Friday, 26 August 2011

Hair raising myths

There is a whole zillion dollar market out there devoted to the simple act of 'washing one's hair'. Earlier people just used soap to wash hair.Infact i used to use Swastik shikai soap till i was 17 .My hair was fine  and routine was simple- oil your hair overnight and wash with soap the next day. On sundays or when i felt like it i used to soak shikakai and aritha pods overnight and wash my hair with that. When i started college , i heard about shampoos and then since shampoos offered great convenience we shifted to Nyle except of course Mom.

Shampoos are surfactant and detergent based. The ones which are marketed as organic,natural and other such bullshit have many chemicals that we don't know as yet. Most of the ones which are natural are just simply 'castile soap' based with lot of essential oils and some plant extracts thrown in.
The job of the shampoo or soap is to clean one's hair- that's it. Hair shaft is dead and is made up of keratin[a protein]. Its physical and chemical damage to the hair  - like combing through wet hair,coloring,stripping hair of its natural colour etc  which decreases the quality of hair.

Myths floated around by hair oil ,shampoo and conditioner selling companies:

1. Oiling hair is for stimulation of scalp and to moisturize it. I have grown up using plain coconut oil.Its great and when i want extra pampering or when i am bored of coconut oil, i use sesame oil. Don't expect oil to reduce hairfall,turn your hair black ,remove dandruff even if claims are made on the bottle.Herbs which stimulate the scalp are rosemary and brahmi.Homemade brahmi oil will de-stress you when you massage your scalp with it.And that de-stressing will ensure less hair fall.

2.Hairfall is because of many reasons. In women,too much worry and shock, after long illness,too much junk diet and no fruits and vegetables,antibiotics and steroids usage...and the list is endless. From outside, the worst foes of hair are- too much styling products, too much of chemical treatments.

3.The quality of your hair is genetic - how thick or wavy ,curly ,straight,fine limp hair or gorgeous thick mane. You can only improve upon the appearance with hair appropriate styling.Learn to be happy with whatever you have.

4. Shampoos contain SLES and its brother family of surfactants  wash off the dirt and the natural oils. That's why your hair feels rough and dry after the wash.  Conditioners were invented to hide the dryness shampoos cause . They stick to hair shaft as a covering till the next wash.No amount of vitamins in shampoo do any good because its immediately washed away. In conditioners a few chemicals like silicones do protect the hair from environmental damage. Most recently i heard how silicones are bad. Silicones just coat your hair and reflect light making them appear shiny.Silicones are the stuff you pay for in a styling serum.
In fact,since hair is dead all the vitamins in the conditioner is not going to do any good.

5. Your water supply may be harming your hair. Hard water does not allow even normal clothes washing detergent to remove stains from clothes. Either you require more detergent or more scrubbing and soaking.The same thing is for your hair.Hard water really messes up with your hair and makes it dry and rough when you wash with shampoo.
I've heard oiling and then shampooing controls dryness. Adding vinegar /lemon juice post rinse helps a lot in hard and not so hard water.

6. Wash your hair less if its dry and more if it turns oily in a day or two. Use any cheap well formulated shampoo for the hair type.Expensive shampoos unfortunately are not better.When choosing a shampoo, read the ingredient list and don't get swayed by the mention of aloe vera,chamomiles or any such plant components or vitamins.

7. Paraben free: If you are allergic to parabens only then go paraben free otherwise if paraben is not used as preservative then something else has been used...something that you don't know of because hype is not created around it as yet. Believe me, we ingest knowingly and unknowingly so many carcinogens in form of vegetables and fruits laden with pesticides, the grains and dals which are grown on chemical fertilizers that a paraben containing shampoo is relatively harmless. If you want to blow your money do so on organic vegetables and dals, rice and milk not on some organic shampoo !

8. Your hair and skin is dependent on your diet. Period!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Beauty on sale !

You know , I'm one of those people who is fed up of cosmetics and creams that don't work.I'm quite done with advertising claims so much so  I no longer hear them.I have been on a different quest from last 10 years - products that consistently work as per their formulations and intended use.

Being a post graduate in microbiology ,I was always wise to 'antiseptic'  and such claims.And then having worked in pharma and having studied chemistry made me curious and suspicious.
While I was growing up, India did not have so many products in skincare and nobody had even heard about sunscreens and face washes.All i had was Lakme and Ponds and then later when i was a teenager Garnier came with its facewashes and moisturizer and cold cream. However, Garnier was priced higher than Lakme and Ponds so very few girls of my age actually used it. We had a family soap- Lux which served as face wash ,handwash and bodywash.All of us used  Wipro or Godrej Shikakai soap for hair.All was fine with the world !

