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What’s Hiding In Your Hair Care Products?

You’ve seen the list of ingredients on the typical shampoos, conditioners and hair dyes at the grocery stores and pharmacies—it can be downright scary.

One might think Sandy Ercolano doesn’t like change. Not only has she been a hairdresser for 37 years but her popular salon Around the Corner Hair Designs has been at the exact same spot in Ridgewood, New Jersey for 32 of them.

Yet you’d be wrong. Especially when it comes to hair care products.

“For 34 years I really never thought about all the chemicals until I lost some friends to cancer,” she remembers. “That is when I started waking up and thinking, ‘What are we putting in our bodies?’ And that’s when I made these changes.”

You’ve seen the list of ingredients on the typical shampoos, conditioners and hair dyes at the grocery stores and pharmacies—it can be downright scary. Many shampoos and conditioners contain everything from formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen) to parabens which have been found in breast cancer tumors.

Other concerning ingredients include sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. Hair dyes—both over-the-counter and at the salon—are another cause for concern.

Various studies through the years have found using permanent hair dyes for an extended period of time can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancers. Coal tar dyes are one ingredient to watch out for as well as PPD or p-phenylenediamine.

Fortunately, there are alternatives out there.

About the same time she had her epiphany, Sandy switched to using Surface shampoos and conditioners along with hair dyes from Organic Salon Systems. (She also carries organic natural skin care products by Weleda.)

Other options can be found at health food stores though if the large selection makes some customers feel overwhelmed, Sandy recommends visiting a shop that carries healthy hair products for guidance.

“If you don’t know where to start it’s nice to come to the salon,” she suggests. “We use the products we sell so the individual knows right away how he or she likes it. It’s an easy way to test it.”

She also sells 2-ounce size bottles so people can make sure they are satisfied before investing in a larger container. Sandy is thrilled with her change in hair care products both because of what it means for the health of her customers and for the larger message it sends.

“Vote with your wallet,” she says. Or in other words if you don’t buy big companies’ chemical-filled shampoos and conditioners then they will have to start focusing on healthier alternatives.

To learn more about specific chemicals and healthier options, visit the Guide to Less Toxic Products from the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia.

Kristen Stewart is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at www.kristenestewart.com.