should know, just because a product says it doesn’t have something at all—like AMMONIA –doesn’t mean the product isn’t using something equally as bad or even worse.
For example, if a Color says NO AMMONIA, it could have something in it that is just as bad or worse. And it could be something that conflicts with whatever you already have on your hair. When the new thing hits the old thing– well, the outcome could be tragic or compromise the health and condition of the hair itself.
Please note that I AM NOT trying to cause fear and panic with this article. I’m a Stylist, a consumer and a Mom. We live in an age where we have to know what’s in the things we eat or what’s in the things we use. We have to understand those things. We are living in a Health Conscious Age and the sleeping natives – that’s us—are waking the hell up. The more we understand the things we are using, the more we can understand what it will do, if we need it at all, or if we need to stand up and demand that the Company changes. I get so sick and tired of turning on the TV and seeing the Media say, “Today, research tells us that BEEF is bad, bad, bad. It causes CANCER.” WHY? No one tells us WHY. Do you know WHY they don’t? Because maybe it’s not the BEEF itself that causes the Cancer or harm – maybe it’s what they put in it. Again, I’m not saying grab the tin foil and put your hat on but I am saying, it’s time we open our eyes and find our own answers. It’s time we educate ourselves. And while I am not a Scientist or a Doctor, below is just basically, the things I have found. Take it or leave it.
Now, let’s look at some ingredients.
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate: This is what makes the lather in your shampoo. Is it safe? Depends on who you ask.
There’s a huge debate concerning this one– some scream doom and others say nothing of that has yet been proven. I know this ingredient It has been in products for as long as I can remember. And I use it in my shampoo every day. I like shampoos that lather. When I make homemade soap, it lathers. So putting something on my head that lathers, makes sense to me. I’m not saying the people who are against it are wrong. I’m just saying what I like.
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate can also be found in toothpaste, hand soaps, detergents and more.
As always, do your own research and then apply common sense. I try to remain as healthy as possible — like anyone does these days– but I am more concerned with the steroids and hormones they jack my chicken up with than this ingredient. That’s just me, though.
- Cocamide DEA, cocamido-propyl betaine, lauramide DEA (And the spelling gets worse and worse. This ingredient is said to add to the va-va-voom to the lather. It helps with Volumn, etc.
- Panthenol — This one is highly debatable as well. Basically, it’s a moisturizer made from B-vitamins. Some say it causes a waxy build-up, while others claim there isn’t any evidence that supports such claims. However, it is in a lot of products– shampoos, conditioners, skin treatments, etc. I found a great link that breaks it all down on a chemistry level, for those interested.
So what about Natural Extracts? What do those do?
- Kiwi, Aloe, Fruit Extracts, Chamomile, Herbs, etc
Long before I started doing hair, I bought a shampoo that was basically all natural with a ton of this stuff in it. After months of use, I didn’t see any difference in my hair. I asked a Stylist friend of mine, what gives? “It has all this great stuff in it,” I said. She snickered, rolled her eyes, and replied, “Great for maybe your scalp or fragrance, but nothing more.”
Nearly thirty years later, I think she was right. Box dye, tons of shampoos and whatever other product will brag these ingredients up, but I honestly don’t see results that are convincing enough where Hair is concerned. Skin, yes. Hair– not really. And unless your scalp has a special condition, it usually doesn’t need any help.
Even still, how do we know there is enough aloe in a shampoo to aid a scalp problem? It’s just as easy to buy an aloe plant and apply it yourself while you kick back for a night watching old movies. That’s just my opinion, though.
- Dyes & Colors
There are fancy words for this stuff too — or can be. It’s meant to add a little splash of color or rainbow to our shampoos, etc. Apparently, we have a bad habit of buying what attracts our eye. It’s dating by color. We pick up and take home what our brain goes gah-gah over.
So if you are someone who avoids dye and your shampoo is clear, don’t count your chickens just yet. While some shampoos and such are clear, there are still ingredients that make that happen as well.
- Propylene glycol not only takes care of that but it also keeps your bottle of bliss from turning into an ice-cube. Apparently, some people live in places where Shampoo can freeze.
- A whole bunch of preservatives!!!
These suckers range in words that wear my keyboard out! We would all be cracking up if I had to actually pronounce them. The list goes but is not limited too– methylcholoroisothiazolino, iodopropynl butylcaramate, and god knows what else. Basically, this is the stuff that keeps the shelf life from going sour on your product. Who knew shampoo could rot, but I guess it can.
