The Best Natural Hair Care Products + Tips
Looking for the best natural hair care products, tips and regimens that actually work? Whether your hair is straight or curly, dry or frizzy, color-treated or not, it’s time to toss your toxic shampoos, conditioners, and styling products for these tried and tested green + organic hair care alternatives!
Welcome to the #betterforyoucrew series! I’ve teamed up with my girls Suzi from Gurl Gone Green, Lisa from This Organic Girl, Caroline from Olive You Whole, Kristina from Love & Zest, and Sarah from Whoorl to highlight green, yet effective food, beauty and lifestyle products that are rocking our natural mama worlds. This series will publish the last week of every month so check back for the latest. You can also search #betterforyoucrew on our blogs and Instagram to access the entire series. Wanna join in? Tag #betterforyoucrew on social with your picks. We want to see your faves, too!
Let’s talk hair.
We’ve gone over the Best Non-Toxic, Natural Beauty Products That Actually Work (105 of them to be exact!), the 30 Best Natural Beauty Stores, and My Current Green Beauty Routine.
Now–after testing countless natural hair care products over what has felt like years–we’re ready to bring you our favorites!
It wasn’t easy; I feel like hair products just might be the toughest beauty switch to make from conventional. We’re so attached to our hair and I have an irrational love for that clean, sudsy lather and potent fragrance that comes from traditional shampoo (I may have been an Herbal Essences exec in a past life, who knows?!)
It’s just that those toxic, chemical-laden products work like a charm… or so it seems.
What’s Wrong with Mainstream Hair Care Products?
While it’s easy to tell ourselves that, “I’m just using this on my hair so it’s no big deal” (confession: I sometimes say the same thing!), these products actually get absorbed through our skin, our largest organ.
How? Directly via our scalp; when we rinse our shampoo and it runs all the way down our body; when styling products get on our hands; or sprays get on our face, into our nose and into the air we breathe. You get the picture.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s actually in most shampoos, conditioners and styling products:
- Like other conventional beauty products, they’re filled with dangerous chemicals like parabens, phtalates, synthetic fragrances, and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), all of which are endocrine disruptors, a.k.a. fake estrogens that mimic estrogen in the body and cause hormonal imbalances and infertility.
- Mainstream shampoos rely on synthetic ingredients like sulfate and sulfate derivatives. These ingredients are harsh surfactants that work in combination with detergents (MEA’s, TEA’s and PEG’s) that cleanse the hair and scalp, and also create that oh-so-sought-after foamy lather. As they’ve been used for decades, these ingredients have created the impression and expectation that shampoos should always lather like an Herbal Essences commercial. Conventional shampoos also tend to be high in water content, thickened by PEG’s and salt ingredients.
- These same conventional products contain quaternary ingredients like polyquanterniums, adding slip and shine to the hair. With the addition of resins, silicones and plastics, these ingredients artificially add more shine and volume by coating the hair, creating an illusion of hydration. But these petrochemicals are toxic.
When hair is exposed to the resins, silicones, and synthetics in most mainstream hair products, it can’t breathe, and its natural oils are harshly stripped. These products create an illusion that they’re working wonders, but after awhile you’ll notice your hair will become dehydrated, dull and flat. Ultimately you’ll switch shampoos when this happens, and then repeat this same cycle over and over again.
Note that when you first switch to natural hair care products, your hair will go through a detoxification where it gets worse before it gets better. Yea, I know–that sucks! But just like if you’re detoxing your body, you need some transition time before you’ll start noticing improvements.
Also note that it’s common when you make the switch from conventional to natural to “overwash” your hair, getting met with a bit of a scalp fight back and a touch of oiliness to combat dryness. You might want to try two back-to-back light shampoos to fully cleanse when first getting started.
Final tip: a lot of natural shampoos and conditioners require LOTS of water too, since conventional ones have higher water content. Really be sure to work it in with your hands and apply on super wet hair.
Alright, time to make some savvy swaps and get stylin’ with natural hair care products!
