Clays have been used around the world for centuries as cosmetic tools as well as medicinal aids. As of late, research has shown the effectiveness of clay making it increasingly popular for health, skin-care and scalp conditions. Clays are used to absorb excess dirt, oil and toxins from the skin while simultaneously exfoliating and improving skin circulation.
For the hair and scalp, clays remove dirt, oil and build-up with out stripping the hair. It also provides moisture removing the need to add a conditioner. Some clays, such as bentonite, can even be ingested internally to help detoxify the body of harsh chemicals and provide calcium to the bones. Still not sold on using clays in your hair? Well let’s talk about that ordinary store-bought shampoo you’re currently using and just how dangerous it may be to your health.
Traditionally, we have been taught to wash with shampoo, condition and style. You receive great satisfaction piling your hair on top of your head and allowing those white suds to strip away dirt, oil and sweat. But what if I told you that your glorified shampoo over time would cause more harm than good? Drying out your hair, causing it to become dry, brittle, weak and ultimately damaged over prolonged use. What if I told you that the same shampoo is not only responsible for damaging your hair but also has the capabilities to cause skin and eye damage, immunological problems and the risk for potential cancer related issues.
Back to the Basics: What is Shampoo and How does it Work?
Shampoos typically include surfactants that are effective at stripping away oil. This is their main and only purpose. Some of the most common surfactants found in shampoo are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). Actually, these 3 ingredients can be found in a multitude of every day products such as shampoos, scalp treatments, hair dyes and hair bleach, tooth-paste, body washes, liquid make-up foundation, hand soap, laundry detergent and house-hold cleansing products. These surfactants are harsh on the hair because they possess an alkaline pH balance as well as a negative charge. It opens the cuticle of the hair, which causes your hair to be dry after washing.
Why You Should Avoid Sulfates in Your Shampoo
There are chemicals in every product that sits on a store shelf. Whenever you apply anything to your body, face or hair, it is immediately absorbed into your bloodstream and filtered to your organs, accumulating over time because our bodies lack the necessary enzymes to break down foreign chemicals. (a) Recent studies suggest that SLS, SLES and ALS are not harmful to the body. However, keep in mind that these are not the only chemicals found in your products. Every product that you use contains at least 10 chemicals. Check the ingredients label of your facial soap, tooth-paste, shampoo, body wash and make-up. Notice how many different chemicals are entering your body on a daily basis. The average person consumes 5+ lbs of toxins per year just using cosmetic products alone. (b) Though this may not seem like a large number, think about how long you’ve been using these products. That number could be much greater.
Based on the book, “Beauty to Die For,” by Judi Vance, (c) research studies on SLS have shown links to:
- Irritation to the skin and eyes
- Organ toxicity
- Developmental/reproductive toxicity
- Endocrine disruption
- Biochemical and cellular changes
- Possible mutations
Why do Companies Use Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodum Lauyrl Sulfate and Ammoinum Laurel Sulfate?
It’s simple. If there is one word that you will find heavily saturated in the cosmetic industry but you never hear anyone say is CHEAP. As a consumer we are anxious to buy things off the shelf that include fancy labels appealing to our frustrations of dry hair, dry skin, hyper-pigmentation etc. But for companies, the bottom line is profit. They want to use the cheapest available ingredients, mark up the product and make a tremendous profit at the sake of your health. Ingredients like SLS, SLES and ALS are relatively cheap for companies to modify allowing it to give us that sudsy cleaning foam that we all have been conditioned to look for.
Using Clay as a Chemical-Free Shampoo
There are a multitude of organic and natural alternatives such as castile soap, shampoo bars, sulfate-free shampoos and some of my personal favorites – clays. Clays are great because they have a multitude of conditioning & cleansing properties. They are also great for the face and body. They contain occurring nutrients such as calcium and vitamin’s A and E. The following are just as effective for cleansing the hair and scalp without causing the hair to become dry and brittle over time. In fact, the following clays will actually improve the health of your hair which is something we all want.
- Bentonite Clay – Bentonite Clay has a high negative charge, and therefore a strong attraction to heavy metals and toxins that it comes in contact with. With this stronger charge, it is able to pull in more unwanted toxins from the hair, thoroughly cleansing the hair by removing product buildup allowing for better moisture. Bentonite clay also has amazing conditioning properties. No conditioners are needed applying rinsing this clay out.
- Rhassoul Clay – When applied to the face Rhassoul clay removes oil, dirt and pollutants from the skin that the ordinary cleanser cannot reach. When applied to the hair and scalp, it will cleanse, provide moisture, detangle and provide shine in ways that your ordinary shampoo simply can’t.
Step-by-Step: How to Make Your Own Clay Shampoo
I have very curly and textured hair that is prone to dryness and breakage. I use the following recipe to cleanse and condition my hair after a long week of yoga and workouts. Depending on the length and texture of your hair, this will vary. If you have fine hair or oily hair, you may want to cut back on the oils, or remove them altogether. If you do not like olive oil or tea tree oil, feel free to add some alternatives like rosemary, neem, grape seed, or almond. This recipe is completely customizable to your needs and hair type. **Please note: If this is your first time using clay as shampoo, be cautious as this can be a messy process. Wear an old t-shirt and use newspaper if you have carpet** All of the products in this recipe can be found in local food stores such as H-E-B, Trader Joes or Whole Foods in the health section.
Here is what you need:
Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl using a wooden spoon. It’s very important that you do not use metal as it will contaminate your mixture. You should end up with what appears to be wet mud. If you need to add more apple cider vinegar do so. If you find that your mixture is too watery, add more clay.
Begin applying the clay mixture to your scalp (the key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp. Your scalp should always be your primary focus) and work your way down the shaft of the hair. I typically have just enough left over to make my own mask. I apply the remaining mixture to my face. After about 10 minutes, I hop in the shower and rinse my face and hair simultaneously. Do not allow the clay mixture to get hard while it is in your hair. If you find that you have small bits of clay left in your hair add a dab of olive oil to the area and rinse.
We want to hear from you! Have you tried clays for cleansing? Share your recipes. What natural alternatives have you tried for you hair and scalp?
Written by: Tamala Freeman
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