Monday, 18 April 2011

New Hair Forks in Summer Bright Colours You'll Love

Last Year's Favourite Just Got ... Um ... More Favourable



Allegro French Summer Brights hair forks
Allegro French Classic hair forks

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Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate: What Are These Guys Doing In Your Shampoo?

Laureth ... Lauryl ... What's The Difference And Should You Care?

My first post about Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate last week caused a little bit of an uproar around here, distracting me from my usually calm world of hair clips.

Most of the activity happened by email, but there were a couple excellent comments, which will probably take me the rest of 2011 to answer completely.

To add to the thrillingness of my life, I *just this very morning* received my new book, Biophysics of Human Hair: Structural, Nanomechanical and Nanotribological Studies by Bharat Bhushan.

When I opened the envelope, Claire peeked over my shoulder and said, "C-o-o-o-o-o-l!" while my middle daughter rolled her eyes up and sighed (with love and admiration, naturally).

More About Detergents In Your Shampoo

I wanted in this post to move on to the secondary detergent which virtually always gets paired with whatever "lauryl sulfate" ends up in your shampoo formula, which is its "laureth sulfate."

Sodium laureth sulfate(SLES) and ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES) are basically detergents, which combined with the lauryl sulfates (SLS or ALS) make up roughly 8-10% of your shampoo.

The term "laureth" means that a laurel salt has been ethoxylated before neutralisation. You might read that SLES for example is derived from SLS, so therefore is "just as bad," assuming that SLS is "bad" at all, of course. In fact both ingredients come originally from palm or coconut oils and then go down different production paths, with SLES having one extra step along the way.

This process results in a detergent that has better foaming qualities and a more attractive touch feel, helping your shampoo to be more gloopy and less liquid. This characteristic makes it easier for you to control the amount of shampoo you pour out of your bottle, rather than having watery shampoo running all over and off your hand.

Some websites you will find on the internet scorn the value of these qualities, which is fair enough. But speaking as a hobby soapmaker myself, I could make a soap purely out of olive oil, for example. But pure olive oil soap doesn't lather, so it's a little unsatisfying to use. Add a little coconut oil, and then you're talking bubbles!

What Is Meant By "Harsh" Detergents?

SLES has been profiled as being milder on the skin than SLS, and that it is used as some sort of pH balancer in shampoo. This is completely misleading.

First of all, pH is what is meant by whether something is "mild" or "harsh" in personal care products. While 7.0 is neutral, deviations from neutral don't have too much to do with how it feels on your skin.

The pH of the acid mantle of adult skin is, as you can tell by its name, acidic and ranges from 4.0 to 5.5. Preservation and support of the acid mantle is important for the ongoing health of your hair and skin. For this reason, commercial skin and hair care products are formulated to fall towards this range.

In newborn babies, skin pH is on average closer to 7.0, demonstrating the importance of using soap, lotions and shampoo which are specifically formulated for babies. Within only a few months after birth, however, their skin pH falls gradually down the scale to 4.5 to 5.0, rendering these specialised products less important.

If you were to look at ALS, ALES, SLS and SLES in isolation, the pH can vary widely depending on specific formulation and solution concentrations between suppliers, but as a snapshot from Lubrizol as an example the pH ranges in a 10% solution appropriate for use in shampoo are as follows:

ALS: 6-7
ALES: 6-7
SLS: 7.5-8.5
SLES: 7.5-8.5

By way of comparison, bath soaps tend to have a pH range of 7.0 - 9.0, while shampoo in normal commercial formulations have a pH typically of 5.0 - 6.0.

A shampoo pH of between 5.0 and 5.5 is often desirable because the slightly more acidic environment promotes a tightening and hardening of the cuticle scales even before drying, which helps make hair stronger and shinier once it is dry. More typically, shampoos have a pH of 5.5 to 5.8.

Interestingly, the pH of your eye is in the range of 6.5 to 7.6, and constantly changes according to how active your tear glands are in response to the immediate environment.

When designing a shampoo, the chemist first of all wants to achieve a pH that supports first your hair, then your skin, and finally takes in consideration your eyes.

So it is a leap in logic to say that SLS is too harsh for your hair, and SLES (or either of the ammonia based sulfates, for that matter) is better because it is less irritating is not really considering the bigger picture of what you actually want  to achieve by using any shampoo at all in the first place.

Further, in order for the shampoo to be "gentle" on your hair the pH must be greatly corrected to make it more acidic.

Why Use These Sulfates When There Are Other Detergents?

One of the primary benefits of using these particular detergents is that they blend very well with a wide range of other ingredients that perform well in your hair, such as anti-static agents, conditioners and chelating agents. All of these categories of ingredients help protect the integrity of your cuticle during washing and styling.

The goal in creating a shampoo formula is to design something that is easy for anyone to use without a lot of explaining, and that gives most people on average a good result with their hair.

Generally speaking, I find most shampoos pretty okay. Depending on what your goals are for cleaning your hair, you should simply use less or more as required on any given day.

I, for example, don't need to clean my hair very much because firstly, my hair is quite porous and secondly, because I don't use any styling products on my hair there's very little that actually needs washing away.

My recommended method of diluting your shampoo is to daub the tiniest pearl of of shampoo you can get from your bottle, lather it up in your hands, and then rinse one hand off. Use the lather that's left only on the spots on your scalp that actually feel like they could use cleaning.

If your hair is really oily or you've used mousse or gel that needs washing away, then use fractionally more.

Finding the right amount of shampoo to fit your needs takes experimentation, but it is worth it. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you will find in time that your hair becomes better behaved and more manageable for you.

