Your hair may be greasy and grimy, but what about your shampoo? The lather we associate with cleansing can sometimes be quite unhealthy, even in so-called organic
or natural products. "It’s tricky" to identify nontoxic products, says Stacy Malkan, author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry". To help you choose, we tested eight shampoos, all of which are free of the dirtiest chemicals (DeA, paraben preservatives, ethoxylated chemicals) and contain certified organic plant oils instead of synthetic fragrances with hormone-disrupting phthalates.
Intelligent Nutrients Hair Cleanser
This lemony, peppery shampoo is new from Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda. Our testers reported satisfaction all around. ($39 for 6.7 oz, intelligentnutrients.com)
Avalon Organics Rosemary Volumizing
Our thin-haired tester found the “very foamy” lather smelled so strong it was like “washing with resin,” but her hair was noticeably more voluminous. Plus and minus: It uses certified organic rosemary oil, but it has moderately toxic sodium lauroyl sarcosinate and cocamidopropyl betaine. ($8.95 for 11 oz., avalonorganics.com
Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet
This citrus-scented shampoo meets the toxin-free requirements of the strict new Natural Products Association seal and also comes in an 80 percent post-consumer recycled (PCW) bottle. No testers reported extra shine. ($8 for 12 oz., burtsbees.com
Dr. Hauschka with Macadamia and Orange for normal hair
All three of Dr Hauschka’s plant-based shampoos are certified petrochemical-free. Highly effective for a variety of hair types, it weighed curls down just enough and smells great. ($13 for 8 oz., drhauschka.com
Aveda Smooth Infusion
In an 80 percent PCW bottle, this defrizzing formula contains salicylic acid, a high hazard according to the Skin Deep database. The suds cleaned well, but no testers reported newfound smoothness. ($20 for 8.5 oz., aveda.com
Aubrey Organics JAY Desert Herb Revitalizing for dry, damaged hair
Newly reformulated with a coconut-corn oil soap for sudsing, the cactus-citrus blend leaves a dry ’do feeling knotty and stripped post-shower but clean and soft the next day. Its odor is guy-friendly, too. ($10.50 for 11 oz., aubreyorganics.com
Dr Alkaitis Organic for all hair types
A multi-tressed team confirmed it performs well, leaving scalps clean and hair unstripped with very little lather, but it’s a bit mild for oily hair. ($35 for 8 oz., alkaitis.com
John Masters zinc & sage (oily scalps and dry hair)
Eco-cert approved and tropical-scented, it helped all hair types, taming flyaways and soothing itchy, flaky scalps. And with conditioner built in, this is the ultimate boy shampoo. ($20 for 8 oz., johnmasters.com
ABOUT OUR CRITERIA: The ingredients of these products were vetted with cosmetics expert Stacy Malkan, David Bronner, president of Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (cosmeticsdatabase.com). Packaging: At minimum, bottles are readily recyclable plastics (#1 or #2).
Story by Alexandra Zissu. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in October 2008.