Here’s a question for you. Feel free not to answer it: How many hairs did you lose in this shower this morning? One? Two? Twenty? Even if it was only a small number, you’re probably feeling like it might as well be a million. Especially if it’s happening every day. While so many of us are freaking out about grey hair, we’re far too often ignoring the more insidious problem that comes with getting just a bit older: hair loss. The primary factor in hair loss is your genetics (thanks, mom and dad). You have no control over that. But there are a lot of things you could be doing wrong that might be making it worse than it really needs to be. What if we told you not all hair loss is related to simply growing older? Believe it or not, your shampoo could be the real traitor here. Legitimate hair loss products could be the solution.
What is That Shampoo Doing to Me Anyway?
Why do we use shampoo anyway? Some of you might just try to opt for good ‘ol water if you looked at what was sitting in your shampoo’s ingredients list. But shampoo does serve a purpose, even if it’s not being entirely kind to your hair. Yes, that includes conditioners, and especially includes those shampoo/conditioner combinations we are so overly fond of.
Unlike the rest of your body’s hair follicles, the hair on your head produces what is known as sebum. Sebum is an oily mixture that actually does help protect your hair. It also has the unfortunate result of making hair clump together and attracts dirt, dust, pollen—pretty much anything that will stick to grease. It’s also extremely hydrophobic, meaning it rejects water harder than your high school crush did to your hopes and dreams.
Your plans for a shampoo-free life are pretty much down the drain. You’re going to need shampoo. But if you keep using the regular kind, you’re also going to need products for hair loss that work better than your regular shampoo.
Which Chemicals are the Bad Guys?
We don’t want you to think every chemical is bad. Everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Your dog is composed of thousands of chemicals. Even your healthy kale salad has scary chemicals in it like ammonia (gasp!), copper (no!) and methanol (make it stop!). Most chemicals you run into are naturally occurring (yes, even ammonia), and are not harmful, even after years of exposure. But some chemicals in hair products are not so kind, and can actually contribute to thinning hair and hair loss.
Shampoos with sulfates could be making your hair fall out.
Sulfates are some of the primary detergents used in shampoos and conditioners that help to get rid of that nasty sebum. They’re also one of the main culprits behind scalp irritation, dry scalp and yes, even hair loss. Sulfates, such as sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulphate, will cause serious damage to your hair’s follicles.
Sodium chloride is a combination made for disaster.
Remember that deliciously salty sea air? That’s sodium chloride. “So what is salt water doing in my shampoo?” It thickens up the sulfates. Seriously. It’s not actually helping to clean anything, it’s just an ingredient to give the shampoo a thicker feel to it, to make that rich lather we think looks and feels good. Unfortunately, it has almost the same effect on your hair and your scalp as the sulfates. Itchy, dry scalp, damaged follicles, hair loss. No bueno.
Formaldehyde is like death. Literally.
Formaldehyde excels at killing bacteria. It is also completely natural and common in the human bloodstream. However, exposure to large amounts of the stuff can cause severe skin irritation, especially on the scalp. You’re not just going to see “formaldehyde” on the ingredients list of your shampoo. It’ll come under one of these other names: methyl aldehyde or methylene glycol.
Even the AARP suggests you avoid some of these ingredients. Which should come as no surprise, really. The older we get, the more prone we are to hair loss. Finding good products for hair growth get more important as we get older. By the way, ‘getting older,' in the biological sense starts immediately post-adolescence. If you’re over 18, your body is aging.
Help! What Am I Supposed to Do?
Making shampoos better is something everyone should be concerned about. After all, a good head of hair has more than just cosmetic value. Healthy hair helps protect our heads from all sorts of problems, including damaging UV rays from the sun. So what can be done about hair care products? The inclusion of good chemicals, of course, and the exclusion of crap ones.
Scientists can never stop tinkering, and many of them have come up with interesting chemical combinations that are not only good for the hair and scalp, but work well for slowing down, stopping and sometimes even reversing hair loss.
One of the biggest problems in hair loss is called perifollicular fibrosis. This is where the skin and hair follicles get scarred and damaged. If your hair follicle is damaged, it just won’t produce hair anymore. Period. Get enough of that, and, well, you get the picture.
Certain chemicals, such as adenosine, have an anti-inflammatory effect. Including this in hair products can help counteract the inflammatory effect of the harsh detergents that are used to clean hair. The compound aminexil in particular is not only friendly on your hair, but has been proven to prevent hair loss. It prevents collagen build-up around the hair follicles. As scarring causes collagen build-up in the follicles, you can see why trying to avoid things such as sulfates and formaldehyde is a good thing. Dry skin means brittle skin. Brittle skin is easily broken, causing scars to form.
There are also many all-natural ingredients you should be looking for in your shampoo. Things like caffeine, vitamin B3 and biotin can all help hair grow. Each works to varying degrees. What’s more, you’ve certainly never heard of any of these having negative effects on anyone’s scalp!
The reality is that you’re not going to avoid every ingredient that could damage your scalp. But you can definitely avoid products that don’t even attempt to mitigate the damaging effects that shampoo can have. It all comes down to responsibility. A company selling you a hair care product has a responsibility to help you avoid hair loss. This doesn’t mean just selling you hair loss products. It means incorporating those beneficial ingredients into the products they already sell.
We’re not splitting hairs with you here. The truth is, you need to be concerned about what shampoo you’re using, and how you’re using it. While sulfates aren’t going to start making your hair fall out tomorrow, it’s a cumulative effect. The same is true of products which also include healthy chemicals that prevent hair loss and promote new growth. There are certainly no “magic bullets” for hair growth, but you can almost certainly see some positive impacts when you switch to a shampoo that is actually designed to preserve optimal hair and scalp health. The best products for hair loss and thinning hair will always have anti-inflammatory ingredients, as well as ingredients that promote hair growth. If you want to keep your hair, treat it like the rest of your body. Feed it the right things!