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Choosing Friendlier Hair Products

There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of understanding what we’re putting into our mouths, and ultimately our bodies, and the effect that certain ingredients and processed foods have on us. But in our busy day, it’s often easy to forget that the simplest of day to day tasks, such as washing our hair, can expose us to chemicals (such as sulfates, parabens and artificial preservatives) which we really don’t need to be exposed to.  And so, in an effort to improve the health of my hair and to avoid unnecessary ingredients, I switched from cheaper ‘stronger’ hair shampoo and conditioners, to washing my hair with friendlier products, and after a year of doing so, my hair and scalp have never felt better (albeit.. the greys are still appearing!).

Why I Switched

My main reason for switching to a friendlier shampoo was to avoid exposure to strong sulfates, which are known to cause skin irritation and dry hair. From a young age, I suffered from dry skin and outbreaks of eczema, which occassionally affected my scalp, causing me to be pretty itchy! During the really sore times, I would bath in aqueous cream and would avoid perfumed shower gels and hair products. It’s only been within the last year or so where I’ve been able to keep this in check and have noticed that my hair has become noticeably shinier, stronger and less irritated. I put this down to largely avoiding sulfates.

Most commonly, you’ll see Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALS) on the bottle of your shampoo. For reference, my old favourite shampoo, Herbal Essences, included both SLES and SLS.

Sulfates form one of the main ingredients within shampoos and act as the elbow grease, doing the hard work of breaking down dirt on the hair and ultimately, cleaning it. They do this by attracting both water and oil, allowing the shampoo to separate dirt and oil from our skin or hair, and then allowing the water to rinse the dirt away. Sulfates also create the foamy nature of shampoo.

SLES and SLS are strong sulfates due their molecular makeup and comprise small, simple molecules which are able to penetrate the outer layers of our skin. This makes them harder to rinse out. The downside to being such a good cleaner though, that these chemicals also wash away naturally occurring oils from our hair and scalps, and are linked to being the main cause of frizzy hair, dryness and skin irritation.

In comparison, ALS is a much larger, complex molecule which, research suggests, is much kinder to our skin as it is unable to penetrate our scalp and is much easier to rinse out of our hair. I’ve chosen to avoid shampoos which include either SLS and SLES, but am happy to use products containing the ‘friendlier’ sulfate, ALS.

What I Use Now

After a fair bit of research (and direction from Deliciously Ella’s natural beauty post ), I decided to make the switch to using Faith In Nature products. As mentioned above, my main reason was to avoid SLS and SLES, which their products do not include and will only use ALS.

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In addition, they are also a company which believe in using as natural ingredients as possible, striving for the least environmental and health impacts. Their products are never tested on animals and don’t include animal ingredients, thus making them suitable for Vegetarians (and in most cases, Vegans). In addition, other benefits are that they will never include parabens, genetically modified ingredients, artificial preservatives, colourings or fragrances. Which all add up to making them being friendlier and kinder products to use.

Although I do love to use the Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner (which includes organic coconut and is sulfate-free), my favourite has to be Faith In Nature’s Jojoba products, which smell absolutely divine and which leave my hair feeling silky smooth. I find that these products also produce a nice amount of foam to wash in, and doesn’t require any more or less washing of the hair. Your usual routine and small amounts of shampoo/conditioner will work just fine.

3 Tips to Help you Find a Friendlier Hair Product

  1. Take a look at your current shampoo and body wash ingredients to check whether they contain SLS, SLES or ALS.
  2. Listen to your hair and scalp, if it’s irritated and dry, it’s probably worth switching to an ALS or sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfate-free shampoos will contain something called ‘Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate‘, which again is much kinder to the hair. Do some research and for the meantime, perhaps try Faith In Nature until you work out what you’d like to stick with.
  3. It’s hard finding  ‘friendlier’ products in the high street, and so that’s why I shop for mine online from sites such as: Ethical Superstore, Goodness Direct and Naturismo

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