Sustainable Ethical Haircare 2022.

sustainable ethical haircare

Having luscious locks seems to be the dream of most humans, so much so that a huge industry has been created to help deliver it, often with quite toxic results. I have settled on no hair-dye and liquid shampoo refills with a vinegar rinse for my haircare needs and I have to say my hair is all the better for it. Here’s some eco brands and products for you to consider in your search for your hairdo dreams.

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Photo by Adrian Fernández on Unsplash

Shampoo Bars
These didn’t really work for me. You can read why and find some brands of shampoo bars in my review of shampoo bars.

Liquid Shampoo Brands

  • I used to use Alter/Native shampoo by the co-operative Suma, which I could get locally. Their products contain over 99% natural ingredients and are made in the UK . They list the plain English version of ingredients and the source of them too. The company attempted to remove palm-oil from their products but found that some of the key ingredients were not available with a genuine and traceable palm-free guarantee, so for now they state that they only responsibly sourced and sustainable RSPO certified palm oil based ingredients when palm oil free options are not available, and clearly state so on the labels. Their shampoo, body wash and hand wash liquid products all contain Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS), cleansing agent thought to be less irritating to the skin than SLS or SLES and rapidly biodegradable. None of their products or ingredients have been tested on animals and carry the Leaping Bunny logo. All products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and carry the Vegan Society logo. They offer package-free soaps and soaps in recycled and recyclable cardboard boxes, their shampoo bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic and are also fully recyclable. The lids are clear and white plastic PP (polypropylene) lids, which are recyclable too. They also offer refills options, in recyclable plastic. They say that they’re looking into whether their 20L sized containers can be returned to Suma, washed and refilled to close the loop on their recyclability. Interestingly being a co-operative Suma’s employees, set the direction of the business. Everyone has an equal say and all get paid the same wage, take responsibility and each do a range of jobs each week, from truck driving to cooking to accounts.
  • I used to use Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo , which you can get refills of in a lot of health and zero waste stores around Ireland. Their shampoo is free from cruelty, animal ingredients, GMO ingredients, synthetic colouring, synthetic fragrances, SLES, SLS, parabens, artificial preservatives, BPA plastic, Methylisothiazolinone (MI). The Scottish based company that makes it aims to use Fair Trade or ‘ethically traded’ ingredients wherever possible and it is certified as top grade by SEDEX, an organisation which has an aim to stamp out exploitation.  Some of their products contain organic ingredients which have been certified separately. Some of their products contain ‘sustainable’ palm oil but they’re working to replace this.
  • Afrocenchix offers organic, natural vegan haircare products made in the UK for afro hair. Their products are free of DMDM hydantoin, PEGs, silicones, mineral oil, sodium polyacrylate, SLS, SLES, DEA, phthalate, parabens, lanolin, artificial fragrances and fillers. They say that their raw materials are ethically sourced, organic and fairtrade where possible. Their products are never tested on animals and they say that use environmentally friendly preservatives. Their products are available to buy in stores in London and their shipping boxes and packaging are 100% compostable.
  • Insight offer vegan hair and skincare products made in Italy with a high percentage of natural ingredients. On average, more than 96% of the total formula is composed of raw materials of natural origin. They also use some certified organic ingredients where they can. Their products have been tested to be free of nickel, so good for those with allergies. They also use ozone to disinfect their water instead of harsher synthetic chemicals.
  • Hairstory have a new brand called New Wash, which uses less harsh chemicals to clean hair, which they claim leaves more of the natural oils on your hair making it softer and doing away with the need for conditioner. They are a contributing company to 1% for the Planet.
  • Nohbo Drops are a novel idea in the world of shampooing, in that it does away with the bottle. Simply place one Drop in your hands under shower water, and watch the outer casing melt away instantly. Scrub the shampoo directly into your hair, wash and rinse. Their shampoo is paraben and sulphate free.
  • UK Green People offer a wide range of natural and organic products that they say are suitable for all skin types, particularly sensitive skin and possibly those prone to eczema and psoriasis. Their hair care products are based on mild plant surfactants, organic extracts, Aloe Vera and pure essential oils. They don’t use aggressive surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), parabens, petrochemicals, PEG’s, DEA, TEA, artificial colours, perfume or alcohol. Their product pages are very informative and list each of the certifications that apply to them. These certificates include ones from the Organic Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, the Vegan Society, the Good Shopping Guide and EcoCert. The company also donates 10% of their net profit to ‘green’ health and environmental charities. Their website doesn’t say anything about packaging.
  • Dr Organics in the UK use as much organically grown ingredients as they can and sustainable natural alternatives when that’s not possible. All of their products are suitable for vegetarians and cruelty free. They’re also free of petro-chemicals such as paraffin and petroleum, genetically modified (GMO) or genetically engineered organisms. The preservatives they use are naturally-derived. Nothing on their website mentions packaging.
  • The Fiils in the UK will post you refills of their paraban, sulphate and cruelty-free vegan hair care and body wash products. The company say they’re looking for completely reusable pouches but for now you can then return the refill pouches back to the company. The returned pouches are sent onto Terracycle to be converted into external furniture. The company also donates 1% of their profits to the charity waste aid.
  • Tweakit is a subscription based service for powdered shampoo that you rehydrate into liquid shampoo. Their products are vegan, made with 98% natural ingredients and suphate and paraben free.

