This is guest post and it makes for some very interesting reading, the things you learn by having a website!
A friend of mine who was very proud of his luscious head of hair used to always talk about the benefits of either not washing his hair with any shampoo and only using an organic shampoo when he did. Admittedly, his hair was very impressive but I always put this down to his genes rather than his hair care routine. However, now I am not so sure. When he went overseas, my friend gifted me his stock of organic shampoo and conditioner. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. However, when my own supply of shampoo ran out, I decided to give the organic stuff a go. At that time, I was not anti-organic but I certainly wasn’t a supporter either. To be honest, I thought it was more about marketing and just a way to entice people to spend more than necessary on hair care products.
The first thing I noticed about the organic shampoo that I tried was that it smelled different to what I was used to. If typical shampoo smells soapy, I would say that organic shampoos, that I have tried, smell more planty. I was going to say natural however want to try and be as neutral as possible for now and think this would give too positive a bias.
It is important to realize that organic shampoos and cosmetics at large do in fact make use of quite different ingredients to regular products as well as employ different production standards. Some of the areas that you might find interesting include the following six points.
- 70%+ Organic ingredients
- No sodium laureth sulfate or other harsh chemicals
- No parabens or harsh preservatives
- No phthalates
- No synthetic fragrances or colors
- pH balanced
- 100% vegetarian ingredients and no animal testing
If you decide to give an organic shampoo a try, check the label because there is a chance that not all of the above features will apply.
The quantity of organic ingredients that the product contains determines the label that it can use. There are a few different levels, “100% Organic”; “Organic”; and “Made with Organic Ingredients”. The corresponding amounts of organic ingredients are, 100%; 95%+; 70%+. Cosmetics with less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the word “Organic” on their packaging.
I started to become a bit more interested in these products when I looked into the chemicals that they try to avoid using. The term harsh chemicals worried me slightly so I wanted to find out more about them.
These are used as preservatives. No one wants to be using a shampoo that has bacterial or fungal growth going on. So in this respect, parabens, e.g. methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben are a good thing. You may be able to see these on the labels of various cosmetics that you currently use.
However, in biopsies of breast cancer tumors, low concentrations of various parabens have been discovered. At this stage though, scientists have not suggested that parabens cause cancer. Questions that come to mind include: Why are these chemicals there? Where did the come from? The Breast Cancer Fund are concerned about parabens, which are absorbed through our skin. But on the other hand, the FDA state that:
at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area.
These are chemicals which we are exposed to in all kinds of products, from plastics to shampoo. In cosmetics they are used to prevent things like nail polish from becoming too brittle and cracking as well as acting as solvents for fragrances.
In a study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the researchers state that their data supports:
the hypothesis that prenatal phthalate exposure at environmental levels can adversely affect male reproductive development in humans.
The concern surrounding phthalates is real. The issue is much wider than just shampoos and cosmetics. An important point to consider is that phthalates use in cosmetics is often hard to determine. This is because these chemicals are often used as constituent parts of other ingredients. As such, if there is a fragrance in your shampoo that contains phthalates, you are unlikely to be able to tell just by looking at the ingredient list.
Many organic shampoo producers are taking a more cautionary approach to these chemicals. Often they simply do not use them or any other compounds that contain them. If you are at all worried about phthalate exposure, then using an organic shampoo seems like a safer option.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
This is a surfactant (surface active agent) used in things like soap and shampoo as a foaming agent. Lathering up is an important part of washing our hair, so in this respect, sodium laureth sulphate is an important ingredient. The issue however, is that it is also an irritant. Of course many of us are not affected adversely by it at all. Certainly, at the low concentration levels found in shampoos, it should not be particularly harmful. Of course, if we get shampoo into our eyes it is a different story. Part of the stinging sensation is due to the sodium laureth sulphate.
Organic shampoos instead use surfactants that are derived from plants and vegetables. These are better for us than sodium laureth sulphate because their molecules are larger and cannot penetrate our skin in the same way. Due to its small molecular structure, sodium laureth sulphate can cause both dryness and itchiness.
I am not really an advocate for organic products, but I am very interested in being able to make informed choices. This is one reason why I am in favor of organic shampoos. Not because they are organic per se but because it is easier to know what ingredients they do and do not contain.