These viral hair trends could destroy your natural hair
Back in the day, most natural advice online could be found on large haircare forums with thousands of threads dedicated to curly hair. These forums were the main hubs of haircare information, bubbling with different curly hair perspectives. These days, hair advice is more diffuse, with the sources scattered across the Internet, including social media sites like YouTube and Instagram.
One downside of this is that we can end up in social bubbles, where the information spread into each community is less likely to get checked. That makes it easier for harmful trends to take root and do some serious damage before they get debunked.
Like the following trends currently circulating online. None of them are worth losing your hair over - feel free to avoid them like the plague.
Hair myth #1: "Use dishwashing liquid instead of shampoo."
This scam is currently being peddled all over the Internet by a host of unscrupulous bloggers and Instagrammers. Aiming to stoke controversy and thus increase engagement and stack influencer cash, these individuals advocate replacing your shampoo with dish soap to save money. Apparently, we've been getting tricked all along - shampoo and dishwashing liquid are the same thing, the only difference is the price tag and the bottle.
Some have even posted videos of themselves using dish soap to wash their hair.
One of the hooks they use is to claim that dishwashing liquid has the same ingredients (sulfates) as shampoos. They even go for an emotional touch, pointing to videos of cute ducks rescued from oil spills being washed clean of crude oil with a popular dishwashing liquid. It must be safe if the ducklings can use it, right?
Not right. There's so much wrong, we had to put together a whole article to warn people of the dangers of washing their hair with dishwashing liquid. Here are a few reasons why it's not that smart: For one, dishwashing liquid and shampoos don't have the same ingredients: dishwashing liquids use a harsher detergent (sodium lauryl sulfate) than the type of cleanser commonly used in shampoo, sodium laureth sulfate.
The amount of surfactant used in dish soap is several times higher than shampoo, and it can also trigger contact dermatitis.
And while certain posters claim using dishwashing liquid hasn't damaged their hair, it's worth questioning whether they really know that for a fact. The sodium lauryl sulfate in washing-up liquid not only strips oils indiscriminately, it erodes the surface of your hair. This happens every time you use it, on a microscopic level, so you won't see the damage until it accumulates.
But what about the baby ducks? Dishwashing detergent did a fine job of removing crude oil from ducklings, but is that relevant to you washing your hair with it? The ducklings weren't getting scrubbed with detergent as part of their weekly bubble bath - it was a desperate, one-off intervention to remove crude oil from their feathers and save their lives.
If you have anything as thick and sticky as crude oil, or even as unctuous as the contents of a greasy, deep fryer to remove from your hair, it might make sense to use dishwashing liquid.
But if the level of grease this detergent is designed to remove isn't there, it's coming for your strands instead.
The spreaders of this misinformation don't mind trying every trick in the book to get more traffic. The end goal is to entice companies to pay them to shill on their behalf - and they definitely don't care if your hair has to suffer to get them there.
Hair myth #2: "Use bleach to clean your scalp."
You might have seen the tragic news reports about people in poorer countries being duped into giving their sick children bleach water to drink as a supposed cure-all. Back in the West, droves of people with Google at their fingertips have decided that bleach will cure all that ails their scalps. This myth is spreading through social media, as ever, helped by sketchy posters hoping to use controversy to propel them to Internet fame.
We shouldn't have to say this, but just in case someone needs to hear it: please don't use bleach to clean your scalp. It can cause severe skin burns and eye damage and may release dangerous gases (chlorine). Basically, everything it says on the label.
Beauty myth #3: "Use keratin straightening to smooth and strengthen your hair."
Now here's a myth that gets pushed through hairdressers and online. It's yet another example of how a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. We all know that hair is made of keratin and that tiny pieces of keratin can be used to temporarily repair damaged hair. Keratin straightening is not the same thing.
