A Quick Word On Cleansers & Scalp Health

These are the facts:

  1. YOUR HAIR IS DEAD.
  2. There is not a product, dye, chemical treatment or flat iron out there that can kill your hair.
  3. There are also no products that can feed, nourish, or heal your hair.

It’s already dead.

All of this time we thought we were in the business of using products to keep out hair alive and healthy, but we’re not. It’s not.

How can anything that is dead be healthy?

I would like to formally lead the charge on the idea that we are officially not in the business of protecting hair or keeping it alive.

From this moment forward I present a new idea: AVOIDING DAMAGE.

Let me explain.

Your hair is dead. Right now. It’s a remnant of scalp cells that used to be alive that carefully congregated and restructured as their life last big gesture.

The hair which emerges from the scalp as new growth is the healthiest your hair will ever be.

Then it’s dead. The only thing that can happen is damage.


There is only one part of the entire hair cycle that is alive and it is your scalp, and since we’re doin’ it natural it’s important that we talk just a little about that.

Scalp health is everything when it comes to natural curls.

Your scalp does more than just be the skin that holds your hair. It’s doesn’t just grow hair, or protect hair, or hydrate hair (though it does all of those things).

Your scalp is your hair.

Hair is a collection of “Epidermis tissue”, or scalp cells, that convene in little large pore-looking spaces called follicles in your scalp and create hair.

Your scalp doesn’t just feed or nourish your hair in all of the ways you’ve always tried to do using products. The cells of your scalp become your hair. Think about that.

I say it time we started treated our hair heroes with a bit more respect.

To recap: Your hair can never be healthier than it is when it emerges from the scalp, and the healthier the scalp – the healthier the hair. Are you with me?

But scalp health is so much more than even that.

The natural oil that your scalp (and skin) makes is called sebum and it consists of unique lipids, such as squalene and wax esters not found anywhere else in the body nor in nature.

It’s the perfect balance of hydration and protection.

Your scalp needs this protection. Which is exactly why it produces more sebum than the rest of your skin.

Listen to this: the pores on the scalp are 3-5x larger than the pores on any other part of your skin.

This makes your scalp much more susceptible to infection, contamination, and irritation. Anything from bacteria to mold to ingredients of concern in your products can be absorbed more readily on the scalp then almost anywhere else.

One of sebum main roles is to create a thin oil barrier that cannot be penetrated.

It’s working to keep you healthy and safe, your scalp and hair hydrated and thriving.

Supporting this natural rhythm is our new #1 goal.

Our fear of scalp oil can be over once we help to support it’s natural balance.

How Cleansers Work

Most cleansers on the market us sulfates.

Sulfates are extremely, extremely harsh to your hair.

They are used in combination with harsh surfactants (which create bubbles and the illusion of clean without doing literally anything useful) and work by ripping open the cuticle and removing all that is god and holy about your hair.

When the protective sebum is stripped from the scalp there is no protection or hydration. You are literally leaving your hair high and dry.

In response to being stripped completely, the scalp immediately produces oil to waiver the storm.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that then coating the hair in a bunch of products full of plastics isn’t the most natural idea.

All that conventional hair care does is encourage the use of their products more as you wash every day or two to remove all that trapped oil.

When you enter the world of natural hair this is no longer the case.

1. Your scalp is not over producing oil to begin with because you’ve removed the harsh sulfates and surfactants that are causing this problem.

2. The sebum is allowed and encouraged to move freely down the hair shaft, naturally hydrating and softening the hair increasing strength and flexibility (without product!).

Scalp issues are serious.

If you are experiencing scalp issues of any kind, from flaking, itchiness, soreness, and scabbing to thinning and hair loss, I encourage you to consider removing your sulfate shampoo as the next step on your journey.

Choosing the correct cleanser is incredibly important because it is really the one that is most likely causing the bulk of your issues.

It needs to be the perfect balance of bold and aggressive, to remove all forms of build-up but also gentle and subtle as to not strip the hair of it’s natural balance.

Cleansers are designed to clean your hair. They are designed to remove product build-up from your hair. They can remove excess sebum that is building up on your hair. The can remove dead skin cells and bacteria and viruses and mold from your hair.

The other thing that cleansing does, the most important thing that cleansing does, is make space. It makes space in the core of the hair, called the cortex for water.

The cortex of the hair is protected by a fine layer called the cuticle, which grows in overlapping eves similar to the scales of a fish or shingles of a roof.

The space that is created between these eves allows access to compounds such as water, sebum and and products which can help to hydrate and soften the cortex of the hair keeping it strong and flexible.

This is the primary objective of conditioning and styling.

But eventually, through the continued use of conditioners and stylers in tandem with sebum and other environmental build-up, the cortex is full or a barrier is formed on the cuticle blocking entrance.

That is where cleanser come in.

