I’ve tried a lot of shampoos and conditioners in my day since going green and I’m here to share the best of the best to hopefully make the transition easier on you. I know this can be a hard swap for some but with this guide it will become so much easier! The best part, no more guessing on what will work for your hair type because I have that covered too!
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Are shampoo & conditioner really toxic?
Yes, shampoos and conditioners really do contain toxic ingredients! And let’s just say there are some heavy hitters when it comes to ingredients you’re going to want to avoid putting near your scalp.
And on top of just plain not wanting toxic ingredients in your hair care products add to it that the scalp is 4 times more absorbent than other parts of our body, it becomes even more imperative to find more natural options.
So, it absolutely matters what ingredients are in your hair care products, including shampoos and conditioners.
Ingredients To Avoid In Your Shampoo and Conditioner
**If you see a few of these on an ingredient list you can most likely assume that there are probably other ingredients in it you shouldn’t be using too.
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone- This is used as a preservative. It can have a harmful effect on the lungs, cause allergies and is a possible neurotoxin.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLS)- This is a surfactant and helps to create the suds that we come to love in shampoos. The main concern with it is that it’s been shown to be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, which has been classified as a carcinogen. 1,4 dioxane is left behind because of the process of ethoxylation. Some companies have started to strip the sodium laureth sulfate from the shampoos but it’s hard to tell which have. You could definitely call them and ask, but make sure you have some documentation to back up their claims. SLS can also be a skin irritant to many people as well. Especially if you suffer from eczema, rosacea, or sensitive skin in general. Instead of SLS, companies will use decyl glucoside. This is a type of sugar and doesn’t contain any 1,4 dioxane. It’s also a lot less harsh, so great for sensitive skin types.
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)- Similar to sodium laureth sulfate in that it is also a surfactant. It also can contain 1,4 dioxane and can be irritating to the skin. ALS can also form nitrosamines when mixed with other ingredients. These nitrosamines have been found to cause cancer. This can occur when SLS is present too.
- Fragrance- Can cause phototoxic reactions and can be photoallergic. Skin irritants, reproductive damage and has been known as a neurotoxin.
- Methylisothiazolinone- Used as a preservative. An allergen, causing skin burns, allergic reactions.
- Behentrimonium Chloride- Used as an emulsifier, conditioning agent, defrizzer, and preservative. Skin and eye irritant, can cause nerve damage, cancer risk and is highly flammable.
- Polysorbate 20- By itself polysorbate 20 is not harmful, however when it’s used in cosmetics it’s treated with ethylene oxide which then ethoxylates it and can contaminate it with 1,4 dioxane- a known carcinogen. There have also been studies on polysorbate 20 showing reproductive issues and developmental issues.
- DMDM Hydantoin– Used as an anti-microbial agent in products. It releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Since most people know to avoid formaldehyde, companies will list their ingredients with DMDM hydantoin instead. It can cause skin reactions, anything from burning to skin rashes to overall sensitivity. Also cancer. It can also cause irritation to the nose, eyes and throat.
- Propylene Glycol-PEG’s of any kind- Has been found to be contaminated with 1, 4 dioxane, which is cancer causing. Can cause acne or skin irritation. They have a penetrating effect on the formula. This creates even more of a problem as other harmful ingredients are able to penetrate further into the skin when this is present.
- Cocamide MEA– A fatty acid made from coconut oil mixed with diethanolamine. It creates a creamy formula and foaming agent. It can cause allergic reactions in some and can be a skin irritant. It can also form nitrosamines when mixed with other ingredients. These nitrosamines have been found to cause cancer.
- Parabens (not as prevalent as they used to be. This includes methyl-, propyl- ethyl-,butyl)- Used as a preservative. Hormone disruptor also known as endocrine disruptor. Has been found in breast cancer tumors, may cause male infertility and early puberty.
- Quaternium-15– Used in products to avoid yeast, mold and bacteria. Skin and eye irritant, can cause respiratory issues, digestive tract and nervous system. It also releases formaldehyde.
Any time I share a list of ingredients to avoid, I know how overwhelming it can be for someone who is new to switching over their products. But I want to remind you that if you take it one product at a time, soon enough you will have replaced many of your conventional products.
