Washing as a no-brainer? You are in danger!
Surfactants are one of many different compounds that make up a detergent. They are added to remove dirt from skin, clothes and household articles, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. They are also used extensively in industry. The term surfactant comes from the words surface active agent.
"Surfactants" essentialchemicalindustry.org, Accessed on 23 Sep 2016.
Solubilisers and emulsifiers in skincare products, detergents for laundry and dishwashing, wetting agents in colour cosmetic products... These all have different names, but are all surfactants. You may know surfactants are used in foaming products, but the truth is they are in skincare products such as facial cream and lotion that we put on all day! If we use various personal care and household products, the chance of over-exposure to synthetic surfactants could be increased unconsciously.
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) – Toxic surfactants
If your shampoo is not SLS/SLES or sulfate free, it might include several ‘-sulfate’ ingredients. They are commonly used in personal care products as they are very cheap and have a powerful ability to produce foam.
Here is the common side effects of SLS/SLES.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
"10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid" huffingtonpost.com, Accessed on 23 Sep 2016.
It’s not all! More serious problem is…
A study cited in the Wall Street Journal (November 1, 1988) linked SLS to cataracts and nitrate absorption (nitrates are carcinogens—or cancer causing substances). Apparently, this absorption occurs when the SLS becomes contaminated with NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) during processing. This contamination comes about as a result of SLS coming into contact with any number of chemicals including TEA (triethanolamine), which is a commonly used ingredient in shampoos as a detergent.
Daily use shampoo
Hair is composed of the cuticle, cortex, medulla, etc. Synthetic surfactants in shampoo dissolve the cuticle, which is the outermost layer of the hair. The cuticle has a single layer of cells arranged in an overlapping pattern, like tiles on a roof, and provides strength and protection to the hair. The more dense the cuticle, the stronger the hair and greater the shine. However, once the cuticle is dissolved and damaged due to synthetic surfactants that have strong absorption and are hard to wash-off, there will tend to be roughened, raised cuticles, which adds to hair wear and tear. It leads thinner and dull hair in result. Also, synthetic surfactants penetrate into the hair matrix, the roots of the hair, and destroy the hair producing system, which becomes a factor in hair loss.
Sadly, the problem is not stopping there. Early versions of shampoo aimed simply to cleanse the scalp and hair like a soap. Today, more chemical cosmetic ingredients, such as skin lotion, luster enhancer, fragrance, anti-static agents, and anti-detangler agents, are added for extra marketing claims. It means that more chemical ingredients are added to the synthetic surfactants, resulting in increased hair damage.
Aww~ conditioners are more concerned…
Then what about the conditioner? Sometimes, people believe they become have an improved hair condition thanks to the conditioners as they got the silky soft hair after using the products. It is hard to imagine the conditioners are made of different synthetic surfactant blends. The surfactants that are added in conditioners are sorted as ‘cationic surfactants’. Those cationic surfactants prevent static of the hair and give a shiny look. However, when they contact the skin and scalp rather than the hair, they become irritants and cause itchiness. These constant irritants can be the other reason of the hair loss.
Surfactants accumulate in our body
Surfactants accumulate on our bodies.
Our skin, including the scalp, is the largest organ in our body. It absorbs nutrients and excretes waste. Consider how smoking patches work. Is it easy to understand its function?
The skin penetration of surfactants is much easier if we shampoo while having a warm shower, as the pores on the skin and scalp are widely opened. Once it has penetrated in our bodies, it takes several days to eliminate them. But more often (almost daily!) we use shampoos and conditioners. It means we have a constant amount of surfactants on our bodies, and it causes various diseases and problems.
Consumer awareness is the key!
If consumers still look for a product that produces a copious amount of foam, it leads formulators to focus on developing products with thick, luxurious foam, while minimizing how much it costs to produce.
Start a habit of reading the ingredients when shopping for personal care products, in order to protect yourself from nasty chemicals, and also to change the market to make products safer!
TBB organic soapberry 3-in-1 shampoos and all-in-1 cleanser
The Brown Bottle’s organic soapberry 3-in-1 shampoos and all-in-1 cleanser are formulated with organic soapberry infused water to replace harsh synthetic surfactants.