Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clean Hair Without the Chemicals


I’ve never liked chemicals.  Perhaps I’m more aware of them since my dad is a chemist. I know there are “good” chemicals, but I’m more of a pessimist and tend to focus on the icky ones that come in contact with my kids or myself.

My MBA focused on marketing so I often think about how products are positioned & what’s real versus what’s advertising. As I started paying more attention to the ingredient lists of my personal care products, I started thinking & researching what those long words really mean. What I found is that most of them are dangerous & unsafe.

According to "Skin Deep," a 2004 study and ranking of 7,500 cosmetic products published by the Environmental Working Group (, 100% of shampoos tested contained ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by either the Cosmetic Industry Review panel (an industry body) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with regulating cosmetic ingredients.

Other hair-raising facts

  •  69% percent of hair-dye products may pose cancer risk
  • 76% percent of conditioners contain ingredients that are allergens
  • 93% percent of shampoos possibly contain harmful impurities linked to cancer or other health problems.
The safest thing to do is choose hair-care products that are free of the following “Top Four” hazardous chemicals.

1. Phthalates: These chemicals get covered up on labels by the general term "fragrance," which the FDA permits to protect "trade secrets." Our fingernails, skin and lungs readily absorb Phthalates. Studies have found that phthalates can lead to liver cancer and birth defects in lab animals. One study from the University of Minnesota, published in the May 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives, found a connection between phthalates and genital abnormalities in baby boys. They found that mothers with high levels of phthalates gave birth to boys with one or more developmental issues. Definitely something to stay away from when pregnant!

2. Parabens (methyl-, propyl-, ethyl- and butyl): Some studies have shown that parabens mimic estrogen in rodents; the chemicals also have been shown to stimulate growth of human breast-cancer cells in the lab.
3. Coal Tar appears in many hair dyes and strong dandruff and psoriasis shampoos and has been linked to cancer in lab animals.

4. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a powerful detergent and attacks greasy surfaces and probably the most dangerous ingredient used in skin and hair-care products. SLS is used in 90 percent of products that foam, including cleansers, shampoos, shower gels and bubble baths. In the cleaning industry SLS is used as a commercial garage floor cleaner, engine degreaser and car-wash soap. SLS is a harsh skin irritant that may also result in the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrates and dioxins. Animals exposed to SLS experience eye-damage, central nervous system depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and even death.


I buy Tea Tree Tingle shampoo, conditioner & body wash at Trader Joe’s for my family, as I know its SLS free.

For myself, I stopped using shampoo & conditioner last year. Yup, I’m ‘poo free. So what do I do? I do something I learned from Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living  by Tsh Oxenreider (

Here’s what I wash my hair with:

Hair Cleanser:
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Cup water
Mix together in a squirt bottle & keep in the shower.  It can take a few weeks for your scalp to adjust to not being stripped of its natural oils.  I only need to wash my hair 2-3 times week and my hair feels very clean.

Hair Clarifier:
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Water
Mix together in a squirt bottle & keep in the shower.  Use this is in place of your conditioner.

I dare you to try it for a month and be faithful... see how much you love your new hair . 

[For more information on chemicals found in personal care products, visit]


  1. I have been using Wen hair cleansing conditioner for almost the past year, which is SLS free. It is sooooo expensive. I now find I can water it down by half and it actually works better. When I am done with the Wen I am going to try this....much cheaper, and I have alot of allergies, this may help...

    1. Do you have to use any kind of detangler, too?

    2. I haven't for my hair type. I think it depends on your hair. I do like to use a little hair oil to help cut down on my frizz.



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