Can Hair Products Affect Brain Health?

Do you know that what you put on your scalp can easily seep into your brain? Read on to learn how it works! 

In This Article

Emissary Veins + Hair Products

Do you know that what you put on your scalp can easily seep into your brain? Read on to learn how it works! 

The 13 emissary veins, which literally drain your brain through your skull, are often overlooked by Western medicine, but are well understood in Ayurveda. In most people, veins pass through 13 holes in the skull, and the clinical significance of these veins is astounding. 

The veins are bi-directional,4 which means they can take waste out of the brain into vascular circulation, or they can transport nutrients, dangerous toxins, or infections into the brain.3 These emissary veins help empty the sagittal and transverse sinuses of toxic waste, old cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), and venous blood.3 Recently discovered glymphatics, which drain three pounds of toxins out of the brain each year, are lymphatic vessels that follow cranial nerves along the sagittal and transverse sinuses.5,6 These veins continue through tiny skull foramen (holes) to the outside of the skull as emissary veins. 

While not yet confirmed, emissary veins may also be a pathway for glymphatic vessels, helping drain dirty CSF from the brain and its ventricles. Science shows emissary veins and glymphatics drain into the vascular system in the neck at critical junctures of the jugular veins.4,5 

Massage Your Head! 

One study found gentle scalp massage produced abundant drops of blood on the inner surface of the bone—an indication that cutaneous blood can flow inward through the bone or through emissary veins.1 This suggests scalp massage can elicit dramatic changes in cranial blood flow. 

massage scalp oil

Ayurveda has numerous therapies geared toward increased vascular circulation of the scalp, emissary veins, and inner cranium. A deep vigorous head massage, called shiro abhyanga, is commonly part of an Ayurvedic daily routine. With this new science, we have a deeper understanding of the value of a traditional head massage and the ancient technique of marma therapy. 

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Hair Products Matter 

In another study, researchers combined methadone with an Ayurvedic massage oil (sesame oil) and massaged this combination into the scalp. Methadone is typically given orally to wean addicts off heroin. They attempted to determine if any methadone would penetrate the skull and enter the brain chemistry. As a control, they measured the amount of methadone that entered the brain through an oral dose as well.2 

The results were amazing! There were almost the exact same levels of methadone in the brain from the head massage with sesame-methadone oil as with the oral dose. One of the hallmarks of Ayurveda is specific types of oils. These oils traditionally combine sesame oil with various herbs. Oils act as carriers for herbs, in the same way sesame oil carried methadone into the brain. 

This research indicates a daily Ayurvedic oil massage may increase CSF flow and brain lymphatic drainage by stimulating marma points and boosting flow of emissary veins. However, be careful what you use on your head! Hair dyes, chemical-laden shampoos, and conditioners may also be using these emissary veins to deliver dangerous toxins into the brain. 

Avoid Known Toxins in Hair Products 

Lead acetate is a color additive that can be found in hair dyes and some conditioners that gradually change hair color, otherwise known as “progressive” hair dye products. While Canada and Europe have banned the sale of cosmetic products containing lead acetate for nearly a decade now, the ingredient is still quite legal here in the good ol’ USA.7 

Numerous studies have linked lead acetate to a swarm of health concerns:10 

sick puppy
  1. Cancer 
  2. Hormone disruption 
  3. Immunotoxicity 
  4. Allergies 
  5. Human developmental toxicity 
  6. Reproductive toxicity 
  7. Environmental toxicity 
  8. Wildlife toxicity 

This year, more than a dozen health advocacy groups petitioned the FDA to ban the use of lead acetate in hair dyes, as it has been identified as a neurotoxin and carcinogen.7,10 

The FDA approved use of the ingredient in hair dyes back in 1980, citing trials in which the topical uses of lead acetate did not increase levels of lead in the blood, so they allow its continued use with the following disclaimer required on the label:8 

fish toxicity mercury puddle image

“Caution: Contains lead acetate. For external use only. Keep this product out of children’s reach. Do not use on cut or abraded scalp. If skin irritation develops, discontinue use. Do not use to color mustaches, eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair on parts of the body other than the scalp. Do not get in eyes. Follow instructions carefully and wash hands thoroughly after use.” 

