Think of all those commercials with the woman luxuriantly washing her hair, water cascading prettily as the rich thick lather slides sensuously down her skin.
What they don't show is her itchy rash that happens afterward. Eww.
Obviously, that doesn't always happen. It's never happened to me.
But have you noticed that once you hear about something, an invisible door seems to open and you just keep hearing about it?
I read Hair Care - How It Effects Our Skin in Dr. Frank Lipman's newsletter – he's a favorite of Donna Karan's and Gwyneth Paltrow's and an ardent advocate of hybrid therapies (traditional + alternative remedies) in his NYC practice.
Hair care products, the article cautions, touch our skin all over the place and if you have sensitivities or allergies, certain chemical ingredients can be toxic on you and cause any number of unpleasant reactions.
The next day I was in the soothing environs of the Angelo David salon, getting a long overdue haircut, when the hairdresser asked me if I had any shampoo allergies. I have never been asked this in a salon before.
No. But why do you ask?
Apparently, this has become more and more frequent, Ivan Torres, my conscientious hairstylist, explained. And if I did? He said they would use a sulfate–free shampoo.
I remember L'Oreal EverPure being recommended to me when I had a little rash on my cheek (the result of an experiment with vegetables as makeup), but I hadn't really made the connection. And a lot of the hair care I included in the Best Shampoos … article is sulfate and chem-free.
Ivan added that dandruff and other conditions like dry scalp can make someone especially sensitive to chemicals in hair care.
A few hours later I ran into a colleague who had a terrible rash on her face, an extremely adverse reaction to a Retin-A product – and yes, she would have to be careful about not only washing her hair but styling products too, because anything on her skin could exacerbate the situation.
The Lipman article has several recommendations I agree with:
- Use a waterproof visor protector like the kind used on babies to keep shampoo out of their eyes.
- Have your hair washed at a salon.
This is good if you wash infrequently but actually neighborhood salons can be very reasonable to duck in, if it's just a shampoo you're after.
- … Try a hard bar shampoo they usually have fewer chemicals.
This is a great idea and I wish I had included Lush bar shampoos in the Best of… gallery – they use all natural products, are easy to use, and they travel well. I've given them as gifts on several occasions and they quickly become a staple the beauty stable.
Obviously if you have an extreme reaction to any product, you should consult a dermatologist. Keep in mind, too, that sensitivities and allergies can change or develop at midlife, especially around menopause, so a product you have always used may suddenly cause problems for you. Once you're aware of your sensitivities, start compiling a practical protocol for yourself.
More hair care concerns:
- Best Shampoos for Your Hair's Special Needs
- Hair Tools: Holster Your Hot Irons
- Scalp Care: Ban Bald Spots and Pink Scalp for the Holidays
- Natural, Organic: Our Green Beauty Round-Up