To Wash or Not To Wash

Peggy Rickard belongs to the same Landmark Worldwide Center (an international personal and professional growth, training and development landmarkqrcompany) as I do here in Arizona.  I didn’t know her, but she wanted to perform a service project for one of her Landmark courses and she wanted it to deal with the kidneys. The manager of the center – the ever affable Philip Rand – knew I did “something with kidneys,” so he asked if I would call her.  When I did, it turned out that she has a medical advocacy business, but that had nothing to do with her project.

We had a wonderful conversation.  Here was someone in one of my other communities who spoke my kidney language. Peggy had already contacted The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and learned from Dr. James Ivie, the Director of Patient Services, that what was really needed was to have the information leaflets about kidney disease and donation translated into Spanish since Hispanics are at a higher risk for kidney disease.

Kidney ArizonaMaybe I can pick out a few words of Spanish here and there, but she needed more. I couldn’t translate the leaflets into Spanish for her and didn’t know anyone who could.  That night, I went to the center for the completion session of The Wisdom Unlimited course in which I had been participating. In a greet-those-you-don’t-know moment, I spoke with Nathaniel (Nat) Garcia II – since he was the person directly in front of me – only to discover he is a missionary… and fluent in Spanish…and more than willing to do the translations.  Problem solved.

That got me to thinking about language. While taking a shower the next morning, the bottle of shampoo I was using caught my eye. It had the words ‘sulfate free’ in large letters on the label.  Hmmm, sulfate looks a lot like sulphur.  Are they related?

After checking a bunch of dictionaries, I decided to use the definition of The Medical Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sulfate since it seemed the simplest to understand.

“a salt of sulfuric acid”

Uh-oh, sulfuric means made of sulfur. Although the spelling may be different, sulfuric acid is highly corrosive. It’s also a mineral… and is used in both waste water treatment and fertilizer creation. Why would shampoo have this as an ingredient in the first place?shampoo

I figured the best person to provide an answer would be a hair stylist so I read Melissa Jongman’s article on http://hubpages.com/style/Sulfates-Are-they-damaging-your-hair-Why-to-opt-for-a-sulfate-free-shampoo

“Sulfates are detergents used to make the shampoo lather. They’re inexpensive to use in shampoos, which explains why more than 90% of shampoos contain them. The most common sulfates used in these shampoos are:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
  • Ammonia Laureth Sulphate (ALS)
  • TEA Lauryeth Sulfate (TEA)
  • Sodium Myreth Sulphate (SMS)”

This was not looking good.  Sulphur is something we, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients, need to avoid. As I explained in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, sulphur can further damage your already damaged kidneys.

Book CoverSo what can we do?  Not washing our hair is obviously not the answer. I googled shampoos without sulfates and came up with a list of 43 at http://sulfatefreeshampoos.org/sulfate-free-shampoo-list/#list. While the latest edit of this list was during this new year, I am not familiar with the editors nor the products. However, you can safely bet that I’ll try them.

Let’s go back to why sulfates are not good for CKD patients for a minute. I stumbled across a CKD education site called quizlet.com. Perusing this site, I found the statement that

“Very late CKD is due to reduced excretion of sulfates and phosphates.”

Of course! That makes perfect sense: as our kidney function declines, we are not excreting as much of these substances as we did before we were lucky enough (ouch!) to develop CKD and they build up.  That’s CKD 101.

A nervous me decided to see what other beauty or health products used sulfates. I discovered it’s used in body wash (Wait! Isn’t sulfate a skin irritant?), toothpaste, and nail polish. That tripped a thought. Didn’t I blog about that?

I used the search function on the blog only to find that that blog dealt with other chemicals in nail polish.  (Gritting teeth and crying out in anguish) Is nothing safe anymore? All right, pick a chemical… any chemical.

Looking at the ingredients in both hair products and nail polish, I chose phthalates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html helped us out with this one:chemistry

“Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. … They are used in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes)….

How Phthalates Affect People’s Health

Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates.”

Maybe the human health effects are unknown and maybe this passes quickly via the urine, but if you have Chronic Kidney Disease, you are not filtering your blood as well as other people.  Why take a chance of making it worse?

Now that I’ve probably made you fearful of using any beauty product on the market, be aware that there are many products without phthalate. Breast Cancer Action (Yes, there seems to be a connection between breast cancer and phthalates.) at http://www.bcaction.org/our-take-on-breast-cancer/environment/safe-cosmetics/phthalate-free-cosmetics/  offers a list of companies which produce phthalate free beauty aids.

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAILDigital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy

Let’s talk about service and gratitude for just a minute.  While I’ve always believed in service, it’s only since I’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (way back in in 2008) that I’ve become aware of how very thankful I am for the little things in life – like spreading CKD Awareness by writing this blog, posting some CKD tidbit on Twitter daily, starting an Instagram account for SlowItDownCKD, and offering my books.  Thank YOU for being the readers.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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