Let Go of Lather

Posted by Abbey Eurchuk on


It turns out that all those lovely coconut and fruit-scented, creamy, foamy brand-name shampoos you have been using all your life contain some of the harshest and most toxic chemicals on the planet.  

Bottom line? They aren’t good for you. They strip your hair’s natural oils and they are destructive to our waterways and ocean. How did such chemical-laden shampoo ever make it to the marketplace ? Let me tell you the story of shampoo.

In the 19th and early 20th century, people washed their hair on average once a week. Their hair was thicker, healthier, shinier and their scalps were healthier. Mild soap bars (low alkalinity) and warm water was used to wash hair, while herbs and teas were used to impart shine and softness to the hair.

This system worked well – particularly because the water was “soft” water from streams and rain-barrels (collected rainwater). Soft water is “surface water” and it is low in minerals like calcium. It makes a soft, cleansing lather. However, as city infrastructures grew and water was sourced through underground pipes, the water was no longer soft and soap reacted with it, often leaving an undesirable residue or scum on hair and clothes.

In the 1920’s the first chemical detergents were invented. They were strong, harsh and most importantly, they could make mountains of creamy foam in any kind of water.  The market opened up, and creative chemists formulated the first commercial shampoos. What they didn’t tell you is that there is a trade-off: in order to get the big lather, you are sacrificing your health and the health of the environment. These harsh detergents strip natural oils from hair and scalp.  Other nasty chemicals and coating agents (silicones, acrylics and cationics) give hair a silky feel.  Synthetic perfumes were added and the illusion of perfect hair care was complete. By the 1950’s, we had started to associate lather with clean hair; we were in love with chemicals, and we have not looked back since – until now.


Why are most modern shampoos bad for you? There are many reasons. This cocktail of chemicals enters your body through your skin and lungs and gets into your blood where it wreaks havoc over time. This can contribute to toxic overload, neurological malfunction, hormone imbalance and other nasty things. Constant use causes skin and hair to become “distressed” and more vulnerable to breakouts, acne, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, rosacea, oil-imbalance, chronic dryness and hair loss.  

On top of that, detergents are an environmental catastrophe! They are harsh and do not biodegrade. Most are made from petroleum derivatives and they end up down our drains, entering streams and rivers, where they dissolve the protective lipid layer of tiny plants, fish and aquatic life. The animals that drink from these water sources ingest these toxins.    

Fortunately, green chemists are now coming up with gentle, healthy, plant-derived detergents; the gentlest are called glucosides. They have a “soapyness,” but not the rich unhealthy lather. They don’t strip your skin or hair, are biodegradable, non-toxic and baby safe. Jusu Body shampoo is a combination of food-grade emollients (softeners), organic oils and a mild natural foaming agent called “cocoglucoside” (biodegradable, plant-based, and extremely gentle). 

Do healthy shampoos that work exist? The plant world offers natural foaming plants like Soapberries and Acacia (Shikaki). If you’ve tried them, you’ll find that, although healthier, they are not nearly as luxurious as the fantasy foamers we’ve come to know and love (and a lot messier). Then there are “no-poo” shampoos that have no foam at all. These are closer to the teas and vinegars that our ancestors used.

What do you need to know when making the switch from a commercial shampoo to a mild gentle “green” shampoo?  After years of stripping oils from your hair and scalp your body becomes accustomed to over-producing oils in response. You will therefore need patience while your body takes the time it needs to “rebalance”. Use lots of water with your green shampoo, and gradually extend the time between shampoos from one or two days to three or four days. Your hair may not feel ideal at first, but eventually will feel amazing.  

It is time to reach for higher health and abandon the notion that big lather equates to cleanliness for it is the very squeaky clean lather feeling that indicates the presence of harmful, toxic ingredients. Whether you choose to go with good old-fashioned soap, plants or with the new milder detergents, it is time to adopt a new shampoo paradigm: say YES to ditching the fantasy foam and “let go of lather.”

*Curious to know what ingredients you should say NO to, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post: Ingredient Label Reading 101.

Art + Nature = Beauty. 
Karen Van Dyck

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  • Hi Amaka! Thanks for your comment. Herbal teas that would be excellent for all Hair types is Horsetail, Alfalfa, Chickweed, Nettles. Burdock root is a great tea for Brunettes, and Chamomile is good for blonde hair. Use a diluted Apple Cider Vinegar (brunettes), diluted lemon juice (Blondes), or red Hibiscus tea rinse to rebalance the PH and close the hair shaft after shampooing. – Karen

    JUSU Body on
  • Hi Karen
    Love your work. If I want to use a gentle soap and teas instead of shampoo as you describe, what teas would you recommend, and how would I use it?

    Amaka on

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