How do I pick the best natural shampoo when there are so many choices?
Nowadays, there are hundreds of brands of shampoo that claim to be "natural" or have the word "natural" on their label. How can you sift through these to determine which one to buy, especially when they all use the same claim-to-fame? Here we will show you 5 easy ways to check if the shampoo you've had your eye on, really has what it takes.
1. Ingredients, Ingredients, Ingredients...
The main key to understanding how a "natural" shampoo ranks on the list of healthiness is to research the ingredients. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but ideally if you just search the words that look harder to pronounce, then you will have probably covered the harshest of the ingredients. It’s easier than it seems, thanks to EWG.org, who hosts an excellent database of cosmetic ingredients called "SkinDeep".
Each ingredient shows a risk number, called a "score". It's very simple, the lower the score, the less risky the ingredient is. You can also glance at the categories of risk, personally, I would avoid products that show a high risk in the "Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)" or "Developmental & reproductive toxicity" categories. Although many ingredients have risk scores of 1 or 2, you shouldn't panic. Scores 4, 5 or above are definitely red flags, and you should avoid them wherever possible.
It's interesting how many of the higher risk ingredients are described on their site as safe for "limited use" in cosmetics, but still, I don't want them toxifying my body and you shouldn’t either.
2. Plant-Based Cleansers - Go Sulfate-Free!
Since you've done your homework on #1 above, we can be a bit broader now. You...HAVE completed #1, right? Alright, moving on...
There are several types of cleansers, including those with sulfates, coconut-based or fruit sugar-based. Those which are truly plant-based cleansers found in “natural” shampoos are advantageous over their sulfate-based counterparts. Have you heard of sodium lauryl sulfate free shampoo? Sulfate-based cleansers tend to be harsher on your skin, and can create allergic reactions, acne and dryness, while milder, plant-based cleansers such as Coco Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside and Decyl Glucoside, are much more preferable. They do cost more to manufacture, so that’s one reason why they are less common. Go capitalism!
3. Consistency, Thickness and Opacity
I know it sounds weird, but the thickness of the shampoo can determine a lot about it. Over the years, shampoo manufacturers have used cheaper ingredients and cheaper methods to manufacture shampoo. Who's to blame them, it's all about profit, right? Ah yes, good 'ol capitalism at work again. Ok back to the “thick” of the matter. Unfortunately, most thickeners which are stable in a liquid shampoo form, are artificially produced and highly processed, and should be avoided. An example is Polyethelyne Glycol, also known as PEG (PEG-7 PEG-18, PEG-55, PEG-120, etc.), this ingredient is included in many shampoos as a thickening agent. PEGs are known to strip hair and skin of natural moisture and, even worse, are scored 3 and above on the EWG SkinDeep scale. Another concern of PEG is the impurities and contaminants that have been found within, such as 1,4 Dioxane (scary stuff!!!).
Moving right along…If your shampoo has a pearly look, it's definitely not "natural". To create the false sense of pearly good looks, companies use plastic derivatives, such as styrene/acrylate copolymer accomplish this. Plastic anyone?... No, thank you!
A quality natural shampoo will be thinner, transparent or translucent, and more "liquidy" by nature than budget shampoos. It may not have a thick silky feel with a pearly look, but those things are easy to do without, easy to get used to, and the trade-offs are WELL worth it. Simpler is better…
4. Just Sniff It!
Does your favorite shampoo smell like something that would occur in nature? Or does it smell like candy or an artificially-perfect perfume? Yep, you guessed it: Avoid the artificial ones. Cheap-to-manufacture ingredients that are present in most shampoos are listed as "perfume" or "fragrance". Those should be avoided because they can be the worst offenders. Some people may even get migraines, resulting from their sensitivity to such horrible chemicals in their daily products. Here’s the real kicker…Did you know that manufacturers are not even required to disclose the chemicals used in "perfumes" or "fragrances"? It's a really BIG gamble with what you’re choosing to put on your skin.
On the brighter side, opt instead for a shampoo with natural essential oil derived from leaves, bark, roots or flowering plants. If you like a nice smell, products with natural essential oils are the perfect alternative, they smell amazing, have therapeutic effects and are better for your skin.
5. Wash & Rinse-a-bility!
Need a bit of time back in the morning? Good news! You should be able to begin rinsing the shampoo out of your hair in under a minute after it has been applied and lathered. Leaving any natural hair shampoos in your hair too long may dry out your scalp. Shampoos that you need to leave in for longer likely don't have effective cleansers. Natural, coconut-based cleansers are effective at cleansing quickly, and shouldn't be irritating or harsh on your scalp, unlike their sulfate-based counterparts.
Now, let’s talk about how long it should take to rinse it out. If you need to rinse out your shampoo for longer than 10-15 seconds, it probably contains an excessive amount of oils or “sticky thickeners” that will leave non-beneficial residues behind. A quality natural shampoo will quickly and efficiently clean your hair, now it’s time to find the right one.
As you can see, attaching the word “natural” to shampoo, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good match for you. I hope I’ve covered the most important discovery methods to help you along the way!
Drawing from my experience with natural shampoos, I love both Enovvia peppermint and lavender shampoo. Check them out here: Enovvia natural sulfate-free shampoo. Their shampoos have a wonderful scent (free from fragrances, using only essential oils), lather well and clean quickly. Their ingredients are very mild and non-toxic.
Thanks for reading! 😊 -Melinda C.