Then chaos started.I don't know if anyone remembers- Nyle was first indian mass market shampoo along with Clinic Plus. Both of them were 'detergent-based' Can you imagine ? For a longest time, all high end shampoos had only SLS as main surfactant.

I have been stickler for reading everything on the bottle or packets before buying it so reading ingredient lists  is only happy chore for me.The only problem was all the Indian skin creams and shampoos never ever had any ingredient lists. So like everyone else I learned stuff on the go and being curious Internet only whetted my appetite for knowledge and chemistry behind everything.Plus i had a lot of good sense which prevented me abusing my skin or hair with wrong and harmful products.

This is what i have learned from education,observations,logic,good sense and from mistakes over the years.

Traditional soaps are made from lye[sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide] mixed with fats[animal tallow,lard,vegetable oils ]. When people say soap that is what they mean. So when companies say 'soap-free'- they mean they have added chemically fractionated surfactant like SLS,SLES ALS,ALES etc. along with other chemicals.Nowadays, i have seen SLES been added in premium soaps- especially those companies which claim to be natural and herbal.

Now many dermatologists and cosmetologists don't advocate the regular bar of soap especially for sensitive skins.The only reason is commercially mass marketed soaps contain fillers,dyes,strong fragrance and ph is towards alkalinity.Sensitive skins and diseased skin don't take too kindly to such harsh soaps whereas a well formulated bodywash is moisturizing,mild both in fragrance and dyes and ph is more towards the acidic state. There are plenty of mild body washes in the market but i prefer Dove,Olay and Palmolive, J&J because they are cheaper,with practically zero colour[Dove and olay] and not too strong fragrance and do the job well.
Now skin is the same everywhere so there is no reason why a bodywash can't double up as facewash. I use the bodywash on face too and only carry a facewash at work or when i go out.I don't have acne on face and my skin is normal to oily.
I avoid strongly coloured facewashes or bodywashes with essential oils and prefer unscented or mild fragrance.I think there are plenty of well formulated cheap and awesome facewashes in the market today. I like Garnier[full ingredient list],Ponds ,Everyuth and Neutrogena[for oily skin] -most of them contain SLES besides other ingredients.
However, i am so used to soaps so i use all the affordable ,mildly scented and less colored ones like Dove, Khadi soaps
Common sense says that any kind of peptide,vitamin,and any such additive in face and bodywash is only for timepass and to fool people into paying more.Pay more if you want to but not under the foolish notion that its going to do you any good because the body wash is going to be washed away so where does the ingredient have any time to work its magic[ ie. if we assume that the vitamin or such additive is in sufficient quantity in the product]
For make up cleansers i love Cetaphil, Garnier and Nivea cleansing milk. Affordable and great. I find that sesame and coconut oil work great too.

Skin creams:-

Why do you think you need a skin cream? Only for two reasons :- either to moisturizer or to act as medicine for the skin. To moisturize a well formulated product needs humectants,lubricants - it doesn't need essential oils with strong fragrance,colour or irritants. A general rule of the thumb is the more irritant /chemicals you pile on skin the more irritated your skin will become. The clove oil or mint oil that you love so much has potent chemicals in it. Everything in Nature too is chemicals/molecules- the one processed in the labs are just fractionated into individual ones. People have a pet peeve against mineral oil. Its just a lubricant without color and fragrance and that's why its used so much .Its cheap effective lubricant.Mineral oil has different properties than natural oils like olive,sunflower,sesame and only because different oils have different fatty acid compositions.But oils have only one quality they moisturizer the skin by making a layer on the skin and that's it.The oily layer doesn't allow water to escape and hence the skin looks alive and hydrated.

Humectants like glycerin,honey etc attract water and keep skin moisturized.There are plenty of cheap effective moisturizers like Vaseline with spf ,Nivea,Emolene . My favorite is glycerin mixed with rose water.I just increase or decrease the glycerin amount depending on the seasons.I use the body lotion on face ,body and feet too and only when i require. I don't have the time to sit and moisturize everyday.

If you want a cream to do you any good chose one with Vitamin C, B ,A and cell communicating peptides .I have not seen a single potent antioxidant cream on Indian shelves as of today which is affordable and in sufficient quantity.Most of the costly night and day creams are just fluffy moisturizers.So if any one knows a potent cream do recommend.

Scrubs and masks:

Your skin is gentle and when you wash yourself your soap or body wash exfoliates the dead skin cells very well. So why beat a dead horse ? Most of the scrubs are harsh walnut powders or god knows what - i think they are fit only for the feet. The last time i bought them i washed my feet with them.For once in a while i use the really affordable one- Everyuth -ultra mild and i love the nivea scrub . But i use only once in 15 days and that too if i remember to use one. I don't buy any masks at all and never have...if i feel like 'masking' i just mix yoghurt and honey with turmeric and apply on the face.