Contrary to the FDA findings, there are several studies showing significant absorption through the skin into the blood when applied topically.7,9,10 

Try to source the purest products for your hair, because what you put on your head may, in short order (two hours, to be exact), be in your brain.2 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4043044 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865784/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4681798 
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51839855_Anatomy_and_Pathology_of_the_Cranial_Emissary_Veins_A_Review_With_Surgical_Implications 
  5. http://jem.rupress.org/content/212/7/991.long 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4636982/
  7. Scientific American. Get Toxic Chemicals Out of Cosmetics Nov. 2017
  8. https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm143075.htm
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7524554
  10. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703511/LEAD_ACETATE/#.We6RfIhryUk 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4043044 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865784/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4681798 
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51839855_Anatomy_and_Pathology_of_the_Cranial_Emissary_Veins_A_Review_With_Surgical_Implications 
  5. http://jem.rupress.org/content/212/7/991.long 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4636982/
  7. Scientific American. Get Toxic Chemicals Out of Cosmetics Nov. 2017
  8. https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm143075.htm
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7524554
  10. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703511/LEAD_ACETATE/#.We6RfIhryUk 

 

30 thoughts on “Can Hair Products Affect Brain Health?”

  1. Hi John! Any idea on products for curly hair? Whenever I put hair gel in I think “Am I poisoning myself? This can’t be good for me!” But without it, I have a big frizzy mop that’s impossible to control :). What about conditioner.

    Reply
    • I’d like to know as well as I have curly hair too! I would love to use something that is completely natural that will nourish my hair. I have thought about using baking soda or ACV for my shampoo and conditioner but am afraid it might be a little too harsh. What if I “washed” with the lymphatic oil and then rinsed or “conditioned” with ACV?

      Reply
    • Hi Emma nice to hear from you! The most natural thing to help with frizz and hair troubles would be coconut oil. Have you tried it? When picking a shampoo or conditioner try to avoid those with a laundry list of chemicals. Be well.

      Reply
  2. I have very curly short hair. I have been alternating coconut, argan, and caster oil resulting in soft, shinny, non-frizzy curls! I’ve always needed to alternate products from one washing to the next…every 3-4 days depending on how things look.

    Reply
  3. This is fascinating information that I thought to have some truth to it 15 years ago. 15 years ago was when I became conscious of the products going into or on my body—in particular my scalp(the brain!!) This speaks to all the toxic cosmetic product lines aimed at African Americans in the 70’s through television commercials and radio ads. Sad for the older generation—-great for the generations to come—-if you they will listen. Great post Doc!

    Reply
  4. Does anyone know of any natural products that colour your hair but not henna. I tried it and was not a success for me. My hair is medium brown

    Reply
  5. For curly hair I like Terressentials lavender clay wash. It does not strip the hair so there is no need for conditioner. You can also make your own clay wash by mixing rhassoul clay and aloe vera juice together. Just be sure to not add too much clay or it will dry out the hair. If doing an oil massage, you may need a stronger cleanser; but that would depend upon your curl type. As for gel, flaxseed gel can easily be made at home. If a store bought gel is preferred, Kinky Curly Curling Custard works for a variety of curl patterns and is made mostly of natural ingredients.

    Reply
  6. Having read your article I am a little confused. Are you saying that it takes about 2 hours for the dyes,shampoos and conditioners to enter the brain from when they are put on your scalp or that if they are left on your scalp for 2 hours they will enter your brain.The methadone was used with a carrier oil and massaged into the scalp. The hair products are generally used mostly on the hair and quickly washed out. There are no carrier oils. Are you making a big leap here?

    Reply
  7. Same question as Dianne …..any hair cloure suggestions to really cover gray?
    Very, very interested in a healthy solution.
    Thank you,
    InPennsylvanian

    Reply
  8. First, thank you Dr Douillard for your scholarly articles. I am so grateful for your time and willingness to write about your research and new developments in the field as they emerge. I have learned so much here.

