Shampoo: It's pretty much a staple of life. There's a good chance that you've been using it since the day you were born.
By the time you reach your adult years, if you're anything like other Americans, you shampoo your hair an average of 4 times per week or even daily.
Therefore, it stands to reason that you should be careful about the products that you use in the shower. Your shampoo should do an excellent job of cleaning, but it should also be safe for your hair, your head, and your whole body.
Ahead, learn what shampoo ingredients you should avoid, and discover products that will clean your hair without toxic chemicals.
5 Best Natural Shampoo Picks
What’s so harmful about conventional shampoo? Simply put, it is full of dangerous chemicals that will damage your hair and possibly your health.
What Chemicals and Materials Are in Most Shampoos?
Chemical or Material
Safe to Use?
More research needed - We lean towards NO
More research needed - Quantities may be small enough to be ok - We lean towards NO
More research needed - We lean towards NO
This group of chemicals includes popular shampoo ingredients, such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). They serve two purposes in shampoo:
The problem with sulfates is that they do these jobs in a rather destructive fashion. They can leave your locks dull, damaged, dry, and prone to flyaways. They can also irritate your scalp and disrupt the healthy bacteria balance of your hair follicles, which is especially dangerous for people with sensitive scalps.
Even worse, sodium laureth sulfate can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, which is listed as a known or probable carcinogen by many different scientific bodies.
Verdict: No?? More research needed, we lean toward no
This ingredient can be located in shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. EWG's Skin Deep database calls propylene glycol a "moderate hazard" because it could irritate skin. It may also cause damage to internal organs.
Verdict: No?? More research needed - quantities may be small enough to be ok - we lean towards no
Formaldehyde releasers found in shampoos include Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the United States National Toxicology Program label formaldehyde releasers as known human carcinogens.
These dangerous chemicals are used to preserve shampoos, and work by forming formaldehyde in cosmetic products.
There is some debate, however, on whether the amount in shampoo is enough to be dangerous to humans. Nevertheless, we prefer not to take the chances. While it needs more research, we lean towards no for formaldehyde in our personal care products.
In this video-report, a California-based news station explains the danger of cancer-causing chemicals like Cocamide DEA, a possible human carcinogen banned in Europe and found in most mainstream shampoos.
When bituminous coal or petroleum are distilled, one of the products formed is coal tar. This dark liquid is often used as an ingredient in personal care products. In shampoo, its purpose is most often to treat dandruff or other skin conditions.
Shampoo containing coal tar is often blue or green in coloration. This coloration is a helpful identifier as to whether or not your shampoo may be harmful.
Unfortunately, coal tar is considered a risky substance. The Environmental Working Group gives coal tar its highest hazard score. That's because coal tar has carcinogenic properties, it can irritate skin, and it is toxic to the respiratory system.
Parabens and Phthalates
Like many personal care products, conventional shampoos contain phthalates and parabens. Phthalates can interfere with your endocrine system, and parabens can cause hormonal troubles. Using conventional shampoos can add to the amount phthalates and parabens you are inflicting on your system, and they can also introduce you to other harmful substances.
Verdict: No? More research needed; we lean toward no.
Silky, shiny hair is a tantalizing promise, and manufacturers deliver on it by adding silicone to their products. This isn't usually listed as "silicone" on the ingredient list. More often, it goes by other names, which often end in "-cone."
Silicones coat your hair strands. They help it look good for a time, but even as they add shine to the outside, they introduce dryness to the inside by preventing natural hydration from reaching the strands.
Also, these products continue to build up in your hair. There comes a tipping point at which the silicone coating that used to make your hair appear healthy and shiny becomes so built up that it weighs down your locks with a dull, heavy look.
Non Toxic Shampoo
Do those ingredients scare you? They should! Free yourself from those toxins by finding the best all natural shampoo for you.
What Chemicals and Materials Usually Make Up Non Toxic Shampoos?
Natural shampoos use plant- or mineral-based ingredients to keep your hair clean and healthy. When shopping for the best natural shampoo, you will probably come across some of the following ingredients on the label.
This ingredient is a humectant, so it is able to draw moisture from the air to hydrate your hair. It's also handy as a shampoo ingredient because it is water soluble, so it mixes well into water-based shampoos.
However, if you live in a dry climate, you may want to avoid this ingredient. Yes, as a humectant, it can draw moisture out of humid air. But if the air around you is dry, the glycerin may actually pull moisture out of your hair to help humidify the air, thereby drying out your hair.
Look for glycerin that is derived from natural sources, whether plant or animal; synthetic glycerin is not as safe.
Essential oils are commonly used in non-toxic shampoo, and offer aroma-therapeutic delight for your senses.
It is worth noting that sometimes reading the label of even the best natural shampoo can still seem like a code, even though the language used on the label is likely more straightforward then the label of a toxic shampoo bottle. For instance, medica limonum is merely lemon oil, and citrus aurantium dulcis is simply sweet orange oil.
Popular plant-based oils for hair include coconut oil and argan oil. These oils contain fatty acids that nourish hair. Coconut oil is both antibacterial and antifungal. Argan oil contains vitamin E and other antioxidants, and it can protect your hair from sun damage. It also guards against split ends.
