I’ve been working to get as many chemicals out of our lives as possible. Every other day a report comes out about cancer-causing chemicals in shampoo, toxic ingredients in the laundry detergent or asthma and allergies triggered by common household cleaners. We’ve been programmed to think that these synthetic products do a better, more thorough job than their natural equivalents. Is this true? No, it isn’t, but there are so many ‘natural’ options that it helps to know what actually works.
Shampoo is an issue if you’ve been used to the sleek, glossy, full-volume, untangled hype of the chemical stuff, especially if you have long hair. But it’s not worth dying for! Most commercial, non-organic shampoos contain SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) & SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES) and they are probably the most dangerous of all personal care products. Just because there is no immediate noticeable effect doesn’t mean that it isn’t harmful in the long-term. Why take the risk? In animal tests ( and why have that on your conscience for a shampoo?) they have been found to cause eye damage, depression, breathing difficulties, diarrhoea, severe skin irritation, immune system damage, corrosion and death. According to the American College of Toxicology states both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children’s eyes.
DEA (diethanolamine) MEA (momoethanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine) are also in most main brand shampoos, often appearing as Cocamide DEA or MEA, Lauramide DEA, etc. These are hormone disrupting chemicals and research has shown that they are implicated in the increase in liver and kidney cancers.
I’ve been mostly underwhelmed with the organic shampoo options. They are comparatively expensive and tend to leave my hair feeling life-less and just not that clean. And it’s even harder to find organic shampoo here, so I decided to try my own!
This is simple and works brilliantly. My hair has suffered severe sun-damage over the summer, it hasn’t been conditioned and was tangled, life-less, dull and straw-like. (I know, it’s only hair, not important, but allow me this vanity.) In just one shampoo, it was bouncing back and has become stronger and shinier by the day. And here’s the big bonus: at least half of my grey hair has reverted back to brown. It is so obvious that my husband thought I’d coloured it! I don’t know whether this is because I’m no longer poisoning my scalp with commercial shampoo or the nourishing effect of the coconut oil, but it has happened within a few weeks.
Here’s the recipe:
- one can of organic coconut milk
- 500ml liquid castille soap
- 50ml organic aloe vera
- a few drops of essential oils of your choice ( I used chamomile and lavender)
Mix the ingredients and pour into a used shampoo bottle. This makes quite a bit, so I’ve put the rest in the freezer. You only need to use a small amount and don’t be put off by the fact that it’s quite runny. It lathers really well and smells gorgeous. You might want to vary the amounts, or add something like almond or jojoba oil for dry hair. I didn’t use aloe vera in the first version I made, but it improves the texture of the shampoo and neutralises the pH somewhat.
I use an apple cider vinegar rinse after the shampoo, as hair is acid and the alkaline soap leaves a build-up unless its neutralised. I also found that I had a ‘detox’ period of a couple of weeks, for my hair to adjust to the loss of fake-feelgood chemicals. It’s worth it though. We’re only at the beginning of discovering the real harm caused by chemicals we take for granted and use everyday. Do you really want these absorbed through your scalp if there is an easy, cheap and healthy option available?
Castille soap is made from olive oil and caustic soda. Dr Bronner’s is the most well-known brand, but there are others. You can make your own, and I’ve tried this, but it makes it a lot more work and the result has been inconsistent for me so far.