And since we know shampoo is one of those daily products for many, I think it’s imperative to at the very least take a look at what shampoo you’re using. Do the ingredients create a healthy environment for our bodies? What does the research say about the ingredients?
Are there ingredients in conventional shampoos and conditioners that can be damaging to hair?
Absolutely! Which seems counter intuitive that a product you are using to clean your hair can be bad for it. But consider the following:
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLS): If you remember, this ingredient is what causes the suds in your conventional shampoo that really makes us feel like we are getting squeaky clean hair. But, just like when you strip the natural oils from your face with a harsh cleanser, when you strip the natural oils from your hair, it’s going to dry it out! This includes drying out the scalp for some as well.
- Alcohols: Alcohols in your shampoo can also dry out your hair and unfortunately this can do more harm than good possibly resulting in dry and brittle hair. But, of course, to make it more complicated, there are so called ‘good’ alcohols and ‘bad’ alcohols when it comes to your shampoo. Fatty alcohols are actually good for your hair and include cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol and lauryl alcohol. They are typically from more natural sources and their molecular makeup is too large to penetrate the hair shaft. They are used as an emollient. Compare this to ethanol, propanol, ethyl alcohol, etc. These alcohols have a smaller molecular makeup (and can penetrate the hair shaft) and can have a drying effect due to the fact that they evaporate quite quickly. And that’s where the concern of causing dry hair comes from.
- Silicones: They might seem like they make your hair healthier but they actually can clog the pores on the scalp and dry out your hair from the inside out.
- Diethanolamine/Triethanolamine: These can destroy keratin in the hair which leaves the hair shaft dry and brittle.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): Can strip hair of its moisture.
There have even been recent class action lawsuits against beauty & personal care brands Johnson & Johnson & Unilever that make claims that despite using their shampoo products as per the directions, consumers were having reactions such as hair loss and scalp irritation. After having read the different ingredients that are in conventional shampoos from above, this unfortunately isn’t too surprising to hear. But it’s amazing that brands are hopefully being held accountable!
Related Content: Best Natural Dry Shampoos
Give Your Hair Some Time To Adjust To Natural Shampoos
I get e-mails all the time from readers telling me that natural shampoos don’t work for them. Now, I understand it definitely depends on the shampoo and conditioner you’re using, but it also could be a phase your hair is going through. Hair can go through a detox period where it actually gets oilier before it gets better when transitioning to a natural shampoo and conditioner.
Mainstream products are full of such harsh ingredients that strip the hair every time you use them. Your hair gets used to feeling “clean” you think, and so when you switch to a gentler shampoo and conditioner your hair freaks out. It’s used to constantly being dried out everyday and is used to overcompensating by producing more oil to nourish your hair again.
Give your hair 6-8 weeks to detox.
This means stop shampooing your hair everyday-yes this is not necessary and actually could cause more damage to your hair. Shampoo every other day at the most and in between days if you get oily, just use a dry shampoo. This is my favorite natural dry shampoo. You may notice your hair greasier than usual, but that is because your hair’s pH was out of balance from all the harsh chemicals you were putting on it everyday. Give it some time…it will get better!
I also think a good clarifying treatment is in order every now and then too. Sometimes when using natural shampoos the hair gets weighed down, no matter how great they are! This gives it a nice boost, getting rid of any residue that’s been hanging on to your strands. I do this whenever my hair is feeling drab.
The recipe is easy just 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water (I usually use 1/2 cup of each but you may need more if you have thick or long hair).
Mix it together and pour over head concentrating on using your other hand to rub it in your hair. Let it sit on your hair for 10 minutes. Then rinse off and apply conditioner as usual. I’ve also added it to a squirt bottle and then just squirted it all over my head too.
Gurl Gone Green’s Picks For Best Natural Shampoo and Conditioner Brands
**I want to share that I’m a former hair stylist and so this best natural shampoo and conditioners list is legit! I really took my time (over a year!) to create this post. I wanted it to be a comprehensive list that anyone can find something.