    And…Yes please some suggestions for a non-toxic or at least a less harmful product(s) to color grey. I was completely grey by the time I was 30 (yup Miss pitta here) and feel too young to be sporting grey hair. It is frustrating to be told something is bad for you without some suggestions on how to change that which one has been doing. Help please!

    Reply
  9. I have very curly hair and I color it. I’ve been concerned with chemical dyes seeping into my scalp. I’ve been using a natural dye called Herbatint. You can get it at whole foods, sprouts and other natural grocery store chains. It’s not totally natural but more natural than conventional hair dyes. For washing my hair, I’v been using 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1/2 a teaspoon of activated charcoal mixed in with 1 cup of water. I keep a separate applicator bottle I bought on amazon and apply to my scalp and hair with lots of vigorous massaging while applying. This seems to clarify really well. I use Dr. Bronner’s citrus hair conditioning rinse afterwards. This really softens my hair. When I get out of the shower and towel dry and put loads of coconut oil.

    Reply
  10. Pretty scary. Which product lines are non-toxic or the least toxic? There are all kinds of chemical names in products I have seen and use. I just need some product lines that are more natural.

    Thanks so much.

    Barbara

    Reply
  11. I agree that it is frustrating to be told something’s bad for you and not be given any answers. I do not have time to make my own shampoo and conditioners. I also don’t have time, nor is it necessary for me to wash my hair every day because it needs to dry on its own because of the natural curl. How about if you folks make some products and some of them to us? That would be marvelous!

    Reply
    • Hey there,
      Even Herbal Essence has a new hair shampoo and conditioner that was deemed good by the Environmental Watch group ( EWG). The ones verified by EWG are; “the Honey & Vitamin B Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Birch Bark Extract Sulfate-Free Shampoo, which are formulated to meet the requirements that earn the EWG Verified stamp of approval. This makes Herbal Essences it the first mass hair-care brand to receive the program’s mark.” Should be available in your local stores and amazon, among others.

      Reply
  12. Hi Dr Douillard. Dr Marco Ruggiero published findings with brain lymph drainage. He could se accumulated fluids ( blockades in deep cervical nodes) with simple sonography. I don’t agree that Infections and inflammation in mouth, nose, throat are cause for obstacle. More in my opinion is problem of lymph congestions coming from the liver ( hepatic portal system). Doctors don’t want to tell us what is making blockades in liver, which are also causing congestion in Portal vein ( Porto-Caval Anastomoses). Esophagus, hemorrhoids, pancreas problems ( the hepatic portal system lacks valves, blood flow can be in any direction depending on pressure gradient). How I got metallic taste in my mouth is explained with this when I was extremely toxic. Also much later I connected dots, why my right nostrils started getting dry after blockade in liver. One of causes for Alzheimer ( peanut butter smell test?). Toxins, liver, blockades, drainages, garbage disposals, lymphatics, glymphatics….&c.
    Don’t ask you school medicine. Thank you Dr Douillard because, 99 % of alternative health practitioners/bloggers don’t want to post this my rant/ observation. Just because I am “ a little bit “ out of box programmiert?
    https://www.ecronicon.com/ecne/pdf/ECNE-11-00449.pdf
    https://youtu.be/M_9UH7A08gE
    https://youtu.be/CqtQALXskDU
    Is it Hepatic Portal system in exact place of one of Chakras?

    Reply
  13. We were using Soapnuts in India for many years to shampoo our hair. We soaked overnight and use that water to shampoo .
    I wish I continue that .

    Reply
  14. Here is a database from the Environmental Worker’s Group that contains a TON of information on the safety of products and chemicals. You can select the drop downs and choose the types of products you want to check for safety. They post the safest products first. You can also search for specific products. They back up their ratings with peer-reviewed studies. This site has helped me immensely.

    https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

    Reply
  15. I stopped dyeing my hair at age 60. That was 26 years ago. I was concerned about hair dye toxicity. Since then I have only used Dr. Bronners lLavender Castile Shampoo. I use a bit of coconut oil for frizzies.
    I am John’s 86 year old Mom.. I too, have learned so much about Ayurveda from John and have lived by it’s principles since 1975. Yeh! John..

    Reply

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