Feature

Lather, rinse, repeat?

G Magazine

How natural are soapy shampoo suds and do we really need them for clean, healthy hair?

lather, rinse, repeat

Credit: iStockphoto

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In the western world, foaming cosmetics have become synonymous with cleanliness. Unless our soaps or shampoos lather up to a white foam we tend to question whether they’re doing a good job. In fact those foaming agents are the very ingredients that are likely doing us damage.

There is no doubt that harsh foaming agents lift dirt effectively, but the flip side is that they also lift and remove precious natural oils that keep the skin and scalp moisturised, balanced and protected. Harsh lathering agents found in popular shampoos clean so well that our very reactive oil glands on our scalp and
skin produce more natural oil to compensate for the oil deficit – which is why you tend to end up with very oily hair and skin soon after using many commercial shampoos.

In developing countries, foaming products are largely unheard of – for centuries women have cleansed their skin and hair gently with herbal waters and vegetable, fruit and nut oils and still do.

Lustrous locks and a healthy scalp are, to a large extent, dependent on the quality of your diet; however, what you apply externally can still make the difference between limp, lacklustre tresses and a crowning glory. Many mass-market shampoos are filled with a cocktail of chemicals. Although they may make your hair shine momentarily, in the long-term the ingredients can cause a host of imbalances – not to mention the chemical
residue washed down the sink into our oceans!

So what are the best natural solutions for shampoos? If you’re buying commercial natural shampoos, look for products that avoid chemicals including sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS and SLES), a synthetic detergent; parabens, synthetic preservatives; diethanolamine (DEA), a lathering agent; petrochemicals, GM ingredients, and any artificial colours or fragrances.

Opt for gentle and natural ingredients in shampoos that have the cleansing action without the impressive bubble action, such as yucca and soapwort. Try a home-made, natural shampoo of soapwort root – it sounds like an old folk brew, but your hair will look and feel more healthy, glossy and glamorous than ever. Soapwort boasts a natural and gentle lather and is a time-honoured skin and hair cleanser – perfect for even the most sensitive skin types. As a root plant it is very easy to grow, and making your own shampoo is as simple as infusing the root in boiling water. This ‘tea’ only keeps for only a few days in the fridge, so try freezing it in portions. To customise; for blonde hair add chamomile tea and for brunettes, try an infusion of rosemary.
If you are suffering from dandruff, which is often caused by a common fungal infection of the scalp, banish harsh dandruff shampoos that only exacerbate it over the long-term. Instead, add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water and rinse through hair, massaging into the scalp. Or try massaging coconut
oil into the scalp: this wonder oil is rich in anti-fungal lauric acid.

The other natural shampoo solution is to simply go without it! It will take a few weeks for your hair to re-balance, but some people swear by it as the truly natural, environmental and pocket kind alternative to shampoo! Which begs the question – are shampoos really superfluous? I’ll let you be the judge!

DIY: Dry shampoo

Dry shampoos, which help absorb excess oil, are a convenient quick fix in-between washes. However, many are
full of dubious chemicals. Here is a great natural alternative.

¼ cup of rice flour
¼ cup of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix together well and keep in an airtight container. Massage into the scalp and through the hair as needed. Leave for five minutes then brush out vigorously. Stand over a sink as this can be a messy operation!