So one of your new year’s resolutions is to embrace sustainable living and one choice you’re considering making is opting for the “no poo” sustainable haircare method. But before you ditch shampoo entirely, let’s dig deeper into shampoos and the benefits and effects on your hair so you can make a more informed decision.
What does shampoo actually do?
You may not realize this, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that shampoo was introduced to the United States. Before that, people would wash their hair with bar soap. You can probably imagine that at that time, bar soap left hair feeling rough, dry, and unmanageable. So, that’s why shampoo was developed.
Shampoo is designed to remove unwanted oil and dirt from the hair and scalp. Nowadays, shampoo can also condition the hair, give it shine and generally make it easier to maintain. Shampoo captures and traps excess oil, dirt, and product residue, which is rinsed out to leave your hair clean and stop it from feeling greasy. Shampoo also works as a moisturizing and protective barrier for your skin and hair.
What’s in shampoo?
Shampoo is easily formulated to remove unwanted oil and dirt from the hair and scalp. But it’s more challenging to formulate one that leaves hair soft, smooth, and manageable. Shampoos are formulated with three main types of ingredients: functional, aesthetic and marketing.
These are ingredients that make shampoos work and are considered functional.
- Surfactants – these are a group of ingredients that cleanse the hair and scalp. According to Ethique, a conscious brand founded by a New Zealand scientist known for producing ‘zero waste’ personal care and sustainable household products, “Surfactants are a group of ingredients that makes shampoos foam, the oils and water in creams mix and your mayonnaise stay together. Essentially, they just lower the surface tension between two liquids or a liquid and a solid allowing them to come together.”
- Sequestering agents – these ingredients prevent soap scum.
- Preservatives – are necessary for all water-based shampoo to prevent bacteria and fungus. Two common types are DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl but there are many natural preservatives such as grapefruit seed extract and rosemary extract.
These are ingredients that make the product look appealing. For instance, thickeners are added to give shampoo substance, so that it doesn’t have the consistency of water. Foaming agents and ingredients that add sparkle or a pearlescent quality can also be added. While these ingredients don’t have anything to do with the shampoo’s ability to clean your hair, shampoo manufacturers add them to improve the look of the shampoo products that sit on many supermarket shelves.
These are vitamins and other ingredients that are added to appease the marketing claims written on the front or label of a shampoo bottle. Take Vitamin C, for example. Many shampoo bottles claim that Vitamin C is added to protect the hair from ultraviolet rays. Unfortunately, there’s little science proving these claims.
While shampooing our hair may be a part of our daily routines, there’s actually no evidence that shampoo has any health benefits. While shampoo hasn’t been shown to cause hair loss, it can dry hair out, causing it to break. Here are some other harmful effects that come from shampooing on a daily basis:
- Shampoo can cause chemical buildup. Shampoos can leave nasty chemical buildups on your scalp. Over time, this can mess with your scalp and can cause your scalp to overproduce oils, leaving it greasy. Sometimes it can also create dandruff-like flakes
- Shampoo causes hair to frizz. If you shampoo your hair too often, it can leave it dry and dull, which can lead to frizz. This can often lead to breakage.
- Shampoo can make your hair moody. Yes you read this right. If you decide to go a few days without shampooing or decide on trying out the ‘no poo’ method, then your hair may start over producing oils which may lead you to conceding that you need to shampoo, and then you’re right back to where you started. If you’re trying to train your hair to stop relying on shampoo, then do so when you feel comfortable being seen in public or alternatively, when you don’t have to head out of the house for several days.
- Bottled shampoo is wasteful. Think about all the plastic bottles of shampoo you go through. That’s a lot of single-use plastic bottles. If you feel you must shampoo, using a shampoo bar packaged in cardboard is less wasteful.
- Shampoo can’t be washed out. It’s pretty ironic that standard shampoo can wash out almost everything from your hair, except for shampoo. The best way to get rid of shampoo is to use a shampoo that’s designed for cleaning your scalp, or you can just wait for your scalp to dispose of it naturally.
Here’s what you can do if you’ve noticed shampoo is making your hair less than lush:
Cut out shampoo completely.
If you want to completely stop using shampoo, it’s possible. There is a growing number of people opting for the “no-poo” movement; ditching shampoo for healthier and more ‘sustainable’ hair without all the plastic packaging. If you’re keen to try it out, the best way is to ease your way into it. Here’s how: Instead of lathering your hair up with both shampoo and conditioner, just skip the shampoo and use a minimal amount of conditioner. Conditioners generally don’t contain the harsh detergents found in shampoos and can help keep your scalp and strands hydrated, but in due course, you can cut it out too if you decide you don’t need it keep your hair moisturized and tangle-free.
It’s important to note that the no poo method tends to perform on some hair types better than others such as those with naturally curly or ‘frizzy’ hair. Many report this method leaves their hair feeling less clean, more greasy and for some, even smelly.
Replace your shampoo with ACV.
Some people use apple cider vinegar to wash their hair instead of using a store-bought shampoo. That’s because apple cider vinegar acts as a natural conditioner. It can also remove product buildup and help clear up dandruff. To try this out, just fill an empty spray bottle with three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every cup of water. When you’re in the shower, just apply the solution to your scalp and massage for a few minutes before rinsing it out.
Use natural shampoos.
There is a ‘bad’ side to standard shampoos, but not all shampoo formulations are bad. If you don’t want to completely cut out shampoo because you enjoy they way it makes your hair feel, then there are plenty of natural shampoos on the market that don’t contain any synthetic ingredients. Make sure to be wary of the product labels and check the ingredients to make sure the shampoo is truly natural. American research and advocacy group Environmental Working Group and Malaysia-based all-natural personal care brand Indochine Natural co-founded by Australian scientist Mike Thair offer a plethora of resources and information on their websites about this subject matter.
- Toxic Beauty: A Documentary Film About How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Are Making Us Sick
- Environmental Footprint: How Your Shoes Are Harming the Planet
- Will Garment Workers Survive the Fast Fashion Apocalypse?
- How to Be a Fashion Activist During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- 10 Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Podcasts to Tune Into
- 7 Ethical Brands for Sustainable Joggers and Sweatpants
- 69 Facts and Statistics About Fast Fashion That Will Inspire You To Become An Ethical Fashion Advocate
Submitted by Winston Salem Dermatology.