Are Your Hair Products Lying To You?

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FW_SS14_BCBG_090513_019_AmeliaAlpaughPhotographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
While we understand marketing speak just as much as any savvy beauty shopper, there's a tiny part of us that wants to believe some of the claims made by many of our favorite hair-care products. Obviously we're skeptical of anything that claims to give us Gisele locks with just one wash, but certainly some things — like the superiority of sulfate-free shampoos or the safety of modern keratin treatments — are commonly held truths, right? Imagine our surprise when a recent report from the American Academy of Dermatology cited research from one of their doctors that effectively calls many of these messages out.

Yep, we were shocked, too, which is why we reached out to Nicole Rodgers, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor in the department of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine, the woman responsible for the new claims. "I started researching all these claims because I had patients who kept coming in, saying they had to avoid sulfates in shampoos because they're could wreck their color or their keratin treatment," says Dr. Rodgers. This led to quite a bit of research, and her findings are pretty groundbreaking.

Keep clicking to find out what she uncovered.
hair-truthsPhotographed by Anjali Pinto.
Sulfate-free shampoo claims are kind of bogus.
"There are really no studies out there that say sulfate-free shampoos help with the preservation of color or keratin treatments," she states. In other words, there is no real scientific evidence that says that a lack of sulfates makes a shampoo more gentle than those that contain them. Furthermore, the good doctor says sulfate-free shampoos have their own host of issues. "Shampoos that contain sodium laurel sulfate work in both hard and soft water; they have good lathering consistency and are considered 'free rinsing,' which means they're easy to get out of your hair. Sulfate-free shampoos aren't free rinsing, which means you may use more product or use more water to get them out of your hair, which can cause excessive dryness over time."

Does it make sense for anyone to use sulfate-free shampoos? "If you have contact dermatitis or an allergy to surfactants, by all means avoid those products," she advises. "But, until we have studies that clearly state there are advantages to the hair and scalp, I don't see that there's a lot of benefit to eliminating this particular ingredient.”

Keratin treatments aren't as healthy as you think.
Dr. Rodgers was particularly focused on the myths surrounding the newer, “healthier” keratin treatments. “Consumers are told that hydrolyzed keratin is being infused into the hair shaft and that it's safe and formaldehyde-free," she says. "The keratin moniker is just window dressing for the active ingredient, which is methalyne glycol. It's a sister molecule to formaldehyde, and when you apply heat, it turns into formaldehyde. Anyone who knows anything about chemistry knows that means these products aren’t actually formaldehyde-free because when you apply the high heat, it turns that particular molecule into the very thing they say they’re trying to avoid.”

She also warns that the super-high heat needed to infuse a keratin treatment into the hair isn’t helpful. “It’s incredibly damaging to the hair. People who are already prone to thinning hair are the last people who should be getting these treatments; their hair is already too fragile.”

There’s no such thing as a thickening shampoo.
We know, we were bummed to hear this one, too. “There's no way to change the actual density of hair,” she cautions. “Products that make those claims contain things like wheat and hydrolyzed proteins, which coat the hair and temporarily makes the consistency of your hair thicker. But, once you shampoo, that artificial coating is gone.”

She recommends if you have thinning hair, go for proven solutions. “We’ve seen plenty of benefits with topical minoxidil (you’ve seen it as Rogaine, and it's now being used in Pantene's new Hair Growth Treatment) and particularly with finasteride in men (which goes by the over-the-counter name, Proscar) to help hair grow in thicker. Low-level light therapy has also been successful.”

Bottom line: Be a savvy shopper and don't believe every last claim you hear.


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