They remove product and environmental build-up, creating an avenue and clear pathway for hydration to reenter.

Water is the most moisturizing ingredient in nature. The only problem with water is that it too easily leaves the hair by evaporating. Once there is space for water inside of the hair shaft we can use conditioners and stylers to help bring water inside of the hair shaft and trap it in by smoothing hair cuticle down over it.

Choosing A Cleanser

With all that in mind your go-to cleanser should meet, at the bare minimum, a few general guidelines.

 “CGM friendly” is the perfect first step.This will ensure, at the bare minimum that your cleanser is free of sulfates, silicones, and parabens, all of which are great things.

Feel free to use resources like isitcg.com, curlscan.com and curlsbot.com, where you can copy and paste ingredients of your products into their algorithm to see if they meet basic “cgm” requirements.

I have all of my favorite cleansers listed right HERE on this website and you can trust that each and every one of them meet the strictest ingredients safety standards out there.
USE THIS LINK to check them out!

When it comes to your cleansers – sulfates are the number one ingredient to look out for.

The only good thing in the world that I can think of that is good about sulfates is that they tend to list the world “sulfate” in some form right on the label. It’s not typically disguised, nor its presence concealed, which is a big win for us because it’s easy to spot.

The rest is all downhill from there.

Sulfates are extremely, extremely harsh to your hair.

They work by ripping open the cuticle and removing all that is god and holy about your hair. There is no protection or hydration.

You are literally leaving your hair high and dry.

Sulfates are known and widely accepted skin irritants, but what is more than that is that they are ethoxylated, which means they are contaminated with a carcinogenic compound called 1,4-Dioxane one of the most toxic chemicals made by man.

You won’t find 1, 4-Dioxane on any ingredients label.

It is an unintended consequence of the manufacturing process, not an ingredient, and by law does not even have to be listed even when it’s presence is known.

It is because of 1,4-Dioxane that is strongly recommend your stop using all petroleum-based products that ethoxylated, starting with sulfates.

Beyond sulfates, the ingredients you need to be most concerned about in your cleanser (and every other product you use) are the preservatives.

Preservatives are what make your products shelf stable.

Think about it this way. Your products are in a dark container with a food source (the product), perfect conditions – neither too hot nor too cold, and water, which sustains all life including bacteria, mold and whatever else wants to grow in your hair care.

Let me put it this way – the role of preservatives is to control that growth.

The FDA says that all products on the market that contain water must also contain preservatives in order to protect us from illness.

Think about this, now. Preservatives are chemicals that control the populations of living organisms. They work by actively killing these microbes and keeping them at bay. It’s important to note this because, at the end of the day, we should be considering anything inside of our products that is designed to kill life quite seriously.

So here are a couple of preservatives that I would keep you eye on. I personally don’t use any but that didn’t happen all at once. Do your best to make it your goal to rid your life of them (if you choose) and give yourself grace for the moments and products you aren’t quite ready to do so with.

DEA/MEA/TEA – known as Ethanolamines, these chemicals actually aren’t terribly offensive on their own. The real problem is that in just a few short weeks they can start breaking down into nitrosamines (which are not on the ingredients label).  Nitrosamines are widely accepted to be highly toxic carcinogens known to cause aliments like stomach, esophageal and liver cancer.

DMDM – this is a formaldehyde releaser. Feel free to do your own research on it but in my books it’s a flat-out HELL NO, and I can tell you right now that between the VOCs in our homes from all of the constructions and furnishings plus the flame retardants on our bedding and fabrics we do not need more formaldehyde in our lives.

Parabens – mimic estrogen in the body, and there are already way too make synthetic forms on parabens we are exposed to. As one of the most common preservatives on the planet (due to their low cost and stability), the fact that they bioaccumulate both in the body and our natural environment (land and water) is highly concerning and over 70% of teenage girls have more parabens in their body than is deemed a safe limit and it is nearly impossible for the body to break them down because we are constantly exposed to them.

Parabens are also found in over 57% of breast cancer tumors along with a slew of other issues I’ll save for another time.

I have all of my favorite cleansers listed right HERE on this website and you can trust that each and every one of them meet the strictest ingredients safety standards out there.
USE THIS LINK to check them out!

Here me talk more about this topic in this video!

If you love this blog post, be sure to follow along so you don’t miss a post!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Sources:
Picardo, M., et al (2009), Sebaceous gland lipids – NCBI – NIH, Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar-Apr; 1(2): 68–71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835893/
Halal, J. (2009), Hair Structure and Chemistry: Simplified (5), Milady, Cengage Learning
Winter, R., (2009), A Consumers Dictionary Of Cosmetics Ingredients: Complete Information About Harmful and Desirable Ingredients Found In Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals (7), Three Rivers Press
O’Conner, S, et al, (2010), No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Beauty Products, Da Capo Press

Leave a Reply