Less Toxic Shampoo

So I hear it a lot lately: “Who would want to read a BLOG? Who finds value in THAT?”

Well, and maybe I’ll prove that right today… because I am definitely delving into “who cares” level minutiae. I will probably be embarrassed by this in the near or distant future, and will probably scramble to delete whatever I can hope to remove of the remains of my unfortunate online identity.

OK – now that we got that out there – I ran out of shampoo this week.

Why is shampoo a big deal? Well, shampoo companies design product not to “clean” your hair – but to make it feel silky when you run your hands through it. Unfortunately, chemicals that make things feel silky can be scary (and that’s my thoroughly-trained scientific viewpoint. cough cough). Then they make claims that it is “all natural” because it has grapefruit extract in it as its 13th ingredient. 

So when the bottle of TreSemme I bought a year ago ran out this week, I know I have to seriously investigate my options. A bottle of shampoo is as big a commitment as a year-long lease. 

The Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” Cosmetic Safety Database tells me my shampoo of choice from 2007-2009 contains all kinds of things that are not so good for me – or the shower water I’m discharging into the sewage system – or the people who work for the shampoo factory that TreSemme pays to bottle this product. My TreSemme shampoo, on a scale of 0 (nontoxic) to 10 (super toxic), is a 6. I can do better than that. 

… but the shampoos in the database that are 0s and 1s are like.. glycerin. Bar soap. I grew up in the suburbs, so want at least some of that soft, socially acceptable feel that the scary chemicals make. Luckily, I found a slightly less toxic variety from Aveda: a shampoo rated 4, a conditioner rated 3. They still have scary chemicals, but nothing that has shown up with neurotoxicity in small doses in animal studies. And the shampoo is in the 74th percentile of nontoxicity. That’s good enough for me – for now.

Plus I want to buy from Aveda because they are a company that is, at very least, pledging to be more environmentally friendly. See this GreenBiz article on Aveda’s bottle cap recycling initiative (which is huge, because creating a market for recycled product is the best thing a manufacturer can do for recycling).

I want to support companies that do this not only because I care about the environment, but because being greener means to me that the company cares about its operations, its employees, and its community. I want to give my money to people who care.

And just to maintain the appearance of neutrality – the jury is still out about toxins in shampoo. This article from sciencebasedmedicine.org takes a (well-deserved) potshot at Gwyneth Paltrow for freaking out about the toxicity of shampoo. Science-Based Medicine is “composed of physicians who, alarmed at the manner in which unscientific and pseudoscientific health care ideas have increasingly infiltrated academic medicine and medicine at large, have decided to do their part to examine these claims in the light of science and skepticism.”

Aveda - Rosemary Mint Shampoo & Conditioner

UPDATE: Epic fail. I purchased a shampoo that rates a 6 – actually the same as the TreSemme I was using. Apparently, fragrances and parabens are to blame. Old Shampoo | New Shampoo | Old Conditioner | New Conditioner  At least I’m sitting at a net gain – the conditioner is 2 points less toxic. It smells better, too – darn you, toxic alluring fragrances.

My final word (because I’m blogging like Jerry Springer now): I want my shampoo to have fewer chemicals in it – for my health, the health of the workers making it, and for the health of the area around the factory and the sewage system it will eventually end up in. I want the shampoo bottling/manufacturing company to be environmentally aware in its operations and to be taking action to improve its energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction. I am not sure how much of a difference this choice will make, but if I am going to spend $30 on it and put it on my head and send it into the water treatment facility for a year, I want to make a semi-thoughtful choice.

Greening shampoo is something I’ve been thinking about since reading Razberiswrl‘s April post – she is a sassy, funny, creative mom/student from New Jersey who is going green… while taking her whole family with her, kicking and screaming! Check out her blog!

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