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If Our Hair Is Our "Crowning Glory", Why Do We Punish It?

I would guess that since the dawn of time, women and probably some men too, have gone to great lengths to care for their hair (no pun intended).  Some of them wore wigs, presumably to protect their hair from intense sunlight, and others used a variety of methods to deal with everything from normal dirt, to graying and even hair loss.  Folks back then were pretty careful about their hair and only used natural ingredients because, well, that’s all they had.

Fast forward to the baby boomer era and the beauty salon is born!  Going to the beauty parlor to have your hair “done” was a priority to many women.  They would have their hair washed, rinsed, colored, dried (remember those HUGE dryers?), curled, teased and sprayed beyond recognition.  I see pictures from my mom’s high school yearbook and wonder how in the heck they carried that hair on top of their heads all day.  How did they sleep?

Several years later, during my younger years, girls were obsessed with the “sun kissed” look and hair that was shiny.  I washed my hair with everything from egg yolks, to mayonnaise, to beer.  If I was going to be outside, I plastered my hair with Sun In (please tell me they don’t still sell that stuff).  Some of my friends squeezed lemons onto their heads or even used straight up peroxide.  My mom probably would have killed me if I’d gone that far!

As a teenager in the 80’s, I washed and rinsed my hair every day (you’ll know why in a minute) only to subject it to the hair dryer, followed by the curling iron, followed by 10 minutes of spraying Aqua Net.  I pulled, I teased and I cajoled my hair into just the right spot before giving it what was basically the shellac treatment.  I swear that sometimes it was as hard as a football helmet, and probably looked like one too.  But to my 80’s peers, my hair looked g-o-o-o-o-d.

Although more and more people today are trying to get away from chemicals and treat their hair more kindly, we haven’t really come that far.  Not really.  I still see young (very young) girls getting their hair “highlighted” or “foiled”, and the straight haired girls want perms while the curly haired girls use a straightener.  It’s nothing short of hair torture.

Today, I wear my hair pretty short and I have decided it’s high time I be kind to it.  After all, keeping it is never a guarantee and I’d like it to last.  So while I still occasionally break out the blow dryer, I do not curl it, perm it, foil it, straighten it or subject it to any other kind of torture device.  I wash it probably 3 days a week and it’s healthier and shinier than ever.

So with all that experience under my belt (it’s honestly a wonder that I’m not bald), here are some of my recommendations for keeping your hair clean, manageable and healthy without the fuss.

1.  Unless you are working in the mud and the muck and it directly lands on your hair, you really do not need to shampoo on a daily basis.  We’ll talk about conventional shampoos in a minute.

2.  Turn down the heat!  Embrace your hair’s natural tendency.  I got so tired of fighting against my hair that I decided to keep it cut in a way that enhances what my hair does naturally.  Try to stay away from flat irons, curling irons, and all those other hair torture devices.  If all else fails, you could always buy a wig.

3.  Let your hair dry naturally.  And if you can’t do that, at least keep your dryer to its lowest or coolest setting and try to limit it as much as possible.

4.  Remember, foil is for the grill, not your head.  I know a lot of ladies out there like that “highlighted” look, but those chemicals are dangerously close to your scalp, which is filled with a whole bunch of tiny things called pores.  These pores let the chemicals into your scalp and, you guessed it, right to the brain!

5.  Protect your hair from harsh sunlight.  If you must be outside for any length of time, wear a sun brimming hat or a tie a pretty scarf around your head.  This will protect your hair and your scalp.

When it comes to shampoos, I look at them almost the same way I look at food.  If the container has a long list of ingredients that I can’t pronounce and they remind me of my high school chemistry class, I’m just not interested.  What are some of the terms and what do they mean?

* The big one is sulfates (as in ammonium lauryl, or ammonium laureth, or sodium lauryl).  These are basically the cleaning agents, or the detergents, that strip away the dirt and grime that you perceive to be in your hair.  They also strip away the essential oils that your body makes to protect your hair.

* Ever notice how the shampoo has a “pearly” look to it when it comes out of the bottle?  That’s because of a chemical known as glycol stearate.

* How is it that a shampoo can make your hair look shinier?  It probably contains a lot of sodium citrate.  This chemical will ensure that the hair cuticles stay flattened, giving the illusion of shiny.

Think about it.  Most of the chemicals in shampoo may make your hair look amazing or smell incredible for a day or so.  But those same chemicals strip away the natural moisture and ruin the hair shaft itself.  That means that hair will appear dirty, dull, and frizzy sooner, causing you to rewash it before it’s even necessary.  And these chemicals also interact with hair color chemicals, making a “touch up” necessary far sooner than you expected.  It’s really a vicious circle.

And because these chemicals are entering your body through your skin (the body’s largest organ), you are putting yourself at great risk.  Your liver can’t possibly metabolize these chemicals and they eventually find their way to your other organs.  Use of chemicals in shampoos, especially Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, has been linked to everything from infertility to different forms of cancer.  Is it really worth the risk?

Do your own research.  There are shampoos out there that are chemical free and do not engage in animal testing.  Invest in a good, soft bristled brush that will help to distribute your body’s natural oils, which will resist dirt and make your hair shiny, naturally.  If you protect your hair, it will serve you well and truly become your “crowning glory”.

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