Hair Advice – Shampoo

Safe Shampoo (?)

Shampoo, and anything that foams, is essentially a surfactant.

If possible, whatever your hair type, be wary of sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate based shampoos; I avoid them like the plague. If you don’t have a choice, at least try not to rub the shampoo into your scalp – just gently massage into the hair and rinse out asap. Ammonium laureth sulphate and ammonium lauryl sulphate based shampoos are less evil in my view, but by no means totally pure and harmless either. See sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate. My objection to them is based on the fact that they are known skin irritants (they irritate my skin, eyes, and scalp) and that sodium laureth (query lauryl as well) sulphate is more easily absorbed into the skin than ammonium lauryl and laureth sulphate. I don’t like them but I don’t reckon there is sufficient evidence to condemn them as carcinogenic – see sodium lauryl sulfate cancer risk. And for an interesting analysis of dandruff shampoo ingredients see shampoo ingredients.

Your ammonium laurels apparently are milder than your ammonium laureths, but for some reason it’s the other way round with your sodiums – lots of people seem to be saying sodium laureth is less irritating than sodium lauryl. The ammonium lauryls and laureths claim to be plant derived surfactants; I respect that, but I do have a problem with the materials used in the extraction and chemical formulation of these surfactants and that’s why I think it’s good to opt out altogether if you have very dry, damaged, or sensitive hair and scalp. And if you’re ok with them, that’s fine, but I think it’s a good idea to experiment and see how your hair feels with different ingredient bases ( & whether you experience sensitivity and itchiness anywhere else apart from your hair and head), and I also think it’s probably a real treat to your hair to opt for a complete alternative to the Lauryls and Hardies altogether. I don’t know a heck of a lot about them, and I must admit it’s a minefield; mind boggling at times, and also something of a danger area for layman research as so many people seem to have a vested interest in claiming them to be either totally safe or potentially carcinogenic.

For a humorous dishwashing discussion which really gets to the bottom of what detergent is, see Suds & Soap.


Meaning of Carcinogenic



What’s the best natural shampoo?

If you’re happy with what you’re using and it doesn’t irritate you, and you don’t want to change, then stick with it for now ! Out of the range of surfactant chemical based shampoos which are available, most of which are inevitably sodium laureth or sodium lauryl sulphate based, I prefer ammonium lauryl (not laureth) based shampoos which are, overall, milder than the rest, but hard to come by and sometimes outrageously expensive. I do occasionally use soap. If you use soap, then use organic cidar vinegar as a final hair rinse to get the correct ph – just add a dash of cidar vinegar to a jug of warm shower water and use as a final hair rinse. You can also try adding 25% cider vinegar to a bottle of shampoo – it won’t work as effectively as with soap, but I believe it does help to lessen the damage and irritation caused by surfactants.

I did try soapwort based shampoos (a herb that mildly lathers and cleanses) but ended up feeling like I hadn’t washed my hair at all, though they were beautifully mild and non irritating. The problem was they were too much like water and because of that they got used up really quickly as well. We’re so used to lather that we automatically add more of everything till we get umpteen bubbles and then we think it’s “right”. Much as I love bubbles – (and by the way do check out soap & bubbles ) – they don’t necessarily equate with cleansing and they can practically equate with drying and irritating. Go easy on bubbles in your hair ! You’ll find a range of natural soapy hair washes on my shop page … try them ! They don’t lather as much as your typical surfactant based shampoo, but they do beautifully and naturally cleanse and condition your hair and I think you’ll be very impressed with how they compare generally. Look out for “rhassoul” aka “ghassoul”, a naturally silicone rich cleansing and moisturising clay from Morocco which can be used to cleanse and moisturise hair and skin;and it works beautifully as a face and body wash as well, drawing out impurities from the skin, cleansing, conditioning and moisturising all in one go ! Look out also for reetha powder, shikakai powder, and whole soapnuts…. all of which can be used to naturally and effectively cleanse hair and skin, and they may even inspire some green cleaning in your house ! These products are a miracle of nature and are truly something to be excited about !