Natural Hair Care: Shampoo
These are the ONLY natural shampoos I’ve found that actually lather and leave my hair feeling clean–and believe me, I’ve tried DOZENS! I alternate which shampoo I use based on what my hair needs that day and what kind of mood I’m in and scent I’m longing for:
- Beautycounter’s Volumizing Shampoo: This was the first natural shampoo I tried that not only smelled good but left my hair feeling healthy, and it’s still in my regular rotation. It actually suds up/lathers and rinses out completely, all while being free of over 1500 chemicals and toxins.
- Innersense Organic Beauty Color Awakening Hairbath: Innersense’s products are like love in a bottle. They treat hair as a self-care ritual and all their gorgeous products are organic and plant-based. Even though my hair isn’t color treated, Innersense’s team still recommended this hydrating shampoo after hearing about my crazy thick, wavy hair and, truly, this just might be my favorite shampoo! The smell is delicately sweet and fresh, it really makes my hair feel clean, but doesn’t leave it feeling stripped.
- True Botanicals Nourishing Shampoo: Great for dry scalps and filled with antioxidants, this synthetic-, sulfate- and surfactant-free shampoo works equally well whether your hair is normal or dry, straight or curly, color-treated or all natural! When I need a gentle cleanse (if I’ve washed my hair in the last 2 days, for example) I reach for TB!
- Phillip Adam Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo: Great to help remove product build up, this pH-balanced shampoo adds shine to dull hair, prevents dandruff, and fights greasy hair. Love the lightly fruity smell, too!
- Goop’s GTox Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo: I use this once a week as a clarifier–it’s seriously SO COOL. It’s a unique whipped shampoo made of exfoliating mineral-rich Himalayan pink salt that cleanses the hair and scalp of product buildup, dirt, and oil. It starts out grainy like a scrub but as you work it through your scalp, it actually foams up!
- Mineral Fusion’s Dry Shampoo (Medium to Dark): I recently discovered this product and I love how it not only sops up any excess oil, but also doesn’t leave a white, powdery residue in my dark hair. That said, it’s only good for day 1-2 of no washing. For heavier duty, I like Hair Dance’s Dry Shampoo Volume Powder, which is 100% natural and organic and works so well!
Confession: I will admit that I occasionally use conventional shampoo when I feel like I have a lot of buildup and I really want that super clean lather feeling. It’s all about the 80/20 rule right? My fave is Biolage Hydrasource because it smells so good!
Natural Hair Care: Conditioner
- Innersense Organic Beauty Color Radiance Daily Conditioner: My favorite conditioner by far! As soon as I put this stuff in, it instantly softens and detangles my thick hair like magic. Again, though I don’t have color treated hair, this formula is still amazing for dry or medium textured hair and I can’t love it more!
- Beautycounter Smoothing Conditioner: This smoothing formula really helps calm frizz, while detangling your strands. I love how it leaves my locks feeling hydrated, sleek and glossy!
- True Botanicals Nourishing Conditioner: This conditioner really delivers both moisture and nourishment, packed with antioxidants to fend off environmental damage, plus emollients and humectants to fortify, eliminate frizz, and ease detangling. This lightweight formula will leave your hair luxuriously soft, silky, and swingy!
- EVOLVh UltraRepair Reconstructing Masque: Once a week or so, I’ll do a facial at home and I try to also give my hair some deep conditioning TLC. This hair mask smells like a peach and is highly effective for smoothing coarse, curly or frizz-prone hair, and protecting your hair from breakage, dehydration, tangles and split ends. To say my hair feels like silk after I use it is an understatement! Leaving it in overnight makes me hair the softest it’s ever been! Use the code ROOT for 15% off at EVOLVh!
Natural Hair Care: Styling Products
- Innersense Organic Beauty Sweet Spritz Leave-In Conditioner: This leave-in is a great detangler, like a lotion for your hair. It’s lightweight enough for even the finest hair types, yet works wonders for thicker, curlier locks too!
- EVOLVh Wonder Balm: I can’t believe how good this smells even though it’s fragrance-free, or how moisturizing and shiny this leaves my hair since there is zero silicone. This balm is great for frizz without any stickiness or crunch, creating curl gorgeousness or a sleek, straight look. Use the code ROOT for 15% off at EVOLVh!
HAIRSPRAY + HAIR SERUMS
- Josh Rosebrook Hairspray Firm Hold: Oh, how I love thee! I’ve been using this hairspray the last couple years and–not only does it have non-GMO ingredients and fragrant organic essential oils that smell amazing–but it’s lightweight, isn’t sticky, and actually works, all while leaving a natural look.
