shampoo and hair healthHas your hair lost its shine, become unmanageable or developed split ends? Damage from UV exposure could be well be the culprit – but what can you do about it? The shelves are full of products promising healthy, lustrous locks, but are they tackling the right cause – and are they effective? The good news from a Proctor and Gamble research team is that using chelants in shampoos and hair conditioners can improve hair health, especially when exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a factor. How? It’s all about copper…

Why is copper relevant to hair health?

The relationship between our hair and copper in the environment is not something most people think about, but as it is present in the water we wash our hair in – collected as it passes through the average bathroom piping system – its effect on hair is certainly worth considering. Over time, metallic substances break down the strength and shine of hair follicles and, on top of that, copper is catalytically active. This means that the copper ions in tap water catalyse reactions in the hair such as that between free radicals (created by hair colourants) and hair proteins, and accelerates the damage to proteins caused by UV exposure.

How do chelants in shampoos help?

Chelating agents are used to chemically bind with minerals and metals and, in doing so, they are prevented from depositing on your hair, improving its rinseability. The researchers found that using chelants such as EDDS and histidine can reduce the copper levels in the hair, the result being less damage and healthier hair.

What about ‘clarifying’ and ‘neutralising’ shampoos?

‘Clarifying’ and ‘deep cleansing’ are synonymous, and both a way of tackling the build up of grease, products, sebum, dirt and silicones from the surface of the hair. The purpose of a clarifying shampoo is to give your hair a good cleanse with a higher level of detergent but without throwing in conditioners that get in the way of the cleansing action. Check the label and avoid products with ingredients such as Polyquaternium-7, Dimethicone or Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. Other terms use for deep cleansing shampoos include ‘thickening’, ‘volumising’, ‘balancing’ and ‘oil control’. Less commonly used are neutralising products, low pH shampoos that are required to neutralise high alkalinity after using hair relaxers, thereby minimising damage to the scalp.



By Ian Watson


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