If you ever used a conventional hair conditioner, you probably think you can't live without one: What else would make your hair shiny, detangled, soft and free of frizz? What if I told you that there was a BC (before conditioner) time and it was not that long ago? What if I told you conditioners are more of a "look healthy" products than a "be healthy" product? What if you knew not only the damage conditioner causes in your hair, but learned alternative ways to take care of your hair health?
1. The history of conditioners + What do they do
Hair conditioners were created in the 20th century. Before then, hair was mostly treated naturally, using natural oils to make sure hair had moisture and was easier to manage. But why do conditioners exist? What are they supposed to do?
Conditioners were created to do all things you are familiar with, and are made with different ingredients in order to achieve these results. Here are some of the ways conditioner works to achieve its goals, how they do it, and the implications these ingredients have.
Make hair soft + shiny - Conditioners have silicon added to its formulas, which coats your hair creating a "protective layer". The problem with silicon is that is attaches to hair, blocking nutrients and moisture from getting to it. With time (and layers of conditioner added weekly), this silicon creates build up, increasing breakage in the long term.
Make hair thicker - When we use shampoo, it strips hair's natural oils, leaving our hair unprotected. Conditioners attempt to replace hair natural oils that were removed by the use of synthetic shampoos, recreating a protective layer that our hair is perfectly able to create in the first place. By replacing shampoos and conditioners with a saponified cleaning bar and a natural conditioner method, we help our hair recover its natural protection and actually become thicker, rather than just looking like it is.
Detangle hair - Conditioners use synthetically synthesized substances to create hair detangling. Even the ones that are still known safe for our health (such as some fatty acids and BTMS), are still non biodegradable, meaning they will end up in our water and soil, deregulating the natural system.
2. The health and environmental impact of conditioners.
While we went over some of the health and environmental challenges of using hair conditioner, there are a few more points we should be aware of:
What about conditioner bars? Conditioner bars contain Behentrimonium Mothosulfate, which is responsible for the detangling feeling of conditioners. BTMS, although plant derived, is NOT biodegradable, being a soil and water pollutant.
Synthetic Fragrances: Most (if now all!) conditioners are scented with synthetic fragrances. Those pollute the waters and are also endocrine disruptors, affecting our developmental, reproductive, brain and immune health.
3. Natural Alternatives to Conditioners
4. Natural Haircare and demystifying "good hair".
Conditioners work to replace sebum when the hair was washed with a synthetic shampoo and was stripped of its natural oils. Instead of using conditioner to "fix" hair that was damaged by shampoo, we can replace shampoo altogether and use saponified shampoo bars, which gently clean hair, maintaining its protective layer. At Circular Bodies we have gentle hair cleaners , leave in and deep conditioning alternatives, and a protective serum for frizz, broke or to avoid heat damage.
The transition process to natural hair care might take a few weeks to a few months, as there is build up from silicon and the lack of a natural protection on your hair. When transitioning, your hair will most likely change appearance as well, and its curls, shine and even texture will change once you restore the balance of your hair essential oils.
Transitioning to natural hair care requires a shift in routine, but most of all, a shift in mindset: Understanding that your natural hair might not look "as pretty", but it will actually become healthier than it is. Understanding your hair health affects your body health and the health of the environment, and lastly, giving up some comforts of synthetic products (such as detangling) to find creative and innovative ways to take care of your hair health.
At Circular Bodies we don't use any synthetic or heavily processed ingredients in any of our products. We only use 100% biodegradable substances and renewable packaging that will not end up in landfill.
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