Keratin straightening, aka keratin smoothing treatments, aka the Brazilian Keratin Treatment, is a semi-permanent way of straightening hair using a combination of chemicals and heat. Initially, the main ingredient in these formulas was formaldehyde, but after some well-publicised cases of hairdressers and clients becoming seriously ill from the fumes, a lot of the products were banned. Manufacturers started reformulating with other aldehydes at lower concentrations.
While they do contain keratin, it'svery unlikely keratin is what's giving hair its initial smooth, strong appearance following the process. That smoothness comes from the intense blowdrying and ironing, and the aldehydes forced onto the hair at high temperatures. This creates an illusion of strength with an unnaturally glossy coating. That coating wears off over the following months.
After a few treatments, the damaged fibre becomes more apparent and getting more treatments won't hide the thinness of the destroyed hair shaft.
This is definitely not the way to go if your aim is stronger hair.
You can build up the health, shine and strength of your hair naturally, by alternating protein and moisture treatments on a regular basis. Go for actual conditioning treatments which don't chemically alter your hair, whether at home or in the salon. Check out our article on the best types of deep conditioning treatments for healthy hair.
Hair myth #4: "Using texture softeners won't damage your hair."
Similar to the BKT conditioning claims, this is another piece of marketing hype that comes straight from the manufacturers. Texture softeners are basically watered down relaxers, smothered in conditioner and grease. Read the labels and see for yourself: most contain common relaxer ingredients, such as calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate.
Texture softeners don't get hair all the way straight, but they work in exactly the same way as relaxers; by breaking the bonds that hold your hair together, leaving you with fewer curls. They pose similar risks for scalp irritation and permanent damage as relaxers, especially on a child's delicate scalp.
These products are often pushed at stressed, time-poor mums who don't realise they're giving their children a relaxer on the low. Their marketing is designed to make you think the only way to soften your child's hair is to alter it to look like someone else's.
But if you're struggling to make your child's hair softer or more manageable, you don't need to change the texture. What you do need is a solid routine and some serious hydration from more powerful conditioners than the one you're using.
These two elements are all it takes to give your child softer, manageable hair - hair that will grow longer, too. You won't need to worry about scheduling touchups or dealing with chemical damage to your child's scalp or hair, either.
Hair myth #5: "Use oils as heat protectants instead of silicones."
Silicones got hit by the same bandwagon that decided to take out sulfates. Despite all the misinformation surrounding them, silicones are not bad for your hair.
You should avoid non-water soluble silicones when you're on a No Poo routine because conditioner won't be able to remove them from your hair, which will lead to buildup. But silicones themselves don't actually damage your hair.
When it comes to heat straightening, they're much better at protecting your hair than oils. One silicone in particular, dimethicone, resists heat up to 300 degrees Celsius (that's 450 degrees Fahrenheit). Most oils have low heat stability and smoke points, which means they break down at normal straightening temperatures and can't protect your hair. You might even be increasing the level of heat your hair is exposed to by using certain oils.
Hair myth #6: "Use baking soda to clarify your hair and scalp."
This has been a popular one on the Internet for a while. Pushed as an alternative to sulfate shampoos for people on 'No Poo' routines, baking soda is touted as the gentle way to clarify.
Hair on No Poo needs to be clarified every so often because washing your hair with conditioner only is not enough to remove all residue from your strands. Baking soda's job is to clear the buildup once it gets too crazy.
The irony is, baking soda is a lot harsher on your scalp and hair than the average sulfate shampoo. Baking soda has a pH of 8.3 while your skin's natural pH ranges from 4-6, making it way too potent for your scalp and seriously drying to your hair, too.
For some reason, over a decade on, the Internet still can't shake this myth.
How to spot fake beauty advice online
Not everyone sharing information online has your best interests at heart - and even more innocently don't know what they're sharing. The best we can all do is try to verify information we receive - which is why this post links to actual scientific research.
Check the facts for yourself - then share your knowledge to save family and friends getting hoodwinked by the latest hype.
DHA Hair Care Experts