I went out to lunch with my aunt and uncle today, and my uncle was quick to point out one thing: “Your hair is flat.” Internally panicking, I replied, “I didn’t get to blow dry it today.”
…not like I ever blow dry my hair.
I really should count my blessings for my straight hair because as much as I wish it was wavy, the utter disregard I have for doing my hair beyond brushing it is almost pathetic sometimes. I guess it does get a little on the flat side on a day-to-day basis, but can you blame a girl for not wanting to fuss with her hair when it’s fine (or so I thought) on its own? I’ve been using sulfate-free shampoo for the past few months, which doesn’t strip your hair as much as regular shampoos, thus causing my hair to be more dense and more prone to becoming flat. Now I’m thinking, should I switch back? Is all the buzz about sulfate-free or organic or [insert enticing word here] hair care really all its hyped up to be? The last hair stylist I saw in July told me sulfates stripped hair of moisture, caused color fading, thinning, and contributed to chronic split ends, among others. My long hair and I freaked out and went straight to Whole Foods to buy something all-natural. After meticulously scrutinizing every single shampoo label at the store, I walked out with Giovanni of Beverly Hills shampoo and conditioner, and they have really made a huge difference in the strength, shininess, and health of my hair. Ever since that day, I’ve worked my way through quite a few brands of sulfate-free shampoos, and I have to say Giovanni is the prevailing champion. Now it’s time to dig into the science of my shampoo dilemma. Yes, I’m serious.
Almost all of the shampoos on stores’ shelves and in salons contain sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), ammonium laurel sulfate (ALS), or some other long nomenclature surrounding the word sulfate. Sulfates act as surfactants. In the case of hair products, sulfate lowers the surface tension of water, allowing it to penetrate into hair strands to wash out the oils and dirt that have built up. Each surfactant has a hydrophilic head that is attracted to water molecules and a hydrophobic tail that repels water and instead binds to oil and grease in dirt. These opposing forces loosen the dirt and suspend it in the water, thus you are left with clean, clean, clean hair. Seemingly good, but really what sulfate is doing for us is creating fluffy lather and stripping our hair of its essential oils, contributing to dryness, split ends, and loss of vibrancy. While doing my research, I found this awesome blog on the effect of sulfates on hair. She actually conducted a study and found that all her participants showed decrease in hair thinning and breakage within a couple months after using sulfate-free products. Full disclosure: although your hair will be shiny and strong, sulfate-free shampoo doesn’t lather much, it was nice while it lasted childhood bubbles…
I guess I’ll have to start caring more about my hair in the morning to avoid any future “flat” comments. Although using regular shampoo would be an easier quick-fix, and the amounts of sulfate used in shampoo may not cause serious immediate damage, I’d hate to look back when my hair actually does start thinning and wish I had chosen to use sulfate-free shampoos when I was this age. It’s kind of like using sunscreen; I use SPF 100 on my face everyday just because I don’t want to look back like my Mom does and think I could have prevented the freckles and wrinkles. Call me vain, but if we eat our fruits and vegetables to help our insides functioning optimally, why should we let our outsides wither away?