Safer hair products and a rant

AAAARRRGGGHHH
photo by Evil Erin

I recently had a friend and fellow blogger ask me what I “green” products I use on my hair. A good question but also a complicated answer.

The “ideal”
It would be nice to be able to go to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and select a shampoo/conditioner/hair product that gets a good rating from them. Unfortunately, I have noticed lately that their standards have become so strict that they give good ratings to fewer and fewer products and companies. The products they do recommend are a) very expensive b) very difficult to find (i.e.,  must be ordered online from Canada or something), and c) come in very small quantities. Since you must order them online, there’s no way to try them out without spending some serious cash. Just not an option for me at this time.

Except it’s not ideal
I have a dry scalp issue. There, I said it. Tea tree oil products do not work at all for me. What I need to use is a dandruff shampoo. In the past, Neutrogena’s T-Gel and Head ‘&’ Shoulders Classic Formula have received OK ratings from the EWG. Recently, that spontaneously changed although the formulas of the products did not change. What is going on, EWG? I can only assume that they changed their standards for what is safe. But if you delve into the site, you’ll find that they don’t qualify their ratings. They only tell you that the product is going to give you cancer, make you infertile, and cause neural damage. It doesn’t say what they are basing these assumptions on. Are they saying that because it contains phthalates? Parabens? Formaldehyde? No one knows. All I know is that some guy at the EWG used to think Head ‘&’ Shoulders was OK but now he’s starting to think it’s going to give me cancer. And he doesn’t have to tell me why.

The reality
I got really frustrated with not being able to discern the EWG ratings and not being able to afford what they suggested anyway, so I started using GoodGuide, which is both a web site and an iPhone app. The ratings it uses are a little looser, and take into account the social responsibility of the company and the environmental impact of the corporation as a whole (not the environmental impact of that particular product). Both of those things are important to me when buying products.

One word of caution if you do use GoodGuide for determining the safety of a product: make sure you look at the breakout of the score. If a company has great social responsibility and environmental impact but makes a really toxic product, they can still get a good score because the overall score is an average of the 3 scores. So make sure you’re paying attention to the “Health” score.

The result
Right now, I am using mostly Aveda products* because they use essential oils instead of phthalates for fragrance, and their products are salon-quality while also being natural. I use Head ‘&’ Shoulders shampoo, but the rest is Aveda. I have to be honest, most of the “natural” brands I’ve tried leave my hair too dry. Aveda is also easy to find, I don’t have to order things online from Canada if I run out – I just go to the nearest store or even the mall.

My advice
What I told my friend is this: pick what toxins are most important to you to avoid and focus on finding a product that works and doesn’t contain that ingredient. For me, avoiding phthalates is the most important. For some people, it might be parabens or sulfates. Pick what matters to you, and base your search on that criteria. What works for one person’s hair might not work for another. Or what hasn’t worked for me (ahem, J.A.S.O.N. products from Whole Foods) might actually work for you!
Good luck!

*NOTE: Aveda did not compensate me in any way for mentioning them. In fact, I pay them. A lot. But if they read this: hey, Aveda, I would be more than happy to review your products!

2 thoughts on “Safer hair products and a rant”

  1. I found something at Whole Foods I’m trying. It’s great so far! I’ll keep you updated. I really appreciate your advice. I went for it with makeup too. (Birthday money!) I found that Tarte is an awesome brand! What do you use? Maybe you should do a post on that too! Thanks for linking to me!
    Weird that it won’t let me choose who I want to comment as. Oh well! 🙂

  2. I found something at Whole Foods I’m trying. It’s great so far! I’ll keep you updated. I really appreciate your advice. I went for it with makeup too. (Birthday money!) I found that Tarte is an awesome brand! What do you use? Maybe you should do a post on that too! Thanks for linking to me!

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