How Switching to SLS-Free Shampoo Drastically Improved My Hair

Photo: ktpuppWith thick, frizzy, uncontrollable hair like mine, I've had my fair share of bad hair days - and we all know how bad hair can make a day go downhill! Ever since I changed the shampoo I use, though, my hair has improved drastically. It's been almost two years since I eliminated all harsh, petroleum-derived detergents and phthalates from my shampoo and the result has been softer, less greasy, and healthier-looking hair that requires fewer products and less work to manage.

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Most drugstore-shelf shampoos contain sulfates, chemicals that are cheap and easy to produce and good at dissolving oil and dirt. According to Gillian Deacon's book, There's Lead In Your Lipstick (2011), sulfates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) create the foam that we erroneously associate with cleaning power, but they disrupt our brain, nervous, and reproductive systems, while drying out hair and irritating the scalp. The Environmental Working Group classifies SLS as carcinogenic. Phthalates are present in any product that lists 'fragrance' as an ingredient; they're used to fix the scent, but are linked with infertility, reproductive problems, and demasculinization of baby boys in utero.

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Don't be mislead by 'greenwashing,' a common industry practice to make chemical-laden shampoos look natural by their names and labels, when in reality they're still loaded with chemicals. Brands such as JASON, Avalon, Nature's Gate, Stella McCartney's Care line, Earth's Best, and Live Clean Shampoo all carry "fake" organic products, so be sure to read the ingredients.

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It's possible to find SLS-free shampoos the use a plant-based detergent agent, but you'll likely have to look elsewhere than the local drugstore. Our family favourite is Weleda's Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash, which is labeled for babies but works wonders for my hair. Other brands that Deacon recommends are Dr Hauschka, Aubrey Organics, Kiss My Face, The Soap Works (based in Toronto), and Green Beaver (available in Canada). Nayla Natural Care has online shopping for truly natural hair products.

Considering that even Johnson & Johnson's iconic baby shampoo has been found to contain both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, two cancer-causing chemicals not listed as ingredients, it's a good idea to reduce your family's toxic body burden as quickly as possible by eliminating standard industry body care products from the household. No sacrifice in appearance or sensation is needed, because there really are wonderful all-natural products out there that can do the job just as well, if not better.

Katherine Martinko blogs at Feisty Red Hair.

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