Could your shampoo be causing your scalp condition?
If you've ever suffered from a dry, itchy, flaky scalp, you'll know how frustrating and embarrassing it can be. Whether you're suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis, psoriasis or dandruff, left untreated, the problem may get worse.
Scalp conditions are a common problem – dandruff most commonly affects people in their 20's and can continue well into middle age. It's thought that half the UK's population will suffer from dandruff at some point in their lives. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as good fats can help. But if you've recently noticed your scalp is itchy, flaky or sore, did you ever stop to think that the cause could be your hair care products?
Commercial shampoos, conditioners and styling products are packed with chemicals. Grab your nearest bottle of shampoo and check out the ingredients to see what we mean. If your scalp reacts to any of these ingredients, the results could be dandruff, dermatitis or an irritated scalp.
What's in your shampoo?
You might remember our post recently about natural skin care products. Most of us shampoo our hair at least a few times a week, if not daily, which means you're just as at risk from harmful chemicals in your shampoo as you are from those in your skincare products. We looked at some of the UK's most popular haircare brands to see exactly what you're putting on your scalp every day.
Tresemme, a leading brand of haircare products, recently released their 'Naturals' range, promising silicone-free conditioners, low-sulfate shampoos and organic ingredients. Whilst it's true that there may be less irritants in the range than some other high-street brands, just take a look at some of the ingredients:
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate and Ammonium laureth sulfate
- Cocamidopropyl betaine
- Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate
- Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose
- Ammonium chloride
- Propylene glycol
- Disodium EDTA
- DMDM hydantoin
We're willing to bet most people don't know what any of these ingredients are, let alone what effect they have on the body. Tresemme are not alone; most high-street shampoos contain a similarly long list of ingredients; even those marketed as 'natural' brands are packed with chemicals.
What does it all mean?
You might be wondering what these artificial ingredients are and how harmful they can be? We've looked at some of the most commonly used shampoo and conditioner ingredients – here's what we found:
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are harsh detergents which can strip the hair and scalp of natural oils and moisture. Sodium lauryl sulfate is added to many shampoos to create a rich, foaming lather – it's equally as harsh
- Sodium chloride, you probably already know as table salt. What place does it have in shampoos? Well, it's often used as a thickener but it can cause hair loss as well as a dry, itchy scalp
- Parabens aren't just prevalent in our skincare products, they're in many shampoos and conditioners too, used to prolong shelf life. Methylparaben and propylparaben have been linked with cancers and can irritate your scalp, affect your hormones and even cause hair loss
- Synthetic fragrance in your shampoo could be made up of almost 3,000 chemicals and could cause scalp irritation
- Propylene glycol is basically car anti-freeze; not something you'd choose to put on your hair! It's used to stop products from freezing during shipping and storage but it can cause allergic reactions and an irritated, itchy scalp
- Dimethicone is a synthetic polymer and a form of silicone, used to seal moisture into hair and make it smoother. You'll find it in many conditioners and there have been reports of scalp irritation, rashes and itching in reaction to it. It can also clog pores and hair follicles, leading to increased hair shedding
Choosing healthier hair care products
Some people may think any shampoo with the word 'natural' in the label will be good for your hair – a look at the ingredients list will tell you that's not usually the case. So, how do you choose a shampoo and conditioner that won't cause irritation to your scalp?
Opting for organic brands packed with 100% natural ingredients, such as Aubrey Organics or other brands sold in health food stores is a safe bet. These tips will also help:
- Choose shampoos which don't contain ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate
- Opt for shampoos containing sodium lauryl sulfosuccinate or sodium lauryl sulfoaccetate – these effectively cleanse your scalp and hair but create less lather
- Opt for dimethicone-free conditioner and look for conditioner with 18-MEA in it (18-methyleicosanoic acid). This occurs naturally in our hair and helps rebalance moisture levels and increase shine.
Being aware of what you're putting on your scalp can help it to remain healthy, which means your hair will be healthier too. At-home treatments such as an egg and honey hair mask or brown sugar scrub can also help to rebalance your scalp and leave hair soft and shiny. We believe if you wouldn't eat it, it has no place on your scalp, so put some thought into your haircare products next time you're shopping,