2019 Master List: Shampoo & Conditioner

In my last post, The Quick and Dirty Guide on how to Clean Yourself Up, we covered a lot of no-gos and pitfalls when trying to shop more ethically. Sadly, there’s so much crap to look out, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and psych yourself out from doing the research. (For what it’s worth, I sometimes still get that way, even now, and the struggle to keep going can get real.)

In the interest of making your life easier, I’m coming up with a list of gender-agnostic self-care products, in addition to home cleaning products, for this year. You can find all of the 2019 Master Lists here.

For this post, we’ll be covering shampoo and conditioner (hair styling products will come in a separate post later on). Hopefully, by the time you walk away from reading this post, you’ll feel confident that you have a few solid options to explore, try out, and feel good about using.

The below products meet the following criteria:

  • cruelty-free: no animal testing has been done for the product to reach market, and no animal-derived ingredients are included if the harvesting process can cause harm to the animal (e.g., lanolin harvesting).
  • environmentally responsible: the ingredients listed on the label are of nonexistent or relatively low risk to the environment.
  • non-hazardous: the phrase “non-toxic” isn’t a regulated phrase, so we’re sticking with “non-hazardous” to keep a safe distance from meaningless marketing terminology. In this case, you should take “non-hazardous” to mean that the product, when used as intended (don’t drink it or bathe in it if the label doesn’t tell you to do so), poses overall less risk of experiencing negative side effects associated with exposure to various chemical compounds.
  • consistent results: the product delivers comparable results to conventional products, and works the way you want it to work significantly more often than it does not.

Author’s Note:

Please note that this list isn’t sponsored in any way. The products listed below are products I either personally use, have used, or with which I have indirect experience from close friends/family.

Top Pick

Plaine Products Shampoo and Conditioner in Rosemary Mint Vanilla

In a nutshell:

  • Free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates and palm oil
  • Blended with whole essential oils (instead of synthetic fragrance)
  • Vegan and have non GMO ingredients
  • Designed to biodegrade
  • Baby safe and hypoallergenic
  • Cruelty Free, Leaping Bunny certified
  • Free of single-use plastic

Plaine Products is easily the top pick for this category because it ticks so many “green” boxes.

For starters, Plaine Product’s shampoos have a ridiculously good ingredient list: not only can you (probably) pronounce everything on their list, they’re also all clean and natural. Their shampoos and conditioners are also vegan and use non-GMO ingredients.

The best part, though, is that they package their goods in metal containers, which allows them to be reused. In fact, you can visit their website to request a free return label to send their bottles back to them — even if you buy their product from a different retailer!

Yes, you read that right. That means they offer a no plastic waste solution when buying self-care items. (Why is this not an option for almost everything?)

There are two downsides to this pick:

  1. Currently, Plaine Products doesn’t offer any other hair care products. If you’re the type of person who likes all your haircare products from the same place, Plaine Products isn’t your best choice at the moment. (Who knows, maybe they’ll branch out into styling products, soon!)
  2. The price point is a little high. At $30 for a 16oz bottle, they fall on the mid-high price point, even if you subscribe and get the 10% subscription discount.

In regards to issue 2, I think the price point can at least be understood when you consider their up-front packaging costs and their operating costs when you consider that they offer free return shipping labels. Basically, that half of that $30/bottle price tag likely exists to offset the cost for those free return labels.

Since I value the minimal-waste approach, I think that it’s a justified cost, but not everyone may feel the same way.

Shampoo Ingredients (Rosemary Mint Vanilla):
Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Vegetable Glycerin, Saponified Oils of Coconut and Safflower Seed, Guar Gum and Irish Moss (Red Algae Extract – Carrageen). Organic Camellia, Sunflower and Ricebran Oils. Extracts of Chamomile and Quillaja Saponaria. Papaya and Pineapple Pulp Extracts. Rosemary Oleoresin, Vitamin E Complex, Organic Green Tea, Geogard Ultra and Potassium Sorbate. Scent: Mint Arvenis Essential Oil, Essence of Rosemary, Mint and Vanilla.

Conditioner Ingredients (Rosemary Mint Vanilla):
Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Vegetable Emulsifiers and Glycerin, Alpha Hydroxy Acids from Sugarcane and Fruit Extracts of Bilberry and Olive. Shea and Mango Butters, Guar Gum, Irish Moss (Red Algae Extract – Carrageen), Organic Camellia, Sunflower and Jojoba Seed Oils. Papaya and Pineapple Pulp Extracts, Rosemary Oleoresin, Vitamin E Complex, Organic Green Tea, Geogard Ultra and Potassium Sorbate. Mint Arvenis Essential Oil. Essence of Rosemary, Mint and Vanilla.


Calia Naturals Organic Balancing Shampoo and Balancing Conditioner

In a nutshell:

  • Mildly scented with natural essential oils
  • Environmentally friendly
  • No sulfates
  • No DEA
  • No sodium
  • No propylene glycol
  • No animal testing
  • Vegetarian, but not vegan-friendly (some products contain animal byproducts)

Before I discovered and fell in love with Plaine Products, I used Calia Naturals. Their ingredient list is great, and they use mostly organic ingredients.

They also sell their products at a pretty reasonable and accessible price point: their 360ml (~12oz) bottle sells for $14.99, and they charge less per ounce when you order larger quantities.

