This post was written by BIA contributor Ashley Rubell
We’ve seen a lot of lists when it comes to what to avoid in our hair products. Seeing hair products advertised as “sulfate free” or “paraben free” has become as trendy as grocery shopping for foods labeled gluten-free or organic. It’s a new norm for those of us trying to make the transition to cleaner hair care products. I’ve noticed there isn’t as much empowerment around what we should be looking for as there is what ingredients to stray from, though.
As consumers, we now understand that sulfates and parabens can strip the natural oils from our hair and scalp, and there’s research showing their toxicity can lead to numerous health issues affecting our hormones and allergies, along with inhibiting the health of our hair. In an effort to not operate solely out of fear and avoidance, I think it’s important to understand what ingredients are there to benefit us – and the healthy substitutes offered to give us the results we yearn for.
One of the hair woes we want to avoid is dry, brittle strands. In the past, we’ve been fooled by shampoos and conditioners that carried silicones in them. Silicones are a plastic-y substance that coat the hair and work as a sealant that keeps out beneficial properties. This disables what we need from penetrating into our hair and instead gives us a waxy finish that falsely fools us for shine. Shea Butter is a sealant but it actually lets the hair penetrate moisture and helps us keep frizz at bay without blocking out the nutrients we need. It’s one of the main ingredients in this hair mask from Josh Rosebrook and is such a treat to use a couple times a week if your hair is in need of moisture and repair.
Seed oils have a multitude of benefits. Sunflower oil provides UV protection. Kiwi seed oil hydrates without adding extra weight to the hair the way that a silicone would. Red raspberry seed oil has been seen in a lot of skin care products these days. Mainly because it has a variety of benefits for acne, like managing our oil levels, which serves our strands by preventing a loss of moisture and protecting our ends from breakage. It also carries antioxidant properties that can help with any pre-existing damage. One of my favorite lines utilizing these seed oil benefits are the products from EVOLVh.
Herbs carry a ton of benefits when it comes to our beauty products. Basil Leaf has anti-fungal properties which can help to remove any impurities, and it’s also anti-bacterial which can reduce any dryness or irritation at the scalp. Rosemary has also been seen as a stimulating agent that can help improve circulation and promote hair growth. The benefits of these herbs plus many others can be found in products Act and Acre, a line of hair care products developed by stylist Helen Reavey that focuses on health at the scalp.
Coconut has a great deal of benefits. I know I’ve used straight coconut oil on my hair before as a hydrating mask, so it’s no surprise to me that it’s been on the scene of hair care for a while now. Coconut oil’s moisturizing properties help soften our strands and help to remove dirt and debris. One way I hadn’t seen it used until recently is by way of coconut water, which naturally detoxifies. Playa’s Everyday Shampoo illustrates the use of coconut water, which along with other unique moisturizing agents like Sugar Beet extract, make shampoo so moisturizing that conditioner becomes optional for us to pick up maybe every other time we rinse, depending on our hair type.
Aloe and Amino Acids
Aloe is known to be a healing agent most commonly used on sun-damaged skin, but it also helps to repair the hair. Aloe naturally carries strands of protein enzymes that turn into amino acids. Amino acids assist in rebuilding and strengthening strands from the inside out, and in turn, can boost our elasticity. Aloe will also help our scalp recover from dandruff or flaking. Considering what we’ve known aloe to do for our skin, it’s no surprise that it can offer us similar benefits with our hair, right? Rahua carries a handful of products with aloe in them.
Sea Salt and Seaweed Extract
These ingredients are most often found in the coveted surf sprays we all know and love. Sea salts are also making an appearance in scalp (and body) scrubs because they are a natural exfoliant that detoxifies from any impurities. Salt can also be derived from seaweed extract, and the result we get is a no-slip or static texture for a tousled look with added hold. Seaweed has also been said to be a “protein shake for your locks” because of all the vitamins and minerals it carries. When it comes to texturizing beach sprays, Herbivore makes one of my favorites. And as for scalp scrubs, I’d suggest trying the G. Tox Himalayan Salt Scrub from Goop.
Other beneficial ingredients to be on the lookout for when shopping for clean hair care: essential oils, charcoal, argan oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, avocado, mango, sugar cane, castor oil, gooseberry or alma oil.
Have you tried any other natural ingredients that have helped you manage your hair? Share with us in the comments below!