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photo courtesy of phyto.com

This week, a hairstylist friend of mine asked me my recommendations for truly natural hair care. Sure, there are products claiming to be natural all over, even certified organic and “green” products that many people rave over. However, when I hear that someone has a concern about ingredients in their beauty products, I think it is important to know a few things.

First, there is no regulation on the use of the word “natural” in labeling. If you think about it, anything can be considered natural, as long as at some point, it came from a natural source (like the earth!). So when you think natural, that could mean a very different thing to the manufacturer of the products on your counter and in your shower.

Second, many products are vegan and organic, but can still contain parabens, phthalates, synthetic dyes and other ingredients that people are seeking to avoid. Even vaseline is made with petrochemicals, and many people don’t want that in their products. Companies like Pureology are vegan and certified green by Global Green, but some (not all) of their products still contain parabens.

While the verdict is still out on how harmful some of these chemicals may be, and research results are still inconclusive on many, it is okay if you would rather err on the side of caution. While natural hair care is pretty easy to find, the downside to many natural hair care products is that they leave the hair feeling stiff, straw-like, and dry. This is what lead my stylist friend to ask me what I thought about “natural” hair care products. She told me that every time a client came to her having used natural brands that they may have purchased at a coop or Whole Foods, their hair felt awful. Well, I just can’t let that go on!

When I thought of natural products, I thought of the products on which I had received extensive education though out my career. Pureology and Davines were the first that came to mind. While both have natural botanicals and high quality ingredients, when I checked the labels on the products in my cabinet, they had parabens. For people seeking natural hair care, that is a no-no. Pureology has several certifications guaranteeing they are vegan, organic, and green, but if you don’t want parabens in your products, you’re going to have to avoid it. Davines, while they don’t have all of the certifications of Pureology, they do heavily market their natural and pure roots. The bottle of Davines in my shower does contain those pesky parabens that many people try to avoid.

Now if you are reading this and wondering what on earth a paraben is, and why people want to avoid it, allow me to explain. Parabens are preservatives that because of their effectiveness and their affordability, are found in just about everything from shampoo to food products. However, many women have come to be cautious of their presence in products and food because they have been found in very low concentrations in breast cancer tumors. Now before you go throw out all of the bottles in your bathroom, research has been inconclusive so far as to why and how the parabens got into the tumors. There is also no direct link found between the use of parabens and the presence of cancer. In other words, it has not been shown to cause cancer. However, understandably, many women would prefer to not expose themselves to these chemicals at all.

So what are you to do if you don’t want all of these potentially harmful products in your shampoo and conditioner? After doing some serious research, I found two brands that manufacture products without many of these chemicals, including parabens.

Alterna, made without parabens, sulfates (which many avoid on color-treated hair) and other scary chemicals boasts silky hair and even sunscreens. Some of their products do contain caviar extract, which means they are not vegan, but if you simply want a natural product that works well, Alterna is a great choice. Many of their products are certified organic and green as well, and in my experience with the brand, leave hair feeling silky and easy to manage.

Phyto is another brand that can appeal to even the vegans of the crowd. They proudly proclaim that there are over 700 plants in their products, and that they produced environmentally-responsible and sustainable products long before it became a trend. They also formulate without parabens, petrochemicals, sulfates, synthetic fragrances or dyes, and make concentrated formulas so less product can be used to achieve desired results. After using it, my hair always felt well nourished and very easy to style. I purchased their Phytokeratine shampoo years ago and absolutely loved it. At the time, I did not realize they were at the forefront of eco-friendly, natural, and sustainable hair and skin care products. Even their packaging is recycled and recyclable. No stiff, unmanageable hair, and no added waste in the landfill? Success!

Straw-like, brittle hair no longer has to be synonymous with natural hair care! Hopefully now with either Alterna or Phyto, my friend’s clients may now have the pure products they desire without having to sacrifice silky, soft, beautiful hair!

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