If you’re in need of hair wax check out this 100% natural hair wax by Kitenest

Hair Dye
I’m growing my hair dye out because I want to reduce my exposure to unnecessary chemicals where I can but if you’re not willing to do that but want to trial a hair colour free from ammonia, alcohol and PPD then check out the range of plant-based, cruelty-free, vegan hairdyes by Irish company Organic Italian Hair in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. They’re hair colours are free of synthetic chemicals and heavy metals and dermatologically tested.

In the UK one of Britain’s leading hairdressers, Daniel Field, makes a range of mineral based hair dyes. His products are animal ingredient free and suitable for vegans. You’ll find a list of ingredients in his hair dyes here.  Daniel was one of the original founders of the Ark Environmental Foundation and for many years, its chair.

For more information on the hazards of hair dye and safer brands to consider check out Mamavation’s article on the issue.

Hair Brushes

When I was trying to go shampoo free I looked into brushes to distribute my natural hair oil down the hair shaft. Here were some plastic-free brushes that I came across as part of that research. I ended up buying a paddle brush with round wooden pins. If I had my chance again I’d get pointed pins instead as the round one make it hard to brush the hair smooth and catch in our hair.

  • Kent Brushes make a beech brush with wooden bristles in the UK from wood that is FSC certified as being sustainably grown and harvested. The rubber pads on their brushes are 100% natural and so biodegradable. Their wooden handles are finished with petroleum (aka oil) based lacquer.
  • Foersters make a range of naturally finished sustainably grown and harvested brushes with natural pins / bristles in Germany. I bought my FSC certified beech one with wooden pins in the health food shop Down to Earth in Dublin 2. I emailed to see if their rubber pads are natural but didn’t hear back.
  • Holfstifte make a brush from waxed beech with hornbeam bristles, which you can buy online from the Little Green Shop in Ireland
  • Eco Living have a bamboo hairbrush with wooden pins and a natural rubber cushion that is handmade in Germany and biodegradable at the end of it’s life. I bought mine recently from the Irish shop Annie Pooh in Greystones, Wicklow and I’m very happy with it.

Hair Accessories
The most sustainable hair accessories for long hair that I can think of would be something that’s metal, failing that wood depending on how it’s finished.

Hair ties are the common accessory for most of us with long hair. Some members of the zero waste community are happy to use hair ties found on the ground and in swimming pools, which they sterilise before using. If you’re comfortable doing this I guarantee you you’ll never run out of hair ties but if this isn’t for plastic-free hair ties are available from The Kind in D2 or Faerly in Kildare. Also Green Outlook has organic cotton hair ties.

When I did buy hair ties I found the longest lasting ones were the ones without a metal joint, like these ones from Boots.

I’ve seen some bloggers making hair ties out of old tights. I gave this a go but found that the final product was too loose for my hair. Might suit someone with thicker hair though.

For something more decorative check out the GOTS certified organic cotton scrunchies by Irish brand Justine le Guil. She dyes the cotton by hand using plants and uses GOTS certified organic cotton and natural rubber elastic, which has been shown to be compostable and has a longer lifespan than conventional elastic.

If you’ve gone to bother of getting silicone out of your hair you don’t really want to add it back in with a trip to the hairdresser. I’ve managed to find a local hair dresser in Churchtown, Dublin 14 that will wash my hair with my Faith in Nature shampoo and vinegar rinse. If you’ve found one let me know and I’ll add them to my Map of Eco Businesses. On this map I’ve included three hairdressers that use more natural hair products. They include

There’s also a network of salons that have signed up the the Green Salon Collective, a membership-based recycling scheme for hair styling materials. Click on the link to find one in your area.

Here’s wishing you a fabulous hair days for the rest of your groomed life.


PS – In previous articles I’ve spoken about

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

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