- Men's Health & Wellness
Hair Loss Causes: Your Bathing Habits and Harmful Hair Products
I’ve written a couple of articles on hair loss in the past, and got some inspiration for working on my third just recently.
In the past, I’ve been convinced that the way to go when trying to combat hair loss is to go internally. What I mean by this is changing your diet, and taking plenty of vitamins and minerals, which you can get from foods and supplements.
I was told that the topical treatments that you put on your scalp won’t really work. This isn’t necessarily my opinion, but it’s one that’s held by some.
But it was last month that I started to find out more about a potential cause of thinning hair and hair loss that made me sit up and take heed. It’s quite a sickening thing to think about – mainly because it means that there’s a couple of big groups which could ironically be responsible for a lot of people that have been losing hair for many years out there: the hair care and cosmetics industries.
And this cause is more of a topical or external issue rather than an internal one too. If you take your shampoo and conditioner and check the back, you will more than likely when reading the ingredients or contents, see one of a few names on there: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and/or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate; SLS and ALS for short. There's also Sodium laureth sulfate, or SLES, and Sodium myreth sulfate, or SMES.
These are surfactants: chemicals which are very widespread in cleaning agents and act with the surface of something – in this case your scalp. They are the ingredients that do the cleaning. Sulfates are also present in other domestic and commercial cleaning products such as things you would use in the garage, on the car, and around the house. Not likely something you would think of putting on your hands, let alone in your hair – but you are. You just didn’t know it until now.
And many shampoos have had these chemicals in them for decades. It makes a lot of foamy bubbles, and not to mention, it’s cheaper to make.
The foam, bubbles, and the smell of a shampoo are all things that people look for when trying to buy a good shampoo. The truth is that a lot of ingredients that are in most shampoos, conditioners and soaps and so on, aren’t even necessary, as you can make or buy a perfectly good and healthy alternative to use when cleaning your body. And so what if it may cost more? It’s a small sacrifice to make, and you’ll likely need less shampoo in any case, with a good SLS free shampoo – so it’ll last longer. In fact I know someone who makes homemade soap, so I may look into that some time, too.
Hair loss has become more and more prevalent – especially in women and younger people of both sexes. It’s not just middle-aged men or old guys anymore. And there are those who believe that the culprits are in the products you use on your scalp.
I’m going to tell you about my personal journey in cleansing myself and detoxifying my body from these potentially harmful chemicals. The first thing I did upon finding out about all this? I changed my shampoo IMMEDIATELY. I’d been using Organics for years, and even though it says all this stuff on the front about being good for you and so on, you should only really be concerned with what’s written on the back – often in small lettering. I noticed that it had SLS in it.
"It means that there’s a couple of big groups which could ironically be responsible for a lot of people that have been losing hair for many years out there: the hair care and cosmetics industries."
But that bottle was nearly empty. The other shampoo I’d been using since was one from Pantene. This one had both SLS and ALS in it. This one was even worse. It even had the cheek to say on the front of the bottle that it was meant for thinning hair. And it could quite possibly be causing it…
I bought a new shampoo. This one was called Earthsap. It has all natural, organic ingredients. I checked the back and it had practically none if any of the stuff that was in other shampoos that dominate the market. It doesn’t lather up as much, but it does smell nice, and the end result is just the same if not better. The hair actually doesn’t need as much washing as before, and I don’t wash my hair every day anyway. Usually I just do it two or three times a week.
I’ve also read that abstaining from Sulfates/Sulphates reduces hair fall, and gradually after a few months should result in thicker, fuller hair.
I stopped using the Organics and Pantene conditioners too seeing as even though they didn’t have SLS, they had other chemicals in them that I thought aren’t very good anyway. Some of these conditioners don't have sulfates in them, but they do contain sulfonates - which I hear should also be avoided.
Then I was off on a mission to see if any products I used had any of the harmful stuff in them. The soaps were fine as far as I could see, but there were some other products that had SLS in them and that I no doubt avoid from now on. One of those was the face wash I was using by Gill. SLS.
