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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