It seems as though shampoo can fix any and all hair woes these days. If you have dry hair, simply try one of the many that brags of its nourishing qualities. For thin hair, try a shampoo that yields “real volume,” “extra volume,” “pure volume,” or even “max volume.” There is a shampoo for every hair color, every hairstyle, and every hair trauma.
I have always seen friends use Herbal Essences, Pantene Pro-V, Dove—brands that seemed like heaven to me. Surely these could fix my thin, lifeless hair! But I could never have such things. Once I used Herbal Essences shampoo (with synthetic scent) for one day when my mom was away for a week. I thought, surely she will never know! Yet, four days after I had used it, she returned and immediately asked me, “What is that smell?!” Apparently, the fruity scent had stuck in the upstairs shower and I was forced to confess my misdemeanor.
Most of my life has been spent, not in the hair care aisle of CVS, but instead, in the body care aisles of numerous health food stores. My search was not necessarily for a shampoo that catered to my particular hair needs, but one that was sans parabens and synthetic perfumes. So, now that I’ve gotten to college and am free of my mother’s need for me to use completely natural hair products, you would think that I would immediately go out and buy that max volume, full shine and body, seemingly magical shampoo.
Well, I didn’t. Last year I did a school project on harmful chemicals in our everyday lives, and I knew that I would never be able to switch to commercial shampoo. Most shampoos have some combination of sodium lauryl sulfate, tri- di- and mono-ethanolamines (TEA, DEA, and MEA), synthetic fragrances and parabens. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a regulated pesticide and a known skin irritant—it is used in clinical studies to harm skin in order to test soothing lotions. Sodium lauryl sulfate is not a recognized carcinogen. However, the chemical is frequently combined with TEA, DEA, or MEA, which can cause the formation of the carcinogenic substances nitrosames. Parabens are coming into their own light as a cause for major health concerns and their relationship to endocrine disruption, breast cancer, testicular cancer and skin cancer.
I have to believe that something is wrong with these chemicals if they have such a strong correlation with such terrible diseases. For now, I’ll stick to my Giovani shampoo and conditioner, a brand that I have fallen in love with and find just as good as any commercial shampoo (or better, in fact, because I do not run the risk of contracting cancer from it).
Note to self: Do not get mesmerized by the apparent magic of commercial shampoo. Stick to natural instead.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.