To read more about this topic, read my earlier blog post about shampoo and what it's really for.


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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Is One Better Than The Other In Your Shampoo?


Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are common primary or secondary detergents in commercial shampoo formulas. Should you be looking for one or the other in the shampoo you choose for your hair?

In terms of chemists working up a formula for a shampoo, the biggest difference between the two is how soluble they are in water. ALS is more than three times as soluble in water compared to SLS, which makes it an attractive ingredient for chemists to choose for use in clear or colourless products.

As to how they perform in your hair removing oil and dirt, they are identical. Both are recognised as being very effective detergents, particularly in lifting oily dirt.

Is either ingredient toxic? Both ALS and SLS share similar toxicity and pH profiles. So if you have an urge to drink your shampoo or rub it into your eyes, both ingredients will have the same effect. Basically, they will both taste awful, are very unlikely make you sick, and sting quite a bit if you get it in your eyes.

Does Sodium Lauryl Sulfate cause cancer? No, this is an urban myth. In 2000 a report on SLS from the Journal of the American College of Toxicology was  altered heavily to falsely imply that SLS caused cancer. This bogus report has since been widely copied and circulated on the internet.

This falsified report is still frequently cited by small, independent shampoo companies trying to promote sulfate-free shampoo as an antidote to female pattern hair loss, among other health issues. To date no connection has been demonstrated between the use of sulfates in commercially available shampoos and ill health or hair loss.

Shampoos that use ALS or SLS are completely safe for normal external use and are perfectly effective to use on all hair types. Provided the shampoo is rinsed thoroughly from the hair, there is no risk of irritation to even sensitive skin.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Playing With Our Hair, So You Don't Have To

Hair Clip, Hair Styling and Hair Growing Experimentation: This Is Our Day

Hair clips are my life. Have I mentioned this before?
Hair accessories are my life. Have I mentioned this to you before?

Last week (and still this week!) Claire and I have been producing dozens (approaching hundreds!) of personalised videos for our customers, picking out exactly just the right hair clips and headbands that we honestly think will work for that individual woman.

This has been A LOT of fun, I tell you what.

What Else We've Been Doing

However, since the New Year, Claire and I have also been quietly working on another area, which I've not been talking about.

That's because it takes a while.

We've been growing our hair.

The Curious Project Of Growing One's Hair

Claire's hair grows extraordinarily quickly. She has seen growth of up to an inch in a month.

Okay, Claire is not normal (let me count the ways, LOL). But it does mean she can experiment quite a bit with her hair, and if it all goes wrong she knows she can grow out her mistakes in just a few weeks.

Claire's goal back in January was to grow her hair to "Classic" length, which is just below her waist.

My goal has been to get to bra-strap length. As my hair is curly, I've already reached this length when my hair is wet. I reckon I've another 3-6 months to go to get to my goal with dry hair.

As my hair is quite grey, my big concern has been that I just end up looking like an old hippie. This would be fine if I had a hippie personal style. But I don't. I look a mess if I attempt to be too much of a free spirit.

Fortunately, my personal and work environment allow me the freedom to take on goofy experiments like this without causing too much fear and loathing in the people around me.

Why Do We Want To Grow Our Hair?

Basically, Claire and I decided to go long because we wanted to experience what it is like to live with, care for and style very long hair.

It's been an interesting journey.

Here's a little recap of our mood swings:

  • The length starts interfering with how we normally put our hair up... Annoyed.
  • We learn how to adapt our favourite styles to the new length... Pleased.
  • We get used to how the new length feels when worn down... Feeling glamorous!
  • Claire's finds her hair trapped under her sleeping partner in the middle of the night.. Confused.
  • My hair gets caught up under my arm and in the straps of my handbag... Grrrr.
  • Our hair takes FOREVER to dry... Bored.
  • We learn how to wear our hair when outside and active, or working out... Relieved.
  • Our customers with long hair ask for new ideas and we have the length to play... Amused!

Where Will We Go From Here?

Claire doesn't know if she will live with her new length, cut layers into it, or cut it all right back again. Her verdict at the moment is she likes long hair. "You can do more with it!" she says.

Me? I'm liking my new length a lot, but I miss being able to style my twist with my ends fanning nicely out. I'm having to tuck my ends in a lot, which crushes and pulls out my curl so I can't enjoy being a curly girl as much.

Time will tell, but I suspect at the end of the summer, I'll be chopping my hair back to get more spring back in my curls.

But regardless, the good news is that we know what works (and what really DOES NOT) for very long hair.

So, it's all good!

Hair Accessories For Long Hair

Topaz Garland Crystal large barrette.
An extra long clasp makes this excellent for holding a French pleat, and it's wonderful for a formal high ponytail style.

Classic Long barrette.
Another extra long clasp in useful, classic colours for every day.

Classic and Coast Extra Large barrettes.
A specially designed clasp with the Umph required to hold lots and lots of hair.

Rectangle French Large Claw
A handmade design with a generous size. Comfortable and does the job. Guaranteed.

Forte Extra Large Clamp
Our handmade large hair clamp. Very popular, in  a range of colours to flatter your hair.

Ficcare Rock Star Chignon hair fork.
A beautiful metal fork strong enough for any amount of hair. Melissa's particular favourite.

Ficcare Metro hair stick.
Use two for a super secure hold. Elegant and unfussy in the hair

French Handmade U pin.
A centuries old classic. Get the technique for these guys down, and you'll never want to wear anything else.

Ficcare Maximas hair clip.
A worldwide cult following behind this amazing hair clip. If you've not tried one yet, take advantage of our 28 Day Satisfaction Guarantee and order one to have a go. You will be so glad you did.


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