A shampoo is a cleaning aid for the hair and is counted among the foremost beauty products. Since time immemorial, hair has been the object of much fancy and fantasy. A woman’s hair is considered her greatest asset and adds a great deal to her beauty. This has prompted women down the ages to experiment with their hair and evolve methods of making it thicker, healthier, glossier and longer. What constitutes beautiful hair is a much debated topic and the opinions are hugely motivated by personal preferences and existing trends. Given the fact that the above mentioned factors are subjected to frequent changes, so does the concept of beautiful hair. However, what constitutes 'health hair' is a more consensual concept and generally means hair that is free of dandruff, dirt, grease and lice, where the strands are glossy and the hair feels like silk when touched.
Over days, environmental pollutants as dust, dirt and skin residue creates a build up on the scalp. A shampoo is the most common way to wash it off. Today, a consumer is bombarded with images of a woman in her bath, covered with a lot of lather on her head and enjoying the experience of shampooing. Advertisers have created this enduring image that a good shampoo means one which produces a lot of lather. This in reality is far from the truth. A lathering ability has little value to the cleaning ability of the brand. Also it is not a pointer towards the harm a particular shampoo could do to the hair, scalp and in some cases to the eyesight or even to the brain. Hence it is very important to know and understand the ingredients found in the apparently innocuous looking bottle of shampoo.
 History of the Shampoo
‘Shampoo’, the term was a derivative of the Hindi word ‘Champo’, which means to massage or knead. ‘Champi’ is the oil massaging procedure people resort to prior to a shampoo. All the words are derivatives of the Sanskrit word ‘Champa’, denoting the flowers of a plant that were used to make fragrant hair oil. Hence the Hindi word ‘Champo’ came into being, finally making way for the much Anglicised word Shampoo.
In the olden times, shampoo was made by boiling soap shavings in water and adding certain fragrances to it so that hair got shine and smelt very good too. Kasey Hebert was attributed to the making of this kind of shampoo.
A Bengali entrepreneur, Sake Dean Mahomed had opened a service in Brighton that offered shampoo as a therapeutic process. It was hugely successful and he was appointed as ‘shampooing surgeon’ to both George IV and William IV.
The original maker of the first retail shampoo is attributed to John Breck in the 1930s. He developed a shampoo line for dry and oily hair. So far hair typing was a not a concept that had well caught on and a shampoo in accordance to one’s hair type was a novel idea. Advertisements of the ‘Breck Girl’ became very popular and many hollywood starlets featured in the advertisements. This was a line that caught on in India with the Halo shampoo and the ‘Halo Girl’ could could count on the Breck girl as her inpiration.
Soap and shampoo for a long time were similar in their make up and used surfactants, a type of detergent as their active ingredient. Drene was the world’s first synthetic or non soap shampoo manufactured first in the 1930s.
 Shampoo-the Indian Way
In India, ayurvedic formulations or herbal based formulations were mostly used. Most of it was hand processed and so were natural, had no side effects and since most of it was made out of locally available produce, it was cost effective as well. Most Indians used a paste of chick pea to cleanse out the oil, sebum build up in their hair. Additionally they also used the powder of neem, reetha, shikakai, hibiscus, amla, henna, brahmi and fenugreek to give the hair body, bounce, vitality and sometimes even colour. Eggs, almonds, curd, buttermilk and honey were also used to nourish and streghthen hair.
A home made recipe for a shampoo, based on kitchen products includes a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar in a certain proportion. This shampoo does not require a conditioner and leaves hair clean. However too much of the baking powder can render hair dry.
 Raw Materials used
Shampoo is now an outcome of a lot of research that goes on in highly specialized laboratories. Almost all leading companies have a sizeable amount of fund allocations for creating a product that will boost sales. Market surveys are undertaken to gauge the consumer wants. Scientists decide on the chemical composition of the product right down to its aesthetical aspects. The product is then made and tested in guidance with the government set norms. The important ingredients in a shampoo are water, detergents, foam boosters, thickeners, conditioning agents, preservatives, fragrances and special additives.
Water constitutes almost 70-80 percent of the shampoo. De-ionized water is used in shampoos.
