As the founder of nul, a no-nonsense natural personal care brand, I speak with many clients who want to make the switch to more natural products.
For a good reason, too! At their best, natural products:
- Are more environmentally friendly
- Don’t use potentially harmful chemicals
- Nourish your skin and hair with many beneficial plant extracts
- Often have plastic-free packaging
However, there are also some things to be aware of when making the switch. Here are the top 5 things you should know before making the switch to natural haircare.
1. Is it really natural?
Natural beauty is a hot trend right now, and with this comes greenwashing. Many brands claim they have 100% naturally-derived products, but it’s not the case when you look closer.
Take one of the most common ingredients for shampoo bars: sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI). While it may be derived from plant oils, it’s not a natural product. The process to make SCI requires harmful chemicals, which are also used in processing crude oil.
The easiest way to know if a product is really natural is to look out for a COSMOS certification from BDiH, EcoCert, or Natrue.
However, many small producers can’t afford the certification. So if you’re looking to buy from an indie brand, ask them if their products comply with the COSMOS-standard.
2. No more silicones
Natural products don’t contain silicones because they don’t biodegrade in the environment. Products containing silicones coat your hair and skin with a thin layer of plastic. This can make it feel great: smooth, soft, strong and “repaired”. This is why silicones are found everywhere in the beauty industry.
However, although your hair and skin might feel great, silicones aren’t doing you any favours. It can build up on your scalp and strands, making it look greasy and heavy. If you don’t use a clarifying shampoo regularly, it can also coat the strands so well that it doesn’t allow any hydration to penetrate your strands, drying them out over time.
Despite this, people find it hard to leave silicones behind as they are so used to their effect. When making the switch to natural products, be aware that there will be an adjustment period where you get accustomed to seeing your hair in its natural state and not covered in plastic.
3. It’s not safe just because it’s natural
There is the perception that natural automatically means its safe. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I look on in horror when I see people coat their skin in (or even drink!) undiluted essential oils – it’s a recipe for an allergic reaction.
Nature is amazing and it’s capable of producing a lot of powerful ingredients and compounds. When not used with consideration, these compounds can be harmful. It’s, for this reason, there are strict rules about the use of essential oils and plant extracts in products. In general, most oils are safe at a 1% usage ratio. All commercial products will follow these rules, but you may run into problems with some indie beauty brands. To be on the safe side, ask them if a certified chemist has approved their products. This is a legal requirement in Switzerland and Europe, and all reputable brands get their products certified.
And please, never use undiluted essential oil no matter what anyone tells you!
4. pH is important
Any product containing water or mixed with water has a pH level. This includes shampoo, soap, conditioner (even in bar form), and most styling products.
The pH level of your skin is typically around 5.5, and the pH of your hair can be as low as 3.5.
pH levels are particularly important for hair as it’s not a living organism. It’s made up of “dead” cells. While your skin can be exposed to a range of pH levels and recover it’s natural pH level quite easily, your hair cannot regulate its pH levels.
As your hair is acidic, if you expose it to something alkaline (like soap) the cuticles on your hair can raise – allowing moisture (and color if you have color-treated hair) to escape and giving your hair a rough and dry appearance.
A good shampoo and conditioner will have an acidic pH between 5.5 and 4.5. This acidity seals the cuticle, trapping moisture and color and giving your hair a shiny appearance.
As a general rule, don’t use soap on your hair. If you absolutely must, ensure you rinse it with diluted vinegar afterwards to re-seal the cuticle.
But what I really recommend is finding a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner instead.
5. Less can be more, but not always
There is a perception with natural products that the shorter the ingredients list, the better. Many commercial products are unnecessarily complicated, and the long ingredients list can hide many harmful chemicals.
However, there are many wonderful natural active ingredients out there that can greatly improve your hair’s health and appearance. And it would be a shame to miss out on them just for a shorter ingredients list.
Instead of just looking at the length of the ingredients list, look at why each ingredient is there. With increasing consumer mistrust, more and more ethical brands are disclosing why they use each ingredient. At nul, we even have a page for each ingredient that explains why we use it, where it comes from, whether it’s vegan, and how it scores on the environmental working group scale.
Making the switch to natural hair care is not always easy, but it’s worth it for you and our planet’s long-term health. I hope this post makes it easier to switch in the right way.
Thanks for reading, and please reach out if you have any questions.
And if you want to try a shampoo that’s truly natural, silicone-free, safe, pH-balanced and contains active ingredients, check out our range of shampoo bars.
About the author
Katie Cullen Montgomerie has worked in technology marketing for the past 10 years. Before founding Nul she was the head of marketing and communications at a top Swiss start-up.
Working in technology, she saw a large number of start-ups working to solve environmental issues. In stark contrast, the personal and household care industry has stagnated with little innovation.
With an MBA and a passion for green chemistry-based natural cosmetics, Katie decided to challenge the status quo. In 2020 she founded nul, a not-just-for-profit company bringing sustainable products to consumers in Switzerland and the world.
nul is a not-just-for-profit company with the mission to make the personal and household care industry more sustainable by offering eco-friendly alternatives that actually work.
No water. No plastic. No toxins. No nonsense.