|Nice to eat, but good for hair?|
Well, I probably win the prize.
Yes, I think I am more embarrassing to my children than you are to yours.
When I go to the chemists, my favourite pasttime is to stand in the shampoo aisle, read the ingredients labels and laugh like hyena.
You can imagine my daughters' discomfort as they try to shove me along singing out, "Time to take you back to the Home, Mother."
Last week I shared with you the reality about conditioner and how it is an important part of protecting your hair from damage.
But there are limits.
The shampoo companies won’t tell you that.
They won’t say, "Our product is pretty good but it won’t do everything."
They figure you want to hear that they've got the answer to whatever grieves you most about your hair and they put it in a bottle for you (even though it is possible their products caused the problem in the first place).
They will tell you what they think you want to hear and then charge you more for the privilege of listening to their half-truths.
Which do *you* want? Half truths or the whole truth?
Here is the real truth. Are you ready for it?
The only way to have healthy hair is to protect it from damage.
Once the damage is done, the only cure is to have a haircut and start again, taking better care of your hair this time as you grow it out.
But I’ll explain more about how hair gets damaged, and how you can prevent it (and it doesn’t involve anything you can buy in a bottle – except maybe a normal conditioner) in another article.
This week, I want to tell you some of the thrilling scientific discoveries the beauty industry has made and how these are of practically no benefit whatsoever to the health of your hair. This is the truth.
Proteins that feed your hair.First, I need to deal with the idea that you can "feed" your hair with "proteins."
This drives me nuts every time I hear it.
The premise is that because hair is constructed from protein, we need to rub protein or amino acids (the building blocks that make proteins) on our hair to "rebuild" or "feed" it.
The only benefit that protein has in taking care of our hair is one of mildly conditioning it.
This means that the protein molecules deposit themselves along the length of the hair and form a temporary protective film around it.
Proteins that are included in shampoos do not bind effectively to the cuticle and just get washed away as soon as you rinse out the shampoo.
There may be a minor reduction in your hair tangling while the shampoo is actually in your hair, which might help if you have long hair and you pile it onto the top of your head while you scrub away building up a big lather.
But hopefully now you know that this method of washing your hair is not effective anyway.
Most women do not need to wash their hair to the ends – unless your hair fell into your plate at lunchtime – merely the hair closest to their scalp.
If you have dry or damaged hair, these “advanced formula” shampoos will not give you any benefit.
None. They will not solve your problem in the slightest.
Any reasonable normal conditioner left on your hair for as long as possible will do much more for you than shampoos like these. This applies to all the fancy proteins these companies dream up: silk proteins, rice protein, wheat germ, soya based protein...
The list goes on and on.
All of it is hooey.
The only reason in my book to buy one of these products is because it smells really, really nice.
I think that is a good thing to pay for, and at least you know what it is doing for you – smelling nice!
Plant and vegetable extracts.There are plant extracts that do have medical benefits, but generally you have to apply them to your skin or eat them.
In a shampoo or conditioner they are washed away and they will have very little chance to do their magic.
Shampoo companies know this, so they include the legal minimum amount in their formula that still allows them to brag about it on the label.
Then they charge you more. Simple.
Plant extracts don’t tend to cling very well to the hair cuticle so they don’t even stay on your hair very long if they do manage to survive washing and styling, plus many are unstable when exposed to light so they break down and stop working.
There are a limited number of exceptions to this rule, with the introduction for example of a formula using a type of cassia extract which I reviewed in 2010. But they are few and far in between.
Finally, just because something comes from a plant doesn’t stop it from being toxic.
I’m sure you know this, but its always worth reminding people that lots of poisons are derived from plants.
And plenty of plant extracts can cause an allergic or irritating reaction or sun sensitivity in your skin.
There are fancy hair care products on the market, completely legally, that contain some of these ingredients.
Most main brand shampoos and conditioners do not because they don’t want trouble from their customers.
Vitamins.Your hair, once it leaves the follicle in your scalp, is dead material.
No amount of vitamins in a shampoo or conditioner or styling gel is going to do the slightest bit of good.
There has been no research showing their effectiveness for hair, because the shampoo companies know that any clinical test will show absolutely nothing.
Panthenol and biotin, which are B vitamins, provide a conditioning benefit that is similar to how proteins coat the hair.
But there is absolutely no nutritional benefit to vitamins in your hair styling products.
Again, companies include these ingredients in the smallest legally allowed quantities that still let them promote their presence on the packaging.
UV Protection.This is a big topic in itself, but I shall be brief and say that yes, the sun fades and can cause damage to the structure of your hair.
Unfortunately the sun block put into shampoos and styling products offer little to no protection because, like most other additives, these ingredients do not bond well to the cuticle and just fall or wash out of your hair.
If you have curly or very long hair, the best way to protect your hair from intense sun (so this is really only if you are a tennis player, spend a lot of time on sunbeds, or live in a very sunny place) is to wear a hat.
The next best alternative is to wear your hair up in a chignon, pleat or twist style so that the ends of your hair are protected.
Clarifying shampoos.This one cracks me up.
A clarifying shampoo is one that just cleans your hair and hasn’t been mucked up with silicone, plant extracts, exotic proteins, waxes or any other useless additive that probably doesn’t need to be in there anyway.
And best of all, because these are “clarifying” your hair, they’ll charge you more for the job they should be doing anyway.
The theory goes, you should alternate your clarifying shampoo with your moisturising/volumising/ice-gleaming/soul destroying shampoo so that you don’t get too much build up on your hair.
The crazy thing, of course, is that if you just use a normal shampoo in a very dilute form very occasionally in the first place, you don’t need to be clarified.
It’s a genius way to get you to buy two bottles of shampoo to keep in your shower rather than just the one.
I sound a bit anti big business, but I’m not really.
I just believe in being informed and knowing what you are paying for. The fact is that you can take really good care of your hair at home for really very little money.
The shampoo companies don’t want you to know this. However, there are situations and added ingredients that really can improve and help protect your hair, but again only to a point.
In next week's article, I explain how hair gets damaged and how you can minimise this with ridiculously easy changes to your daily hair care routine.
Enjoying yourself? Don't stop now ...
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Product Review: Tangle Teezer Styler
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Can You Believe Your Eyes? Not Always. Beauty Industry Scandal
All done reading? Visit Stone Bridge Hair Accessories for some lovely quality hair clips you probably can't live without.