Calia Naturals is a great choice if you’re looking for a more comprehensive haircare solution. In addition to their Balancing line, they offer the Purifying, Hydrating, and Moisturizing lines. Each of their lines are designed to account for variances in people’s needs. Moreover, their Moisturizing line doesn’t contain any essential oils or fragrances, so it’s great for those with skin sensitivities.

Although they don’t offer reusable packaging options like Plaine Products, they do offer the option of buying their shampoos and conditioners in “bulk” — specifically, 1-liter and 1-US-gallon containers, which are significantly more eco-friendly options than buying multiple small containers.

Another perk is that Calia Naturals also offers hair masks, leave-in conditioner, and hair spray. If you’re the type of person who prefers to get all your hair care products from the same brand, this may be a better bet for you.

Lastly, Calia Naturals is based in Canada, and they ship internationally. They also have retail partners in Europe, so if you’re not based in North America, you can still get your hands on their products. (Incidentally, this is where buying in bulk is really handy.)

All in all, Calia Naturals offers affordable, all-natural shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling options. It has a bit of a cult following on social media, and they are easy to connect to if you need any help troubleshooting your experiences.

A safe, sure-fire bet, the only reason this isn’t in first place is because of its packaging.

Shampoo Ingredients (Balancing):
Aqua, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Pinus banksiana (pine) extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) extract, Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) flower extract, Echinacea purpurea flower extract, Urtica dioca (nettle) leaf extract, Trifolium pratense (clover) flower extract, Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Equisetum arvense (Horse Tail) extract, Olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, Juniperus virginiana (cedarwood) oil.

Conditioner Ingredients (Balancing):
Aqua, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Pinus banksiana (pine) extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) extract, Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) flower extract, Echinacea purpurea flower extract, Urtica dioca (nettle) leaf extract, Trifolium pratense (clover) flower extract, Equisetum arvense (Horse Tail) extract, Cera alba (Bees Wax), Olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil (Flax), Curcurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Acetic Acid (Apple Cider Vinegar), Aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, Juniperus virginiana (cedarwood) oil.

Luxe option

Innersense Pure Harmony Hairbath and Pure Inspiration Daily Conditioner

In a nutshell:

  • High-end hair care product lines
  • Available in salons
  • No sulfates
  • Vegetarian, but not vegan-friendly (some products contain beeswax and/or honey
  • No animal testing

Innersense was created by two beauty professionals who wanted to reduce toxins in their lives after the birth of their first child. Given their professional backgrounds, they sought to create product lines that are just as much at home in a salon as they are in a home shower.

Full disclosure: I personally wouldn’t, and haven’t, used Innersense shampoos or conditioners before. One of my reasons for not trying them is that their ingredient lists tend to be more complicated than that of other brands’; the other is that the price point is much higher.

That said, I’m making a point to include it on this list because

  1. I know a ton of people love Innersense products, and, after the transition period, swear that Innersense has improved their hair quality;
  2. Not everyone is prepared to feel like a (clean) hippie, even if they do want to start going greener.

While the ingredient list on most of Innersense’s products isn’t as simple or straightforward as the ones found in Plaine Products or Calia Naturals formulations, they’re still natural and significantly cleaner than most other brands you can find in your local drugstore or beauty store. Sure, they make products you can’t DIY at-home, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Moreover, it’s probable that Innersense has a seriously broad range of products for all different hair types and styling needs because of its more complicated formulations.

You’re also much more likely to find their products in use (and available for purchase) in salons than the former options. You can even use their salon lookup to help you find a more eco-conscious place!

Following up on point #2, I’ve noticed that it’s often easier and less scary to try going greener when it’s with higher-end products. If you think about it, that kind of makes sense: the idea of getting better quality items when going for luxury goods exists in the toxic/non-green sphere just as much as it does in the non-toxic/eco-friendly spheres. Sometimes, it feels like less of a risk to go the high-end route.

Because of that, I’d argue that Innersense makes for a really great gift idea, especially since they offer a ridiculously cute travel/trial set that contains a shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in treatment!

Whether it’s because you want to #treatyoself and go for the luxury hair care, without compromising on all your ethics; because you want a full range of products from the same brand; or because you want to be able to find the products you use at home at your next salon visit, Innersense is a great pick if it fits your budget.

Innersense shampoo, $28 for 10oz

Shampoo Ingredients (Pure Harmony):
Water, Aqua- EAU, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine1, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate1, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside1, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride10, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate1, Butyrosepermum Parkii (Shea Butter)4, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil6, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus)7, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin Seed Oil)3*, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey8, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate10, Sodium Benzoate, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride10, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil2, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil5, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract9*, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado)2* Fruit Extract, Mangifera Indica (Mango)* Fruit Extract

* Certified Organic
Plant Sources: 1 Coconut, 2 Avocado Seed Oil, 3 Pumpkin Seed Oil, 4 Shea Butter, 5 Rice Bran Oil, 6 Orange Peel Oil, 7, Eucalyptus, 8 Honey, 9 Green Tea, 10 Naturally Derived

Conditioner Ingredients (Pure Inspiration):
Water, Aqua- EAU, Behentrimonium Methosulfate8, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin7,Stearalkonium Chloride7, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice3*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)1*, Sodium Benzoate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract*, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil4*,Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil5*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil)2*, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Glycerin, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract6*

*Certified Organic
Plant Sources: 1 Shea Butter, 2 Coconut, 3 Aloe Vera, 4 Rice Bran Oil, 5 Avocado, 6 Green Tea, 7 Plant Derived

Think I missed something? Want to hear my thoughts on something you’re already using? Let me know!

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