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Hair Care: Save Your Hair and Your Life
By Judith Tovey

Complaints about shampoos are among the most frequent made to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of hands, face and arms, and split and fuzzy hair. (A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Ruth Winters, MS, Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1994)

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient in 90% of commercial shampoos and conditioners, corrodes the hair follicle and impedes hair growth.

A study cited by the Wall Street Journal (November 1, 1988) linked SLS to cataracts and nitrate absorption. The nitrate absorption occurs when the SLS becomes contaminated with NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) during processing. This contamination comes about as a result of SLS coming into contact with any number of chemicals including triethanolamine (TEA), which is commonly used in shampoos as a detergent. Put simply: SLS + TEA= NDELA (a nitrosamine and a recognized carcinogen.

"It can actually damage the outer layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, causing dryness, roughness, scaliness, fissuring, loss of flexibility and reduction of the barrier functions of normal healthy skin. The lipid dissolving action of some detergents, including SLS cause damage to the moisture retaining ability of the cellular level resulting in water loss and loss of water- binding ability" (Cosmetic Science, C. Prottey, 1978)

Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surface-active agent and a common surfactant used in shampoos, was found to increase the absorption of certain chemicals. Simply put, SLS in your shampoo could be increasing the rate of skin absorption of other chemicals in your shampoo and conditioner which may include preservatives, fragrances and color additives. (Cosmetic and the Skin, F.V. Wells, Reinhold Publishing Corporation, New York, 1964)

SLS has been blamed for many cases of premature hair loss in both men and women. It takes hair longer to grow when it has been affected by SLS. Studies are ongoing in this area. SLS is cheap and available and cost is definitely a factor when manufacturers are deciding on their formulations. The irony is that we as consumers rarely see any of this saving and pay high prices for products that contain the same cheap ingredients as a lower priced product that doesn't have the benefit of a well-known name and a huge advertising budget. There are safer products on the market. There are safer alternatives to SLS but they can cost up to ten times more than SLS. One manufacturer said "I know it's not a good ingredient, but everyone uses it."

Did you know that many companies put formaldehyde in their shampoos? Do you really want to be embalming your hair? Formaldehyde is not only an inexpensive preservative and disinfectant; itís also a suspected cancer-causing toxin. In 1983, researchers from the Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention of the National Cancer Institute recommended that it be further investigated since there is a suspected link to some cancers. It was found to cause DNA damage and inhibit repair. It cause lung cancer in rats and increases the effect of the toxicity of x-rays in human lung cells.

Many kinds of shampoos designed to treat dandruff and flaky scalp contain coal tar, although you wonít find it on any productís list of ingredients. Itís disguised with the names FD&C or D&C color. Coal tar has been found to cause potentially severe allergic tractions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration, and cancer.

Alkyl-phenol ethioxylades are chemicals in shampoos that have been proven to reduce sperm count. "Boys exposed to such chemicals before puberty could suffer disruption of their hormonal processes," says Jorma Toppari of the University of Turku in Finland." (Vancouver Province September 29, 1995). In this same article, Jorman Toppari states that "We know that these compounds are hormonally active, and we know that you can influence sperm counts by exposing a child or a fetus to hormones that act like these compounds."

A study done at The University of California found that cosmetologists and manicurists had four times the usual rate of multiple myeloma. The article published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, stated that "The number of cases of multiple myeloma was found to be excessive for females in the occupation cosmetologist, hairdressers and manicurists." and further goes on to say, "People in this occupation have potential exposure to a number of chemicals that produce mutation in bacteria." (Multiple Myeloma in Cosmetologists, Sylvana Guidotti, William E. Wright, John Peters, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 3:169-171, September, 1982)

What were these mutagenic chemicals? A list of the worst offenders that cosmetologists are exposed to on an everyday basis include:

Shampoos: Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, DEA, propylene glycol, formaldehyde.

Hair dye: 2,4 diaminoanisole, 2, 4-diaminotoluene, n-nitro-o- phenylenediamine, 4-ethoxy-m-phenylenediamine, H≤O≤

Permanent Wave Solutions: ammonium thioglycolate, alkaline sulfite

Nail Products: acetone, ethylacetate, toluene, butyl acetate, ethyl methacrylate, benzoyl peroxide

Make Up: Talc, mica, various dyes

Hair Sprays: isobutane, methylene chloride, alcohols

To Dye or not to Dye....

A few years ago the headlines screamed across the nation. Hair Dyes Linked to Cancer. It pretty unnerving to think that the use of hair coloring could effect our chances of getting cancer. Then, almost as fast as it erupted, it was over with the publication of a study that seemed to contradict earlier findings. Those who colored their hair breathed a collective sigh of relief and returned to the use of hair dyes. If you read the articles dispelling all previous findings, you may remember coming across very low-keyed cautions, usually near the very end of these articles. This barely whispered caution concerned the use of black hair dyes and very deep red dyes as they were a suspected link to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The main reason for concern is well founded in years of previous studies linking coal tar colors, a major ingredient in hair dyes and other cosmetics, with many forms of cancer in animal studies.

In 1978, a New York University Medical Center research reported that comparing 129 women with breast cancer with 193 women without breast cancer showed the likelihood of developing breast cancer was higher among those who used hair dyes. (A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Ruth Winters, MS, Crown, Trade Paperback, 1994)

A 1988 study published in the American Journal of Public Health summarized its findings stating that the "use of hair dyes in this case-control study was associated with elevated risk of leukemia and lymphoma, and risk increased with extent of exposure." (Hair Dye Use and the Risk of Leukemia and Lymphoma, Kenneth P. Cantor, et al., American Journal of Public Health, May, 1988. Vol. 78, No. 5)

Protect yourself from dangerous shampoo ingredients. Spending a few minutes now to read the ingredients on the back of that bottle may save your hair and your life.

(c) Judith Tovey, 2002

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