What Your Shampoo Is Telling You: What are sulfates and why are they bad for you?

English: Skin layers

Image via Wikipedia

You have probably heard the terms “sulfates” and “sulfate-free” thrown around a lot in the beauty and environmental media, but do you actually know what sulfates are or why they are bad for you?

The word “Sulfates” is a common term used to describe a certain group of detergents that are included in a variety of cleaning products, the most notorious of which is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. They are the most common ingredient in commercial cleaning products like laundry detergent, dish soap, and engine de-greasers, but are also added to soaps, shampoos, and body washes. The main function of Sulfates is remove dirt and grease, and they do so through a chemical process that induces foaming. Because of this, many people link lots of foam to being really clean. The problem with sulfates is that they can be very detrimental to your health. The fact that these are the main ingredients in powerful household and industrial cleaners should raise some immediate red flags, and this helps explain the common symptoms that occur.

As you now know, Sulfates are used to remove all dirt and grease. While this is perfect for a dinner plate, your head is a different story. Unbeknownst to you, there is an extra layer on top of your skin that is essential to healthy body function. Your scalp produces natural oils called “sebum” which coats your skin and provides anti-microbial properties, vitamin E to the upper layer skin, pro-and anti-inflammatory properties, and acts as a delivery system for antioxidants, pheromones, and hydration to your outer skin cells. Sebum is completely natural and everyone’s body secretes it. The problem is that sulfates do not discriminate between natural, good oils and unhealthy foreign oils and dirt, and therefore removes all of it from your scalp. This leaves your skin dry and irritated and can lead to eye irritation, swelling of the hands, face and arms, tangled hair, split ends and frizzy hair. Prolonged use of products containing sulfates can cause even more serious damage.

You may have heard that your skin is the biggest organ on your body, and this is true. Anything like crèmes, oils, shampoos, etc. that you put on your skin will be absorbed into your body and enter your blood stream. Once they has been absorbed, sulfates can cause a host of internal problems. One of the main effects of sulfates is to mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer, where estrogen levels are known to be involved. While scientific tests used sulfates at higher quantities than are used in beauty products, it has also been found that sulfates absorbed in the body maintain residual levels in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain. Additional chronic health risks include damage to the immune system, possible build up of carcinogenic nitrosamines, and damage to the hair follicle due to deposition. On top of all its human health risks, sulfates eventually reach the local ecosystem after they are rinsed from your hair and are very difficult for environmental processes to break down.  It is unknown what the full effects of sulfates in the environment are, but it is known that they are deadly to fish at concentrations of 7ppm (parts per million).

So why do companies use sulfates? Because they are the cheapest “effective” ingredient available. By putting sulfates in their products, companies are basically saying that making an extra dollar is more important than your health and the health of the environment. Furthermore, once your hair is dry and damaged from constantly using their shampoo, they offer you more products to buy that will solve the problems they created in the first place, making them even more money. So, how do you end this nightmare? By using Use Me sulfate-free products.

All shampoos need detergents, but our surfactants are mild and only remove unwanted dirt and grime.  We know that healthy hair starts from the scalp and that a healthy scalp means natural, beautiful hair. Our products work with your body rather than against it and the result is the best looking and feeling hair you have ever had. So recycle that old bottle of shampoo sitting in your shower, go online or to your local salon, and purchase Use Me. You owe it to the environment and most importantly, yourself.

Refill, Reuse, Repeat

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