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Discover natural alternatives for your skincare

Itchy Flakey Scalp!?

This used to be the addictive catchline of the famously annoying shampoo advert in the 70s -but itchiness can be due to the ingredients rather than the hair type?


Here are the dirty secrets on 7 Ingredients you will find in most supermarket shampoos, conditioners and skin creams…

1) Parabens
Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.
Typically methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben have been in use for 70 years now, replacing Formaldehyde.

But over the past few years, a debate has been building that parabens, which have a weak ability to mimic estrogen, have been found in breast cancer tumours in both women and men.

Fortunately, there are natural alternatives in oregano, thyme, rosemary, goldenseal root, grapefruit seed extract or Lavender Oil

2) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Once found in pretty much every shampoo, SLS help cleanse and foam. Both are derived from coconut oil, but they’re two different ingredients. “They’re similar, but the Laureth goes through an ethoxylation process,” says Pollock. Which means? “Ethoxylation results in a byproduct called 1,4 dioxane—it’s not listed on the label, but that is the cancer-causing aspect of the ingredient. So, avoid any ingredients ending in ‘eth.’ ” Which means you want to avoid ammonium laureth sulfate.

While it used to be found in almost every shampoo, when concerns were raised over the ingredient’s toxicity level, a lot of companies switched over to the ammonium versions—not that it’s much better. Says Pollock, “The sodium and ammonium laureth sulfates are known cancer-causing ingredients.”

So what should you look for instead? Anything with the words “glucose” or “glucoside” in them—for example, sodium lauryl glucose or lauryl glucose.

3) Polysorbates

This solvent or emulsifier helps to bind oil and water together, and is often used to dissolve in the fragrance or other oil additives. And while it’s predominantly found in conditioners, there are some shampoos that carry it, too. But this one’s loaded with trouble for your body.

“It’s damaging at a few levels,” Pollock explains. “The chemical process isn’t one of my favorites, and while some professionals don’t report any real health concern, mine comes from the reaction with the scalp (in haircare products) and the skin (in face and body products) since it often leaves a residue on the skin, disrupts the skin’s natural pH, and emulsifies lipids in the natural protective barrier.”

There are alternatives to using polysorbates, but as Pollock warns, “They’re expensive, so they’re often not used. My favorites are derived from corn: zea mays or maize, often listed as corn water or propanediol.”

4) Glycol

Not all glycol is created equal. It’s a common ingredient in hair and personal care products, but there are different types. Says Pollock, “The more common are polyethylene glycol, often listed as PEG. These, again, are ethoxylated and are cancer-causing chemicals.” It’s used as a solvent to incorporate products into a formula, and they’re extremely dangerous—they’re known carcinogens. So what can we use in their place? “The corn maize-derived solvent listed above,” Pollock suggests.

5) Amodimethicone

That smooth feeling you get when you run your hands through freshly conditioned hair? That’s amodimethicone, a silicone-based polymer used to seal in moisture. But it comes with its own host of troubles.

“Dimethicones and silicones are occlusive, meaning they don’t allow something to breathe—they seal in moisture and seal out everything else,” Pollock notes. “I avoid dimethicones and silicones when possible because I believe the scalp needs to breathe. Sealing the scalp, in my opinion, could lead to thinning of the hair. However, on the hair follicle, it can protect it from heat and provide shine.”

So what should you use instead? Look for natural oils like jojoba, argan, rose hip, sweet almond, olive oil or Shea Butter

6) Hydrolysed Soy Protein

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a soy-derived protein, including their amino acid compounds—which are essential building blocks. Found in tons of different haircare products, hydrolysed soy protein is thought to nourish and strengthen the hair follicle. But whether it’s problematic for your body or not depends on your constitution.

“Some have a problem with soy,” Pollock admits. “It’s processed, so those with soy allergies wouldn’t necessarily have a problem. Some doctors swear by soy as the key to any diet or part of any healthy lifestyle, while some think you should avoid soy. In this form, I use it and don’t have a problem.”

If you’d rather play it safe, Pollock recommends other hydrolyzed proteins—like rice, vegetable or wheat—as an alternative.

7) Hydrolysed Collagen

Here’s the trick with collagen: It’s a key component to our bodies, but the skin can’t absorb it because the molecule is too large. So while it’s not damaging to your body, any brand claiming to strengthen your hair—like conditioners or hair masks—is just giving you a load of marketing hype. Says Pollock, “The best bet is to get the body to synthesize it, using a peptide, vitamin C or other technology to get the body to synthesize collagen on its own.”

Next time your shopping look at the ingredients

So who are the good guys?

Here is a list of a few less aggressive ingredients that are safe to use next to your skin.

Sodium Chloride

You may be surprised but sodium chloride—found in thousands of shampoos—is just salt used to thicken or trigger thickening capabilities in your shampoo. No need to fret—or search for an alternative.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

You’ll find this foaming agent—a surfact derived through a chemical process with coconut oil—in shampoo and body washes. In a finished product, it causes no harm to the body, and while there are alternatives, they’re not necessary.

Citric Acid

It’s not just for oranges. This citrus fruit derivative, part of the alpha hydroxyl acid family, can be found in thousands of personal care products—including many in the natural line of care. Typically it’s used to lower the pH balance. And there’s no need to fret—it’s all good for your body, so there’s no healthier alternative needed.


Avoid Parabens and SLS as they dry the skin and can leave it itchy and sore. Look for Corn or Maize solvents, Glucose, natural oils, Jojoba, Shea Butter and Vitamin C in the ingredients.

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Further Reading on the Subject
Effect of Parabens on Breast Cancer. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/look-great/beauty/parabens-what-are-they-and-are-they-really-that-bad
David Pollock, Beauty Expect and author. http://www.justaskdavid.com/whats-really-inside-your-products/