Among the many questions I receive with regard to Alopecia Areata is the popular “what shampoo do you use?” It’s a fair question; we have been trained by the medical and beauty industries to treat dermatological problems with topical creams, lotions and potions. It’s a fairly new (yet ancient) concept that we can treat such conditions from the inside out. Most of you have heard me tell the story time and time again that quite simply, I changed my diet. But I’m not writing this post to tell you more about the Autoimmune Protocol – you already know, and if you don’t, then I urge you to read my earlier blog post that outlines what to and what not to eat in order to heal.
I want to focus here on how I care for my hair. I know that on youtube there are some seriously annoying trolls who like to dump false claims about magical shampoos and lotions in my comments section – products such as ‘Argan Rain’ to treat AA. Let me be clear, I delete every single one of these comments because they are selling total bullshit that preys on the emotions of vulnerable sufferers of AA. They’re charging something like $100 for that crap!! IT DOES NOT WORK. It’s just another nasty money-making scheme.
Since following AIP I have become acutely aware of everything that I put onto my body, not just in it. I’ve changed everything from my deodorant to my face and body creams, and importantly, my shampoo. In just the way that I don’t want to ingest toxic chemicals from fertilisers and antibiotics, I don’t want my skin to absorb them either. The skin, after all, is the largest organ in the body! There are so many additives that should be avoided or at least minimised if you can. Not all ‘green, organic, natural’ shampoos are free of every single one though. For example, you might find a shampoo free of parabens but not SLS, but at least by eliminating a few you can feel a little better about what you’re being exposed to. Or you can go all-out pure and natural – but we’ll get to that.
The problem with regular big-brand shampoos is that they contain a number of chemicals to aid cheap mass production, prolong shelf life, enhance fragrance and produce that luscious lathering foam. The majority of these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic. What does that mean? A carcinogen is any substance or agent that can produce cancer. Yikes! That seems a little dramatic, and maybe it is true, maybe not, but what we do know is that each ingredient has a negative impact on the hair, scalp and body in the long-term.
The chemicals typically found in shampoos dry out and irritate the scalp and oil glands – stripping it of the essential oils it needs to remain healthy. They can reduce the size of hair follicles, break down proteins, halt hair growth and some have been found to be endocrine disruptors (disrupt hormone balance). These factors combined can contribute to or exacerbate hair loss. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they cause alopecia areata. AA is a very different type of hair loss caused by an autoimmune disorder, BUT, every little helps to prevent further hair loss or scalp irritation.
Some chemicals to avoid:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS)
Sodium lauryl ether (or laureth) sulfate (SLES)
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Dimethicones and silicones
Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
SLS is foaming agent (detergent) and therefore a known skin irritant. It strips your hair of natural oils, leaving it dry. If you have an itchy or flaky scalp, one of the simplest solutions is to wash with an SLS-free shampoo.
Parabens are used to prolong shelf life and are toxic in nature. They not only irritate the skin, which can make your scalp unhealthy, they can also affect your hormonal balance, potentially resulting in hair loss. Avoid anything with the suffix -paraben, such as methylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben.
Dimethicones and silicones are polymers used to seal in moisture. They don’t allow the skin and scalp to breathe, resulting in irritation and even hair shedding.
Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) can cause scalp irritation and bad allergic reactions. They also destroy all the good stuff in your hair (such as keratin) making it dry, brittle, and lifeless.
Propylene Glycol is also known as the antifreeze you put in your car but it’s a common ingredient in shampoos and other personal care products to keep the product from freezing during shipping and storage. It can irritate skin, cause allergic reactions, and alter the skin’s structure.
Formaldehyde – excessive exposure may cause some hair loss.
As you can imagine, the list goes on.
I change my shampoo brand quite frequently – normally because I like to buy (and can only afford) whatever is on special offer. These more natural brands come with a hefty price tag! I’m lucky that I can luxuriate in a 25% discount and free samples from the natural health store my sister works for but I understand that these products present themselves as a huge expense to most people. Another option is to make your own at home – I’ll get to that in a moment!
Brands I like*:
Yes to Carrots (or Cucumber!)
John Masters Organics
*Please note that NONE of these shampoos will make your hair grow back, they simply offer a gentler way to treat your hair.
I mentioned earlier that not every chemical ingredient is excluded from these shampoos and conditioners but the total number is significantly reduced. Korres for example is free of parabens, silicones, propylene glycol and many more but still contains SLES. I’m not here to promote or sell any particular brand so I’ve simply listed the ones I know of . I recommend that you read the packaging of the brands you consider buying. Obviously there are many different products in each country – seek out those sold at health food stores, herbolarios etc. for the best chance of finding one that is more natural.
And finally, if you want to go super natural and avoid ALL chemicals and their supposedly ‘natural’ alternatives, you can make your own. I have been so busy in recent weeks that I haven’t had time to try this but I intend to give it a go over the christmas holidays. Maybe not before a party though…
Baking Soda and Vinegar Rinse: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8953/diy-this-baking-soda-shampoo-saved-my-hair.html
BONUS: This is method is package free and will allow you to be that little bit more environmentally friendly!
There are many variations of natural shampoo recipes all over the internet so have a search for one that appeals to you!
Merry Christmas! I’ll be back soon to talk about the all-natural DIY dry shampoo I’m using at the moment.
x x x