A Guide to the Most Safe, Eco-Friendly Shampoos for All Hair Types

Your brief guide for safe and eco-friendly shampoos.

A couple of years ago, EcoSalon’s Beauty Editor Kathie Butler posted the (much-read, oft-shared) piece Best Organic, Natural and Eco-Friendly Shampoos for All Hair Types. Who doesn’t want the scoop on better hair products? Well, we have an update for you, below. But first, a note on what has changed—and what hasn’t—in the world of “natural” shampoos.

“Sustainable” cosmetics are the fastest growing segment of the industry. But many companies are using claims like “natural,” “organic,” and “sustainable” without walking the walk. This is called greenwashing. Look for meaningful certifications as one way to back up eco-friendly claims.

And keep in mind that natural doesn’t necessarily equal safe. Personal care products are still the least regulated consumer products on the market. Many companies use harmful ingredients in shampoo and other products we use all the time. This is perfectly legal because of a seriously outdated cosmetics law (from 1938). Environmental health groups like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group are educating consumers about toxic exposures, and increasingly, people are reading ingredient labels, using the Skin Deep database, and asking companies hard questions about what’s in the products they are putting on their bodies every day.  A lot of companies are responding—check out this list of Safe Cosmetics “Champion” and “Innovator” companies.

I encourage you to learn more about this issue and support the groups working for market and regulatory change. And now, the carefully complied list of some of the best safe, green, effective and enjoyable shampoos:

Best Overall

My colleagues in the safe and green cosmetics world are raving about Acure. The company is committed to using safe ingredients that are pro-customer and pro-planet. Acure uses revolutionary plant stem cell technology coupled with some of my favorite ingredients—avocado, lemongrass, quinoa protein, acai and argan oil.
$11 for 12 oz

John Masters
John Masters Organics’ Lavender Rosemary Shampoo is a “best of” list mainstay, and for good reason. This shampoo doesn’t have a lot of foam action, but the scent, the lightweight feel, and the high quality ingredients don’t leave anyone missing the lather.
$16 for 8oz

Desert Essence – Red Raspberry Shampoo
This is a great shampoo for people looking for the conventional shampoo elements (lather, fragrance, clarity), without the toxic chemicals.  You’re left with clean, shiny hair that has not been stripped of its own oils.
$9 for 8oz

Best Balancing

Hugo’s Naturals- Tea Tree & Lavender
This shampoo is a favorite of mine—it’s light, smells lovely, and really does help to balance. The company says they use “gentle ingredients that effectively cleanse the hair and scalp and reduce flakiness without stripping away natural moisture.” And that is just how it feels.
$10 for 12oz

Max Green Alchemy – Scalp Rescue Shampoo
Max Green Alchemy was founded on the principle that natural should really be natural, and that hair care products should be safe. This shampoo contains botanicals, vitamins and essential oils to soothe your scalp and reduce itchiness and dandruff. Everyone I know who has tired it, likes it.
$15 for 8.8oz

Best For Curly

My friends with waves and curls of all kinds recommend Aubrey Organics—Honeysuckle Rose is a favorite, and White Camellia Ultra-Smoothing Shampoo too. Check out their hair type matrix. Aubrey has an impressive list of certifications, including USDA Organic, NPA and BDIH.
$11 for 11oz

Best Luxury

Rare Elements – Pure Shampoo
Looking for a cleansing experience that is a “journey,” including visits from an African watermelon seed oil, nutrient-rich Black Seed and moisture boosting Marula oil? Then Rare Elements is for you. My makeup artist friend Christy Coleman loves it for her long, often dehydrated hair.
$34 for 8.5oz

Rahua – Voluminous Shampoo
This body-building shampoo contains lemongrass, green tea and rainforest oils. The company says “for centuries, women from the Quechua-Shuar tribes have traveled deep into the Amazon rainforest to prepare a highly potent, restorative oil they call Rahua (ra-wa) – believing it to be the secret to their thick, flowing, lustrous hair.”

Full disclosure: I have yet to try it, but the reviews from friends and hair product junkies are positively glowing.
$32 for 9.3 oz

Best All-in-One

Intelligent Nutrients – Certified Organic Total Body Cleanser
Intelligent Nutrients is the brainchild of the founder of Aveda (which sold to Estee Launder years ago). IN is whole-heartedly committed to making nontoxic, nutrient rich products that are a joy to use. When raw ingredients are not available through the organic certified system, they go the extra mile to materials verified to ensure good growing conditions and safety. This product does it all—cleans from head to toe, reducing shower clutter and packaging waste. (But note: it is not recommended for color-treated hair.)
$29 for 6.7oz

Best for Babies

Earth Mama Angel Baby – Top of Form
The base of this product is a gentle, real castile soap, with added calendula, zero toxins, and no artificial fragrance. A multitasking product for kids, and the whole family.
$10 5.3oz

Best Bar Shampoos

Herban Lifestyle
Interested in washing your hair with a shampoo bar? Then try this one. Herban Lifestyle is a small, woman-owned company doing the right thing. This shampoo contains seven ingredients, costs eight bucks, and will last you up to 60 washes.  Awesome.
$8 for 4oz bar

Best Dry Shampoo

LuLu Organics
An organic, talc-free hair powder to use between washes, or when you need a little refreshing. A favorite of hair product mavens.
$30 for 4oz

Be Green Bath & Body
A straight-forward, super simple product to extend time between washes (and thus prevent stripping hair of natural oils). This is a tiny company committed to safety, and to making affordable products.
$6 for 4 oz

Best DIY Tips

By now you’ve probably heard of people going “no poo,” and others whipping up hair products in their kitchens. Check out these DIY hair tips from makeup artist Todra Payne (including natural, nutrient-rich cleansers like Bentonite clay and coconut oil).

Happy cleansing!

Mia Davis is the former Organizing Director for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and is a founding member of the American Sustainable Business Council’s Workgroup for Women & Business. Mia recently joined a team of social entrepreneurs who will launch BeautyCounter, a company that will bring chic products and higher safety standards to the beauty industry, in Winter 2013.