Most mainstream skin and hair care products are laced with toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, endocrine system disruption, and hormonal imbalances. And as if that weren’t bad enough, all of these chemicals ultimately find their way into the soil and oceans, where they contribute to the destruction of ecosystems. So why should we buy these products when we can buy natural products that work well and smell amazing?
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to have fun experimenting with brands of natural skin and hair products. These can be found at your local health food store, Whole Foods, or the internet. They smell so much better than regular bath and beauty products, and you’ll feel better knowing that they contain natural and healthy ingredients. There is also something to be said about the integrity of these companies. Several of them are Benefit Corporations, have high sustainability standards, and contribute a portion of their proceeds to good causes such as the indigenous supply chain communities in which they were created.
Here are my favorite natural hair care products:
For shampoo, I use African Black soap – a West African formula comprised of saponified shea butter and sustainably-sourced palm kernel oil.
A note on palm kernel oil: In general, palm kernel oil is something to avoid in both food and personal care items, due to the deforestation that’s occurring in Indonesia and causing orangutans to lose their habitat. The palm kernel oil used in Alaffia’s African Black Soap, however, comes from West Africa where it is an integral part of their cuisine. The palm kernel oil they use is fair trade, plantation-free, and “orangutan-friendly.”
African Black soap is a bit like castile soap in that it has multiple uses, including as a hand, face, body wash, and shampoo. However, many people I have talked to have found Dr. Bronner’s castile soap to be a little too concentrated and sticky for hair. Full disclosure: I personally do sometimes use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap as a shampoo just for convenience’s sake, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
African Black Soap is more gentle and moisturizing, making it ideal for thoroughly cleansing your hair without drying it out or creating any buildup.
Many natural shampoo and conditioner products are not vegan as they can contain milk protein, lactic acid from animals, and silk proteins from boiled worms. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly read the ingredient list before making any purchases.
I use Renpure’s Argan Oil Conditioner, which is only a fraction of the price of most natural conditioners on the market (2 for $8 on Amazon!). I like it for a few reasons:
1 – It’s vegan, 2 – It has a very subtle but pleasant smell, 3. It doesn’t leave any buildup or residue, 4. It makes my hair feel soft and silky, and 5. It’s dirt cheap!
It also has a simple and short ingredient list relative to other natural conditioners. It does contain some necessary preservatives, but none that are harmful. It also states very clearly on the bottle that it’s free of sodium chloride, sulfates, harsh salts, parabens, and gluten.
You can check out Renpure’s other hair care products here.
Argan and coconut oil
As a hair gloss and leave-in conditioner, I definitely recommend argan oil. It does a great job of moisturizing one’s hair without weighing it down that much. In the summer, I often use coconut oil because it has a somewhat lighter consistency. I try not to use it in winter because coconut oil becomes solid at colder temperatures.
To apply oil, put a small amount on your hands and rub them together. Then run your hands through your hair. Continue adding oil until you get the glossy effect you want.
You will probably not want to use these oils if you have fine or oily hair. But if you have coarse and frizzy hair, they’re great for taming frizz and making your hair more soft and glossy.
Be careful and try not to go overboard! I’ve had the experience of putting way too much oil in, and having to walk around with really oily hair…and it can be kind of embarrassing.
Aloe vera is so versatile – not only does it make a great anti-aging skin serum, but it is one of the best ingredients to use on your hair. Aloe hydrates and nourishes the hair follicle, while also providing an excellent barrier against frizz. When I use it, my hair looks and feels bouncier, shinier, and just more manageable in general.
A word of warning: most aloe products contain emulsifiers that can make it thick and sticky. I highly recommend Green Leaf Naturals’ Aloe Vera Gel, which contains 99.75% pure aloe. It absorbs quickly into my hair, leaving no residue whatsoever afterwards.
Aloe also works wonders on dandruff. Its natural hydrating and anti-fungal properties help to eliminate any dryness and inflammation. To apply, rub some Green Leaf Naturals aloe between your fingers and gently massage into it your scalp.
An even more potent formula is to combine it with tea trea oil. Tea tree oil is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, and easily kills off the bacteria that create dandruff.
Before I became vegan I always assumed that hair brushes were made from synthetic materials. Little did I know that the vast majority of “quality” hair brushes use boar’s hair. Boar’s comes mainly from China, which has little industry regulation and no animal welfare standards.
I personally like paddle brushes, because they’re so good at getting out knots without causing any discomfort – and they give you a nice scalp massage at the same time. The brush I use is Mokale Natural Bamboo Paddle Brush.
If you want to blow out your hair, I would recommend one of Ecotools’ round hairbrushes, which are vegan and eco-friendly.
So there are all the natural hair care products I use! What works for me may not work for you – the important thing is that you start transitioning away from harmful chemicals and towards products containing healthy natural ingredients. Go to Whole Foods or your natural food store and and see what they’ve got. Just make sure you always read the ingredients and also use your intuition to determine whether or not something is good stuff or more on the scammy side.