Good news: Soft, shiny, clean hair doesn’t have to come at the expense of good health. The truth is that many of the ingredients found in mainstream brands—like the ones that create suds, softness and shine—can damage our hair and scalp, or even cause health issues. Here’s what you need to know about ingredients to avoid, and natural hair care products that are safe and just as effective.
If you want suds
Say no to: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLS and SLES are detergents or surfactants that foam; they’re often used in household cleaning and hair care products like shampoo. But these detergents can cause skin and eye irritation according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Say yes to: Coconut-based surfactants
Instead of relying on sudsy detergent, try natural surfactants derived from coconut (e.g. sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate) that are water soluble, clean thoroughly, rinse easily and are gentle on skin.
If you want softness
Say no to: PEG (Polyethylene Glycol compounds)
Ingredients that begin with a PEG prefix are synthetic petro-chemicals. These petroleum products can also be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4 Dioxane during the manufacturing process, according to the EWG. They give products a creamy feel and are added to conditioners and shampoos to make hair feel soft.
Say yes to: Naturally moisturizing avocado
Avocado oil is a botanical that can penetrate deep into the hair shaft so it nourishes and strengthens dry, brittle hair without weighing it down. John Masters Conditioner for Dry Hair with Lavender & Avocado features rich avocado and babassu oils that provide intensive moisture, but are easily absorbed so hair stays soft, moveable and shiny.
If you want texture and hold
Say no to: Phthalates
Phthalates are found in hair gels, sprays and mousses. According to the EWG, phthalates are industrial plasticizers used to style and hold hair in place without stiffness. These synthetic chemicals should be avoided because they’re endocrine disruptors, and studies show phthalates may adversely affect male reproductive development.
Say yes to: Botanical waxes, seed oils and butters
Natural ingredients work well to lock in moisture and help hair stay in place without heaviness (or synthetic chemicals). For shine and soft movement (and to keep fly-away split ends under control), try John Masters Shine On Leave-In Treatment, packed with sea kelp for nutrient-rich moisture and carrot seed oil for a glossy finish. If you need extra staying power, try MOP Orange Peel Molding Cream with beeswax, lanolin and moisturizing licorice that create a piecey, textured look that’s not greasy and holds all day.
If you want a longer shelf life
Say no to: Parabens
Parabens are antimicrobial chemicals that preserve products and extend their shelf life, and are used most often in water-based hair care products. Researchers at UC Berkeley have shown a link between parabens and genes that trigger estrogen receptors, and they can be absorbed through skin.
Say yes to: Oil-based, limited-ingredient products
Seed Phytonutrients Hair & Body Oil is a good treatment choice for every hair type, as its lightweight texture absorbs quickly and conditions with only five nourishing organic ingredients: coconut, camelina seed, argan, sunflower seed and olive oils. (Look for even more great hair care options from Seed in stores now!) Peter Lamas Youth Revival 5 Oil Treatment Mask is another customer favorite, featuring an exotic blend of Abyssinian, baobab and other oils that are rich in omega fatty acids that renew and strengthen hair, leaving it soft, shiny and manageable.