When it comes to our hair, many of us go to great lengths to smooth, define, volumize, curl or coax it. And although the products we slather on our scalps may work well, they are often awash with unhealthy synthetic ingredients that should be avoided. Fortunately, natural hair care products such as luscious shampoos, conditioners and styling aids leave hair shiny, soft and manageable without harsh detergents, petroleum-based softeners and artificial fragrances.
Shampoos with gentle cleansing agents derived from coconut (look for “coco” or “cocyl” on the label) are great alternatives to those with SLS and SLES. Use about a quarter-size dollop and shampoo thoroughly, focusing on the scalp. Add more water rather than product to generate more foam. If you have dandruff, switching to an SLS-free shampoo with tea tree oil or rosemary may help relieve symptoms. And shampooing less often (two to three times a week) can help restore natural oils that tame frizz and produce shine.
Effective ingredients found in natural conditioners include jojoba, shea butter, botanical oils, and soy and rice proteins. These natural ingredients help replenish moisture to dry, damaged hair, but they won’t leave it with that ultraslick feeling after rinsing, which comes from silicone, a petroleum-based ingredient found in most conventional formulas. Whereas a silicone conditioner simply coats hair, natural ingredients penetrate and fortify the hair’s cortex with vitamins and proteins. Unlike with conventional conditioners, hair might still feel slightly tangled while wet, but it should be smooth and manageable once dry. Daily brushing helps move oil from roots to ends and condition hair naturally.
Finding natural styling products that perform well can be more challenging, but it’s a worthy cause. Common ingredients in conventional hair sprays and gels include alcohol, formaldehyde and other possible carcinogens. Nontoxic options rely on ingredients such as pine resin, aloe vera and natural gums that are inherently sticky but might not give you the megahold needed to tame unruly tresses. Your best bet may be to choose a style and cut that complements your natural hair texture and not try to force your hair to be something it’s not.
Natural Hair Care Products
1. Lulu Organics Jasmine Hair Powder
On days between washing or to refresh stringy bangs, work a bit of this organic, talc-free hair powder through roots to absorb excess oil. Four scents (lavender and clary sage, jasmine, patchouli and amber, and vetiver and black pepper) come in lovely art nouveau packaging. 4 oz., $30
2. Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Styling Gel
This plant-based styling gel calms frizz, defines curls and provides flexible hold without harsh chemicals. 8.2 oz, $13
3. Aubrey Organics GPB Balancing Shampoo
Soy and milk proteins strengthen and repair weak hair; fruit acids enhance shine; and organic aloe juice and shea butter restore moisture. 11 oz., $10
4. Intelligent Nutrients Organic Perfect Hold Hair Spray
Free of the petrochemicals, silicone and plasticizing agents found in conventional hairsprays, Intelligent Nutrients’ organic spray creates a strong yet flexible hold. 6.7 oz., $29
5. Hugo Naturals Volumizing Vanilla & Sweet Orange Conditioner
Tahitian Monoi oil smooths hair without weighing it down, leaving it manageable, moisturized and easy to comb through. 12 oz., $10
6. John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Detangler
This fragrance-free conditioner blends 12 organic ingredients (including arnica, calendula and chamomile extracts) to hydrate and protect hair. It works on all hair types and is great for people with fragrance sensitivities. 8 oz., $15
7. Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo
The organic tea tree oil and lemon peel extract in this clarifying shampoo remove excess oil and product buildup without stripping hair of its natural moisture. 8 oz., $9
For more natural hair care products, see our Resource Guide for Personal-Care Products. For more on chemicals in beauty products, read the original article, “Come Clean: Natural Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Personal-Care Products.”