Hair Care – How It Affects Our Skin

Hair care, when you think about it does not just stop at your hair. It “touches” us everywhere. When we “rinse” out shampoo or conditioner in the shower it then flows all over our face, torso, and entire body. As it flows down the concentration does diminish, but we are still exposed to all the chemicals. However for the face and upper torso it has a huge impact. This allows the chemicals in our hair care to not only affect these other areas, but also makes the overall exposure to them more profound and damaging.

It an effort to “clean up” our act and try to both eliminate toxic products from our daily regime as well as be mindful of their over all impact to our environment, one thing to think about is what products we use the most and “touch” the most of our bodies. Additionally what products we leave on as opposed to wash of.

The worst offenders of chemical over load are products that we soak in (bubble baths, bath oils), product we apply all over and do not rinse off  (body lotions, butters, self tanners) and products that we apply in one area and then “wash” over the rest of us (shampoo, conditioner). The chemicals in these products have an advantage to sneaking into our bodies and blood stream by virtue of amount of exposure, total body coverage and length of time on our bodies. They are also some of the worst “chemical cocktails” on the market, being comprised of a toxic concoction.

Hair care also poses a risk to the appearance of our face.  While washing and rinsing your hair products flow over your face exposing it to their ingredients. This can be counter-productive to a healthy skin care routine.

There are several concerns with chemicals in skin care.  These concerns range from the simple fact that we still do not have enough data and information on how the chemicals being used affect our personal health and the ecosystem to aging and aggravating skin issues.

Some of the chemicals that are questionable when looking at health and safety are ingredients we call “penetration enhancers”. These chemicals “help” the other chemicals in the product penetrate into skin to reversibly decrease the barrier resistance, making a pathway to your blood stream easier ad quicker. Numerous common cosmetic chemicals have been evaluated for penetration enhancing activity. These include sulphoxides (such as dimethylsulphoxide, DMSO), alcohols and alkanols (ethanol, or decanol), glycols (for example propylene glycol, PG, and surfactants. Other chemicals include everything from PEG’s (manufactured by DOW and from their description “intended for use in formulations where compliance requirements are less strict.”)  proven to enter your blood stream through topical use to diethanolamine (DEA)  and TEA chemicals such as Triethanolamine.

Chemicals that have less of a toxic burden for our health, but are causing havoc for skin are chemicals in the “cone “ family such as Dimethicone (also called polymethylsiloxane)  and silicone. Manufactured by Dow, these chemicals are plastic. Who knowingly wants to put plastic on skin? It clogs pores (which makes oils go rancid, breaks down collagen and accelerates aging)

The chemicals that are toxic to your health are also not beneficial for your skin. The next time you purchase a “miracle” anti aging, acne (or any other skin cream), inspect the ingredients. If it is a “chemical cocktail” save your skin and opt out. The 100.00 per ounce perfecting cream, is doing anything but perfecting. Aside from aging our skin the irritation from these chemicals can aggravate acne, rashes and other skin ailments. Quite often I see people’s body acne and rashes disappear when they switch to a hair care system without toxic chemicals.

Another concern with chemical exposure in your hair care is where it is applied- on your brain. Until recently research showed that the “blood brain barrier” (semi-permeable; that is it allows some materials to cross, but prevents others from crossing) only allowing essential molecules such as amino acids, oxygen, glucose and water through. The barrier is so restrictive that researchers couldn’t find a way to deliver drugs to the brain — until now. Scientists have proven that they can administer large molecules into the brain effectively. What this means in terms of the chemicals used in personal care is yet to be looked at.

As a consumer it would be fair to ask with all this information why do companies still formulate with all these chemicals. The answer is simple, cost (both from a prospective of the companies making more profit as well as keeping the consumer happy with inexpensive products).  Sadly a 30.00-dollar bottle of shampoo can cost the same to produce as a 10.00-dollar bottle. The difference is branding, marketing, perceived value by the consumer, availability of ingredients, ease in formulations and consumer “perceived benefits”.

With all this taken into consideration here are some simple things you can do to protect your skin and health.

If chemicals in skin care are not a concern to you, but looking beautiful is and you want to use a hair care system regardless of the ingredients:

  • Wash your hair in the sink where your head will be upside down and the products you use will not flow over your entire body.
  • Use a waterproof visor protector like the kind used on babies to keep shampoo out of their eyes.
  • Have your hair washed at a salon.

If health is a concern:

  • Get to know your ingredients. This can be a lot of research, so pick products that you think look “clean”, do your homework and stick with them.- Try a hard bar shampoo they usually have fewer chemicals.
  • Try to do without conditioner or use a 2 in 1 product.
  • Use  (a pure and natural) hair oil, butter and detangling spray on hair after the shower to condition.
  • Try a pure liquid castile soap for shampoo (it won’t work on my hair! But many swear by it, especially men).
  • Live without tons of lather
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