I bet you weren’t expecting that sentence to end the way it did! But my slightly long winded path to health actually started with shampoo and scalp bleeds.
I know, you thought I’d covered all the weird and gross bleeds I have with the words ‘menstrual’ and ‘colonoscopy’. Never fear, readers, I have more for you today! So, how I found out that shampoo ingredients (and later on, skin care) can cause problems and bleeds for me –
About 6 years ago, I got fed up with my hair. With it not cleaning properly (the joys of having a super thick mane), with the constant flow of scalp dislodging itself on my clothes, with the itchiness. And the bleeding – excessive irritation caused lots of skin loss, which due to my thick hair often couldn’t just fall out, so it would build up on my head into scabs, then come off when I was brushing or washing my hair, and blood would follow. Healing them was a nightmare – they’d often take weeks or months to heal as due to the thickness of my hair the site of the broken skin wouldn’t get any fresh air or light, and brushing or moving my hair would often re-break the skin. This flakiness and buildup had always been called dandruff by my hairdressers, but after coming across information on sulphates in shampoos, I now believe its skin sensitivity, or perhaps just a normal reaction to a product that shouldn’t be on our skin. So I went in search of a SLS/SLES/ALS free product, which more or less put me on the search for a natural, probably organic option. My first love in this category was from across the Tasman Sea, from Kiwi company EcoStore.
Even the packaging is quite cute! Image and product available here.
These guys do every kind of cleaning product you can think of – shampoo, obviously, but also dishwasher liquid, washing machine powder and liquid, as well as a range of baby care and skin care. Their original Dandruff/Sensitive Scalp range, with manuka honey and sandalwood was perfect for me. No more itchiness, unusual amounts of dry flakiness and definitely no bleeds. A perfectly soothed and protected scalp with shiny healthy hair that actually kept volume (while being thick, my hair tends to go flat when it isn’t freshly washed. Too much weight prevents it from staying away from my head, which made the previous scalp scab bits even tougher to get rid of!). I was very happy for a couple of years, until EcoStore had a reformulation – and whaddya know, the new option just didn’t do it for my hair. I still use a number of their products – the washing machine liquid is fantastic and prevents any irritation on the rest of me transferring from my clean clothes, so I’d strongly recommend them to anyone! I believe their even available in the US for those of you reading from there.
But this meant I had to subject my scalp to new shampoo testing. The high end line my then-hairdresser stocked was out because it used ALA (ammonium laureth sulphate), I even tried a couple of SLS/SLES options from major retailers The Body Shop and Lush (just to be sure), to no avail. The Lush option, despite the company’s eco-branding, felt like it had higher amounts of sulphates than others I’d previously used, because almost as soon as I stepped out of the shower my head was crazy itchy and I ended up having to re-wash my hair later that day from the discomfort. I think that says a lot, because you all know the kind of pain I encounter regularly.
It was all looking a bit grim until I found local retailer, Beauty and the Bees. No synthetic ingredients, locally sourced, and as a draw card to get R to try it, one of the active ingredients is beer. Yep, that’s right, I said beer (a local Pale Ale, if I remember correctly. See, not only is Tasmanian craft beer good for drinking, it also is good for your hair and skin!). Even better than that, the shop manager in town loaded me up with samples, not just of the beer & honey shampoo bar, but also of a number of their soaps for me to try. An obsession was born – my scalp immediately calmed down, my hair became soft and bouncy, so then I moved onto their skin care line – no more flakiness, the moisturisers (being full of good oils and fats, as well as soothing leatherwood honey) calmed my irritated and dry skin, and the lip balm does the same to my lips. Not only does it completely prevent my scalp bleeds, but it also prevents lip and skin bleeds – loose skin on my lips can peel off and bleed, and in winter especially, around my nose the skin can become very dry and cracked, leading to bleeding. These guys have recently opened an e-store in the States, so I believe North Americans can get a hold of their beautiful range too!
The moisturiser, while clearing my skin and preventing winter spot bleeds, is also perfect for the Australian summer – you’re meant to keep it in the fridge because the products contain no preservatives, and this makes it perfect for treating sunburn. I know, getting burned is bad, but it happens to us all! The healing ingredients plus the coolness from the fridge is just magic.
All this from someone who used to think of skin care in a similar way to how I thought about exercise – pretty much not at all. The marketing to teenage girls for cleansers, toners and more creams than anyone should buy in a lifetime just kinda didn’t stick on me (oh I’m such an INTJ). Eh, whatever, I thought. I knew I probably wasn’t doing my skin any favours by washing it with whatever samples we had lying around the house, and it never responded well to that (thought I never ended up with anything like cystic acne), but the whole thing just wasn’t that interesting. As a side note, this is evidence of something I’ve always felt – that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but apathy. I know, I’ve lived it more than once! More than that, it always felt really obvious to me that it was all about 95% marketing, 5% product effectiveness. Until, of course, I found what I use now, and its more or less the other way around. Small companies, making excellent products with amazing ingredients, just getting on with the job. They don’t need to embellish the truth (or flat out lie), because their products just work. Even better for me, its a tiny snippet of my VWD treatment – a benefit neither of these companies could have ever imagined.