Friday, February 5, 2010

Shampoo U

Do you remember the classic scene in Little Women when Jo sells her hair to pay for a train ticket and snotty little Amy says something like, "It was your one glory!"? Or do you remember that book - I think it's called The Holy Bible - in which Samson's power resides in his hair, and that crafty Delilah has only to cut it to render him a weakling? Or remember Rapunzel? Or ...

Yes, hair seems to hold a mysterious magic for cultures around the world. And in fact, one of the images of the green movement is a rude dude with a nasty ponytail that reeks of essential oils. For many years, I believed that to use green hair products meant to end up looking like that guy - stringy, dull-looking hair with an oil slick that would put Exxon to shame.

I tried green shampoos. I really did. But every time, it ended up being a waste of a plastic bottle. Here's what happened. Repeatedly.

Day 1: Oh, this new green shampoo might actually work. La, la, I'm happy.
Day 3: Hmm...
Day 5: It's noon. Why does my hair look as if I didn't take a shower? Argh! It's the curse of natural shampoo! I'm getting rid of that stuff!

Finally, I gave up. I just stopped trying. But when I made my "Year of Living Beautifully" resolution (to transition to beauty products that rate a 5 or lower on the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database, which rates beauty products on a ten-point scale from low to high hazard) I knew I would have to buckle down and give the greener shampoos another try.

In researching, I've found that many "green" shampoos that have been recommended to me aren't actually green at all. For example, they might rack up a "high hazard" rating, or may contain sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate, which is known to be a skin irritant, and may have other health implications. SLS, as it's known, is what makes shampoo lather, and most of us feel that without the lather, our shampoo isn't working. So ... most of the green shampoos don't seem to work.

Very unscientifically, I went to the natural foods store, looked at the shampoos, and picked one that added volume and was cheap: Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Pomegranate and Soy Shampoo. It's not the greenest shampoo ever produced, but it has a lower hazard (4) than many more expensive brands that are sold in the "natural" aisle (I won't name names, but you can go to Skin Deep yourself - I was pretty appalled to see the ratings on many popular brands) and is sulfate-free.

I actually started using it before the new year, and have now been using it for two months. Out of all the "natural" shampoos I've tried, it leaves my hair looking ... well, like I've actually washed my hair. My hair is exactly as manageable as I would like, and while, perhaps not quite as soft, I'm really happy with the overall result. My one tip, should you choose to try it out, is to make sure your hair is very wet the moment before you slap the shampoo on your head. This creates the lather that SLS would have created.

Now, if only a prince would climb up my hair ...

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