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How to Choose The Best Shampoo

Tutorial for getting the right shampoo

By: Melanie Scott

Are you one of the estimated 80% of Americans who shampoos their hair every day? If so, then you must go through boatloads of shampoo and conditioner every month, which means you are also exposing yourself to the boatloads of chemicals contained in those hair care products. Should you be worried? Answer: maybe.

You might think that all those chemicals you use to get your hair clean and shiny are just fine because you only use them for a few minutes a day and then wash them right off. Unfortunately that’s only half the story, as these chemicals stick around (literally) by attaching themselves to your hair and by being absorbed into your body through your scalp. Washing your hair every day might make you feel clean and healthy, but it might not be the best thing for your hair – or the rest of your body.

What to Watch For

So what can you do to avoid harmful chemicals in your personal hair care products? Start by reading the labels and finding out what’s actually in your favorite shampoo before you lather up. There is a bewildering array of ingredients that manufacturers use in their products, but here are a few to think twice about before you buy:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). This is a very common shampoo ingredient, and it’s used to rid your hair of oil and leftover styling products. Sodium laurel sulfate is a strong chemical that is also used to degrease engines and clean concrete floors. It’s really good at getting your car clean too. Just learning all that might make you want to avoid SLS, but (even worse) this chemical has been linked with hair loss, eye damage and brittle hair, and if it gets mixed with other chemicals, it can produce cancer-causing agents such as nitrosamines.
  • Ethanolamines (DEA/MEA/TEA). These are used in shampoos to give you a rich, foaming lather, which makes you think your shampoo is working better. There are multiple types of DEAs, and they too are common shampoo ingredients. But they’re also easily absorbed by your skin. High levels of these chemicals have been blamed for liver and kidney damage
  • Phthalates. Do you like shampoos that make your hair smell great all day?  Then you probably like hair-care products that contain lots of phthalates, or fragrance chemicals. Some researchers think that these chemical agents can affect your immune system and possibly your reproductive system. So think carefully before you pick a shampoo off the shelf just because it smells yummy.

Choosing a Safe Shampoo

Before you take a vow never to shampoo your hair again, remember that there are some things you can do to get clean hair while at the same time limiting your exposure to all those potentially nasty ingredients.

  • SLS-free shampoos. These are easy to find, or you can pick shampoos that use sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) instead. SLES is generally agreed to be less toxic than SLS, but it can still get out those sticky hair styling products you use.
  • Organic or natural hair care products. These are also a popular way to avoid getting a daily dose of carcinogens – but you do have to make sure they really are organic and natural. Labels can be deceiving sometimes, so go for products that are USDA-certified organic if you want to be sure.
  • Shampoo less often. This doesn’t mean you have to go around grossing everyone out with your oil-slick bangs. You can use dry shampoo instead. It absorbs all the grease and dirt that accumulates between washes, plus it’s easy to use and generally has fewer harmful products.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you’re the one controlling what you put on, and in, your body. Check those labels and keep your wits about you – or you too could succumb to the dangers of shampoo.

 

  





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