Hair Care Products
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Informed people make informed decisions
Most people in the Western world are obsessed with their hair. Westerns redefine themselves by defining and redefining their hair. Hair dye and dressing is not new. The Romans, Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were asll involved in elaborate forms of hairdressing and dying. The Romans were fascinated with hair dyes and history has uncovered approximately 100 recipes that Romans used to colour their hair. The ingredients used in these recipes included leeks, charred eggs, goats fat, ashes, and walnut shells. Most of the very early hair dyes such as henna, indigo, sage and camomile, could only darken the hair.
In the Renaissance, blond was also popular because it was considered angelic and women would apply mixtures of black sulphur, alum and honey, and sit in the sun to allow the lightening process to work. Henna has historically been a popular choice for changing hair colour. At the end of the 19th century, women of Istanbul and Smyrna were estimated to use 15,000 pounds of henna annually as hair dye. Most of these hennas were mixtures of henna and other materials to produce a range of colours. The formulas of these mixtures were closely guarded secrets, but it is known that some of the ingredients were oak gall, alum, sugar, iron sulphate, copper sulphate, antimony, maker, and buckthorn.
As trade was increased between European countries and Turkey, henna was exported to Europe. Turkish merchants were happy to supply the goods European women felt they needed to be beautiful. Wide use of the term 'henna' when it was applied to different formulas, some without actually having henna in them, led to the term 'to henna' becoming synonymous with dying one's hair, no matter what plant was used.
At the beginning of the 1900s, 'henna' was the safest, most widely used, most reliable hair dye. The first synthetic dye was invented in 1907 by Eugene Schueller but it was not widely used. Henna was eventually supplanted by the technology of para-phenylenediamine dye was transferred from the textile and fur industry into the cosmetic industry in the late 1930s.
The concept of an aerosol originated as early as 1790, when self pressurised carbonated beverages were introduced into France. An early soda siphon incorporating a valve was invented in 1837. In 1899, inventors patented aerosols pressurised using methyl and ethyl chloride as propellants. Hair sprays developed from there to the sophisticated technology that they are today.
Most hair care products on the market today are toxic and often contain ingredients that are carcinogenic. Below is a list of common toxic ingredients in hair care products. These chemicals should be avoided at all costs.
Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent and denaturant. A denaturant is a substance that changes another substance's natural qualities. It is found in a large range of hair and body care products, especially in hair colour rinses. Isopropyl alcohol is a petroleum-derived substance that is used in antifreeze, wood finishing lacquers and as a solvent in shellac. Inhalation or ingestion of the vapour may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis and coma.
Propylene glycol is a surfactant or wetting agent, and a solvent. In industry, propylene glycol is used to break down protein and cellular structure (this is also what skin is). In the same form it is found in hair care products. It is a synthetic petrochemical used as a emulsifying base in creams, shampoos and hair conditioners. On skin, it makes the skin look smoother, but ultimately ages the skin faster. It can denature the skin's protein, leading to poor, saggy skin. It can penetrate the skin quickly. In industrial settings, workers are usually required to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles. Skin contact with propylene glycol can cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.
Polyethylene glycol is a petroleum product used in commercial cleaners such as oven cleaners. It is also used in personal care products. Over time, this chemical can cause premature aging of the skin.
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) & Sodium laureth sulphate.(SLES)
Both sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate are used as detergents and surfactants. They are both used widely in hair conditioners and in approximately 90 percent of all shampoos and products that foam. It is possibly the most dangerous of all ingredients in personal care products. According to the American College of Toxicology both SLE and SLES can cause malformation in children's eyes. Other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. Skin layers may separate and inflame due to its protein denaturing properties. Hair is made of protein and is affected by SLS and SLES leading to poor quality hair, corroded hair follicles and inhibited hair growth, contributing to hair loss. SLS has the potential to cause cataracts through skin absorption, even without direct contact with the eyes. It can denature the protein of the eyes and delay the healing time of the eyes.
Skin contact can cause SLS to be absorbed into the blood circulation and can then concentrate in organs such as the heart, liver or brain. This is potentially dangerous since SLS is a mutagen, capable of changing the information in the genetic material of your cell and organs.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (momoethanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine)
These chemicals are sometimes listed as Cocamide DEA or MEA, Lauramide DEA. These are hormone disrupting chemicals and are known to form cancer causing nitrates and nitrosamines. They are common in shampoos. A study at the University of Illinois found that repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents result in a major increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancers. Children are at greater risk. TEA is used to adjust the pH. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin and can be toxic if absorbed into the body over time.
FD & C Colour pigments
Synthetic colours are used in a shampoos and conditioners to make them more visually appealing. Many pigment colours used in hair dye cause skin sensitivity and irritation, and nerve problems. Absorption of certain colours can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and even death. Many colours contain coal tar, which has been shown to be carcinogenic. More.
If a hair care product lists 'fragrance' on the label it can contain up to 4,000 separate ingredients, most of which are synthetic. Symptoms reported from use of these fragrances include headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Studies have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioural changes.
Formaldehyde is used in shampoos, and conditioners as an inhibiting agent against carcinogenic nitrosamine production. Yet, formaldehyde is carcinogenic itself. It readily penetrates the skin and can cause serious long term health concerns, and often sensitises individuals to other chemicals. It can seriously weaken the immune system and can cause cancer. It also causes allergic reactions, headaches, and chronic fatigue.
Imidazolidinyl urea & DMDM Hydantoin.
Imidazolidinyl urea and Hydantoin (DMHM) are preservatives that release formaldehyde. See 'Formaldehyde' above. Nearly all hair care products contain these chemicals.
Parabens (Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl)
Parabens are preservatives used to inhibit microbial growth in hair care products even though they are known to be highly toxic.