Why I Went Sulfate and Silicone-Free (+ 5 Foods For Healthy Hair)

I’m not a hair person. In fact, if I never had to do my hair again i’d be ecstatic. That being said...I still want it to look good. Oh, the irony!

I switched over to natural skincare many years ago. With sensitive skin, chemical ingredients were a definite no-go. Hair products, on the other hand, were something I resisted. I was convinced I needed conventional sulfate-and-silicone formulas to keep my hair in line. They never did, though - my fine hair was always too dry, too frizzy and too unmanageable, with a heavy feeling I couldn’t get rid of.

I decided to experiment, and really commit this time. I’d read many articles on the benefits of removing sulfates (sodium laureth sulfate in particular) and silicone to bring the hair back to life, and decided to go for it. Sulfate-free shampoos don’t strip the hair so it retains its natural oils, and silicone-free products don’t coat the hair with, what is, essentially plastic for faux shine. It wasn’t always easy, but I feel it was well worth it.

The first thing I nixed from my routine was sodium laureth sulfate. This detergent-like ingredient was WAY to harsh on my fine hair, and I saw quick improvement in its texture by switching to a gentler sulfate-free version. The surfactant coco-glucoside is a popular alternative, derived from coconut oil.

Removing the silicone was a more extensive process. The hair and scalp go through a “detox” when you switch to natural products, where layers of this synthetic compound start sloughing off. Imagine a shiny layer of saran wrap coating each strand of your hair. That’s what silicone does. It looks great at first, but eventually starts to build up and make the hair dull, tangled and weighed down (that heavy feeling I mentioned earlier). Removing the silicone reveals the beauty of the natural hair underneath.

The length of the detox depends on the person & hair type, but typically lasts anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. The hair can become knottier and drier than normal as the ‘cones come out, and some report an oilier scalp as it adjusts to a new (healthier) pH. I got a trim to help the process along, and used a natural clarifying shampoo to speed things up a bit. Hair masks made specifically to aid this transition are also available. My detox wasn’t too bad (some knotting and dryness), and within a month I could tell my hair was different.

Natural shampoos and conditioners hydrate with lightweight oils, extracts, and other nourishing ingredients, like aloe vera. My hair is shinier now than it ever was before, not to mention tangle-free and my natural wave is showing through. I’ve even received compliments from coworkers.

Making the natural haircare switch is a commitment, no doubt about it. I'd personally never go back, however, because my new routine works so well for me and my lifestyle. If you want to give it a go, there’s a ton of great online resources to support your journey.

One more thing - I believe hair is so much more than what we put on it. If we aren’t nourishing our bodies from the inside, we won’t have the thick, luscious hair we want on the outside.

Here are 5 foods for healthy hair, suggested by the respected medical doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, Swiss chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens are good sources of vitamins A and C, which the body needs to produce the oily substance sebum, a natural conditioner for your hair.

Omega-3 fatty acids, of which wild-caught salmon is an excellent source, are important to a healthy scalp. Salmon (choose wild Alaskan salmon) is also a good source of protein. If you don't like the taste of fish, try a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Beans and Legumes
They’re a good source of protein which helps promote hair growth, as well as iron, biotin and zinc. (Biotin deficiencies can occasionally result in brittle hair.)

Specific varieties of nuts contain vitamins and minerals that can help promote the health of your scalp. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium (limit yourself to no more than two Brazil nuts per day). Walnuts provide the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, which may help condition your hair, as well as zinc, which can minimize hair shredding. Cashews, almonds and pecans are other hair-healthy choices. Aim for raw varieties as often as you can, or lightly toast yourself if an added crunch is needed.

A good source of protein, which helps prevent dry, weak and brittle hair. Choose organic, omega-3 fortified eggs from cage-free hens.

Dr Weil's article "5 Foods for Healthy Hair!" can be found here.

Here’s to healthy, shiny hair (the real way).

Lauren Mathes, Live Superfoods

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