I have been to dermatologists 2-3 times and not one of them ever recommended sunscreen to me. I have brown skin.However, My sister has sun allergy so she develops sunspots if exposed to hot sun.Her dermatologist recommended calamine lotion and some white paste to be applied only on sunspots  when she goes out. Of course she wouldn't ..only white cricketers do that ! So she wears a sunscreen.
Brown and dark skinned people are blessed lot .The melanin in our skin provides a natural SPF cover to us so that we can resist burning more than pale skins.Currently,the following filters are FDA approved suncreens/blocks.This might not be the comprehensive list however to you and me it gives a fairly good idea.
This is what i think:-
1. You need to apply sunscreen every 2 hours if you have been out in the sun continuously.Only then it helps.Lets face it who does that?
2. You need to apply a UVA and B filter. What i do is apply Spf 15 sunscreen with both UA and UV B filters - i have found an oil free one. Since you need to apply frequently you need an affordable sunscreen - a Rs 1000 + won't do. I use Lacto calamine everyday since it contains zinc oxide,if i go outdoors i use fabindia's spf 15 oil free sunscreen. Other one i use is from chemists -Suncote gel on exposed parts.I also love Garnier's spf 15. I usually skip moisturizers since sunscreen are pretty greasy on their own.
3. Read the ingredient list for above FDA ingredients and only then buy and remember the chemical should be within first 5 ingredients on the list to be effective
3. Most importantly i carry umbrella in summers and wear full sleeved cotton coat or avoid going out in sun if not required.

Sometimes when i am too lazy i don't use suncreen at all.C'est la vie!


I don't bother whether its paraben free or not since i'm not allergic as yet of preservatives.I use the product before its best before date .I buy only those products closer to manufacture date that way i have plenty time to use it up.My take is - if its paraben free then they have used some other preservatives that we don't know as yet.

Cruelty free:

i don't buy this crap and don't bother with it. I 'll never buy any overpriced product just because its cruelty free. Any new molecule has to be tested in animals for toxicity, tolerability and allergy. If not animals, do you want the product to be directly tested on you?
The companies claim cruelty-free saintly and piously only because all the ingredients they use in their formulations and cosmetics are tried,tested and validated in the past.
All the people who claim how icky 'chemicals' are and swear by natural and herbal crap will be better off not using any make up,most of the expensive and nonexpensive bottled creams and shampoos because 'chemicals' are everywhere.

P.S: Brand reccos are based on my usage-none of the brands are paying me to say so.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Where is my affortable leave in conditioner ?

I have grown particularly steadfast about my affordable effective an easy to use Garnier leave-in conditioner.You know, those green bottles ! I have waist length hair and since i stopped oiling just to comb hair i have been increasingly dependent on Garnier leave in conditioner so that combing long hair doesn't become a nightmare !

I really don't care what is advertised about leave ins but the Garnier one made my hair soft and easy to comb and i required only a little of it. Now that my bottle is about to get over , i went to buy another and guess what.....its discontinued ! Off the shelves !

I searched so many malls and shops just to find some bottle of it. There is not a single leave in conditioner in the market in that price range. There is some fancy  looking L'oreal serum which is costly. I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms and am dreading combing hair without one.

So,Garnier where is my leave in conditioner ? :(

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Thrills of Banking

I've finally reached a conclusion that poor customer service by Indians for Indians is our trademark.Either that or I'm a magnet for poor customer service and cheaters.
Last year i opened an account with State Bank of India ,Pulgate,Pune branch. Anybody who has opened an account knows that one has to attach all the required proofs before a/c is opened.Now nationalized banks are class apart. They are Government employees therefore i doubt they can be fired for being obnoxious, poor service, mistakes ,etc etc.

Here's what happened to me and which has cost me heartburn ,umpteenth trips to the bank and lots of cursing.

