What is ‘natural shampoo’ (and conditioner)? And why is it better?

Switching to natural shampoo and conditioner is not only better for the environment; it can also be better for the appearance of your hair.

What is ‘natural’?

By ‘natural shampoo’ we mean products that contain plant-based ingredients, is SLS free and Paraben free, and use gentle, non-drying cleansing agents. 

Conventional shampoos and conditioners use SLS and Parabens because they are great cleaning agents, but they can also strip the hair and scalp of everything, including its healthy natural oils.  SLS and Parabens can also be irritating on the skin and scalp and cause dryness or dandruff. 

Using conventional shampoos and conditioners may feel great at first, but give a false sense of healthy hair.  Many typical shampoos and conditioners may also contain different forms of silicones which smooth the hair initially. However, after continuous use, your hair may feel drier and drier and damaged.  The silicone can be damaging because it completely coats the hair and builds a layer that prevents moisture from penetrating the hair.  Eventually, this can dry out the hair.  It may be hard to notice because this coating gives the feeling of silky-smooth hair.

What to look for:

Reading labels is essential when switching to natural shampoo and conditioner. Look for products that contain natural ingredients. It takes time and effort to identify unnatural ingredients, so as a simple general rule of thumb, try to look for a minimal ingredient list with items that are easy to pronounce. Look for ingredients that are naturally derived or made from things found in nature.

What to expect:

The main difference you’ll notice about natural shampoo is that it doesn’t lather up the same way your old shampoo did, since those foaming agents aren’t there. Less foam does not mean it’s not getting your hair clean, or that you need to use more shampoo than usual.

It can take a few days for your scalp and hair to adjust when switching to a natural shampoo. In the beginning, it may feel like your hair is oilier and heavier than usual.  One important trick is to make sure you rinse your hair well, as any residual shampoo can make your hair feel heavier.  In the beginning, your hair may also feel less silky than usual without the silicones, however, over time, your hair will become softer and healthier. After a few washes, your scalp will adjust, and you’ll probably find that your hair’s texture is more well-balanced with less oil at the roots and healthier, moist tips. You may even notice your hair is fuller, as some people may experience better hair growth as a result of switching.

Make Every Day a Plastic Free Challenge

Garbage pile in trash dump or landfill, Aerial view garbage trucks unload garbage to a landfill, global warming.

The mass production of plastic has resulted in 8.3 billion metric tons over the last six decades – some of which can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.  Scientists predict that the rate of production will continue to rise – most of it as single-use. Worldwide, approximately only 9% of all plastic produced gets recycled yearly. Furthermore, all plastic can only be recycled a minimal amount of times, which means it eventually has to end up in landfill. So, what do we do as a global society to fight plastic waste?  

Refuse, reuse and recycle.  Refuse any new single-use plastic, reuse items you already have instead of buying new and recycle where possible.  Here are a few more tips to get you started.  

1.    Choose reusable cups.  Take a reusable coffee cup and reusable water bottle wherever you go.  You can also do this with takeaway containers.  Many restaurants and cafes are now allowing you to take away your reusable container rather than get a throwaway plastic one.  Make it a habit to place your reusables in your purse, backpack or car first thing in the morning so that you don’t forget it. 

2.    Avoid pre-packed fruit and vegetables.  Instead of buying pre-packed fruit, buy them loose and reuse a produce bag.  You can also buy a reusable mesh produce bag.  Or even better, purchase your fruit and vegetables from your local farmer’s markets or find out which ones are offering weekly mixed fruit and vegetable boxes with delivery options.    

3.    Refuse the straw.  Sip don’t suck.  If you do require a straw, try a reusable glass, stainless steel or silicone one.  A silicone option is excellent for kids because they don’t break and are soft and safer to use. 

4.    Aim for waste-free lunches.  Use stainless steel containers, glass containers or bamboo containers.  Or use reusable beeswax wraps for sandwiches, wraps, sushi rolls, quiches, etc.  You can even use safe, reusable plastic lunchboxes – the idea is to refuse single-use plastic.  

5.    Say ‘no’ to packaged snacks.  If you must, buy them in bulk sizes for less packaging, such as potato chips, crackers, cheese etc. and put it into smaller containers for kids. You’ll save money by buying in bulk too!  Or better, learn to make your snacks.  Some great, healthy and easy to make options are bliss balls, muesli bars, veggie muffins and chia pudding with fruit.   

6.    Use reusable grocery bags.  At the start of every grocery list, write down ‘grocery bags’ so that you don’t forget them and leave a few in your car.  Or have a special place for them near the door or wherever you keep your car keys.  

7.    Buy a stainless steel razor.  Rather than a disposable razor get a reusable one with disposable blades.  Reusable razors are better quality and can last for decades. 

8.    Choose a biodegradable toothbrush.  For centuries, the basic toothbrush was made from natural materials until the plastic industry took off.  Today, many people are making the switch to bamboo toothbrushes and cutting out a portion of the billions of plastic ones that go to waste every year. 

9.    Buy cleaning products in bulk.  Buy in bulk means less plastic or refill wherever you can.  

10.    Use a wooden comb.  Many bamboo options are lightweight and easy to carry.

11.    Skip the plastic cleaning brush or scrub.  Buy wooden cleaning brushes and biodegradable sponges or scrubs.  They work just as effective.  Scrubs made from coconut fibres last longer and do not grow mould as quickly as the plastic alternative. 

12.    Buy meat and cheese from the deli.  Check if your local butcher will place meat or cheese into a reusable takeaway container.  

13. Don’t buy toilet paper wrapped in plastic.  There are a lot of great new plastic-free toilet paper companies that deliver.  Try, Who Gives a Crap.  

And remember any improvement is something to celebrate!