You are what you eat, right!
What about your hair? Do you look at the ingredients list on hair care products to know what you are feeding your hair?
Here's the top 4 ingredients to avoid for natural hair:
1. SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULPHATE
It is a harsh detergent used in most shampoos for its cleansing and foaming properties. It strips the hair of its natural oils - often leaving it dry and brittle.
Use a sulphate-free shampoo.
2. MINERAL OILS & PETROLATUM
Both are petrochemicals (that is derived from petroleum/crude oil). Mineral oils are a liquid by-product and petrolatum is petroleum jelly (think Vaseline, which is 100% petroleum jelly).
Most natural hair products geared at black women usually contain mineral oils and petrolatum because they are inexpensive, odourless, colourless, non-allergenic, have a long shelf life an give an illusive shine.
They are hydrophobic, and have a whole range of good uses (i.e. as an industrial grease component)... but applying them to our hair is not one of them. They form a plastic coating when applied to the hair and scalp which
- clogs the pores
- prevents the scalp and hair from receiving moisture
- inhibits the scalp's ability to release toxins.
In the long run, the hair becomes dry and brittle making it prone to breakage.
There are two basic categories of alcohols used in hair products: short chain drying alcohols (bad) and long chain "fatty" alcohols (good). Short chain drying alcohols evaporate quickly, so they are used in products to decrease the time it takes hair to dry. However, this can create dry, frizzy hair as it may cause the cuticle to be roughened.
THE BAD: Isopropyl alcohol, propyl alcohol, propanol, denatured alcohol, SD alcohol 40, witch hazel, isopropanol, ethanol, SD alcohol.
In contrast, long chain "fatty" alcohols are lubricating, moisturizing and "film-forming" in order to lock in moisture. They give a smooth, soft feeling to the hair shaft by helping the cuticle to lie flat on the surface of the hair.
THE GOOD: Behenyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, C30-50 alcohols, lanolin alcohol.
Parabens are inexpensive, effective preservatives used in hair and beauty products. The most common are butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.
A 2004 study by Dr Philippa Darbre found parabens withing breast tumor samples at similar concentrations to those found in cosmetics. The point of the research was to show that parabens can be detected in human tissues - up to that point Dr Darbre said she was told by all that parabens would never be detected in human tissues. However, the study did not prove that parabens cause breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the primary concern due to the structure and properties of parabens mimicking estrogen; estrogen effects have been shown to be one of the contributors to the development of breast cancer. Furthermore, estrogen imbalances are linked not only to cancer but also to lowering the age in which puberty occurs in young girls, which is another concern regarding parabens in hair products.
Even though there is no research showing a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, it does raise concern and one would rather err on the side of caution and use natural hair products that are paraben free.
Be You... Be Hairtural