1. They opened my a/c after 12-13 days.They told me they'd inform me but they didn't . I made 2 trips just to find out if my a/c was opened.
2. On my third trip ,they gave me a/c no. in which one has to immediately deposit Rs 1000 which i did.
3. I had asked for cheque book and internet banking facility which they had NOT activated even though i had filled in the details in the account opening form and the debit card was to arrive at the given address.
4. Days passed and  I did not get the debit card so fearing loss of the card, i went to the branch and there it was -lying safely in the cupboard of Mr Branch Manager ! Now the bank manager growled about why the address was not written on the forms properly. I growled back "why will i not write the correct address for my own account" and i told him address proof was already given to the bank. He refuses to believe that i had written correct address on the a/c opening form .What an idiot !
5. Then i go and waste an hour for internet banking pin and ids at the behest of a rude unsmiling bank lady.
6. I log on to internet banking to realize the data entry people of State bank of India have conveniently written only "Pune"  for address. Poor courier guy. SBI bank had left it for postal dept to figure out where i lived in Pune.
7. On my fifth trip, I go to complain to bank manager that my address is not there at all on net banking so how do i receive anything ! I waste another hour by the time 3 idiots open the a/c on respective PCs to find that indeed the address field is empty.One has to imagine the greatness of banking institutions run by the government - addresses are not important to them !
8. One idiot of the bank asks me to tell her  the address while she updates . Of course, she did a bad job of it and now there is the correct address followed by wrong area. Something i realized later on the net banking page.
9. Amidst all this i suddenly get another shock.The day my a/c was opened happened to be June 30 -last day of the quarter. So guess what ? The great SBI bank deducts min.balance charge even though on same day i deposited Rs 1000.
10. On my 8th visit i go and again complained to the bank manager. Yep i did lot of complaining but they have worn me. He tells me rudely he can't do anything about it because it was automated [i now realize that this is a lie- they throw all the blame on computers and automation.So never ever believe them !] He directs me to another idiot Mr.Despande- his asst.manager. Both of them rudely tell me the same thing .I ask them to close my a/c because I've had enough.They tell me to wait for a year otherwise there'll be more charges. I ask them for email id for their superiors or complaint forms. Now, when i say this- Despande tells me there are no such forms and he asks me to write the complaint on blank page.I do so and then take xerox copy as my acknowledgment with his sign and stamp.
11. Well, what happens next, you might ask....well nothing happens. The trail goes cold ...around 25th July 2010. I resurface around may 2011. Why the delay you might ask ? My mom was terminally ill and it became impossible for me to pay visits to SBI bank's idiots.
12. Armed with the xerox copy of the complaint and an approval form for mobile no. i go to the bank. I ask Despande whether anything has been done in past one year....he doesn't reply properly as usual and then he looks up my details on his system and promises me to reverse the charges that day itself ,saying i won't need this complaint letter anymore. I also give him the mobile approval form.
13.Again, nothing happens . Now I'm thoroughly harassed and beyond angry -I've just settled down in comfortable numbness .Yet, i make 10th visit to the bank only to find Despande on leave and the lady whom he gave forms in front of me feigned surprise. But i had lost patience- i categorically told her that forms were given to her in front of me and why nothing was done about it.She took down my number and a/c no.Of course, i didn't expect her to call me  or to do anything about it.
14. I call Despande after 2-3 days and he takes down my a/c number and doesn't do anything.
15. On my 11th visit ,i go with a/c closure form having made up my mind to close the a/c. Despande asks me why i want to close it. Heaving and too tired to repeat the above details i just mentioned that there is no service and that I'm happy to  leave the bank.He immediately pulled up my details and asks some lady to reverse charges then and there.As for mobile number updation they have lost the form and he's asking me to redo approval thingie.
16. Now i'm a tired woman with charges reversed without interest.
17. One more thing, i had also send two complaint mails via SBI website for which i got docket numbers and an email saying they have forwarded the complaint to Branch manager ,Pulgate. It goes without saying the complaint emails went to the dustbins and arrogant lazy SBI people didn't do anything about it.

Why write such a long tirade on the blog?

1.To bring to everyone's attention that such things happen and thank your stars if this has not happened to you.However,BEWARE. It could happen to you.
2.State bank of India is a lousy bank and don't open an a/c there at all.
3.Banks are your enemies. They are not accountable to their customers and levy charges ad hoc so yes they can reverse charges too.
4. Its good thing my religion forbids me the eating interest off my money .Banks profit from interests and charges.
5. Employees of banks lie and usually they don't know what happens in their own banks.They don't have proper and up to date knowledge of the banking services or charges themselves. This is true for private banks too.
6. Bank employees are there to mislead,misguide ,withhold information so everything becomes YOUR responsibility.
7 Since banks are saving paper and therefore trees, they DON"T inform you about revised charges, changes in interest rates..nothing zilch.So rest assured, anytime anywhere banking ,easy banking are "MARKETING WORDS"- hollow and untrue.Its your responsibility to keep checking their websites etc.
8 If you take interest off your money, then beware, when you close a/c in any bank they have to send the chq for interest accrued to you - just remove all your money from the bank because from experience i can tell you they don't bother to send your accrued interest by courier once your a/c is closed.They just eat up the money.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...