Best Overall Natural Shampoo and Conditioner
This is the shampoo I’ve been recommending for any hair type. I’ve used it and I have fine, thin hair. My sister has used it and she has thick, fine hair. I have a friend who loves it and she has coarse thick curly hair. It just gets the job done! Especially great for someone who is used to mainstream shampoos and conditioners and wants one that is going to really get their hair clean. I can go multiple days between shampooing my hair with this shampoo. My hair feels so bouncy and clean. And the clean feeling lasts for days! Use code gurlgonegreen15 to save 15% off you EVOLVh purchase here.
Related Content: EVOLVh Review
Best Natural Shampoo For Sensitive Scalp
I was really excited about this shampoo because it really hits all the marks for someone who may have a sensitive scalp and needs something that’s gentle. Although it is fragrance free, nut free and gluten free, it still cleans the hair so well! My hair always feels clean and it definitely adds some volume like the name suggests. It creates a gentle lather and helps to stimulate the scalp. I would recommend this for any hair type. You might have to use a little more product if you have lots of thick hair to really get it in there but my sister with thicker hair than me loved it too. Get it here!
Best Volumizing Natural Shampoo For Fine Hair
This shampoo and conditioner really cleans the hair well and doesn’t leave behind any heaviness. My hair feels clean and bouncy. I get great volume for my fine hair. I had tried it years ago but then forgot how great it was until I tried it again recently. It really is such a good formula for fine/thin haired gals. It has a rosemary and lavender scent. Not too overwhelming at all, but subtle. Get it here!
Best Natural Shampoo For Color Treated Hair and Curly Hair
This shampoo isn’t for just any hair type, I specifically only recommend it when someone gets their hair color treated often. I will use it after I get my hair done for a couple days but after that if I continue to use it, my hair will become greasy and weighed down.
I’ve had a lot of curly haired gals who love it who have drier hair. It’s a very creamy formula overall. Best suited for those with dry, damaged or color treated hair that need extra moisture. I would recommend it for any hair type that is color treated or is curly. As I stated above it is very hydrating. Smells good, but not overwhelming. A fruity mango scent. It does lather up slightly, but not intensively foaming. Get it here!
Related Content: Innersense Review (Top 5 Products)
Best Natural Shampoo for Dry Hair /Curly
This shampoo suds up well and feels so luxurious. The smell is amazing, hints of vanilla and sage come together in such a beautiful way. Your hair will feel moisturized just using the shampoo on it’s own. This is the perfect shampoo for someone with thick, curly hair that is dry and needs some serious hydration. Thick, unruly, wavy hair that’s color treated…give them the Hydrate Collection. It’s too heavy for my fine hair. Get it here!
Best Natural Shampoo for Men
Ursa Major is my top pick for a natural men’s shampoo and conditioner because the scent is very neutral and it doesn’t have a lot of fluff. It gives your hair and scalp a good clean overall. And, my hubs loves it!
Although I recommend it for men, it really makes my hair feel clean and bouncy too. It feels very refreshing on the scalp. Not a heavy shampoo at all. It still lathers a little too which I love.
The conditioner is light, yet my hair still feels hydrated. One of my sister’s has thick/coarse hair and she didn’t like it. The scent is reminiscent of the outdoors. More pine and fresh smelling. I love how it smells! Get it here!
Related Content: Best Natural Skincare For Men
Best Natural Shampoo and Conditioner that is Budget Friendly
Love this shampoo and conditioner! It gets my hair clean and doesn’t weigh it down. My sister loved it as well. Super impressed with the ingredients. It has no scent and has a lower price point compared to others too. Plus, you can get it on Amazon. Especially great if you don’t do scents or have a sensitive scalp. Comes in a tube and a little goes a long way.
It is really great for any hair type. I used it and my fine, thin hair loved it and so did my sister with thick hair. The conditioner does have a peppermint scent but I love the smell! Great for kids since it’s a lower price point too. If you bundle on Amazon you can get it for around $18 a bottle! Get it here!
Best Natural Purple Shampoo and Conditioner
This is the best natural purple shampoo I’ve found for anyone who has color-treated hair. Specifically if you have highlights that you want to keep bright and not brassy. Also a great option for those that have gray hair. It brightened my highlighted ends and offered them a refresh overall.
It does tend to get the hair really clean, which I love, but it can almost feel stripping if you use it all the time. I think it works though because you don’t want to be using a purple shampoo every time- more like every two weeks to a month. Smells very sweet- like grape candy.
