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Ingredients in Hair Care Products, The Good the Bad & The Ugly

Jul 31, 2008
If you can read and understand what all the ingredients are in your shampoo and conditioner bottles then congratulations! You are one of a very small percentage of people who can do this. For the rest of us, we seem to go on blind faith that the manufactures know what they are doing. But what are they really? Below is a broad overview of some of the most common ingredients you'll see on these labels.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:

This substance is derived from coconut alcohols. It is a surfactant which is anything that allows oil to mix with water which has a slight negative charge to it. It reduces the surface tension between it and water and is used in shampoos for normal to oily and oily hair. Other surfactants are; ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, potassium coco hydrolyzed collagen and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate.

Isopropyl Alcohol:

This substance is derived from petroleum and is a drying agent. Isopropyl alcohol should not be left on the scalp for too along as it can start taking off the top layer of skin. This can leave the scalp susceptible infections.

Propylene Glycol Distearate:

This is crystallized stearic acid and ethylene glychol which gives your shampoo that mother of pearl look and feel. It is a common thickening agent in hair dyes and shampoos and has humidifying effects on hair and scalp.

Disodium EDTA:

This is a substance is a chelating agent that gives shampoo products a stable look and feel to it. This product, as with some of the others, must not be left on the scalp for long as it has the ability to go deep down into the skin allowing for more chemicals to potentially reach the blood stream.

Cetearyl alcohol:

Ceterayl or cetyl alcohol is made from coconut oil and is used as an emulsifier. This is what makes your hair feel like velvet. Where the glycol distearate makes the shampoo look creamy and pearl like, the cetearyl alcohol makes the hair feel silky smooth.

The Good:

These ingredients do several things. They act as a detergent for cleaning dirt, oil and debris from hair, it also provides conditioning for your hair and it is the foaming agent that makes us feel like we are really cleansing the hair and scalp. They can make your hair feel velvety soft, absorb oils or make dry hair feel moist.

The Bad:

These are all chemicals that can be absorbed into the skin and hair. Many of the chemicals in shampoo products are petroleum or alcohol based some of which are the same products used to make antifreeze or garage floor cleaners to name a few.

The Ugly:

There may be health risks associated with all of the above chemicals. They all have the potential to be absorbed into the scalp and down to the bloodstream where they can be deposited into major organs such as the brain, eyes, heart, lungs, kidney and liver where they can remain for quite some time causing damage. One needs to be especially mindful that children of all ages avoid getting these chemicals in the eyes as they may cause potential permanent damage. Skin irritation or allergic reactions can occur with prolonged use and in some cases (such as with disodium EDTA) can have carcinogenic effects on the body.

More People are getting health conscious about processed foods and are avoiding them, but how about all these chemicals? They are processed as well and although they may all stem from nature, the processing changes the chemical structure to the point where the body does not recognize what it is.

If you decide to use these ingredients, all I can suggest is that you shampoo and rinse quickly so as to avoid absorption as much as possible. Better still, Find chemical free cleansing shampoos and conditioners and avoid possible contamination altogether!
About the Author
Willie is a researcher and freelance writer whose own health problems prompted her to gain as much information on health and wellness as possible and relay it to others. She is co-owner of http://www.nutrition-tips.com a site dedicated to health and hair care products.
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