Photo by Urmi (License: Creative Commons BY)
Natural Hair Care: Are Those “Bad” Shampoo Ingredients Really All That Bad?
By Jacqueline Samaroo
When it comes to having healthy, beautiful natural hair, the products you use are key. There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there, however, about haircare ingredients that are “bad” for your natural hair.
Let’s take a look at five of them to help you decide which you should be avoiding like the plague and which are actually OK to use.
A shampoo that lathers up really well most likely has sulfates in it. They are very good at what they do – cleaning oil and dirt from your scalp and hair.
There were concerns several years ago, however, that sulfates could have a carcinogenic effect. This has since been proven to be untrue and sulfates are now deemed safe for most persons to use.
BUT, they can be drying which is not good news for textured natural hair. Its curls stop sebum (the skin’s natural oils) from moving along the strands to lubricate and nourish them. So, natural textured hair tends to be dry and sulfates can compound that.
So, when should you avoid them? If your natural hair is dry or fine or you have sensitive skin, it’s best to go with a sulfate-free shampoo, instead.
Silicones give many cosmetics and haircare products their shine factor. They have a bad reputation from the whole rupturing breast implants saga, but their use in beauty and haircare products is thought to be safe.
The issue with silicones is the inevitable buildup that leaves hair dry and dull-looking. It also clogs hair follicles and weighs down hair. Plus, some silicones won’t wash off with regular shampoo. Getting rid of them requires a clarifying shampoo which can raise some concerns for textured natural hair.
What’s the best approach? If you use them on your natural hair, do so in moderation. Plus, the type called cyclomethicone is both lightweight and water-soluble. It is easy enough for your regular shampoo to remove it.
These multipurpose chemicals are used in a wide range of products. They are oily, colorless, odorless, and have both lubricating and softening effects. They are the gelling agents in some shampoos and part of the unspecified “fragrance” in a wide range of products.
Phthalates are readily absorbed by the skin and some studies show they can interfere with both hormonal and reproductive function. Some countries regulate or ban phthalates but no such action has been taken (yet) in the US.
How should you approach them? Definitely, with caution. While many brands no longer include phthalates in their formulations, it’s still wise to be wary of that unnamed “fragrance” in some natural hair care products.
Parabens act as preservatives in many skincare and haircare products. They help stop the growth of bacteria and mold. Dermatologists have mixed reactions to parabens because there have been studies linking high concentrations of parabens to cancer formation and eczema, as well as it being an endocrine disruptor.
So, what’s the verdict? The low levels of parabens in beauty products is not thought to be harmful. In fact, the FDA said in August 2020 “At this time, we do not have information showing that parabens, as they are used in cosmetics, have an effect on human health.”
If you have personal doubts, however, there are plenty of paraben-free options to choose from.
Petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly) is often called mineral oil on ingredients lists. It gets both its bad and good rep from its ability to block moisture. Petrolatum tends to weigh down your hair as it builds up on your hair and scalp. It also has the potential to inhibit the growth of new follicles.
Is it safe to use? As far as general health is concerned, yes. Removing built-up petrolatum, however, is best done with the lather of a shampoo containing sulfates or with a clarifying shampoo, both of which can spell trouble for natural hair.