How to Style Your Hair Without Destroying Your Mind

Dr. Janet Zand

September 6, 2019

You’ve probably heard that being social is a good way to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. But if that’s true, why do hair salon workers have a much greater risk of developing this disease? After all, many women treat their stylists as their confidantes.

Here’s why: Even a job that requires full-time social interaction doesn’t seem to be a match for the associated exposure to toxic chemicals. And even if you don’t work in a salon, you might be using some equally dangerous products on a daily basis.

You probably know that toxins lurk in the air and even in our food supply. You avoid exercising in polluted air. You might try to buy organic foods. You likely even filter the air and water coming into your home. These are all good steps to help you avoid toxins. But many people don’t realize how many toxins are also lurking in personal care products – and what effects they can have on the body, particularly the brain.

Many people assume that the days of using truly dangerous ingredients are behind us. After all, don’t we have regulations now? The government banned lead-based paint over 40 years ago, for example.

You might be surprised to hear that just this year, the FDA found asbestos in cosmetic products marketed to young teens. You might also be surprised to hear that the companies selling the products didn’t face any repercussions from the FDA – even though this has been an ongoing issue. They simply conducted a voluntary recall of the affected products.

I don’t know about you, but if that’s how the FDA responds to a known carcinogen in products marketed to minors, I’m certainly not going to trust the organization to protect me from other toxins. And other toxins abound in the personal care market. Your products might help you look great. But they can sure make you feel lousy.

From Your Skin to Your Brain

Your brain is highly susceptible to environmental toxins. That’s because it’s the most metabolically active organ in the body. And when you apply products to your largest organ – the skin – chances are any toxins in those products will make their way to the brain.

You’ve probably noticed that psychiatric issues seem to be on the rise. A staggering number of Americans are on anti-depressants. But too many psychiatrists or physicians don’t realize that environmental toxins can contribute to psychiatric issues. So the anti-depressants just cover up the problem rather than treating the source of the issue. And the ongoing onslaught of toxins can contribute to other physical issues.

In fact, research has linked environmental toxins to autoimmune diseases; diabetes; cancer; general fatigue; muscle cramps, aches, and weakness; nerve issues; allergies; loose or smelly stools; reduced appetite; weight gain; rashes; sweaty skin; and even difficulty regulating temperature.

If you want to look at just the effects on the brain, they don’t stop at depression. Research has also linked toxin exposure to risk of suicide, ADD/ADHD, learning problems, brain fog, autism, angry outbursts, psychotic episodes, and, yes, dementia. 

Brain imaging tools let research see the effects toxins have. And when you expose the brain to toxins, over time, blood flow to the brain decreases. This can be quite damaging over time. To protect your brain, you need to be your own regulatory agency. Check the labels carefully of anything that goes on your body – from your hair dye to your toenail polish. Any of the following ingredients are red flags:

Polyethylene glycols

These Ingredients Could Affect Your Hormones Too

Many of these ingredients will not only affect your brain but disrupt your hormones. If you’ve noticed an increase in brain fog or mental health issues recently, it’s time to check your labels again. Ask your partner or a trusted friend to help you if the fog makes it hard for you to keep track of ingredients.

If you identify some potential culprits, stop using the product(s) with the offending ingredient(s). Then give your brain a chance to heal. There are a number of steps you can take to bring down your toxic load and support the healing process.

Try a month of toxin free living. Stay away from toxins in general. This means avoiding gasoline fumes, secondhand smoke, and pollution. Try to buy organic foods as often as possible, but don’t take the receipt. Receipts often have a coating of BPA, another toxin. Try not to eat or drink out of plastic containers. Cut your alcohol intake down to a drink or two per week – or none at all.

Then, give your body the tools it needs to detox. This means plenty of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and water. Leafy greens, berries, sesame and sunflower seeds, beets, citrus fruits, salmon, avocados, and walnuts are all great choices. Swap sugar- and dairy-laden coffee for green tea or drink it black. And stay away from processed foods, especially anything that contains a lot of salt, MSG, dyes, or preservatives.

Is Your Home Holding Dangerous Toxins?

But what if you’ve noticed changes in your mental functioning and your ingredients seem to be clean? The problem could still be lurking in your bathroom. The wood and drywall in most of our homes might be convenient to build with, but they create a perfect breeding ground for mold.

One type of mold, called black mold or Stachybotrys, can release toxic gas and spores. As you breathe them in, they can disrupt brain function and even change your behavior. But there’s a catch: Mold doesn’t affect everyone the same way. In fact, only about a quarter of people are genetically predisposed to be vulnerable to mold.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is that you might be able to sidestep this issue altogether. The bad news is that you could be the only one in your family with this susceptibility – so they might not believe you right away, especially if you share a bathroom.

It’s important to keep this issue in mind if you have children as well. Even if most of the kids seem healthy, if one starts having issues with mood swings, brain fog, headaches or focus and concentration, it’s worth checking the bathrooms for mold. This is especially important if you’ve ever had a water leak.

Mold can be especially dangerous when you combine it with other environmental toxins. Over time, the toxic load becomes too much for the body to handle. So it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re keeping your exposure to other toxins to a minimum, even if you haven’t noticed any brain-related effects yet.

If you generally feel healthy, try taking one small step at a time to reduce your toxic load. Find a shampoo with clean ingredients, for example. Then move on to conditioner once you’re satisfied with the switch. Try taking a break from nail polish—and nail polish remover. Check the archives for natural deodorant solutions.

Choose Your Skin Products Wisely

If you’ve been a reader for long, you already know a lot about the importance of using safe, natural skincare products, such as the Système 41 products. And you know where to find many of them. But don’t forget about the rest of your personal care products. Anything that goes on your body can find its way into your body – and to your brain.

If you have been struggling with depression, brain fog, or another aspect of mental functioning, do seek help in getting to the true bottom of the issue. Seek out a practitioner who will help you get to the root cause rather than one who simply writes you a prescription for an antidepressant and sends you on your way.

Antidepressants can be beneficial in some situations. It’s no coincidence that we’re seeing rates of depression, dementia, and other mental issues rise along with our exposure to environmental toxins. It’s much better to get to the root of the problem and eliminate it than simply cover it up. Look for a doctor willing to run tests to consider your overall toxic burden.  Some to consider include liver function tests, kidney function tests, TGF beta-1 if you think mold exposure is a possibility, hair and urine tests to measure your heavy metal load, and even brain imaging.

Make sure the time you spend getting ready in your bathroom really does help you look and feel great. The wrong products or a hidden mold problem could land you in the doctor’s office. Choosing clean, natural ingredients whenever you’re going to put something in or on your body and making sure the surfaces in your bathroom stay clean from mold can go a long way in helping you be at your best. Even if other aspects of your life make you want to pull your hair out, make sure your hair care products aren’t causing you to lose your mind.

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