This plant-derived ingredient helps hold moisture in your locks. It will strengthen your strands, promote hair growth, and keep the pH of your hair balanced.
Look for this ingredient if you are replacing shampoos that contain coal tar; aloe vera's anti-fungal properties can help stop dandruff. In fact, it's such a useful ingredient that even if you don't end up buying a shampoo that contains aloe vera, you might consider applying straight aloe vera to your damp hair.
A non-ionic surfactant derived from coconut, coco glucoside is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. The nice thing is it can still help your shampoo get nice and foamy like we all love, but often have to leave behind with a natural shampoo.
Is Certified Organic Shampoo Always Best?
If you aren’t new to non-toxic shampoo then you may have seen certification symbols on a shampoo bottle before. The most common stamp is “Certified Organic” or “USDA Organic.”
What does “Certified Organic” actually mean? To receive this stamp a product's contents should be at least 95% organic, meaning no synthetic additives, fertilizers, dyes, or harmful pesticides were used in developing the ingredients of the product.
It is very likely that if your shampoo bottle contains this label that it also lacks the harmful ingredients mentioned previously in this article. However, reading the ingredient list of the product is the best way to be certain.
So, does that certified organic stamp mean that the shampoo is better than others? It is certainly a reputable stamp, but it is not a guarantee that the shampoo is non toxic.
More Certifications and Tools
The certifications and tools below are super helpful when looking for non toxic products. They give you an added level of security in knowing that another party has analyzed the ingredients and determined that the product is safe.
All shampoos recommended in this article have a SKIN DEEP score of 1.
What to Expect from Non Toxic Shampoo
Shampoos without sulfates won't foam and bubble in the same way that traditional products do.
Don't worry: Your hair will still get clean.
Although we are often conditioned to believe that sudsiness equals cleanliness, that's not actually the case. You'll usually get some lather out of a natural product, but even if you don't, the product can still tackle your hair's dirt and grease no problem.
Moreover, some shampoos may be super concentrated, allowing you to use only a little. This is important to remember, especially since a bottle tends to be a bit pricier than regular (but toxic) shampoos. If you actually look at the price for the amount of uses per bottle, it ends up evening out quite a bit. So don't use too much!
Making Your Own Shampoo
For those of us who want to take charge of our personal care products the easy way, store-bought natural shampoos are the way to go.
For those of us with a DIY bent, however, it is possible to make safe and effective shampoos at home. The benefit of this approach is that you know exactly what goes into your product, and you can control the ingredients.
Watch the video "Homemade Natural Shampoo" for a recipe and tips for making your own shampoo.
What about the "No Poo Method?"
Many have asked me about the "No Poo Method" to keeping your hair clean. For those of you who don't know, the No Poo Method is going without shampoo and using other alternatives to keeping your hair clean - most commonly a baking soda rinse and an apple cider vinegar rinse.
I have seen a huge mixed bag of opinions on this - some swear by it, and others say don't bother with it.
I don't really recommend the No Poo Method.
But, wait? If I am all about less chemicals, and this method is essentially a way to use natural alternatives instead of chemical laden shampoos, then why don't I recommend it?
For those of you who still insist you really have to try it - here is how you do it.
The No Poo Method:
Once again - I am not a proponent of this method. That being said, I still have many readers that ask how to do it - so here you go!
This is the most common method and what most people start with.
1st Step: Baking Soda Cleanse
2nd Step: Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
The Top 5 Non Toxic Shampoos... Reviewed
Now that you know what to watch out for and what ingredients to look for, it's time to find the best natural shampoo for your hair. Keep in mind that the best all natural shampoo for your locks will depend on your hair texture and composition. However, the list below can help you start to find the chemical free shampoo that will work most effectively on your hair.
If you're looking for the best organic shampoo, try Clevos Natura Foresta Shampoo. The 5.5 pH of this formula is just right for hair health. This is one of the best shampoo options on the market because it will leave your hair not only clean but also in great condition.
This shampoo contains coco glucoside to still help give it a lather without the nasty sulfates. It is also EWG Verified as well as certified organic.
For those with sensitive or treated hair, Carina Organics makes a great option for the best organic shampoo. Because it is 100% biodegradable, you can even take it along on your next camping trip.
If you want the best shampoo for your babies and young kids, try this product from Pleni Naturals. It can be used to clean both hair and skin.
Despite a name that sounds like a sulfate, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate is sulfate-free - It's a surfactant that is derived from coconuts, helping to give this shampoo a nice lather!
This shampoo is also Made Safe certified.
If you aren't concerned about official certification, consider Hairprint Chelating Shampoo. This shampoo is specifically designed to remove buildup from products and hard water from your hair.
Although the company claims that their ingredients are organic, the shampoo has not been certified as such. However, it is Made Safe certified.
If you want to feel good about your purchase, one of the best shampoo brands you can use is Alaffia EveryDay Coconut. The company's business model is designed to promote economic growth and sustainability in West African communities.
This shampoo is also Made Safe certified.
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