EFFECTS OF SOME BAD CHEMICALS FOUND IN HAIR PRODUCTS ON HAIR AND HEALTH



Do you know it takes only 26 seconds for the products/chemicals you apply on your skin to enter the bloodstream? Same with the scalp. Whatever we apply on the hair comes in contact with the scalp and can be absorbed into the bloodstream. It is therefore advisable to scan the label of products you purchase to be used on the hair.

Most people buy products because their friends are using them or because the product has a nice packaging. Only a few spare time to read anything on the container except the name of the product. 

These products you buy may contain harmful chemicals that can hurt your hair or cause health issues. In this article I'm going to write about some of these chemicals and their effects on hair and health. 

Sulphates
Sulphates are detergents that strip the hair and scalp of dirt, dead cells and oils. They are what make shampoos foam. Because of their ability to attract dirt and oil, they have the tendency to strip the hair and scalp of natural oils. This will leave the hair dry and brittle and for those that have a sensitive scalp, this can cause dryness, redness and itching.

The most common sulphates used in hair products include; sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate and ammonium lauryl sulphate. Look out for these names when buying products. For someone who wants to grow healthy hair, it is best to limit the use of products containing sulphates to the barest minimum. They can be used once in a while on occasions where the scalp needs clarification but it should be followed up with a deep conditioning treatment to replenish the lost moisture and oils. 

Parabens
Parabens are used in skin and hair care products as preservatives to prevent the growth of microbes in these products. They are known to be oestrogenic. That is, they imitate oestrogen, a sex hormone which when present in imbalanced levels in the body may lead to problems. There are concerns that their hormone disrupting properties can cause breast cancer and early puberty in the girl child. Also they may cause low sperm count and testicular cancer in males. The common names by which parabens are displayed on products include; methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and sometimes as akyl parahydroxy benzoate. 

Petroleum Jelly/Mineral Oil
Petroleum jelly is usually labelled in products sometimes as petrolatum. it's close relative is paraffin or mineral oil. Petrolatum/Mineral oil is extracted from crude oil and is meant to add shine to hair. This oil/grease cannot penetrate the hair shaft or scalp so when applied on hair they block the hair surface and clog pores in the scalp. This can lead to irritation, dirt and product build-up on the scalp which can slow down hair growth. Mineral oil has the tendency to coat the hair follicles preventing moisture and products from getting into the hair shaft. This can lead to dryness and breakage. 

Isopropyl Alcohol 
Isopropyl alcohol is a short chain alcohol with a drying effect. Short chains alcohols evaporate quickly. They are used in hair care products to decrease the time it takes for these products to dry up when applied on hair. Using products with short chain alcohols roughens the hair cuticle leading to dry and brittle hair which can break off easily. Some common short chain alcohols used in hair care products includes - SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, ethanol or ethyl alcohol, propanol or propylparaben alcohol and denatured alcohol.

It is good you know that not all alcohols are necessarily bad for the hair. There are alcohols that have moisturizing properties and can increase the moisture retaining ability of the hair. These are long chain "fatty" alcohols. These alcohols have the ability to draw moisture from the atmosphere into the hair. They are otherwise known as hygroscopic alcohols.  Some examples include stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol and myristyl alcohol.

Chlorine
Chlorine is usually used in swimming pools as a disinfectant to prevent the water from being polluted and moulds from growing in the pools. However, chlorine has a very drying effect on hair. It has the tendency to draw out the natural oils in hair leaving the hair dry, brittle and highly porous. Swimming often in chlorinated water can dry out your hair and make it break. It is advisable to limit the number of times you visit the pool. Some simple precautions to take while swimming in chlorinated water include; saturating your hair with water, coating your hair with a leave in conditioner and rinsing hair after swimming. 

Silicones
Silicone is a mineral. It is added in hair care products to create a healthy look. They have the ability to coat the hair shaft making it to "appear" healthy. Take note I said appear. They give slip and shine to hair and makes hair easier to detangle when wet. Their ability to coat the hair makes them good choices in heat protectants. The slip they give makes it easier to detangle hair with less breakage. Even with all these amazing benefits, there are still concerns on the bad effects that silicone have on hair. For example, their coating properties can make them clog pores and make it hard for water and products to penetrate the hair shaft.

There are two types of silicones - water soluble silicones and non water soluble silicones.

The water soluble silicone can offer all the good benefits that silicones offer and can be washed off when cleansing the hair so they offer no threat to your hair's health when used appropriately.

The non water soluble silicones are the real culprits. They do not dissolve readily in water and requires clarifying shampoos to wash off. For those that use sulphate free shampoos, this can cause the hair follicles to be blocked and prevent water from penetrating thereby leading to dryness. They weigh hair down, make it limp and lifeless and cause product build-up. This can make the use of clarifying shampoo  more frequent which is not so good for the hair. Below is a chart that shows some examples of silicones and the category they fall into.
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Imidazolidinyl Urea
Imidazolidinyl urea is a preservative used in skin and hair care products. It is a formaldehyde releasing agent. Formaldehyde is known to be carcinogenic, can cause DNA damage and allergies such as skin irritation and asthma. Some other formaldehyde releasing agents include DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, Quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane and Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.

Fragrance 
Fragrances are added to hair care products to make them more appealing to a customer. Everyone of us at some point have purchased a product because of how good it smells. These fragrances can contain a number of chemicals that can be harmful to us. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average fragrant contains about 14 secret chemicals that aren’t listed on the label, many of which are linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions. About 80% of these chemicals have not been tested for human safety in personal care products.  The Environmental Working Group found out that about 75% of products that have fragrance on their ingredient list contain the hormone disrupting chemical, phthalates. 

Phthalates are used to saturate make fragrances last longer in products. Exposure to this chemical is said to cause serious health issues. Phthalates is carcinogenic and is linked to many serious health conditions, such as breast cancers, reduced sperm count, liver malfunction, diabetes and  reproductive disorders. They can cause allergic reactions and worsen the condition of asthmatic patients. Personally, I have a problem with fragrances. I hardly use products that are heavily scented be it cosmetics or deodorants. They trigger a nauseating feeling in me. I can practically throw up just by inhaling a body spray with a potent smell. 

Healthy alternatives to fragrances in products are essential oils. These are extracted naturally from flowers or fruits and can serve the same purpose as fragrances. 

Most of the products we use daily contain these chemicals. Products free from them may be too expensive to purchase by the lay man. My advice is that we try as much as possible to avoid them. Use them in moderation. Ingredients are listed in products according to how potent they are in those products. Even if you purchase a product containing these chemicals make sure it's not among the first three on the ingredients list so their effect will not be too bad. Once again, use them in moderation. 

What do you think think about this article? Have you had any allergic reaction to a product?  Do you know about any other chemicals that should be avoided? Comment let us discuss it. 



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