Detergents, also called surfactants, help clean hair. It draws out oil and dirt from the hair surface and are thus is a surface active ingredient, meaning to say that it is able to interact with the surface. It is composed of two kinds of ions one composed of oil which aligns with the oil particles of the hair. Another is the water ion which aligns with the water layer. A chain of molecular structure is called ‘Micelle’ which has oil surrounded by water. The oil and grime is drawn out and washed away with water. Hair comes out clean.
Surfactants are derived from fatty acids occurring in plants and animal sources, most common sources being coconut oil, palm oil and soybean.
Some common primary detergents used in shampoos are ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium lauryl ether sulfate. These detergents vary in their effect on the scalp.
 Foam boosters
Foam boosters are also derived from fatty acids and have both oil soluble and water soluble molecules. They are added to increase the foaming capacity of the shampoo.
This is added to increase the viscosity of the product so it can easily be applied and spread over the hair. Foaming agents double up as thickeners too although in some cases plant derivatives are also used. For example, methylcellulose, derived from plant cellulose is used. The common salt is also used in certain products.
 Conditioning agents
These are specially added to counter the harsh effects of the surfactants on the hair. Polymers, silicon are generally used which coat the hair and make it silky, shiny and tangle free. The two in one shampoos have a built in conditioner. So they condition while they clean and therefore are a much preferred option.
Bacterial growth, whether it is through the water used or through derivations from plants or animals, is minimized with the addition of preservatives. Examples of preservatives are DMDM hydantoin and methylparaben.
Sometimes other ingredients are added to create specialized products that make the product unique. For example, to make a shampoo pearlier in look, a substance called opacifiers are added. There are chemicals added to reduce the hardness in water since hard water makes hair dull. The PH balance in a shampoo is also taken care of by adding ingredients such as citric acid or sodium hydroxide.
 Special additives
The colour and fragrance of a shampoo determines the aesthetic appeal of the product. Hence, in keeping with company requirements of boosting sales, most products add fragrant oils, natural dyes, vitamins, mil and egg proteins, plant extracts and the likes so that the shampoo assumes a hard to resist factor. The advertisement is built around these special additives and makes it a product that the consumer simply must have if she or he wants a mass of good hair.
Dandruff is an issue that plagues a lot of people especially in winter and ZPTO is an abbreviation that is often heard in certain shampoo advertisements that attempt to deal with the problem. ZPTO is Zinc pyrithione that is used to rid hair of dandruff. Nowadays coloured hair is a trend that has caught on as also sporting straight hair or premed hair. Such styles require intensive care and certain shampoos attempt to address these requirements. Hence there are special additives that are meant for colored hair so that the colour stays and the hair get nourished too.
 Herbal Shampoos
Most people today are shying away from chemical based products because of their ill effects on the hair texture, thickness and growth. Herbal based products have really caught on. These are made out of pure ingredients, mainly plant extracts and herbs or flowers in a powdered form. They are thus free from side effects. Also they are not tested on animals.
It includes extract of neem, aloe-vera , hibiscus, bringaraj, tea tree, reetha, shikakai , amla, henna and the likes. Hair masks are made out of eggs, honey, milk cream, herbs etc, and are extremely gentle and effective on the hair.
Inaddition to a hair shampoo, there are shampoos for pets that cleanse, soften and act as an antibacterial agent for pets. Special formulations have come out for babies. these are non-irritating to the eyes and especially formulated for soft hair.Of late, certain investigations, done on mice have shown that shampoo affects brain development.[www.ivanhoe.com]
 Application of a shampoo
A shampoo is meant to be poured onto the palm and then applied to teh hair with one's finger tips. A little bit of shampoo should ideally be used each time because too much of a shampoo can make hair dry and brittle. It should also be gently massaged in and not ' wrestled into the hair' as many as prone to do. This leaves hair tangled and broken, a result that is not warranted. Care must be taken to wash it off with lots of water as any build up could have more damaging results. A conditioner may be applied thereafter if the product does not have an in built one. A cool rinse is ideal for washing off the shampoo as it closes the pores and strengthens hair roots.
