Christmas is coming, and that means pine scented candles and the beloved tradition of the Christmas tree. You know. The one where you:
- Get all bundled up for a magical night at the Christmas tree lot
- Pick the tree of your dreams
- Discover that your significant other has picked an entirely different tree of her dreams
- Get in a fight
- Concede defeat begrudgingly
- Shove the tree in the back of your vehicle where it blankets the carpet with enough pine tree needles to asphyxiate your vacuum cleaner
- Set it up in the family room (pine needles everywhere)
- Discover that it leans significantly to one side, like a power pole in the Oklahoma wind
- Decorate it with the “help” of the kids
- Redecorate it when the kids aren’t looking
- Undecorate the bottom because the dog thinks the bulbs are throw toys
- Gather round it for pictures in matching pajamas (Oh look! A onesie for you!)
- Unwrap the presents underneath it. (Hope for a new vacuum since yours was murdered by pine needles.)
- Realize, at last, that your drying tree is a fire hazard
- Haul it to the curb for the “free Christmas tree pick-up day” sponsored by your local disposal company
- Pray that, unlike last year, the trash truck will actually retrieve your tree before Valentine’s Day
If this is your relationship with the fabled pine tree, we are here to administer therapy. We are here to invite you to give pine another opportunity to prove itself, especially when it comes to your hair care. It could be just the ingredient you’ve been missing to have the best looking, best feeling hair of your entire life. Hear us out. Give pine a chance.
What’s Pine Tar Anyway?
O Tannenbaum, what in the world do you have to do with my hair? The answer is pine tar, which has been known to promote a healthy scalp and soft, luxurious locks.
Pine tar is “a form of wood tar produced by the high temperature carbonization of pine wood in anoxic conditions.” In other words, pine tar is a dark, tarry substance created when you burn pine wood in an enclosed container.
If you haven’t heard of it, we won’t shame you publicly, but we will say that you’re a little late to the party. Pine tar has been used to soothe skin and treat wounds for more than 2,000 years. It has also been used to preserve wood for ships. In fact, anyone who has spent much time around traditionally rigged ships would recognize the very distinct smell of pine tar.
Pine tar was heavily produced in the northern parts of Scandinavia to support the maritime industry. It helped prevent the ships’ timbers and standard rigging (ropes that held up the masts, yards, etc.) from rotting. Pine tar was also spread on a ship’s deck and hull, where there were inevitably cracks between the planks. The pine tar prevented rain and sea waves from entering into these cracks, causing leaks and rot.
Pine tar also caught on in the baseball world where it was (and still is, in some cases) applied to the bottom section of baseball bats to improve grip.
Why Pine Tar Shampoo?
In this blog, we’d like to focus on pine tar’s benefits for your scalp and hair health. After thousands of years, pine tar is still offering people a natural, gentle way to cleanse and soothe. It’s hard to improve upon nature.
Antiseptic, anti-bacterial. Pine tar has special antiseptic properties that allow it to kill bacteria and other germs and prevent infections. That’s what makes it so valuable in shampoo. It can give your scalp and your hair a thorough cleaning, removing dirt, debris, and other buildup.
Anti-inflammatory, anti-itch. Pine tar has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antipruritic properties, meaning it soothes skin inflammation and itching. This is why pine tar shampoo is a popular choice for people with psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and more.
Antifungal. One word here: dandruff. Those white flakes in your hair and on your shoulder are embarrassing because they make it look like you’re (gasp) not washing your hair regularly. Poor hygiene can indeed cause dandruff, but there are plenty of people who take great care of their hair and still end up looking like the “before” vs. “after” guy in a Head & Shoulders commercial.
More often than not, there’s some kind of fungal disease on the scalp, such as seborrheic dermatitis. With this type of dermatitis, the skin gets red and scaly. It also flakes off so you look like you have a light dusting of snow throughout your hair (that never melts). Pine tar is the perfect solution for dandruff. Its antifungal properties can keep fungal infections from developing in the first place so you don’t have to live in fear of the hair blizzard.
While many cleaning products will dry you out, pine tar is engineered by nature to be soothing and gentle on skin and to keep it soft and hydrated. Just like it did for ship timbers all those years, it seals in the good stuff (like moisture) and keeps out the unwanted stuff (like dirt, grime, and free radicals from the environment).
What About Pine Oil?
Pine oil is most often extracted from the heartwood of the pine tree, and it contains many of the same properties of pine tar. It moisturizes nature’s way, without making your hair feel heavy or coated. Instead, it leaves your hair feeling supple and smooth and looking vibrant and shiny. Look for natural pine shampoo that contains pine tar and pine oil.
Are All Pine Tar Shampoos Created Equal?
No. While we believe pine tar and pine oil are a couple of nature’s finest gifts, sometimes they’re added to shampoos simply for name recognition. It’s common for manufacturers to use low-grade pine derivatives in their soaps and shampoos alongside harmful chemicals. We say, what’s the point of bringing in natural ingredients if you’re going to use low-quality ones and drown them in a sludge of chemicals?
One of the biggest things to watch out for when buying pine tar products is creosote. Creosote is a natural by-product of combusting wood, but creosote has been linked to skin and eye irritation as well as cancer. Fortunately, there are ways to create pine tar without harnessing creosote, so look for products that are creosote-free.
Other specific chemicals to watch out for include parabens and sulfate. Parabens are a handy chemical filler because they help preserve the life of a product, but they can cause allergic reactions. They can also disrupt both male and female hormones, and they have been linked to infertility. And finally, parabens have been linked to breast cancer. Parabens don’t just sit on the surface of your scalp. They are very easily absorbed into the bloodstream where they can wreak havoc on your health.
Sulfates are also bad news chemicals. Manufacturers like them because:
- They bind to oils and dirts for an efficient clean
- They can produce a thick, foamy lather which is code for super clean in the human psyche. Unfortunately, that lather can dry you out.
Sulfates can contribute to skin inflammation and dryness, rather than relieving them. In the case of your hair, it can leave it dry as a bone. Not only will sulfates rid your hair of oils you don’t want, they will also strip hair of the oils you do want, leaving your hair looking brittle, dull, and dehydrated.
Give Pine a Chance
No matter what kind of relationship you have with your Christmas tree, we invite you to choose pine tar when it comes to your hair and scalp health. No pine needles, no post-holiday clean-up. Just the goodness of pine, pure and clean. Buy pine tar shampoo for yourself and your loved one. It’ll wrap up real nice under your (slightly leaning) Christmas tree.