Choosing a hair care product that works is hit or miss. We often scan the packaging for the qualities and main ingredients we want, give it a quick smell test, and maybe read a few online reviews before deciding. But how often do you read the label? The fine print. And when you read the label, how many of the ingredients do you recognize, know how to pronounce, or know what they are there for in the first place?
It’s not like Cyclomethicone and Ethylparaben are household names or things that can be found in your local grocery store so it's probably not often that you check for them and even less common that you know how such ingredients are affecting the health and life of your grey hair.
That stops today!
Here’s a list of the 5 most harmful chemicals to use on your hair, why they’re damaging, and their aliases.
When used sparingly alcohol in hair care products is inevitable. However, a good rule of thumb is to consider how early in the ingredients it’s listed. If it is among the first three it is considered to be an alcohol-based product that will dry your hair out causing brittle, damaged ends, and further breakage. Alcohol is also a skin irritant which when used excessively can cause dandruff and dry scalp halting hair growth. Long story short, if you must, please use alcohol or products ending in ______ in moderation.
Parabens (and any ingredient ending in -EN)
One of the most advertised attributes for hair care products is “paraben-free” but what exactly is a paraben and why do we need to be free’d from them?
Parabens are preservatives that don’t affect the hair itself. Instead they are used to preserve the shelf life of your products and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Essentially, parabens are not essential to how well the product takes to your hair but to how long the manufacturer can keep it in stores. Parabens are man-made substances that cause skin irritation and hair loss when used in excess. The label of “no parabens” is to haircare as “no preservatives” is to food signaling that they should be avoided at all costs.
Silicone (anything that ends in -cone, -conol, -col, and -xane.)
A more familiar and well-known ingredient used in hair care products is Silicone. Its main function is to give your hair shine, and to protect hair from heat damage. But don’t be fooled, Silicone is an artificial shine that over time completely dries the hair out preventing true moisture from natural oils from getting in. Silicone is present in haircare in two forms; Water-Soluble silicones are commonly found in high-end products and don’t leave a build-up while non-water soluble silicones are found in cheap products and can be difficult to remove. Considering that silicone is used to make things like spatulas, cleaning gloves, and adhesives it's probably not something you want to be using in your hair anyway.
Sodium Sulfate (or anything ending in -ate)
Another power player in the haircare game is sodium sulfate. This is typically used in shampoos and conditioners because it can cut through grease and remove dirt. Sounds good right? Wrong. While the presence of sodium sulfates can make washing hair easier, they also have the power to dissolve grease from a car engine. Yikes! So it goes without saying that Sodium sulfates are far too harsh to be used on hair and strip hair of natural oils. When used long-term, Sodium sulfates can cause scalp conditions like alopecia and psoriasis. Avoid!
Now that you know better, do better! Don’t just read the front label of a product that is targeting your hair type or desired results, take a good look at the back. As a rule, ingredients are listed in order with the five most active named first. Knowing this makes it easy to determine how effective (or harmful) the product will be.
Check those labels and toss anything that could be holding your hair back from truly being greyt!