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The 411 on Sulfate-Free Shampoos and Conditioners

Cleanliness is close to godliness. It’s a popular idiom that gets repeated time and time again by mothers and teachers sick of sloppy homework assignments. Of course, you won’t become an immortal for keeping yourself clean, but it helps set a proper personal image; not to mention, proper hygiene is directly related to a healthy lifestyle.

When it comes to personal hygiene, we often don’t realize all the chemicals and ingredients that often go into the products we use. Keeping clean is important, but what we clean ourselves with plays significantly into that concept of cleanliness and health.

Sulfates, an ingredient found in shampoos and conditioners, among other cleaning products, have recently come under fire as a potential catalyst for hair loss.

Understanding Surfactants

Before delving into the world of sulfates, we have to under surfactants. Surfactants are found in every cleaning agent, whether it’s shampoo, body soap, facial wash, or laundry detergent. The chemical nature of a surfactant allows it to surround and trap oily materials while simultaneously reducing surface tension. This expedites the removal of oil, sweat, and dirt. Put simply, the surfactant is the cleaning factor in the formula.

However, surfactants are detergents, which can be harsh or gentle depending on the concentration and the type of compound used.

Sulfates in Shampoo

In the last few decades, shampoos have the used sodium lauryl sulfate or the related sodium laureth sulfate as surfactants. The main reason: they are super cheap and create lots of bubbles and foam.

People hold certain notions about shampoos and what they should do. They expect lots of lather and foam in their shampoo, but that’s actually a misconception. Lather and foam do nothing for hair and only occur as a result of the sulfates binding to air instead of oil. If anything, excessive foam is merely a sign of wasted shampoo.

So What’s Wrong with Sulfates?

So sulfates create a lot of foam, which the general public is trained to appreciate, and it’s cheap for manufacturers. What’s the big deal?

  • Interesting enough, outside of the world of hair care, sodium lauryl sulfate is used around the world in clinical studies as a skin irritant. In higher concentrations, it has been shown to corrode skin. Of course, that doesn’t mean that commercial shampoos have enough of a concentration to cause irritation to your scalp, but if your skin is especially sensitive, washing your scalp in SLS probably won’t feel great.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate is rumored to be potentially carcinogenic (i.e. cancer causing). Although this has not been proven in experimental studies, SLS has been shown to cause significant epidermal changes when applied.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate strips your hair and scalp of essential oils, which causes a drying effect while also fading any dyes in your hair. Just imagine what it could do to your scalp.
  • With that drying effect, your hair follicles can sustain some severe damage. This could, in turn, lead to hair loss. This may be the reason why teenagers often have problems with thinning hair.

Although the information surrounding SLS is a bit shaky, there’s no proof that SLS is more beneficial than alternatives either. It would be wise for health-conscious consumers to avoid shampoos containing SLS as it’s often a marker for the use of other undesirable ingredients.

What to Look for in a Shampoo

Now that you’re convinced to stay away from sodium lauryl sulfate, what ingredients should you look for in shampoo or conditioner?

You’ll want to find natural ingredients. Look for ingredients like glucosides and glycerine, which should show up on the label as decyl glucoside or coco-glucoside. These ingredients come naturally from corn and sugar. These shampoos obviously won’t have as much foam or lather as you might be used to, but your hair will still feel healthy, clean, and soft.

Another option would be using nothing but warm water to clean your hair. While this sounds potentially disgusting to many, you have to realize that your hair is the way it is because of years of using shampoos containing harmful chemicals, like sodium lauryl sulfate. Once those chemicals have worked their way out of your system, your hair will be left as clean as ever.

The better you take care of your hair, the better it will take care of you, so choose wisely and keep yourself informed about products you consume.


How Hair Replacement Works

Hundreds of thousands of people experience some level of balding in their lifetime and not a single person enjoys their newfound receding hairline. Over the past several decades, there have been many doctors working to alter the balding progress or cover it up completely. Unfortunately, the old methods and lack of technology left many men with unsightly toupees and wigs.

The times have changed and now there are several options to cover up bald spots that will leave you good as new. The advancements in technology give those thousands of men and women an opportunity to have their hair look young again. Never again worry about being the recipient of bald jokes and feel as if you should constantly wear a hat to cover it up.

While there are two types of drugs on the market that are known to slow down hair loss, increase hair thickness, and even sometimes improve hair growth, they are not a guaranteed permanent solution for balding. Although they can be expensive to use for long periods of time, over the counter drugs can be a great short term solution while you are deciding on whether or not to fix the problem forever by going in for hair transplant surgery. Although hair transplant surgery can be used to help restore many areas including eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, and chest hair, the procedure is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness on the scalp.

How Hair Transplant Surgery Works: The latest surgical advancements can permanently fix your balding scalp by transplanting hair follicles to the bald areas of your head. The procedure works by identifying strong hair follicle groupings of 1-4 hairs in areas of hair that are not balding and then physically moves those follicles to the bald scalp areas. This is different from older procedures because when the follicles are moved they can be placed in a way that mimics nature and gives your scalp a more natural look.

One of the common questions regarding hair follicle transplants is whether the hair will grow in the new bald area or if it will die out like the original hair follicles. Dermatologist Norman Orentreich proved that the new hair follicle would grow in the same way as it would have in its original location. The theory is called donor dominance and was a breakthrough in hair transplant practice in the 1950s. Later developments included the practice of sourcing the hair follicles from areas of the scalp known to have the strongest hair growth. This resulted in the transplanted hair follicles growing just as strong in the bald areas and giving the patient a new head of hair.

Modern technology has taken the knowledge of the past and made it much more efficient. The sizes of each incision are much smaller, leaving practically no scar whatsoever and allowing surgeons to place many more grafts in a smaller area. The latest ultra refined follicular unit hair transplantation can place over 50 grafts into one square centimeter area. The best part about the new advancements is that patients can be in and out of the doctor’s office in just one visit without any downtime or needing to stay overnight. There is almost no recovery time, pain is limited, and the patient doesn’t need to miss any work. This is why there are thousands of people finally opting to permanently fix their balding problem once and for all.

Types of Hair Transplants

Strip Harvesting: The most common hair transplant procedure today takes a strip of hair follicles and transplants them to the balding area. The strips of hair are taken from the side or back of the scalp and leave tiny vertical scars in their place. Once the strip is removed, it is cut up into numerous smaller follicular units that are then implanted into the bald scalp in a way that looks as natural as possible.

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): While not every patient is eligible for FUE, it is generally the most sought after procedure. Instead of removing a strip of hair follicles, this method removes one hair follicle at a time, leaving minimal scarring; causes almost no pain, and the recovery time is so short that you can be back in action in less than a day.