Most shampoo manufacturers boast with selected plant extracts and vitamins to strengthen and improve your hair. Additionally, you’ll usually find the note "without silicones" - and many consumers are already convinced to buy the shampoo. But what should you really pay attention to for a good shampoo in the first place?
Most important quality feature - surfactants
All ingredients of a shampoo are quantified in the ingredients list on the label in descending order. At the forefront you’ll find the main surfactants forming the basis of a shampoo. Surfactants placed in the back of the Ingredients list, are usually used only below 1%. They merely modify the foaming power, detergency or consistency of the shampoo. The variety of different surfactants differs in addition to their petrochemical-synthetic or plant-based origin, especially by their skin compatibility from aggressive-irritant to mild and skin-friendly.
Synthetic surfactants and their problems
Conventional shampoo manufacturers commonly use synthetic surfactants. These are usually made from polyethylene glycols (PEGs). They consist of the petroleum-based ethylene oxide, which is considered to be carcinogenic. Such surfactants make the scalp permeable so that pollutants can enter the body and accumulate in the organs. PEG-based surfactants are, for example, the skin-irritant surfactants sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLaS) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS). They are the most widely found shampoo surfactants and, above all, cheap to manufacture.
PEG-based surfactants have a high allergy potential and are often triggers for various scalp problems. Amazingly, they are as well found in high-priced pharmacy shampoos, even for sensitive skin. PEG surfactants are characterized by lush, large-pored foam. Generally spoken, you can find a relation concerning the irritation potential of a shampoo: The more lush and large-pored the foam of your shampoo is, the more aggressive the surfactant mixture acts for your scalp and hair.
Surfactants in certified natural cosmetics – unproblematic?
Of course, we only expect natural-based surfactants in certified natural cosmetics. However, natural cosmetic shampoos, for example certified by Ecocert, may also contain the surfactant coconut betaine (cocamidopropyl betaine). In addition to coconut fatty acids, this surfactant also contains a proportion of petroleum chemistry. Coconut betaine may promote allergic skin reactions, sensitizing your eyes and mucosa. In 2004, this surfactant even received the inglorious title "Allergen of the Year".
Even nature-based surfactants do not necessarily have to be skin-friendly. An example is the surfactant Sodium Coco Sulfate, which is the main surfactant in the vast majority of natural cosmetic shampoos. It is of natural origin, but still has a high skin irritant potential (according to Zein test and HET-CAM tests). It dries out your skin and hair. Therefore, when selecting a shampoo, make at least sure that Sodium Coco Sulfate is not at the top of the ingredients list - thus not being the main surfactant.
Natural surfactants - Glucosides
The skin-friendly and ecologically correct natural-based surfactants include the so-called sugar surfactants (glucosides). They consist of coconut oil fatty acids and glucose. You can recognize them by ingredient names such as Coco Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside or Lauryl Glucoside.
Wash-active amino acids as top class of natural surfactants
The top class of mild natural surfactants are the so-called wash-active amino acids (acylglutamates) with their fine-pored, soft foam. They clearly outperform the sugar surfactants in terms of optimized skin and mucous membrane compatibility, hair care properties and biodegradability. Wash-active amino acids (disodium / sodium cocoyl glutamate) are usually only co-surfactants in low concentrations, because they are much more expensive than all other surfactants - about eight times more expensive than the skin-irritating Lauryl sulfate!
In all our myrto organic shampoos we use wash-active amino acids (disodium / sodium cocoyl glutamate) as main surfactants at a maximum concentration. Their buffer effect stabilizes the natural acid mantle of your skin. This supports a stable moisturization of your scalp and hair. Your hair fiber will gain more resilience, more elasticity and your hair will get more natural fullness. By optimized scalp compatibility, this extremely mild surfactant balances the sebum production of your scalp.