How Pure Are Pureology Hair Care Products? Behind the Label


ColumnWith a name like Pureology, consumers seeking truly pure hair care products would bet this is a brand with that main princinple in mind. But is it? We go behind the label to find out.

The Good

Pureology is a salon brand of hair care dedicated to the color-treated masses (of which this writer belongs). Color-treated hair is high maintenance hair and the brand claims that its exclusive AntiFadeComplex® can help color-treated hair “retain its fresh-from-the-salon vibrancy with every use.”

Being a vegan hair care product line, like Pureology is, means no animal ingredients are used in making the products. The ingredients  and finished products are not tested on animals. This is a good deal for the animals (and animal lovers), and it also means ingredients are typically  less likely to be a risk for allergy or severe reactions, which would require animal testing in the first place.

A commitment to sustainability is a core focus for Pureology. The company notes on its website that it has a long-term commitment to “minimizing the negative environmental impact of our products across their entire life cycle – from the ingredients that go into our formulas to the raw materials that comprise our packaging to the effect our products have on the environment both during and after use.”

Several commitments are at the forefront of Pureology’s beliefs. From the website:

  • Sustainability is a responsibility, not a luxury
  • In minimizing our environmental impact through water conservation, water reduction and reduced eco-toxicity across the entire life cycle of our products
  • In educating colourists and consumers about what they can do to support sustainability every day
  • That clean water is a fundamental right for every adult and child around the globe
  • In animal rights, our products are never tested on animals 

The brand has an “exclusive” global partnership with Global Green USAto help foster a sustainable future starting with the salon professional community.” Global Green USA works as the American affiliate of Green Cross International, which is a working towards global warming solutions, affordable housing, improving health, assisting schools and communities and promoting green job opportunities.

The Bad

In 2007, Pureology was acquired by the giant beauty conglomerate L’Oréal, which also owns The Body Shop,  Maybelline, Skinceuticals and Urban Decay among its roster of dozens of personal care brands.

Pureology was named in a class-action lawsuit that the company settled. The suit (Richardson, et al. v. L’Oréal USA Inc) alleged that L’Oréal and Pureology, along with several other L’Oréal brands, falsely marketed its shampoo, conditioner and styling products as being available only in specified salons. But the lawsuit claimed that the products are also available in major retail outlets.

Pureology’s “salon-only” selling model is part of its “anti-diversion” commitment to authenticity. By ensuring where each and every bottle is sold, consumers are less likely to purchase knock-offs or diluted products, claims the brand.

L’Oréal denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle the suit by removing the “exclusive to salon” claims from its packaging, but the anti-diversion claims still remain on the Pureology website.

The L’Oréal brand has also faced criticism over the company’s founder alleged Nazi sympathy position and anti-Semitic behavior.

The Questionable

While Pureology still maintains its vegan claims, L’Oréal is a suspected animal abuser. After spending years on PETA’s cruelty-free list (L’Oréal signed a Statement of Assurance, declaring an end to all animal testing in 1993), the animal rights group discovered evidence in 2000 that the company had requested animal test data from at least one supplier. L’Oréal is now listed on PETA’s “do test” list.

Pureology’s commitment to offering sulfate-free hair care products may be a benefit to conscious consumers, but the quality seems to have changed since the L’Oréal acquisition. A scroll around the internet and you’ll find customers who have noted that since the buyout, the brand has begun adding water to its formulas—something it traditionally did not do. The products reportedly now also contain alcohol—which fades color-treated hair.

It also uses questionable ingredients including artificial colors, which have been linked to behavior issues in children (when eaten); Butylene Glycol—a petroleum-derived alcohol, which has been shown to cause irritation to the skin, eyes and nasal passages; Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, which is a suspected environmental toxin; Polyquaternium 7 and 11, which the Environmental Working Group classifies as “expected to be toxic or harmful” to humans and poses environmental risks as well; and “fragrances,” which are most usually chemical in nature. One fragrance can contain hundreds of chemicals that companies do not have to disclose because of the proprietary nature of the formulation. Artificial fragrances can cause allergies and skin irritations. They can also contain phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and even cancer. Some of the products (samples received by EcoSalon) contained parabens, but the ingredient lists we found online did not mention them. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors that carry a strong risk of health concerns including breast cancer. They’re also a health risk for wildlife.

If you’re looking for a line of hair care products that do protect color-treatment, Pureology’s use of alcohol and potentially harmful ingredients may be enough of a reason to look elsewhere. And considering there are cleaner hair care products on the market, that may be your purest move.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Angel Prado


Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.