Going Gluten-FreeMarch 12, 2014

Clean Up Your Shampoo

Comments (2)

Posted by Living Without contributor Janice Cox

Many people wash their hair every day and don’t think much about it. But for those of us with sensitive skin and allergies, the label on a shampoo bottle gives the expression “bad hair day” a whole new meaning.

Commercial shampoos create a lot of lovely lather, something we’ve come to expect in our hair care products. Lather equals clean—or does it? The fact is that all those bubbles, along with the so-called beauty benefits (manageability, added body, fragrance, shine), come at a price.

Shampooing can expose you to troublesome detergents and irritating additives. The scalp is an extension of your face, part of your body’s dermal system. As you wash your hair, the warm water opens pores, making ingredients more easily absorbed into your body. You’ve probably found face creams and body lotions that are safe. Your hair care products should also be examined.

Check the labels. Try to avoid chemicals like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, cocamide DEA, ammonium xylene sulfonate and parabens. These ingredients have protein-denaturing properties that can cause skin inflammation. Some are potential hormone disrupters, linked to hormone imbalance and even cancer. To be safe, look for all-natural ingredients, such as olive oil, coconut oil, sucrose and menthol.

You may need to do a bit of research, as many companies list ingredients with chemical names. If you have a reaction when using a new product, hang on to the label and consult your physician.

If you’re gluten free, note that wheat is a key ingredient in many commercial hair products. Although research indicates the gluten molecule is too large to be absorbed through the skin, some people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy find they react to topical gluten (rash, itchiness, burning skin, etc.). It’s often better to steer clear of these products entirely.

Shampoos made with natural oils and ingredients cleanse the scalp and hair thoroughly but tend to foam less. Don't expect a headful of lather.

For a safe shampoo, try making your own at home. Use a mild soap that you already know works on your skin. Make your own conditioner by stirring together 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ cup water until thoroughly blended. (If you have oily hair, reduce the amount of oil or leave it out.) Work a small amount through wet, clean hair and rinse thoroughly.

Basic Shampoo


This shampoo for normal and dry hair keeps your tresses healthy and shiny and won’t strip away natural oils. For oily hair, omit the vegetable oil.

½ cup water
½ cup mild liquid soap*
½ teaspoon light oil (vegetable, canola, sunflower)

1. Gently stir ingredients together. Don’t beat as this will cause the mixture to foam. Pour shampoo into a clean plastic container.

2. Shampoo as you normally do. Rinse well with cool water.

*TIP Pure Castile-style vegetable soap works nicely and is usually well tolerated by sensitive skin. It’s available at health food stores and drug stores.

Janice Cox is author of EcoBeauty and other books on creating all-natural beauty products. 

Comments (2)

Hi, I recently published a handbook on Amazon, "Is Gluten Hiding in Your Shampoo? It Was Hiding in Mine! " It includes a list of over 220 gluten containing ingredients found in body & hair care products as well as over 2,500 body & hair care products.

Posted by: MZG | June 5, 2014 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I have been using all natural shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve Company. and so far so good. Any commercial product even those that are "gluten free" or "mostly natural" make me itch so bad :( It seems that ANY non natural fragrance or chemical sets my skin off.

Posted by: Unknown | March 26, 2014 11:58 AM    Report this comment

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