Ingredients To Look For in Natural Shampoo

If you’ve ever found that your hair is difficult to style, dry, dull or tangles easily, then you might want to take a look at your shampoo. There are some commonly-used shampoo ingredients out there that aren’t great for the health of your hair and scalp. Read on to find out more about the ingredients to look out for in a natural shampoo.

What Is A Natural Shampoo?

A natural shampoo is one that contains organic and plant-based ingredients only. To be truly considered natural, it should also be sulphate-free. Sulphates are usually used to help your shampoo to create a lather, so you might find that a natural shampoo doesn’t create quite as much foam as other types of shampoo.

Instead of synthetic ingredients, natural shampoos contain ingredients that come from nature. This could be fruit extracts, botanicals and essential oils. Some ingredients will also be organic and many of them will be vegan and cruelty-free, however natural doesn’t always mean this. The ingredients used in natural shampoo are often milder than in other types of shampoo, and less likely to strip your hair or disrupt the natural balance of your hair and scalp.

A common misconception is that shampoo bars are always natural. That isn’t the case. While shampoo bars are usually packaged in a more environmentally friendly way, using less plastic, they can contain a variety of ingredients. That’s not to say they can’t be natural (many are), but some aren’t.

At Elth, we show you exactly what’s in your beauty products by scanning their ingredients and sharing a rating based on whether or not they truly are natural. That way you can choose truly natural shampoo based on real ingredients data, not greenwashing or misleading marketing. Check out our range of natural hair products to find your perfect match. This saves you time, effort and confusion when it comes to trying to decode the label. 

What Natural Ingredients Are Used In Shampoo?

Whilst, there’s no official or legal definition for what ‘natural’ means - a fact that some cosmetic brands take advantage of to make misleading claims - it’s generally agreed that it means that it comes from nature. This definition is sometimes stretched.

As a broad definition, a natural ingredient is one that comes from a plant, animal, mineral or microbial source and is turned into a cosmetic ingredient with minimal processing. Confusingly, some ingredients that are derived naturally can also be created synthetically in a lab - that’s why it makes sense to check with Elth and look for certification.

Common Natural Shampoo Ingredients

If you’re looking to make the move to using a natural shampoo, here are the ingredients that you need to look out for:

  • Aloe vera
  • Chamomile
  • Coconut oil
  • Essential oils
  • Fruit extracts
  • Organic green tea
  • Organic honey
  • Olives and olive oils 
  • Organic hemp
  • Plant oils
  • Root extracts

These ingredients are all more gentler on the hair than their synthetic alternatives whilst still leaving your hair hydrated, clean and fresh. They’re also less likely to strip the natural oils from your hair.

DIY Natural Shampoo

Some people use these common ingredients to make shampoos at home to use themselves or to sell. Whilst this does count as natural shampoo, these formulations can be less stable and won’t be labelled in the same way so it can be more difficult to work out what you’re actually using. This in turn can make it difficult if you have a reaction or sensitive skin - you won’t know what’s caused it.

Just because something is homemade, it doesn’t necessarily make it a better choice for your hair and scalp. Beauty product formulation is a science, even when it comes to natural ingredients.

What Ingredients To Avoid In Shampoo

There are some shampoo ingredients that you should avoid in your shampoo, either because they’re bad for you, your hair or the environment. These ingredients are commonly used in shampoo, so always check the label - usually, the higher up they appear, the higher the concentration of them in the products.

1. Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) 

You’ll hear a lot about sulphates. They’re strong detergents that are used for cleansing the hair and scalp, but they can strip your hair of natural oils and good bacteria. This can damage your hair, leaving it brittle, prone to breakage and frizzy.

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) 

This is another type of sulphate and is used to create a lather when you wash your hair. Unfortunately it can damage your hair and irritate the skin when it’s left on the scalp. There’s also reports that it might not be good for your health either, especially if you have sensitive skin or fragile hair. If you have colour-treated, curly or dry hair you may find that it fades your colour and dries your hair out.

3. Parabens

Parabens are said to be harmful for hair and skin. They’re used to preserve hair and beauty products, stopping bacteria from growing on them. They can also kill ‘good’ bacteria on the skin and can even mimic the hormone oestrogen as its chemical structure is different - this can affect the body.

4. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is known to be carcinogenic and can be absorbed through the skin. It’s usually used as a preservative but can also be created when certain products react to each other. Formaldehyde is commonly used in chemicals used in hair treatments like a Brazilian blow dry, but can also be included in some home treatments and hair products.

