Beauty / Our Products | 09.08.2018

The most important thing about haircare you need to know

Making a natural or organic hair product that works is a green formulator’s greatest challenge. Fortunately, there’s been further development of green surfactants since I first started formulating over 20 years ago.
Ethoxylated ingredients can easily be replaced with safer alternatives in formulas like saponified coconut oil and milder glucoside-based surfactants and fatty acids. You may not see them readily used because they’re more expensive and challenging to formulate. 

your SCALP

Your scalp consists of five layers. It’s extremely absorbent because it contains so many hair follicles. There are 650 sweat glands, 1000 nerve endings and 20 blood vessels alone on your head, so penetration is greater and it has the potential to get rapidly absorbed straight into the bloodstream. It's one of the reasons that your hair is commonly used for drug testing and toxin analysis like lead and mercury poisoning. 
If you’re a frequent hair washer (more than twice a week), the shampoos and conditioners you use should be high on your list of detox priorities and you should scrutinise the labels of products you use. As well as the overall hazard score on hair products, it’s important to check out and evaluate the biodegradability of the ingredients. Keep in mind that whatever you’re washing and cleaning your hair with, will end up in overburdened and polluted water ways. 


Your hair is made up of a protein called keratin. The outer layer is called the cuticle. Up close, it has a scaly appearance like a fish. Its role is to protect the hair shaft. The pH of the hair is low, around three. When it’s washed with harsh surfactants, the acid balance is destroyed because the pH is so much higher.
To restore the appearance of the cuticle so that it has a lovely smooth, shiny appearance that reflects light and makes the hair lie flat and look healthy, will require conditioning agents. If you want to balance your scalp and reset to a healthier hair regime, start with washing your hair less frequently.  

Ingredients to look out for


A big misconception in haircare is that foam is an indicator of cleanliness. Foaming isn’t healthy. In fact, the less foam, the better. Most shampoos contain synthetic foaming agents known as surfactants. These are compounds that reduce the surface tension of liquids and help suspend oil and dirt, making them easier to remove or clean from the hair, body or greasy surfaces.  


A common chemical process used in creating surfactants is ethoxylation. It involves adding ethylene oxide to an alcohol or phenol to create the surfactant. A concerning by-product of this manufacturing process is contamination of 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogenic byproduct. The simplest way to identify if an ingredient has been ethoxylated is to look for ‘eth’ in the name.


Mainstream shampoos often contain sulphates. These are commonly found in almost all foaming and lathering products. Although these ingredients may originate from coconuts, the final product is far from its natural starting point. 

Avoid:  sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)

Alternative: Decyl, capryl, coco and lauryl glucosides


A chemical surfactant found in many cosmetics and most mainstream shampoos. It’s added to make them creamy and foaming. It’s a suspected carcinogen, and is thought to block the absorption of the nutrient choline, which is vital to brain development and required in higher doses in pregnant women. It can also cause hormone disruption and skin allergies. DEA when added to other ingredients, can cause nitrosamine contamination.

Avoid: Ethanolamine (ETA), diethanolamine (DEA), cocamide DEA, monoethanolamine (MEA), triethanolamine (TEA)

Alternative: Not a necessary additive. 

Conditioners & Coating Agents

To achieve the sort of finish found in haircare advertisements, most haircare products contain silicones or plastic derivatives. They’re designed to coat the hair shaft, making it appear luxurious and healthy. While the result may look fabulous, they prevent transpiration and penetration of nutrients. They build up in the hair and the environment. Regardless of whether a label states the product is full of proteins or vitamin E, your hair is essentially dead, so it isn’t going to make a difference to the hair shaft.

Avoid: Silicones - dimethicone, polymethylsiloxane

Alternative: Isoamyl laurate, plukenetia volubilis seed oil, jojoba, argania spinosa argan kernal oil, moringa seed oil, shea butter

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

Most commercial and a few ‘natural’ haircare products contain quaternary ammonium compounds, aka ‘quats’. These are bromine or chlorine salts of ammonia that act as anti-static agents, disinfectants and algaecides. Many natural haircare companies justify their use because they’re made from rapeseed or turnip oil. Their role is to defrizz the hair and make it feel softer by coating the hair and scalp. While they may create a soft, sleek feeling, they can be hazardous compounds.

Avoid: Centrimonium chloride, behentrimonium chloride and guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

Alternative: REFER conditioning agents above


A fragrance is a complex blend of aromatic molecules with infinite mixtures and possibilities. Fragrances are volatile substances that enter the air as gases. They can affect your naso-respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Even in low concentrations, the chemicals can be sensitisers, carcinogens, allergens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, irritants and environmental toxins. A large percentage of fragranced products also contain phthalates, colourants and solvents (unlisted on the label) and are added to the mix to make a product last longer or stick to your skin.
Hair products are one of the worst offenders – almost all shampoos, conditioners and styling products contain fragrance.

Avoid: Parfum, fragrance

Alternative: Essential oil blends



Water is the main ingredient used in haircare. Preservation is important because products are vulnerable to spoilage, especially in a bathroom environment where mould and bacteria are rampant. Parabens are most commonly used because they’re cheap and stable, but they have been identified as causing health related issues.

Avoid: The prefixes ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- or isobutyl parabens, sodium odium benzoate

Alternative: Sodium levulinate, sodium anisate





  • Ethanolamines
  • Parabens
  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cocamide DEA
  • Eth compounds – sodium laureth sulfate since they may be contaminated with known endocrine disruptor 1,4-dioxane
  • Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives - diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin 
Excerpt taken from Truth in Beauty On sale now. How often do you wash your hair? Do you read the labels on your personal care products? Leave a comment to be in the running to win $150 worth of products of your choice.


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