- Briogeo Rosarco Rosehip, Argan & Coconut Oil Blend: The smell is intoxicating and it tames my frizz like no other! I also recently copied my brother’s girlfriend because her hair always smells amazing–she says it’s because of Lush’s R&B hair moisturizer, so I started using that and can’t get over how delicious I smell 😉
- Alterna Kendi Oil: While this oil is free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and some other hazards, it isn’t 100% clean since it has some questionable ingredients like fragrance. I do still love this oil for sealing my split ends on wet or dry hair, and occasionally as a nourishing mask treatment.
FINISHING + STYLING
- EVOLVh Ultimate Styling Lotion: When I want to let my hair air dry and just wear it wavy, I love using this 5-In-One botanical silicone free lotion–not only does it boost shine and reduce frizz, but it also helps me define my waves into a slight curl and hold the style.
- EVOLVh SuperFinish Polishing Balm: What does this product NOT do?! It’s seriously a superhero that delivers brilliant shine and flyaway control, defrizzes, moisturizes, strengthens, prevents breakage and splitting, all without being greasy or adding weight. It’s an awesome alternative to oils that moisturizes dry ends and protects against UV and heat damage. And the fragrance-free scent is the most intoxicating of all the hair products I use! I can’t stop sniffing my hair when I put this in. Use the code ROOT for 15% off at EVOLVh!
- Innersense I Create Waves: This Pink Himalayan sea salt spray filled with minerals and amethyst crystal creates crazy sexy texture! Great for second- or third-day hair to revive style and volume without creating dryness like typical salt sprays. I use this on dry hair after I’ve styled it to add some grit and hold.
- Innersense I Create Volume: If I’m going to blow dry my hair straight, I’ll apply this lightweight gel to my roots to give me some lift at my scalp. I love how it’s made with Certified Organic honey and aloe vera to bring fullness and manageability, while also keeping my hair shiny!
Natural Hair Care: Tools + Accessories
- Ponytail Holders: The best and only ponytail holders I use, the Invisibobble (original in brown) doesn’t break your hair or leave those dreaded dents. They provide the perfect hold that stays in place yet isn’t so tight that it leaves you with a headache… because for real, hairstyles should not hurt!
- Hair towel: I recently tried Aquis’ Rapid Dry Hair Turban that’s proven to cut drying time by 50% thanks to a proprietary wicking fabric. The turban prevents something called Hygral Fatigue, which is the stretching and swelling of wet hair that makes it vulnerable to frizz and damage. This turban is designed to: reduce frizz and breakage; help hair look shinier, smoother, and softer; create bounce and volume; help with curl definition; and even claims that your hair becomes healthier over time, reducing the need for styling products. While I haven’t used it long enough to know if that last part is true, I’ve really loved this turban so far and am amazed at how much faster my hair dries and how much healthier it looks! Use the code REVEL10 for 10% off your purchase at Aquis!
- Curling Iron: Whether I want those loose beachy waves or tighter curls, I use my Tyme Iron, which makes it easy to replicate flat iron curls without learning the tricky hand techniques!
- Hair Brush: Wet Brush Pro gets out the toughest knots and tangles in one clean swipe. I don’t understand how it works, but I’ll never use another brush again!
Natural Hair Care: Additional Brands
The following is a list of brands whose products I have not yet personally tried, but whose ingredients look clean and green:
- Sedu Beauty
- LAVETT and CHIN
- French Girl Organics
- Garrett Markenson Reverie
- Sangre De Fruta
- Seed Phytonutrients
- Eco-friendly hair dryers: Harry Josh Pro Tools or Dyson Supersonic
What are your favorite natural hair care products? Let us know in the comments below!
Like this? Check out my friends’ hair tutorials here:
- Suzi’s Natural Hair Care Routine for Fine Hair from Gurl Gone Green
- Lisa’s Natural Hair Care Routine from This Organic Girl
- Caroline’s Safe Hair Care Products That Are EWG Verified from Olive You Whole
- Kristina’s List of the Best Natural Hair Care Products from Love & Zest
- Sarah’s Natural Hair Care Routine from Whoorl
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.