 Shampoo- The Health Hazards
Most of the ingredients that go into making a shampoo are often found to be more toxic, sometimes even fatal in their effects after usage. In fact the greatest health risks are face by children whose immune systems are not as developed to counter the effects of these harmful products. Doctors and researchers in USA, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom and German are of the opinion that the main ingredients that make up hair and skin cleansing products may cause cataracts, eye damage or even blindness in little children. Often brands that say they are natural or herbal based or organic are not wholly telling the absolute story and there are always compounds that are known irritants and are generally abusive to the skin.
Of all ingredients the most harmful to children is perhaps the presence of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS in a product. This is also the main ingredient in all baby shampoos and a random reading of the labels of any shampoo authenticates the use of SLS. It is a detergent derived from ‘coconut oil’ and therefore also listed as 'natural' or ‘organic’.
SLS is easily absorbed by the skin. A single drop stays in the brain or skin for at least 5 days. Hence if a parent uses a shampoo for her child very frequently, it most definitely leads to a higher absorbtion of SLS. The damaging effects of SLS are : it damages the protein in the eyes of children. this in extreme cases may also lead to blindness.
According to the Medical College of Georgia "There is an immediate concern relating to the penetration of these chemicals into the eye and other tissues. This is especially important in infants … Exposure to SLS results in accumulating eye tissues, a process that could retard healing as well as potentially having a long-term effects."
The Journal of American College of Toxicology (Volume 2, No. 7, 1983) lists the negative effects of SLS as leading to corrosion of hair follicles, impairing the ability to grow and repair hair. It finds its way to most of the major organs as brain, liver, lungs and skin through the blood stream and may cause innumerable irregularities. In a nutshell it has the potential to impair and even damage the immune system which can lead to various other diseases that may not always derive its source from the use of SLS.
Another ingredient called coal tar dye, especially D&C Blue, Green # 3, Yellow#5 and 6, Red # 33 is also used in shampoos, especially anti dandruff shampoos. Also the ZPTO which is the presence of zinc pyrithione can cause severe allergic reations, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness and lack of concentration. This in an extreme form may cause cancer, renal failure and sometimes liver infections. What is of alarm is the fact that the FDA cannot even ban the product as it happens to enjoy a privileged status whereby shampoo manufacturers are allowed to include it in their products.
Shampoos also contain DEA (Diethanolamine), TEA (Tea, triethanolamine), MEA Cocamide DEA; Laurimide DEA; Linoleamide DEA, Oleamide DEA) which are used as an emulsifying agent, as a wetting agent and as a solvent. Once again these ingredients too hav been found to have damaging side effects such as cancer. In fact when this DEA or TEA or MEA react with nitrates (present as a preservative), it can give rise to another compound called NDEA. The presence of this chemical is very rampant in most adult shampoos, and so are the ill effects. In fact in 1996, the Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrance Association stated that "These chemicals...should not be used as ingredients in cosmetic products."
Formaldehyde is also a common ingredient in a shampoo and shockingly enough in a baby shampoo. It is a neurotoxin and a known cause for cancer. Yet it continues to be used as a preservative. Often in babies the products are also ingested and absorbed by the skin and ,may lead to spasms, edema or fluid build up, chemical pneumonitis and injurious to the tissue of the mucous membrane.
Propylene Glycol is a humectant that is it prevents the product from drying out. This is most often than not used in shampoos. It is known to cause dermatitis, kidney and liver impairment, damage the skin causing rashes, dry skin and various allergic outbreaks. What is most alarming is that propylene glycol that is used in a shampoo is also found in solutions that are used to wash toilets, cars and other such things that require a very active cleansing agent. The only difference is that when it is used in products made for personal care, such as a shampoo, the bacteria is cleared. Otherwise the chemical composition and structure remains the same. With a small molecular weight, it can easily cross over though the skin and into the bloodstream which deposits it in different organs.
It is the humble common salt, what is chemically known as Sodium chloride that is used in most shampoos, even baby shampoos as a thickening agent. it has the known side effects of skin irritation, eye irritation, drying and even hair loss. It may be listed on products as ‘ from seaweed’.
Baby shampoos also contain a higher level of ethylene oxide to reduce irritancy. It is an extremely harmful compound and is a known endocrine disruptor.