I love the ingredients for the Berry Blonde Shampoo but I wish it was available in the U.S. You could stock up when you purchase it to make it a little more feasible. It’s made in Australia and they don’t have any U.S. Distributors so you do have to buy it from Australia, which makes it pricey. When I bought it, it was about $20 for shipping. I would definitely stock up when buying it! Get it here!
Best Natural Shampoo Bar
I have been so impressed with this shampoo and conditioner! It really works so well. I had tried several other natural bar shampoos and conditioners but hadn’t been able to find one that I really loved. Then I got this in a Beauty Heroes box and I knew it was something special after using it for the first time. It gave my hair bounce, volume and didn’t leave it greasy. It even gave a nice suds so it felt clean. I used the shampoo and conditioner bar for oily/fine hair. But they offer several others depending on your hair type. I love how no plastic is being used- a truly earth friendly approach to a natural shampoo and conditioner! Get it here!
Related Content: Best Bar Shampoos (Tested + Reviewed)
Best Clarifying Shampoo & Conditioner
Having fine hair I’m always searching for a shampoo and conditioner that leaves my hair feeling clean but not weighed down. Well, Innersense Clarity Shampoo and Conditioner does just that!!
I love that not only is it perfect for my fine hair, but it’s also fragrance free and hypoallergenic. Great for kiddos too. I love being able to just have one shampoo and conditioner my kids can use too.
I’ve been testing this out for several months and my hair doesn’t feel dried out. Often shampoos can really clean my hair but they can leave it feeling dry. Not Clarity Hairbath and Clarity Conditioner! My hair feels nourished, but not weighed down. Get it here!
Natural Black Hair Routine
As I was trying out natural shampoos and conditioners I realized I had a blind spot when it came to black hair. I’ve had people ask me before what I would recommend as natural shampoos for black hair and I couldn’t. I didn’t even know what natural hair products in general to recommend for black hair. I wanted to enlist an expert. Monique from Brown Skin Green Beauty was so gracious to share her expertise with my audience on her top picks for best natural shampoo and conditioners for black hair. I learned so much from getting her expert tips on how to care for black hair.
Since losing my hair two years ago, not only has my wash day been simplified, but the products I use are lightweight, oil-based, and more plant-based instead of the heavy cream products that once served my hair needs.
The first step to my wash day is a pre-poo of coconut oil and aloe vera juice. I spritz my hair with aloe vera juice and work the coconut oil in my locks from base to end. This process helps to create a moisture barrier to keep my hair from drying out when shampooing. Next, I wash my hair with Nikki’s Naturals Black Soap Clarifying Shampoo. This liquid black soap gently clarifies without stripping my hair’s natural oil. My hair is left feeling very clean, soft, and moisturized.
To keep hair from overdrying, I wrap my wet hair in a cotton t-shirt to absorb most of the water. Once my locks feel damp, I oil my scalp with an oil mixture of Paparozier Castor Oil of Haiti, sweet almond, jojoba, peppermint, and rosemary. When styling, I spritz my hair with aloe vera juice and retwist with coconut oil to clean up my boxes and lock in moisture. At night, I wear a silky scarf to keep my hair lint-free. Every three days, I give my hair a light spritz of Al Wadi Rose Water and massage a light layer of avocado oil or coconut oil in my locs to keep them hydrated and well moisturized. On occasion, I’ll use Oyin Handmade Greg Juice for a moisture boost.
Are Natural Shampoos and Conditioners really better?
Yes, 100% natural shampoos and conditioners are really better! Since we know the scalp is more absorbent than other parts of our body, it’s important that we are mindful of what we use when it comes to shampoo and conditioner.
Also, remember that hair can go through a detox period where it actually gets oilier before it gets better when transitioning to a natural shampoo and conditioner. Mainstream products are full of such harsh ingredients that strip the hair every time you use them. Your hair gets used to feeling “clean” you think, and so when you switch to a gentler shampoo and conditioner your hair freaks out. Give your hair 6-8 weeks to detox. In the long run you’ll notice healthier hair just from using a natural shampoo and conditioner, versus a harsh mainstream shampoo and conditioner!
Did I miss your favorite? What do you think is the best natural shampoo and conditioner?