Are you a slave to the soap?
Are you a slave to the soap?
— Nat dives into why some people rely on products more than others and shares tips on how to break the viscous cycle.
✎ Natalie Earles
Naturopath BHsc. /
If you’re tired and frustrated having to get up early every day to go through your morning ritual of washing and drying your hair while your partner can jump up out of bed, have a quick shower, and be on the road, you may want to think about adopting a routine that relies less on products and more on our bodies natural cleaning and protective functions.
The more we use certain products, like shampoo, that strip away our body’s natural oils, the more our body reacts and produces more oil, creating a vicious cycle where you become reliant on the products that may be causing the problem.
Our bodies are smart. They are constantly working to keep everything in balance for us. When that balance is disrupted, it jumps into action and quickly tries to restore balance. Shampoos, soaps and other body care products are designed to clean, and while they strip away the dirt, they often take the beneficial natural oils we produce and wash it down the drain as well. Our body’s reaction is then to overproduce oil to get back into balance, often leaving you with oilier hair or skin than when you first started.
How do we get oily hair?
The sebaceous glands on our scalp and skin produce a natural oil called sebum. Part of sebum’s job is to protect our skin and scalp from the external environment, in the case of your hair it also helps to condition it, keeping it soft and protecting it from damage. This all sounds great doesn’t it? We have our own in-built conditioner! But as we wash our hair with shampoo, it binds to sebum and strips it from our hair leaving it feeling dry. Then, we often follow up with a product conditioner to soothe and smooth the dry hair follicles. The issue here is our body knows we need this sebum as protection, so again, it produces more.
If you’re a slave to shampoo and wash frequently - daily or every second day - your body is always in a defence reaction, placed into over-drive producing sebum to meet the demand that’s lost as you strip it away. This is one of the simplest reasons why you may get stuck in a regime of washing your hair daily while your partner may get away with only washing their hair once a week or even less.
So, how do we break the cycle?
It takes time and it’s often not a pretty process. You may have to put up with oily hair for a few weeks (or months) whilst your body stops producing so much oil. One growing movement is to adopt the ‘no-poo method’ – ditching conventional shampoos for natural ingredients like baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
If this isn’t for you, start by reducing the frequency in which you wash your hair, move to every second or third day or once a week. You can make your own natural dry shampoo to help soak up some excess oil between washes and avoid playing with your hair, as we do this we move oil from our scalp down the strands of our hair making it appear more oily.
What about oily skin?
When it comes to body care you can see a similar reaction, and I see it almost every day with people suffering from acne. We have been told oil is bad and it causes acne, so we rush to cleansers designed to strip oil from the skin. But, in reality, this can often lead to more oil production making the condition even worse. A better step if you suffer from oily skin is to reduce cleansers to once daily and use a clay based mask on a semi-regular basis, these masks will soak up excess oil without harsh stripping effects.
Whilst oily hair and skin can be exacerbated by the overuse of cleaning agents, some people do naturally produce more oil. There can be a number of other health factors such as hormone imbalances, diet, and stress that can impact the body’s natural sebum secretion. It’s worth investigating these factors if you feel like you are more reliant on these products than others.
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