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Shampoos and other soaps weren’t always made up of an unpronounceable list of chemical ingredients that offer no clarity as to what they actually do. Once upon a time, soap was made out of animal fats, straw, and wood ash and was thought to cure skin diseases. Well, we’ve advanced quite a bit since ancient Babylonia and have learned much about the way bacteria operates and the best ways to combat them. Plain old soap can be abrasive, especially for babies and children – so, baby shampoo was eventually created to be softer and gentler on the baby’s scalp.
The ingredient label on your baby shampoo may leave you puzzled, wondering how all that stuff is actually gentle when you don’t know what it is or why it is in there. Here is a comprehensive list of the types of ingredients that go into your child’s shampoo, and how they function.
As we all know, water is the key to all life currently living on Earth; it covers two-thirds of our planet and it even makes up 75 percent of the entire composition of the human body. It is essential in the creation of most everything, and we as humans need to consume it every single day to survive. Shampoo is no different – as much as 80 percent of shampoo by volume is simply water.
The actual processing power of shampoo comes from a chemical group called surfactants. Typically, you will find that synthetics like ammonium laureth sulphate or ammonium lauryl sulphate make up about 10-15 percent of shampoo and will easily bind to both water as well as any hydrophobic molecules. When you lather these two ingredients together, they will stick to the oil, grease and grime contained in your hair.
It is possible to make an extremely basic version of shampoo out of the two above ingredients – in essence, it is just soapy water.
No matter how effectively a shampoo cleans your hair, the modern consumer likely won’t purchase it if they can’t see it in action. So, shampoo makers have loaded their products with harmless chemicals called alkanolamides in order to build that bubbly lather you get when you wash your hair. It is purely a cosmetic feature of shampoo, but part of the entire experience of washing your hair nonetheless.
After the detergents remove all the dirt, grease and natural oils from your hair, the conditioning agent inside of shampoo will enact to moisturize the area, prevent frizziness and add a lustrous shine to your hair. Fatty alcohols, like cetyl or oleyl alcohol, are often used to protect against knotting as well as make your hair sleeker. They also conduct (very small amounts of) electricity which helps defend static caused frizz.
Citric acid is also a common ingredient that can be added to flatten follicles and boost the vibrancy of your hair’s shine.
Like most things in the world, the shelf life of shampoo is held together by some kind of preservative. It’s for the benefit of everyone, as preservatives help stave off fungal, yeast, or bacterial colonies from developing inside the bottle. Antibiotics like DMDM hydantoin and methylparaben are added to the mix in order to kill any unwanted bacteria lurking around.
Not all preservatives are bad, however. For example, Honest brand baby shampoo contains Caprylhydroxamic Acid (also listed sometimes as Caprylohydroxamic Acid or Octanohydroxamic Acid), a gentle preservative derived from coconut oil, which has been approved by Whole Foods Premium Body Care, a strict standards program developed by a team of scientists over a 3-year research period.
As far as shampoo goes, that’s about all the major ingredients that are contained inside. But when it comes to shampoo for your child’s head, do your due diligence; not all products are created equal. Don’t assume that all ingredients with an unfamiliar chemical name are harmful, but also don’t assume everything on the store shelf is ideal for your child. If you are unsure of an ingredient, just look it up!
Choose a shampoo that is designed for your child’s hair and scalp. You may need an extra sensitive formula, or a detangler for hair that knots easily. Whenever you try a new personal care product on your child, like shampoo, be aware of any skin changes that occur and stop using a new product immediately if you think your child has had a reaction.
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