The health-minded shoppers who frequent your natural foods store know the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle. But while their muscles are benefiting from their workouts, their hair is taking a beating that can leave it looking anything but healthy. Fortunately, natural personal care companies also are aware of this dilemma and are providing products to address it.
According to Lisa Saul, owner of EcoColors Hair Color Company and Salon, a natural salon and hair dye manufacturer based in Atlanta, the major hair problems active people face are dryness, breakage and discoloration caused by four different factors: sun, sweat, chlorine and saltwater.
?Sun exposure can dry your hair out and make it more porous. If your hair is chemically treated, it?s also more prone to discoloration from [ultraviolet] rays,? Saul says.
Karyn Trumbach, marketing manager for Aubrey Organics, agrees. ?Sun exposure can decolorize pigment inside the hair fiber. This changes the hair color and weakens the internal structure of the hair, making it less elastic and more prone to breakage,? she says.
And while working up a sweat is a great way to get fit, perspiration is another enemy of strong, healthy hair. ?Although sweating is healthy because it helps your body get rid of contaminants, the salt and toxins in sweat accumulate on the hair and can cause it to feel dry and look dull,? Saul says.
Exposing hair to chemicals or salt in pool or seawater complicates matters further. ?Water swells hair fiber and causes it to become weaker and more susceptible to damage. Wet hair is up to 20 percent weaker than dry hair,? says Trumbach. ?Pool water, seawater and hard water can deposit minerals, including metals, on the outer cuticle layer of the hair, resulting in color changes, dullness, dryness, brittleness and breakage.?
Contrary to popular belief, however, chlorine is not the agent responsible for the green tinge that blondes experience after a summer of swimming in the neighborhood pool. According to Jeff Sloan, director of disinfection policy at the Chlorine Chemistry Council, ?Hair discoloration has nothing to do with chlorine. It is caused by copper or other metals in the pool.? While chlorine does not directly affect hair discoloration, it does play a role in damaging hair. Chlorine is a ?strong oxidizing agent that can bind easily to the hair shaft and weaken the structure of the hair,? Trumbach says. ?Chlorine chemically interacts with copper and allows it to ? alter the hair?s color.?
Another issue for active hair is the constant movement it undergoes during exercise. Jack Davey, founder and chief executive officer of Collective Wellbeing, a natural personal care company based in Irwindale, Calif., says, ?Brittleness and split ends occur in active people because the hair is being moved so much. The shafts are constantly bumping into each other, which causes stress on the hair.?
But your shoppers don?t want to become couch potatoes just to attain the silky, lustrous locks they desire. With the help of a few preventive actions and the right natural products, it is possible to maintain hair that looks and is healthy.
To protect hair from damage caused by swimming, Saul recommends entering the water with already dripping hair. ?Before swimming, thoroughly wet your hair with filtered tap water. If your hair is already saturated before you get in the pool, it will absorb less of the damaging chemicals and minerals in the water,? she says.
Using jojoba oil is another way to treat dry hair and to prevent damage from chlorine and sun. ?Jojoba oil is similar biochemically to the natural oils in the skin and is a very effective moisturizer for the hair,? Saul says. Trumbach agrees. ?Jojoba oil closely resembles human sebum and is a superb emollient for conditioning dry scalp and brittle porous hair,? she says. Saul suggests using jojoba oil before swimming to protect the hair, or overnight as a treatment for dry or damaged hair.
To prevent discoloration from swimming in water with a high copper content, Saul recommends using 100 percent aloe vera gel after every swim. ?Aloe acts as a key layer for minerals and will help remove them from the hair after swimming. Just rub it through your hair and then rinse it out after every swim,? she says.
For cleansing and conditioning active hair, ingredients are key. ?Frequent shampooing, which active people are prone to do, increases the risk of damage to the hair fiber due to a general increase in handling wet hair and to the loss of the natural lipids, or oils, that protect the hair,? Trumbach says. She advises, ?The best way to cleanse your hair, if you?re active and shampoo frequently, is to use a gentle conditioning shampoo that contains natural sequestering agents. Sequestrants work by binding to and removing minerals that can dull and discolor hair. Some examples of natural sequestrants are corn syrup, citric acid, kelp extract and alginate.?
After shampooing with a gentle cleanser, using a moisturizing, protective conditioner is paramount. ?A conditioner with hydrating ingredients, such as avocado oil and illipe nut butter, is going to coat and protect the hair shaft and can minimize dryness and split ends,? Davey says. ?Moisturizing antioxidants, such as vitamin E, are great for protecting hair from damaging free radicals in the environment.?
Trumbach adds that, along with moisture, proteins and amino acids are necessary when conditioning damaged hair because they ?help ?fill in? damaged areas in the cuticle layer, thereby smoothing and strengthening the hair fiber.? She also suggests ?choosing a conditioner with UV filters to help prevent further oxidation from sun and chlorine. Some examples are aminobenzoic acid, shea butter and padimate-O.?
Apparently, specialty shampoos and conditioners are already a hit with active shoppers. Aubrey Organics, which offers a shampoo and a conditioner for swimmers and other athletes, has seen a 17 percent sales increase in its special hair care category. Davey has seen similar results, though Collective Wellbeing is a relatively new company (it launched in April 2004). Davey says he already can see ?hair care that addresses specific concerns is one of [the company?s] strongest categories.? Collective Wellbeing has seen a sales increase of 500 percent per month since its inauguration.
Trumbach expects ?this trend to accelerate this year, as athletes and other active people become more aware of these 100 percent natural products that address their unique hair care concerns.? With the help of the right products and providing hair care education for shoppers, retailers can help customers see that being fit, healthy and attractive can and should include their hair.
Christine Spehar is a Boulder, Colo.-based freelance writer.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 4/p. 38, 44