When I did my initial research before going natural, the first piece of advice was to avoid shampoos with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. In fact the first video I watched was a vlogger that suggested I avoid shampoo altogether and use baking soda. Now I did this for a few months after my big chop and it wasn’t too bad apart from the odd occasion when I would put too much baking soda and my hair would cake up! Disastrous! As my hair started to grow I began to miss shampoo, the smell and feel of it in my hair. Then I realized that there were plenty of shampoos out there that are sulfate free. I noticed a popular pharmacy chain had sulfate free shampoo so I purchased it straight away and never went back to baking soda! If it works for you great but I missed shampoo.
However it wasn’t until after a year or so that I started to learn even more about ingredients to avoid. It wasn’t just sodium Lauryl Sulfate I had to avoid, there were many others. You really have to do your research when learning about natural hair. I have simply learned more as my natural hair journey has progressed. I have picked up more information along the way. We all learn from experience, trial and error and gradually along the way, whatever our style of learning may be.
I eventually discovered that as well as avoiding sulfates it is important to avoid Silicones in products. These dry your hair over time and are man-made agents that simply coat your hair and prevent it absorbing moisture naturally. I think they simply create an artificial sheen. Of course in shampoos and moisturisers these ingredients are not referred to as Silicone. That would be too easy. I’m sure there are more but I am aware of one: Dimethone. I was shocked to discover that a particular brand of shampoo I was using contained these products! So I had to go back to the drawing board and look for a new shampoo. It is all a learning experience. Even my husband who has European hair noticed a big improvement to his hair and scalp when we changed our shampoo. Just one artificial ingredient can be the difference between dry hair, an irritated scalp and soft, moisturised hair and a healthy scalp.
Then there are those oils and moisturisers that are popular in many afro hair shops. I soon discovered that many of them contain mineral oil and Petroleum. These were products that a male friend of mine told me to avoid. He had been growing an afro for years and I relied on him to get my Shea butter. He was able to get a massive chuck of it at his local market for one pound! You learn from many different sources and it’s good to exchange information. So I stopped using certain products and would check labels constantly. I do the same thing with my food so why not with my products. A lot of products that claim to be natural or organic usually contain many artificial ingredients. They add one percent Shea butter and label their product as Shea butter for example. This is very misleading so you have to read the labels. You can’t go wrong when you stick to natural ingredients that don’t need to be packaged in a glossy and expensive containers.
So I will make a brief list of the ingredients I am aware of below. Please add to the list so we can share this important information with each other.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (used in shampoos to create lather, this dries out your hair)
Dimethone (Silicone which is also drying to the hair)
Mineral Oil (This is not 100% natural. It coats the hair and leads to a build up of grease)
Petroleum (This greases your hair instead of moisturising it, it leads to a build- up of grease)
Specific Alcohols (Too harsh on the hair. Can lead to drying and irritation)
I know there are others I’m not aware of. Please share and spread the knowledge. A helpful website: www.ewg.org/skindeep/. This categorises products according to how safe they are based on their ingredients and production methods.