5. Dimethicone

Dimethicone is a type of silicone that’s used to smooth and add shine to the hair. Unfortunately it also creates a build up and coating on the hair which can make it feel greasy, look dull and stops moisture and nutrients getting to your hair. If hydrating products aren’t making a difference, you may need to remove the dimethicone build up from your hair with a clarifying shampoo. It can also clog the pores on the scalp and irritate the skin.

6. Sodium Chloride

This is the chemical name for salt and is usually added to hair products to make them a thicker consistency. We know overconsumption of salt can be bad for health, but what about your hair and scalp? It can make your scalp dry and itchy, eventually leading to hair loss, especially if your skin is already sensitive.

7. Alcohol

Alcohol can dry your hair and scalp when used in topical products, but some are better than others. Try to avoid those who have “prop” in their name (like Isopropyl alcohol or propanol) as these are usually the ones that will dry your hair out. Those that start with a “C” or an “S” like Cetearyl alcohol and Stearyl alcohol aren’t as bad for your hair.

8. Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate - aka vitamin A - is known to irritate the skin, causing redness, peeling and dry, itchy skin. In the wider sense it may also cause other health problems like cancer and reproductive issues.

9. Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

This is used as a thickening agent in shampoos and is derived from petroleum which can become contaminated with harmful chemicals during the production process. There isn’t enough research done into PEG’s specifically, but the byproducts that are sometimes included - such as  ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane - can be toxic.

10. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

DEA and TEA are both emulsifiers. This means that they allow the oil-based and water-based ingredients in shampoo to mix together. The European Commission has banned DEA in cosmetics, and some studies have linked them both to cancer in animals.

11. Synthetic Fragrances and Colours

Synthetic fragrances can contain a lot of different chemicals, and it may be difficult to work out what’s in them. This is the same for synthetic colours, most of which come from petroleum or coal-tar sources which can be harmful.  Many people find that they’re sensitive to synthetic fragrances or colour and find them irritating on the skin and scalp. This can contribute to hair loss. Some synthetic ingredients can even be bad for your overall health too.

12. Triclosan

This antibacterial agent has been banned for use in soaps in some countries but is still used in shampoos. It’s known to disrupt the hormones, which can lead to problems if you’re pregnant and even cancer.

13. Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl betaine is another foaming agent. It’s created from coconut oil but can cause problems with allergies, skin irritation, rosacea and eczema when used in shampoos and other types of hair products.

What’s The Best Natural Shampoo?

The best natural shampoo for you depends on your hair texture, hair type, the condition of your hair and your styling needs. These four factors will all have an impact on the products you choose and how you use them.

Best Natural Shampoo For Deep Cleaning

Nereus London’s Haircare & Revitalising Shower Set is crafted from all-natural ingredients and essential oils. It’s been developed to nourish, hydrate and strengthen your hair whilst deep-cleaning and detoxing it.

The set contains the Detoxing Natural Organic Shampoo and the Hydrating Organic Conditioner along with the Revitalising Organic Pink Pepper Luxury Bath & Shower Gel. They’re all silicone, paraben and sulphate-free, with no animal-derived ingredients, synthetic fragrances or harsh chemicals.

Best Natural Shampoo for Shiny Hair

The Elemental Herbology Shiny Locks Shampoo gently cleanses the hair, adding strength, volume and shine. It contains lavender to help soothe the scalp, wheat proteins to thicken the hair and grapefruit to strengthen hair follicles for growth.

It’s a restorative shampoo that aims to promote healthy hair growth, shine and healthy, thick hair. Use this shampoo with the Elemental Herbology Hair Souffle Conditioner for best results and extra shine. Conditioner helps the hair cuticle lay flat for a smoother, shinier finish.

Best Natural Shampoo For Curly Hair

The Afro Skin Co’s Mini’s Discovery Set contains their Nurture Gentle Cleansing Shampoo Bar, which has been created specifically for afro, textured and curly hair to support moisture retention and skip stripping. It’s made with botanical extracts of wild nettle and lavender to help with a healthy scalp and hair.

Shop Afro Skin Co’s Mini’s Discovery Set

It’s gentle, eco-friendly and won’t weigh down your hair. It comes as a shampoo bar so is also an ethical, environmentally friendly choice as well as a great choice for your hair.

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