I have been in the hair care business for over thirty-seven years and have seen everything that could possibly go wrong with a head of hair. Without question, the most damaging commercial hair styling preparations on the market today are gels, mousses and sprays. They are now all over, even in your local health food stores.
It is almost guaranteed that with continued use, these products will result in hair loss. I am astounded when I see people who are only in their late teens and early twenties who are trying to emulate “the look.” By that I mean, styling their hair with gels and mousses in the latest fashion as worn by music and movie stars. Or being seduced by the newest advertising ploy created by Madison Avenue in order to sell dangerous products. “The look” will eventually cost its wearer their hair.
The chemicals in these products are entirely too powerful to be beneficial for healthy hair. In order to create the severe look, they are loaded with polymers, benzaldehyde and a-terpineol, to name only a few toxic compounds. Polymer is another name for “plastic.” Putting it on the hair, in the form of hair spray, for example, is no better than applying a coat of paint. Benzaldehyde is a narcotic and used as a local anesthetic. It is an irritant to the ear, nose, throat and skin and may cause kidney damage.
A-terpineol is highly irritating to the mucous membranes. Inhaled into the lungs and it can cause pneumonia or even fatal edema. When these compounds-and the scores more like them that are found in gels, mousses and sprays-are applied to the hair, they do more than begin damaging the individual hair follicles.
Our skin is not a uniform barrier. Hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands are minute holes in the derma layer. Investigations by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee found that structural factors of the skin influence what chemicals may be absorbed into our bodies. The scalp has anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 hair follicles and is an excellent medium for chemical absorption. These toxic compounds that enter the body through the scalp and skin and can accumulate over time is tissue and organs, such as the brain, causing chronically damaging effects.
The “mousse abuse” that is the current vogue is no better than putting paint on one’s hair. Hair spray is comprised of shellac, which is the primary ingredient in compounds for finishing furniture. I have worked as a renowned cut and color man on literally tens of thousands of clients and I am in shock when I see the damage mousses and gels are doing to beautiful, healthy hair.
Granted, I have the advantage of a trained eye, but the number of very young and old film, television and recording stars who are destroying their hair with these powerful chemicals is overwhelming. Simple look at any model, film star or magazine ad and you will clearly see Hair Loss at an all time high. Advertisements on television and in popular magazines feature models right up to the biggest stars that are showing the public a look that is deadly to the hair. Not only are gels, mousses and sprays destroying the hair shaft and risking scalp and skin damage, but the long-term effects of these chemicals have been associated with organ damage and cancer due to absorption by the skin.
The shocking truth about these products is that even hair preparation labeled as “natural” contain multitudes of harmful chemicals. There are no labeling laws governing the disclosure of chemicals in cosmetics. And what ingredients that manufacturers do list are often disguised by names that the typical consumer would be hard pressed to identify.
Go into any health food store and check out the ingredients on the products sold there. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient it is guaranteed to be a chemical. At right is a partial list of toxic ingredients found on products randomly selected that are sold in one major health store.
Among the ingredients in a bottle of mousse:
- polymer and copolymer = a plastic – liquid plastic in a bottle. And we wear this all day on our hair which goes into our scalp through the pores right into our blood stream and through out our entire body.
- mica – ground crystallized minerals that are widely used as a lubricant. If inhaled, may be damaging and cause irritation to the lungs.
- dimethyl ether glycerin – a Chemical used in refrigeration.
- PEG 32, PEG 40 polyethylene glycol/polyethylene – these chemicals may cause skin irritations such as hives and eczema.
- acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer = strong irritants.
- aminomethyly propanol = an alcohol made from various nitrogen compounds. Due to its high alkalinity, prolonged exposure may cause skin irritations.
- benzophenone 4 – This ingredient is used to make the fragrance in the product last longer and keep it from breaking down when exposed to light. It may produce hives and other sensitivity problems.
- ammonium hydroxide – essentially, ammonia water. It is irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes and can cause hair to break.
- polyquaternium-11 – a quaternary ammonium compound used as a preservative, surfactant or sanitizer. These compounds are toxic and even low concentrations can be irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes.
Among the ingredients in styling gel:
- polymer & copolymer – a plastic. Liquid plastic in a tube.
- PEG 40 – a skin irritant, as found in mousse.
- methyl paraben – a preservative with extensive antimicrobial properties. It has been associated with allergic reactions.
- butyl paraben – an antifungal agent.
- phenoxyethanol – used as a fixative for perfumes, bactericide, and insect repellents. In its undiluted state it is a highly strong eye irritant.
- tetrasodium EDTA – a powdered sodium salt that is reactive with metal. If ingested, it may deplete the body of calcium.
In an aerosol finishing hair spray:
- alcohol – with repeated usage it can dry the skin and hair and is toxic in large doses.
- denaturant – an additive to alcohol to make them poisonous and unfit to drink.
- hydrochlorofluorocarbon 152a – a propellant and refrigerant.
- dimethyl ether – a chemical used in refrigeration.
- acrylates – thickening agents, which are strong irritants.
- aminomethyl propanol – an alcohol compound that is used as an emulsifying agent. prolonged skin exposure may cause irritation.
- butyl aminoethyl methyl acrylate – chemically related to acrylates, which are irritants.
And ingredients likely to be found in non-aerosol sprays:
The consumer will find more alcohol, more denaturantsl and the warning:
- CAUTION HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. AVOID CONTACT WITH EYES. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
- PVP/VA A plastic film
- PVP is an abbreviation for polyvinylpyrrolidone, which is a plastic resin. If ingested, it may cause gas and fecal impacting as well as cause damage to the lungs and kidneys. It has been detected as lasting in the system up to a year. Some evidence indicates it may produce foreign bodies in the lungs and modest does given to laboratory rats has caused them to develop tumors.
Ingredients found in shine spray:
- more alcohol, more denaturants as well as the following:
- butane – a highly flammable gas derived from petroleum. In addition to its fire hazard, it may be narcotic in high doses and cause asphyxiation.
- isobutane – a constituent of natural gas and used as a propellant and a refrigerant.
- propane – a fuel gas which may be narcotic in high doses.
- phenyl trimethicone – a silicone oil.
- octyl methoxycinnamate – used an agent to absorb ultraviolet light. Its related compound, methyl cinnamate, may cause skin irritation.
- isopropyl myristate – one of the most potentially dangerous ingredients. It causes skin problems, such as blackheads. But it may be seriously damaging when it reacts to nitrate compounds, which are impurities that are often found in many hair preparations and cosmetics. When isopropyl myristate interacts with nitrates, the nitrate absorption factor in the skin in increased by up to 230 times. Nitrates have been linked to cancer.