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When I say natural hair care, what do you think of?
For me, that phrase evokes the idea of expensive, herby-smelling concoctions that truthfully don't seem to do anything other than making your hair smell like the inside of a Traditional Chinese Medicine cabinet.
The thing is, it's 2019 (there are only a few months left until 2020!) and we are SO far beyond that. Organic shampoos and other natural hair care products these days are basically on par and even better than the ‘traditional’ options that we have, for a LOT of reasons. And it’s not just limited to shampoos - a natural hair mousse, mask, or treatment are also common options for healthier hair products.
Acure Organics Simply Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner Set
100% Pure Yuzu & Pomelo Glossing Shampoo
Tree to Tub Soapberry Shampoo
The Honest Company Shampoo & Conditioner Set
Ursa Major Go Easy Daily Shampoo & Conditioner Set
Davines Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner
Davines NaturalTech Nourishing Shampoo
The Seaweed Co Shampoo & Conditioner Set
EVOLVh Organic Ultrashine Moisture Shampoo
Ethique St. Clements Shampoo Bar
What is natural shampoo?
First things first - there isn’t a formal agreement or definition for what makes a natural hair care product - at least, not yet. However, you’ll find that most natural hair care products tend to exclude the same groups of ingredients for their harshness on hair and skin in favor of naturally-sourced, gentle options.
Some of the mainstream ingredients that natural shampoo brands tend to exclude are sulfates (especially Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, silicones, and parabens. I know what you're thinking - wait, what's wrong with these ingredients? Don't worry, I got you - here are explanations for exactly why natural hair care brands opt to leave these ingredients out of their formulas.
Sulfates - specifically, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - are actually added to a lot of products to create that thick foam that we usually associate with something working. Truth be told, it's in almost everything from toothpaste, shaving cream, bubble bath, shampoo - everything because it works exceptionally well as a thickener. The problem? SLS is an incredibly common trigger for skin irritation for a lot of people. It can be the cause of itching, dry skin, and even acne!
We all know how annoying it is to try out a new shampoo, only to find that it smells completely overpowering to the point of causing a headache. The thing about synthetic fragrances is that they can be made from chemicals that are commonly thought to be harmful, like benzenes and petrochemicals. They can also easily trigger allergic reactions ranging from asthma to full-on sneezing and teary eyes.
The truth with petrochemicals like petroleum jelly and mineral oil is that they’re actually harmless. Yep - for real. If you’re curious, you can read more here for some scientifically-backed info. But, I'd still opt for hair care products without mineral oil. Why? Mineral oil is basically a cheap filler conditioning ingredient. It will make any product feel as though it's more slick and moisturizing but doesn't actually do much for hair in the long run. Unlike plant-based oils like argan and coconut, mineral oil can't penetrate the hair shaft like other oils to actually improve hair from the inside out.
Silicones are a touchy subject for a lot of hair types - some love them, some hate them. Silicones are able to smooth down hair and make it feel conditioned, healthy, and shiny. There’s a big BUT with silicones, though! The thing with silicones is that they naturally repel water - making them hard to rinse out of hair. This creates a build-up on hair that, over time, can make it look lank and greasy - ew. What’s perfect for getting silicones out of hair, you ask? Oh - any shampoo with sulfates. Are you seeing a pattern here?
When it comes to natural ingredients, it’s incredibly important to formulate them with appropriate preservatives to ensure that they don’t go off before they’re supposed to, which is why parabens are a favorite mainstream preservative. They’re incredibly effective at stopping any fungi and bacteria from taking up residence in your cosmetics.
While that very famous study supposedly linking parabens and breast cancer has been disproved, parabens are now being found in the bodies of marine mammals such as dolphins. This happens as a result of us using a product that contains it in the shower, and the resulting water being washed out to sea. While we don’t know exactly what this means for the environment, just knowing that parabens are affecting animals in our environment is enough for me to stop using them!
What about the packaging? Is that natural?
Something else that I personally throw in for consideration is the type of packaging the shampoo comes in. Plastic is so hard to avoid these days, it’s a necessary evil. The thing is, 91% of plastic doesn’t get recycled - and that’s a hard truth to swallow. With that in mind, I’m also considering the packaging of these products. As in, is it recycled plastic? Is it plastic-free? Or is it something that I can compost? Rest assured that I’ll be looking into this as well when it comes to natural shampoos.
What is the best natural shampoo and conditioner?
The best natural shampoo and conditioner out there is one that cleanses your hair without stripping, while the conditioner smooths and helps your hair retain moisture for silky, healthy hair. I promise, the best all-natural hair products for you won't be hard to find!
Why choose natural hair care?
When it comes to all-natural shampoo, it doesn't mean just washing your hair with Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda and being done with it! If you're constantly struggling with your hair just not looking the way you want it to, take a step back and opt for a more natural alternative - the results could surprise you! I've had this situation happen to me too many times, but it didn’t click that the problem could be my shampoo.
