Clean Hair Care: Why It’s Important to Make the Switch
For many of us, making the swap from conventional products to high-performing, non-toxic versions takes time. We usually start with a few key products and then tackle one part of our routine at a time. Hair care products often come toward the end of the clean beauty journey, but making the switch is important for a number of reasons.
For starters, conventional hair products contain many toxic chemicals that are harmful to people and the planet, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, phthalates, parabens, and petrochemicals, among other toxic ingredients. These ingredients are associated with health impacts including skin and eye irritation; endocrine disruption; possible carcinogens; and developmental, reproductive, and immune toxicity. (See our restricted ingredient list for more info.)
Your Scalp is Extra Absorbent
The use of toxic chemicals in hair care products is particularly worrisome because the scalp is super absorbent. In fact, the skin of the scalp and forehead are four times more absorbent than the skin on our forearms.
In a study that researched the absorption level of hair follicles, participants (who had not ingested caffeine prior to the study) had a caffeine solution applied topically to their hair follicles. Just five minutes later, the caffeine was detectable in their blood. So, the ingredients in our hair care products are given a fast pathway to our bloodstream. This fascinating study highlights the fact that our hair follicles are a particularly vulnerable point in the body for chemical exposure and absorption.
Toxic Chemicals Can Be Inhaled, Too
But the skin’s absorption of toxic chemicals isn’t the only reason why you might want to avoid conventional hair products. Another study followed different pathways of chemical exposure throughout the lifecycle of shampoo. Researchers evaluated over 69 commonly used ingredients (including some that are banned at Follain), in addition to looking at the environment effects of the ingredients after being used by the consumer. One important discovery was that in addition to chemical exposure through application to the skin and hair follicles, the inhalation of some volatile and semi-volatile chemical ingredients during shampoo use accounts for another significant area of exposure.
Racial Disparity: Women of Color Face Greater Exposure
The situation is even worse for women of color, who tend to face greater levels of chemical exposure and the resulting adverse health effects. One study revealed that, “compared with white women, women of color have higher levels of beauty product-related environmental chemicals in their bodies, independent of socioeconomic status.”
This can largely be attributed to deeply rooted societal discrimination and pressure to conform to white beauty standards, and is particularly apparent with African-American women: Relaxers, hot oil treatments, anti-frizz, leave-in conditioners, and many other styling products marketed specifically to women of color have often been found to contain toxic ingredients, including formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, cyclosiloxanes, fragrance chemicals, and other endocrine disruptors and asthma-related chemicals. To make matters worse, researchers have found that many of the toxic chemicals found in these products aren’t even listed on the packaging.
Are Your Hair Care Products Safe for the Environment?
Beyond the salon, bathroom, and shower, hair care products can also harm the environment. A chemical cocktail of shampoo and conditioner goes down the drain of almost every single household and as a result, hair product ingredients are commonly found in the sludge that makes its way into municipal wastewater. That means that some of the chemicals in conventional hair products are directly released into rivers, oceans, lakes, and other aquatic ecosystems through our wastewater.
Several studies have examined the eco-toxicity of anti-dandruff shampoo products and found that when present in high concentrations, certain ingredients threaten both water- and land-based ecosystems. Research from the European Commission established that shampoo use can contribute to “climate change, water resource depletion, mineral and fossil resource depletion, and freshwater ecotoxicity,” among other important environmental concerns. As with all beauty and personal care products, the environmental impact is another reason to switch to non-toxic, clean, and healthier hair products—they’re better for you and for the planet!
Healthy Alternatives: Clean Hair Care That’s Better For You and the Environment
Follain has a fantastic selection of non-toxic, clean, environmentally friendly, and effective hair products. Here are a few of our favorites, depending on hair type.
Thick, curly, and/or kinky hair: For maximum hydration, we recommend Innersense Hydrating Cream Conditioner and Innersense Hydrating Hair Bath. Both strengthen and protect hair with tamanu and flaxseed oils.
Don’t forget about your styling products! Reduce your exposure to chemicals with Innersense I Create Finish, a non-toxic hairspray that creates hold and shine with honey and rice amino acids. For extra soft, hydrated, and detangled hair, try Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave In Conditioner, which moisturizes and protects all hair types thanks to nourishing oils and honey and rosemary extracts.
Kiana Michaan, West Village Store Educator | February 21, 2019