After damaging your hair follicle beyond repair, companies use conditioners to hide the unhealthy strands. Conditioners are made up of waxes, silicones and oils that are designed to coat the hair shaft and hide the damage done by harsh detergents in shampoos. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to gently cleanse your hair, leave the follicle unharmed, and not put any fake, heavy coatings on top? You would think so, but hair care companies know that two products make more money than one.
SLS is cheap, and effective. It will absolutely eliminate the oils in your hair. However, it has been linked to skin irritation and ulcers. And it strips your hair follicle, weakening the hair so that it's more prone to developing split ends in the near future.
You can eliminate SLS, and the negative health effects associated with it, fairly easily from your hair care routine. And you can be kinder to your strands by using more gentle detergents. Below, I've compiled a long (and yet somehow incomplete) list of detergents and ranked them on their safety and harshness. Check your shampoo and see how your cleanser ranks.
|DETERGENT||SAFETY||EFFECT ON HAIR|
|Sodium lauryl sulfate ||Irritant||Harsh|
|Ammonium lauryl sulfate||Irritant||Harsh|
|Sodium laureth sulfate||Irritant/carcinogen||Harsh|
|Sodium myreth sulfate||Irritant/carcinogen||Harsh|
|Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate||Irritant||Harsh|
|Decyl glucoside||Safe||Not harsh|
|Coco glucoside||Safe||Not harsh|
|Lauryl glucoside||Safe||Not harsh|
Detergent Based Shampoos
To help narrow your search for the right shampoo, I'll share some shampoos I've found with these detergents. The first shampoo is Peter Rabbit's.
Peter Rabbit's shampoo (yes, it is made by the Beatrix Potter company, and yes, it is a baby shampoo) has amazing ingredients. It is one of the few detergent based shampoos that I have found with no other questionable ingredients. It has not, however, made it's way to my testing bay, so I can't report on its effectiveness just yet.
Aubrey Organics shampoo includes coco glucoside as the cleansing agent.
However, most of the Aubrey Organics shampoos also contain grapefruit seed extract. This ingredient has been shown to be contaminated with benzalkonium chloride, parabens, and triclosan. While it is often misunderstood as a safe preservative, this is not the case. Aside from grapefruit seed extract, several of Aubrey Organics shampoos have good ingredients.
Soap Based ShampooIf you want the ultimate in gentle cleansers, the best choice is a soap. Soap is not detergent. Soaps are less harsh cleansing agents (even kinder than the gentlest detergent). You will find them listed on ingredient labels as saponofied oils (for example: saponofied coconut oil and saponofied jojoba oil). However, these kinds of shampoos are not typically available on your supermarkets shelves. This is because this kind of shampoo doesn't have a conditioner to go with it. Let me explain.
Your hair naturally has an acidic pH, around 5.
When your hair is at its happy pH, the keratin scales that make up your hair lay flat, making the strands of your hair smooth and manageable, like in the image below.
However, when your hair is exposed to an alkaline solution, these keratin layers rise up, making your hair harder to brush, and more easily tangled. Detergent shampoos are typically acidic in pH. However, soaps are alkaline. As a result, when using a soap shampoo an acidic rinse is necessary afterward to return the hair to its natural pH.This means replacing your conditioner with a lemon juice or vinegar rinse. Sounds like a mini science experiment in your shower, right? All you need is a paper-mâché volcano to pour that vinegar into.
If it sounds a little too much like your 5th grade science fair project, you can always stick with a detergent based shampoo with a healthy, gentler detergent. Your choices, however, seem very limited. In the meantime, I will be trying the soap shampoo escapade and report back.
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Ingredients in Peter Rabbit's Shampoo:
Aloe barbadenis leaf juice, coco glucoside, decyl glucoside, xanthan gum, ethylhexylglycerin, pumpkin seed oil*, carrot root extract*, sage extract*, basil leaf extract*, basalm peru oil*, elettaria cardamomum seed oil*,pelargoinum graveolens flower oil*, ginger root oil*, lemon oil*, lime oil*, orange peel oil*, thyme oil*, cananga odorata flower oil*, citric acid, potassium sorbate. *Certified organic ingredients
Ingredients in Aubrey Organics Rose Mosqueta Shampoo:
Water, coconut oil, coco glucoside, hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup*, carrageenan, aloe vera leaf juice*, shea butter*, rosa moschata*, rose hip seed oil*, st. john's wort oil , horsetail extract, coltsfoot extract, aminobenzoic acid, lavender oil, bergamot oil, ylang ylang oil, grapefruit seed extract. *Certified organic ingredients
Image courtesy of:
1. Getty Images
2. Peter Rabbit Organics
3. Aubrey Organics
4. Hair Cosmetology
5. Bubble and Bee's Stephanie Greenwood