 Herbal Products- Not so Safe
So what is the way out of this chemical death trap? Most of us often do not know about these side effects. Others, in spite of knowing the harm it can cause, feel compelled to use these products due to reasons ranging from unavailability of other tested and safe products that are chemical free and a submission to the constant pressure by marketing personnel to use their products.
How many of us have been able to turn our backs on a product that promises great looking, healthy hair with an added bonus of a free gift? These are some of the reasons why product manufacturers continue to get away with their chemically laden products.
Natural products are not always safe. For example a product that is herbal based should ideally be 100 per cent soap free and certainly chemical free. It should rely on ayurvedic ingredients for its formula. However most of the products are not so and eventually do add, if nothing else, foam boosters, preservatives and fragrances. Hence once again they tend to harm the body. Consumers need to be aware of the chemicals that are potentially harmful, read the labels carefully on the product before buying it and not get swayed by the various promises that products tend to make in its ads. Does a baby shampoo in its advertisement ever say how harmful the product is for the baby in actuality? In our quest for a healthier life, we owe it to ourselves to stop for a minute and read the labels on products especially those that are made for children.
 The All Natural Alternatives
Shampoos are cleansers that are meant to clean the grime out of the hair and scalp. However most commercial products are not reliable, even harmful. So what are the natural alternatives ?
One can use a paste of Fuller’s Earth, also called Multani Mitti in India to clean hair. Soak some of the mitti in water. The water is soaked by the earth so as to resemble a playdough. This can be mashed further so that it becomes a smooth paste and then massaged into the scalp. This can be rinsed away and then repeated again.
A paste of baking soda with apple cider vinegar can also be used to wash hair . however too much of baking soda may dry out the hair. So care must be taken to use it in the prescribed proportion.
These days there is a way of thinking that is being propagated mainly in the West where people are advised not to wash their hair with hair care products as hair has properties where it cleans itself out on its own. However the opinion of this natural way of cleansing hair is divided.
Another Indian way of cleaning hair is to use a thick paste of chick pea or besan. Also reetha, amla, shikakai, neem bark along with some honey( to trap the moisture) are used in place of a shampoo. The reetha and shikakai are soaked in water overnight, preferably in an iron bowl or ‘kadhai’.
 Mitigating the Ill-Effects of a Shampoo
The ingredients and the processes listed above are all easy to find and easy in applications. Yet most of the consumers do shy away from using these. This is not due to a lack of apathy or disregard for the chemical free products, but more due to lack of time. Most of us rely of a bevy of pots and jars and bottles to enhance our beauty. This cuts short the time taken for a hair wash. Convenience is the operational word.Soaking reetha for washing hair and using shampoo out of a bottle for the same purpose, the later is always easier. Hence many people tend to go in its favour.
Therefore it is important to know how best to mitigate its effects. For one, do not more shampoo than is necessary. A small dollop is enough. In fact diluting it in some water reduces the products absorption into the blood stream to a considerable extent.
Even shampoos that say that they are mild enough for every day use do contain the harmful chemicals. Baby shampoos are as unreliable. Hence it is advised that people try and alternate their shampoo with a natural ingredient every now and then. This not only makes the hair healthier, plus it reduces product build up that is left behind as residue.
Finally if one truly must use these shampoos, then it is wise to follow it up with a natural conditioner as an egg mask or coconut oil with lemon skins infused in them and sun dried so that the harm caused by the chemicals in the shampoos are mitigated.
 Shampoo-its Effectiveness
The objective of a shampoo is to clean the hair without stripping the scalp of its natural oils, hence it is very important to choose the right kind of shampoo for the hair. Hair is different for different people and ranges from oily to dry. Those with dry hair need more conditioning while those with oily hair need to wash their hair more frequently and hence need a milder, daily wash formula.
Healthy hair begins not just with a good shampoo. It needs to be backed by a healthy, protein rich diet. No amount of shampooing can help if the individual is physically unhealthy. Also the effects of smoking, rugs, stress, unhealthy life styles, all factor hair loss and dullness in the hair. Therefore it is very important to be conscious not only about hair styles, hair colouring trends and the products that come into the market, but it is also recommended that an individual looks after his physical and mental state and have an overall sense of health and happiness.
Author: Saonli Hazra