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Hair routine: what ingredients to steer clear of and why?

Irritation, allergies, itching, hair loss… It is well known that conventional shampoos, conditioners, and hair care products found in supermarkets contain ingredients that can be harmful and aggressive to our scalp, but what should we look out for in your hair routine ? We’re here to explain everything!  

More and more people are now turning to organic and natural cosmetics as many classic hair care products and treatments sold in supermarkets are pointed out because of their composition. Some undesirable substances are regularly used even if they should be avoided to take good care of your scalp and your hair

Check the ingredients in each product 

On the back of beauty products, you will find what is called the INCI list. These are the fine print to which we usually don’t pay much attention. They list all the ingredients that make up the product from the highest concentration to the lowest, in English or Latin. 

Applications that scan the composition of formulas are also a good source of information to make sure of what is in them, even if they do not focus on concentration. 

At ELENATURE, all our products are very well rated on these applications. For instance, take the test on Yuka: we are rated between 93 and 100/100! 

1- Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) 

Quaternary ammonium compounds, known as quats, are found in many shampoos and conditioners. Their role is to lubricate the hair and remove tangles. They are used as surfactants in shampoos, as preservatives or thickeners in hair care products, or as conditioning agents.   

There are two main categories of quats:  

  • Petrochemical quats 
  • Plant-derived quats 

Petrochemical quats are the ones most often found in traditional cosmetics. However, it is highly recommended not to use quats, regardless of their origin. They are not synthesized in the same way and have different effects but can all be toxic

Quats fill in the gaps in damaged hair to give it the appearance of healthy hair. By clinging to the fiber, quats weigh it down and even suffocate it over time. And that’s not all! Quaternary ammonium compounds can irritate the skin and hair and also, they can be toxic to the environment. They are also a pollutant with very low biodegradability.  

On the INCI lists, we can spot them under the following names:  

– Quaternium + a figure                               

– Polyquaternium + a figure 

– BTMS         

– Dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate 

– DSDMAC (Quaternium-5)                                        

– Hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride 

– CTAC (cetyltrimethyl ammonium chloride)              

– Cetrimonium chloride 

– Behentrimonium chloride 

2- Silicones 

Silicones are often used in hair care products, as they coat the hair, making it look healthy. In reality, our hair fiber is coated with plastic substances, meaning that our hair looks soft and shiny, but inside, the hair will continue to be damaged and weakened! 

They weigh down and weaken our hair, but above all, they are also extremely polluting! Silicons are impossible to recycle, as they take about 500 years to degrade in nature… So we should avoid silicones as much as possible, even though they are massively used in conditioners and hair care products. 

How can we spot them? They are identified by the ending -ICONE, ICONOL, or XANE (Dimethicone, Phenyl Trimethicone, Amodimethicone, Polysiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, etc.). 

3- Sulfates  

Sulfates, used as surfactants or washing agents, are very common in traditional cosmetics. They are used to create foam in order to make the product look effective. The problem is that these ingredients act as a cleanser: they strip away, therefore, are very aggressive for the hair and scalp. Over time, they lead to dandruff, itching, and other scalp irritation, as well as hair loss. Under attack, the scalp tries to protect itself by producing more sebum, so the hair appears dirty and greasy more quickly.  

They are often coupled with silicons, creating a particularly toxic combo for the hair fiber. In fact, since the silicon has a sheathing action, it effectively masks the damage caused by sulphates. Try to opt for sulfate-free shampoo, a much gentler and healthier option!  

Sulfate ingredients to be avoided include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, Ammonium Laureth Sulphate. 

4- Parabens 

Parabens are not only suspected of acting on our hormones and of being endocrine disruptors, but they are also potentially carcinogenic. A good reason to do without them, right? However, they are used everywhere as they act as preservatives, preventing conventional cosmetic products from turning and smelling bad, for example. 

They are easily identifiable because they all end in -paraben. 

However, be careful, because more and more manufacturers are replacing them with products that are just as harmful: 

  • PEG and PPG (polyethylene and polypropylene glycol) 
  • phenoxyethanol 
  • triclosan 
  • methylisothiazolinone (also called MIT or Kathon CG) 
  • cetrimonium bromide 

Watch out for false friends! 

Some products boast a “natural” label and pretty green packaging to lure you in. Always check out the ingredients list anyway. After all, cyanide, lead, and mercury, for example, are natural ingredients, but no one would apply them to their skin or hair! 

Finally, don’t forget about the environment… There are ingredients such as EDTA, which are not particularly harmful to us but are very polluting and non-biodegradable.  

This is why ELENATURE wanted its products to carry the COSMOS ORGANIC label certified by ECOCERT to ensure the safety and the guarantee of a selection of ingredients that are healthy and environmentally friendly. 

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