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Elaborate hair care is intrinsic to the modern beauty routine, even though some claim that all it really needs is soap and water. Shampoo and conditioner manufacturers often succeed in seducing even the most ethically aware individual with their apparently ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products, but we should not always believe what we read on the label. Choose companies whose ethical claims have been verified by the Cruelty-Free International and the Soil Association – and by the Ethical Company Organisation.

Keyword-ResearchLook out for our new sector-specific Ethical Accreditation certification marks which now cover over 15 different consumer product sectors. These are additional to our original Ethical Company mark that features on the packaging of over 100 million consumer products every year.

The natural look

Over the past few years, booming interest in organic produce has caused the mainstream cosmetics companies to flirt heavily, and successfully, with the natural image in launching their new product lines. This corporate romance with nature can be criticised as a cheap attempt to appear ecologically sound, as the few token ‘natural’ ingredients invariably mask the usual chemical cocktail. Alternative groups have called for Elida Fabergé to withdraw or rename its Organics line until all ingredients are certified organic. Of course, alternative producers have long been proclaiming the benefits of natural ingredients, with product lines true to their principles.

Suds law

The long list of ingredients on the back of a shampoo bottle can be hard to decipher without specialist chemical knowledge. A commonly-used shampoo ingredient, due to its propensity to foam, is sodium laurel sulphate, or its milder form sodium laureth sulphate. Claims about the former’s damaging health effects point to it being an allergen, with symptoms including skin and eye irritation. Industry replies to such concerns emphasise that these chemicals are used in measured amounts that have been legally decreed as safe for use.

Dandruff is a problem that many people are tackling with medicated shampoos. Anti-dandruff shampoos can contain potentially toxic chemicals and can even aggravate the problem. Eating foods that contain the right fats – such as raw nuts and cold-pressed vegetable oils – is one way to address the imbalance.

Animal testing

Some companies skirt around the issue of animal testing, and at the same time keep themselves open to new ingredients, by adhering to the ‘five-year rolling rule’. This means that five years must have elapsed since the ingredient was tested on animals. Naturewatch and the BUAV support use of the ‘fixed cut-off date’, whereby companies refuse to use ingredients tested on animals after a certain date.

Ethical alternatives

In the days before shampoo, people resorted to more imaginative methods of achieving glossy locks. Soap was used as an all-round cleanser for hair and body, but as water has become more alkaline (hard) its effectiveness has declined, leaving hair rough and tangled. In areas with a soft water supply, using a plain soap with conditioner is an option. Otherwise adding something acidic to soap, such as vinegar or lemon juice, can neutralise the hard water. If you follow up with conditioner, your hair should be left healthy. It is possible to dispense with shampoo completely. However, many people find the transitional period unpleasant, as the scalp’s naturally-produced oils (washed out by shampooing) kick back into action.

For a slightly easier option, try shampoos and conditioners from the companies that have been accredited by the Ethical Company Organisation. See the Ethical Accreditation section of this site to review more about these companies and how to buy their products.

Ethical Comparison – Shampoo & Conditioner Rankings Detailed Table

N.B companies that do not conduct or commission animal testing receive a middle rating (only companies with CFI’s Leaping Bunny certification receive a top rating)

Buy our detailed Ethical Research Reports. See the findings behind companies’ ethical ratings, as featured in The Good Shopping Guide. Several different product sectors available covering hundreds of consumer brands.

We have created ethical comparison rankings for the following brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Green people, Honesty, Ecosoapia, Essential Care, Faith in Nature, Fushi, Neal’s Yard, Neem Shampoo, Suma, Weleda, L’ Occitane, Caurnie Soaps, Lush, Avalon Organics, Charles Worthington, Original Source, Origins, Vosene, Elvive, Fructis, John Frieda, The Body Shop, Elixir VO5, Simple, Sunsilk, Tresemmé, Superdrug, Aussie, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Pantene Pro-V.

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