All-natural hair products give your hair it's best chance to thrive - so why not give it a shot? If you're not sure where to start, here are some top recommendations for natural shampoo and conditioner for every hair type.
1. Acure Organics Simply Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner Set
For Frizzy Hair
Formulated with coconut water, marula oil, shea butter and coconut oil just to name a few, this shampoo & conditioner set from Acure isn’t one to turn your nose up at. It’s perfect for frizzy hair that’s been overworked by bleach and heat styling - it contains a lot of plant-based oils to nurture and condition your hair without weighing it down.
It's the best all-natural shampoo for gals who tend to straighten their hair - this combo helps to keep hair smooth and frizz-free, while intensely moisturizing and strengthening the hair follicles from within thanks to a potent blend of marula and coconut. Super moisturizing ingredients such as these two amazing plant oils are a major key in the fight against heat damage and frizziness!
However, what lets down this otherwise amazing product is that it contains added fragrance - usually listed as “Fragrance/Parfum” on ingredients lists, added fragrance can be natural or synthetic, or even a blend of both. However, since Acure has decided to just label it as fragrance, we can only guess that it’s at least partially synthetic.
2. 100% Pure Yuzu & Pomelo Glossing Shampoo
For Dull, Lacklustre Hair
With a focus on 100% natural hair products, 100% Pure boasts a huge offering of amazing natural ingredients for hair and body, and this Yuzu & Pomelo Shampoo has to be one of their best, in my humble opinion. First off, the ingredients list is crazy impressive - instead of plain water as the base ingredient, it uses organic aloe vera juice instead. Fresh aloe vera is amazing for soothing skin - including the scalp - so this is a great option for those with itchy, dry scalps.
The hero ingredients, Yuzu and Pomelo both work to naturally nurture hair right at the scalp to improve shine and hair growth - all while smelling naturally amazing, thanks to the addition of grapefruit essential oil.
This shampoo uses natural essential oils to add a super fresh, zesty aroma to this shampoo, so it's less likely to irritate sensitive noses. I also really like that they use post-consumer recycled plastic for their packaging and that their eco-friendly stance even extends to using soy-based inks and biodegradable packing peanuts!
3. Tree to Tub Soapberry Shampoo
For Thinning Hair
This intriguing shampoo is specifically formulated for thinning hair, but all hair types could benefit from adding this shampoo to their routine! Soapberries, sometimes known as ‘ soapnuts’ are the main hero of this shampoo. They’re sought after as a natural alternative to traditional sulfates since they create their own natural foam thanks to a compound called saponin. They’re literally magic - you can rub a berry together and it eventually foams, completely on its own!
In addition to Soapberry, this shampoo contains a few other ingredients to help boost hair growth and to thicken hair. Saw Palmetto and Pumpkin Seed Extracts block DHT (dihydrotestosterone) from being taken up into the hair follicle, which can cause hair loss. It's also pH balanced, a minor feature that makes a big difference to scalp health! A pH balanced shampoo ensures that your scalp is healthy and happy, leaving you with hair that's strong right from the root.
While this shampoo does boast soapberry's benefits, it doesn't completely rely on soapberry for its surfactant abilities like the packaging would have you believe. While the included ingredients are fine - and it's still sulfate free - I was surprised to see extra surfactants listed on the back of the bottle.
4. The Honest Company Shampoo & Conditioner Set
For Everyone in the Family
Okay, I know that two-in-one products don’t necessarily have the best rep - who else remembers trying two-in-one shampoo & conditioner? To be fair, this isn’t quite the same - the combo product this time is shampoo & body wash. The shampoo/body wash is gentle enough for the whole family, which I love because it means that there’s less clutter in the shower and in the recycling bin.
However, the claim of the shampoo being tear-free doesn’t stand - no, I don’t have a kid but I accidentally got some suds in my eye… Let’s just say there definitely were a couple of tears! Despite that, all the shampoos have been specifically designed to be safe and non-toxic for babies and children - something that all the other shampoos on this list haven’t been tested for.
Oh also, did you this is Jessica Alba’s company?
5. Ursa Major Go Easy Daily Shampoo & Conditioner Set
For All Hair Types
This shampoo & conditioner combo from Ursa Major tick a lot of points in my book - even though you're technically not supposed to wash your hair every day, this stuff is gentle enough to do that without stripping your hair and scalp. The creators at Ursa Major also approached this from a gender-neutral perspective, and that's reflected in the natural scents they've used for these products. In fact, all of their natural hair and skin products are made with this in mind!
Both of these are formulated with Aloe Vera Juice as a base - you all know how much I'm impressed when companies avoid filler ingredients! I honestly don't think that natural products get much better than this set from Ursa Major. The shampoo doesn't strip hair - like at all - but rinses out easily without leaving a residue. The all-natural conditioner is designed to be easy rinse - it sounds like a gimmick, but hear me out.
