Highlights: Zizyphus Spina Christi, An Alternative to Shampoo and Conditioner

 

 

Traditional Shampoos and Alternatives

All hair must be washed from time to time. This depends on a person’s sebum production, their lifestyle, the climate of their surroundings, and ultimately, their preference. Neglecting to wash hair, or using ineffective methods of washing hair can cause a host of problems for the scalp and for hair growth. Learn more about hair care here.

 Sebum is the oil that is naturally produced by the skin. Sebaceous glands produce sebum to protect skin from drying out by providing a waterproof layer.  A build-up of sebum will cause hair to look greasy and weighed down, and will harden into a waxy state, collecting dirt and dead skin cells. This creates a great living environment and food source for bacteria, and tiny creepy crawlers. Waxy buildup of sebum blocks sebaceous glands, causing infection.

 

Sebaceous glands produce sebum which moisturize and protect the skin and hair, but too much will clog pores and create an environment for bacteria.

 

The skin produces a new layer of cells every day at the bottom of your stratum corneum, and exfoliates one layer every day. Sometimes the dead skin cells fall off and sometimes they stay in place and become nutrient rich biomes for fungi, such as the ones that cause dandruff and ringworm.  Unchecked, these can evolve into lesions. Washing the hair regularly serves to ensure that dead skin cells are properly removed.

Washing hair too frequently with a strong detergent may dry the scalp and hair, leaving it unprotected. Many people experience irritation or contact dermatitis from harsh ingredients in commercial shampoos, causing them to search for other alternatives. However, some alternatives are ineffective, and may even cause more harm than good.

 Most of us turn to a store-bought shampoo, whose active detergent is often Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or a slightly milder Sodium Laureth Sulfate (both referred to as SLS). SLS is an extremely effective detergent, and does what it is meant to do: strip away sebum, oils, and dirt. However, SLS can be too harsh for some, causing dryness, irritation, and in the case of those with sensitivities to SLS, contact dermatitis. Other ingredients such as synthetic fragrances, can also cause irritation and allergic or sub-allergic reactions.

 

Commercial shampoos and soaps often contain sulfates, which produce a lot of bubbles. Bubbles are not required for a good clean, despite what companies might have you believe.

 

There are those who look to prevent the irritation they experience from commercial shampoos, or to avoid ingredients that may be harmful to their bodies or the environment. They turn to alternative methods of washing their hair, wash less frequently, or use water only. These alternative methods are often referred to as “no-poo,” short for “no shampoo.” Baking soda and apple cider vinegar is a popular method, as is “co-washing”, a method of using a conditioner-like product that does not contain a detergent. There are also a myriad of concoctions that can be made at home with common food items. These recipes are attractive due to their ease of availability and the feeling that that edible ingredients are safer and more natural.

 Washing hair first with a baking soda solution, and then rinsing with apple cider vinegar has grown in popularity, and is perhaps the most common form of “no-poo.” While it has been hailed by some as something of a miracle treatment, there are many downsides. Baking soda is very alkaline, and vinegar is very acidic.  Alkaline substances are shown to increase friction and static, causing damage to the hair. Overly acidic substances can be harsh as well. The logic behind using one after another is that the pH will balance out in the end. It doesn’t necessarily work that way, and the intense swing from one side of the pH scale to the other can wreak havoc on your hair and scalp. The fact that baking soda is a common kitchen item and used in cooking does not automatically make it safe or effective in hair cleansing.

 

Friction and desiccation cause hair strands to shed their protective outer scales, exposing the central cortex, which can stretch, split, and break.

 

 Dry shampoos, bentonite clay, and other powder substances are used between shampoos by those who choose to wash their hair less frequently.  While it absorbs some oil, the product remains in the hair. Dry shampoos do not effectively remove sebum and cause more buildup in the long run. Overuse of dry shampoo may cause hair loss, as irritated hair follicles begin to shed their strands.

Commercial hair product companies, looking to maintain their customer base, come out with new products that appear to be more natural, or contain new (often exotic) plant extracts or ingredients. A product which contains ingredients from a natural source is not the same thing as a product that is completely natural. Additionally, “natural” does not necessarily mean safer, healthier, or more effective.  “Natural” has become more of a marketing method rather than an actual shift to safer and more effective ingredients. At the very best, these added ingredients may serve some beneficial purpose, but at the very least, they do nothing but make the product seem more appealing.

 

Zizyphus and its Benefits

With such a dizzying array of options and techniques available to clean the hair, and inconsistent information about the safety and effectiveness of each, it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed. Zizyphus powder is one option that is both natural and effective, thus making it a solid choice for those who wish to avoid sulfates and other harsh ingredients, as well as those who would like to shampoo less frequently. It functions as a two-in-one cleanser/conditioner.