- Citric Acids & Such
Hair, to be healthy, needs to be PH Balanced. Acids — while causing our minds to go bleak with horrific images– can be a good thing in products when needed. They help the product retain a good PH (or so we hope). High Acids are used in clarifying shampoos or products and are meant to pull the yuck out of hair. They can even be used for stubborn locks, when someone wants a perm—sometimes a clarifying shampoo can help soften the hair or create a better base for the perm chemical. Then there is color — ladies who have stubborn gray, may get a 20 minute soak (their hair, I mean) with a clarifying shampoo under a dryer for 20 minutes. Ladies who are on certain medications– elderly ladies– or ladies who have heavily coated hair. This draws out all the ick so the color, perm, or whatever other treatment will take. When searching for Shampoos and your eyes catch a Clarifying one, rarely, if ever, do you need something like that every day. You only need it when you want to remove build-up and you can actually do this yourself, at home, with a Vinegar rinse or mixing Baking Soda in with your Shampoo once a month or as needed.
Now, we’ve been hearing a lot of controversy concerning products containing Ammonia.
- Ammonias are an alkaline. They are used so that color can be deposited or lifted from the cortex. It raises the PH of the hair.
Many Colors are now claiming that they do not use Ammonia. Instead, they are replacing it with something called ethanolamine.
Which is best? The Debate is on. Those who are against Ammonia, claim ethanolamine is from Coconut Oil, which is the latest craze for all things. Like ammonia, it’s highly Alkaline, which is what is needed to raise the PH of hair, however, I’m not saying its better or safer either way. As a Stylist, not a Scientist, I would use whatever I think is best for my Client’s hair. Personally, Ammonia does well on my own hair. Everyone and I mean everyone is different.
We as a society go through this with absolutely everything. One minute, Butter is bad. Margarine is not. The next minute, Butter is healthy. Margarine is poison. Yesterday, Canola was our savior. Today, it’s Coconut Oil. Do you feel stuck? Frustrated? Don’t know who to trust or what to do?
Then let your hair decide and go with your best judgment. If your hair likes something, it will be the first to say so when it shows off great results. If it doesn’t, well, you’ll know.
As far as what ethanolamine is, well, it’s a salt that serves as a surfactant and then sometimes, a preservative. Here is a safety PDF sheet on it.
Interestingly enough, under this link, I found this quote:
Ethanolamines are ammonia compounds used in cosmetics as emulsifiers or foaming agents. You’ll see these listed on the ingredient label as “MEA, DEA, & TEA,” abbreviations for monoethanolamine, diethanolamine, and triethanolamine. Animal Studies link it to Cancer.
Remember, I am not out to scare you. Information online can be so misleading – good or bad. As far as I’m concerned, as I said before, the jury is still out. However, just like the examples of butter verses margarine above, just because it’s the latest craze, doesn’t mean it’s any better. Just because it comes from Coconut Oil, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy.
There is that saying—better the devil you know—blah, blah, blah. Maybe that applies here and then again, maybe it doesn’t. Time will tell.
Last, let’s take a whack at some of the latest hair crazes concerning special shampoos and products we see on the home shopping networks, etc.
These are the ones that have a celebrity attached to them. I wont name the product name because my luck, I’d get sued, but they claim to have no “bad stuff” in them like harsh chemicals or even lather. They cost a fortune , too. I’ve had clients swear by these products and while I respected their choice to use them, I silently couldn’t wait for them to stop. Their hair ended up becoming very dry and brittle. Their scalps often ended up breaking or there was even hair loss. Why? My guess was, their scalps weren’t being cleansed properly and whatever was in the Product was drying and so on. The substance was very fatty, which may have been clogging up the pore from which the hair follicle grows from—a common cause of hair loss.
All those Color commercials for box dye? The Movie Star is flashing her High End looking color and swearing it came from that little bitty box? Um, no. That came from a High End Salon or Stylist. Do you really think someone making millions is going to grab a box off the shelf and do something like that herself? And do you think it’s going to turn out like that?
That being said, use your better judgment. Sure, try things out, but find a Stylist you can trust and get his or her opinion. And if a product causes you to miss your mortgage payment, then re-think the product. Also, pay attention to your hair. If your scalp begins to itch, if your hair feels dry, if you just don’t feel clean afterwards, then maybe what you’re using isn’t what all it’s cracked up to be.
As far as all the ingredients you can’t understand — Google a product or ingredient but then use your best judgment on what you find. A lot of people are PAID to put reviews out there. Everything from Books, Movies, Skincare, Food, etc—chances are, someone is being paid. Now, don’t frown at that because sometimes that’s a products’ only chance to survive. After all, we are a follow the leader type of nation. We only really pay attention to what makes the most noise. What everyone else is raving about.
Well, that wraps things up for the day, folks. Thanks for joining me on my journey of hair. Hope this was of some interest. Until next time….