The next one was the bubble bath. I knew that it always made a nice lot of bubbles, and I stopped and thought: it might have SLS in it. I checked the back, and there it was: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Okay, I know. I’m a guy and I use bubble bath from time to time. So what? The smell is nice and it creates a lot bubbles - it brings back memories of childhood. I was just like a lot of people out there until just the other month who were trained to look for that sort of thing in a product to use when cleaning or bathing. The stuff also made the bath easier to clean after I was finished. The grime and so on didn’t stick to the sides. Oh well, can’t use that anymore.
So, I was clean and rid of sulfates – or so I thought.
At the foot of the bathtub there’s a group of cleaning products like Handy Andy and so on. I usually use those to clean the bath before I get in, and sometimes after I get out. Sometimes if the bath isn’t properly drained of all the stuff, there are some traces of Handy Andy left once the plug is put in. Once the water is running, I noted that there was a film of the stuff on top of the water. I thought that this could also be something to watch out for, seeing as household cleaning products are purported to have SLS and other harsh chemicals in them. But when I checked the back, there were no ingredients. There was just a warning on there telling me not to drink it or get it near my eyes. Probably not that good then, after all. So from now on I also have to make sure that the tub is cleaned and properly drained and perhaps left a while before running a bath, so the stuff doesn’t get in the water.
It’s like every time I have a bath, I discover something else that has SLS in it, and that I have to stop using. It’s not that I’m becoming fanatical, but I do tend to worry sometimes. I like to think that I’m doing this for my good health. I've even found out that SLS is present in toothpastes too, and is suspected of causing canker sores. SLS is even more controversial as there are claims it may be carcinogenic, as in "causes cancer".
Yes, there are those that claim that SLS is harmful, and others who say it isn’t. The rule of thumb in these cases is that if you suffer from thinning hair or hair loss, and you've explored several avenues as to what might be causing it, you might want to consider switching to products that don’t have these chemicals, or any chemicals, in them. Others carry on using them without consequence. It seems as though some suffer a reaction to it, and others don’t – much like many other products or medications and such. It’s a possible side effect of sorts.
I personally am a big fan of alternative remedies and natural products – particularly when it comes to thinning hair and so on. I don’t really go for Propecia, Regaine/Rogaine or any of those when zinc is a natural DHT blocker. So I’ve extended this attitude to the hair care products that I use.
It’s a small change that likely won’t cost you that much if anything at all. My Earthsap brand that I buy is not much more expensive than the regular brands. There are likely many other brands of SLS free shampoos and products out there. But remember, this is South Africa – so you just have to take what you can get sometimes. People are much more clued up when it comes to this sort of thing in America and Europe. Most of the brands recommended on online forums on the subject I haven’t even heard of or seen anywhere. But Earthsap is a local brand, and has been around for several years as I recall reading. Like I said, it doesn’t smell bad, although that doesn’t last long (eventually it just smells like hair), but produces nice clean hair, regardless. Perhaps it isn’t as shiny as before, but at least I’ll actually have hair for a while longer, according to those in the know – who are big advocates of “first, do no harm”. No, I’m not talking about that company. I’m talking about everyday people who finally started reading the labels and ingredients, and discovered what could be one of the biggest scandals in recent memory. Not that companies screwing over the consumer is anything new...
It’s funny because I once heard from my brother, who’s a Christian, that Procter & Gamble, maker of Head & Shoulders, was full of Satanists. I learned later on that this had been in the contents of a joke email circulating the net. The truth is they’re not Satanists. They’re just full of evil, greedy, money grubbing corporate types, just like practically any and every company or business out there.
Over nearly the last ten years or so, it has been coming into the public consciousness, with many switching over to natural, organic alternatives and getting results. So hopefully it’ll continue on this way and maybe one day it’ll become the norm. It’s being very optimistic, but if enough people stop buying the harmful stuff, then what else will the corporations do but start catering to their wants and needs and making the good stuff and stop screwing us over? But that’s what people have been saying for many, many years now anyway.
So just go ahead and make a small change, for a small price difference. You’ve got nothing to lose, except the hair.
"Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald? No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that."— Sam Halpern, from sh*tmydadsays
Do you use Sulfate-free products?
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