Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Haircare Ingredients- is 'natural' always better?

There has been a lot of interest recently in potentially harmful ingredients in haircare so I decided to do some research online and of course test out a new product on my hair.

What I really wanted to know was if these 'bad' ingredients are really harmful, or if the hype was just another way of making us buy new products by scaring us into believing that 'natural' is better. Though come to think of it, everything is natural as it comes from nature. It wasn't just created by alchemy (as Wayne- gossmakeupartist always reminds us)!

First of all I am going to quickly go through some of the ingredients that have been the cause of much heated discussion.

Parabens- These are used as preservatives that attack any bacteria that may form in toiletries. Although they are made synthetically for use in commercial products they occur naturally in blueberries, prunes and cinnamon. The main issue with these is that they can imitate the effects of oestrogen on a very weak basis (breast cancer risk), though studies have been inconclusive.

Petrochemicals- eg. mineral oil and silicone. These act as smoothing agents, but repeated use can lead to build up causing blocked pores and lank hair. More importantly petrochemicals can be absorbed through the skin and scalp, and then human organs and tissues. In high quantities over time these chemical agents can lead to nerve, liver and brain damage, birth defects, acute asthma, and even cancer.
SLS- eg. sodium lauryl/ laureth sulphate. This is used to make toiletries foam and create a 'nice lather'. However, as it is a harsh detergent for some it may be an irritant and aggravate conditions such as eczema.

Some frightening stuff, though we have to be careful to keep our fears in proportion. These ingredients are all FDA approved and so far no serious harm has been found to be caused by the small amounts added to our toiletries. Most results have been inconclusive, but it is always sensible to be aware of potential dangers.

So with this in mind a few weeks ago I switched to the 97% natural (really don't like that term) NAKED haircare brand sold in Boots. At £3.91 e
ach for shampoo and conditioner I wanted to see how an affordable 'harmful ingredient free' range would compare to haircare I had previously used such as Pantene, John Frieda, Head and Shoulders etc.

I used the Naked Rescue shampoo and conditioner for two weeks (which may already tell you something). Originally I had very high hopes for this line. The smell of the products was lovely and the blurb on the back really did make me feel as if I was treating my hair to something special. I was also happy that they did not test their products 'on Lassy, Skippy or Bambi' :).

The shampoo did not lather well, as was expected, but I did not find it a problem. However, after rinsing it out I felt that my hair was literally squeaky clean. I am not even joking, it squeaked! The conditioner was too thin and I did not feel t
hat my hair was at all nourished. Since my hair is long and wavy it is a nightmare to detangle and these products made it so much worse. It was a big, knotted, dry mess and I had to rip the brush through or else put in lots of leave-in conditioner (which sort of defeats the point as the line is meant to be gentle on hair!). After two weeks of dandruff, frizz, breakage, split ends and painful brushing I gave up.

Sorry NAKED I really wanted to love you but it just did not work for me :(. However, I think that someone with greasy hair may like this product.

At the moment I have started to repair the damage with Body Shop's olive shampoo for normal/ dry hair which does contain sodium laureth sulphate (more gentle than lauryl), but is making my hair look shiny and healthy again!

If you have found any paraben etc. free haircare lines that have worked wonders do let me know lovelies!
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