Easy rinse is a minor thing that makes a big difference in how much water you use in the shower. The quicker you can rinse something out of your hair or off your body, the less of this resource you'll have to use. Nifty, right?
6. Davines Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner
For Dry Hair
When it comes to the best natural conditioner for super dry and damaged hair, this is the one I think that you should reach for. Leave it on in the shower for a little longer than your regular conditioner for even more intense moisture surge. I like the unique jar packaging - while a jar would make you think that this is supposed to be grouped with natural hair styling products or deep treatments - but this is definitely intended to be used as a regular conditioner.
Something that I love about most natural conditioners (and this is no exception) is that a little goes a long way. The Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner is a super-concentrated formula, perfect for imparting all that natural goodness in the formula straight to where it's needed in brittle, breaking hair.
The only thing that holds this otherwise amazing conditioner back from a full, five-star rating from me is the added fragrance and color to the formula.
7. Davines NaturalTech Nourishing Shampoo
For Dry Hair
This shampoo is designed to perfectly complement the Davines Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner. Like the conditioner, it’s targeted to nourish dry, over-processed hair. It’s natural ingredients help to moisturize and rebuild hair, without weighing it down.
The Davines team pride themselves on creating a product that makes a rich, non-stripping foam thanks to natural surfactants. It’s completely sulfate-free, a crucial factor when it comes to treating damaged hair. Sulfates tend to dry out hair (and skin!) so it’s incredibly important to choose a sulfate-free product to nurture your hair from root to tip.
Another thing to note is that Davines is a salon brand - not just salon-quality, it’s one of the natural hair brands that ACTUAL hair stylists recommend and sell in their salons! If that’s not enough to say that natural brands are just as good - and even better - than mainstream products, I don’t know what is.
8. The Seaweed Co Shampoo & Conditioner Set
For Fine Hair
This set is for all my gals out there with fine hair - it helps to plump up volume and promises to stop hair from looking lank and heavy. It’s no secret that oils are the best choice for a natural conditioner blend - but on the other hand, they can be too heavy for folks with fine hair.
The thing is, the best natural hair conditioners are oils. But, instead of leaning too heavily on oils to provide moisture for hair, this Shampoo & Conditioner set features sustainably-harvested Bladderwrack Seaweed Extract combined with Aloe Vera to create a natural hair volumizer shampoo and conditioner. I know what you’re thinking now though - seaweed isn’t the most amazing smell that you want lingering in your hair!
The amazing people at The Seaweed Co thought of this, and have included natural lavender oil in the shampoo for its super-relaxing aroma and benefits for the scalp.
9. EVOLVh Organic Ultrashine Moisture Shampoo
For Color-Treated Hair
Formulated for all hair types, this natural shampoo ticks all the boxes. It's even safe for color-treated hair too! True to its name, it leaves some serious shine thanks to a combination of plant oils, seaweed extract, and amino acids. It's also formulated to have a low pH - our skin is naturally acidic, and using products that are too basic (aka alkaline) can really upset it. This includes our scalps, FYI! A happy scalp = happy hair.
Despite being sulfate-free, it suds super easily, especially on the second pass. If you're used to only shampooing once before moving onto conditioner, try shampooing twice if you're really craving a foamy, sudsy ordeal. The first pass of shampoo removes a bulk of the natural oils and buildup on the hair, and the second makes sure everything's squeaky clean.
Despite shampooing your hair twice, the plant oil-enriched formula of this shampoo doesn’t leave hair feeling stripped and dry, just clean and fresh. That’s what I call a win!
10. Ethique St. Clements Shampoo Bar
For Oily Hair
An oily scalp can be hard to feel in control of - does it need more washing? Does it need less? I think that this nifty little shampoo bar could just be the answer. A shampoo bar can be a little weird to get used to at first, but I promise it’s worth it. They last for freaking ages, and sud up just as well as a regular shampoo!
This bar from Ethique balances excess oil production for a less oily, less itchy scalp with natural essential oils and a super moisturizing base of cacao butter and coconut oil. It also smells amazing, and basically ticks all the boxes except for one - it’s sulfate-free status.
It doesn't technically contain SLS but has an ingredient called sodium coco-sulfate that some people argue is just as bad. It's hard to find unbiased evidence for this though - so we'll have to file it under a potential con. It’s up to you to decide if SCS is a dealbreaker - for me personally though, it isn’t.
Which natural shampoo is the best?
For me, it’s hard to beat the Ursa Major Go Easy Shampoo & Conditioner set as the best natural hair care products on this list. They just work, and I love how much the ingredients are focused on natural hair care solutions. I also really like that they're not super girly-scented either - even as a woman, a lot of shampoos just smell too freaking strong! Plus if you're a dude, you don't have to feel weird about smelling like you borrowed your girlfriend's shampoo. Unless that's how you like your shampoo - this is a judgement-free zone!
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About the author Stephanie Morin
NYC-based beauty and skin care blogger, Stephanie delivers a healthy dose of practical beauty tips for some serious skin care inspiration!