Organic hair care – complicated, but not impossible

If switching to an all-natural haircare routine seems daunting, there are certain ingredients in conventional hair products which you can slowly start to avoid.

Of all the clean beauty categories, hair care is definitely the least far along. That being said, people were saying the same thing about clean skin care and makeup 10 years ago. We’ve seen the green chemistry and the innovation that’s been applied to clean skin care, it’s just so amazing. We need a little more time with haircare…it’s getting there. Slowly, but surely.

Creating clean haircare seems to be an almost impossible prospect. A typical shampoo usually contains a mix of surfactants for cleaning, viscosity builders, solvents, chemical conditioning agents, and other components such as fragrance and, eventually, color for commercial appeal. Currently, there are only a few green chemistries that, performance-wise, make your hair feel good; and when it comes to natural ingredients in commercial products, many are derived from processed palm or coconut oil – so they’re not really natural. Not to mention natural ingredients like talc (with its asbestos concerns) and sodium coco sulfate (molecularly similar to sodium lauryl sulfate, even though it’s derived from coconuts instead of petroleum) can be toxic. You’d have to chemically modify stuff from nature to get a hair product. So basically commercially available herbal shampoos are still based on synthetic ingredients, boosted with “natural” raw extracts.

Still, if switching to an all-natural hair care routine seems daunting—or unappealing—there are certain ingredients in conventional hair products that you can slowly start to avoid.

As well as  hair products can contain things like coal tar (used in dandruff shampoos), ethanolamine (used in styling products), and benzene compounds like toluene (used in hair dyes), which are all associated with health concerns including skin and eye irritation; endocrine disruption; possible carcinogens; and developmental, reproductive, and immune toxicity.


Your scalp and nose – the root of risk

The scalp is considered as the most absorbent part of the body, meaning potentially dangerous hair care ingredients could end up in the bloodstream. (The scalp and forehead are actually four times more absorbent than the skin on your forearms.)

In addition to chemical exposure through application to the scalp, the inhalation of some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during shampoo use is also worrying. Phthalates, which are often found in fragrance, can enter into the system through inhalation, which is then absorbed through the lungs.


Other Reasons Your Hair Could be Damaged

Did you know that copper turns hair green—not chlorine? And did you know that there are high levels of copper in your tap water? Pharmaceutical drugs also have an affect: Salt metabolized through medicine can damage hair. These are good things to keep in mind when searching for your ultimate clean haircare routine.


The Environmental Impact

Once they go down the drain, these chemicals make their way into municipal wastewater before being released into rivers, oceans, and lakes. Research from the European Commission found that using conventional shampoo can contribute to “climate change, water resource depletion, mineral and fossil resource depletion, and freshwater eco-toxicity.”


In conclusion

Getting into organic hair care is complicated – but not impossible. It takes time and effort, but it is all worth the hassle.




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