Lately, there has been a wave of organic talk for everything from food to hair care to skin care, and all for good reason. As we become more health conscious, we begin to make smarter choices about what we put in or on our body. However, the question is: Are all these proclaimed organic hair products really organic? Or are we being fooled by the beauty industry?
What Organic really means
In the food industry, organic products are regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP) which is run by the USDA. Only producers and manufacturers that meet the standards set up by the NOP may label their products as certified organic. It essentially implies things such as limiting the use of synthetic pesticides.
In the beauty industry, the term organic or natural is used more loosely as there is no regulating body. Typically, the word organic in hair care refers to the use of ingredients from organic natural sources. The NOP will give out the certifications based on the following conditions:
- 100% Organic seal: A product must contain 100% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt) and may prominently display the USDA organic seal and the percentage.
- Organic seal: A product must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt), the remaining percent must be organically grown if commercially available or consist of a non-agricultural substance that is on the USDA Organic approved ingredient list. The product may prominently display the USDA organic seal.
Are the organic hair products safer?
Truly organic hair products are usually accredited with the USDA seal. The seal implies that the ingredients used are from organic natural sources.
The better organic products tend to be more picky about their ingredients excluding ingredients that have potentially harmful by-products. They use natural oils, natural preservatives, and other natural ingredients such as aloe vera water. An example of a product that claims to be organic/natural is this shampoo from Christina Moss Naturals. The ingredients are listed below:
Filtered Water, Decyl Glucoside (Polyglucose), Certified Organic Coconut Oil, Certified Organic Safflower Oil, Certified Organic Castor Bean Oil, Potassium Hydroxide (this is removed in the final product through the process of saponification), Citric Acid and Rosemary Extract.
So, based on USDA standards:
Are the so-called organic hair products 100% organic? The answer is no.
Are the so-called organic hair products organic? The answer is yes.
In the case of shampoos, it is hard to be a 100% organic because some processing is required to produce the soap or other cleaning ingredient. In the example above, potassium hydroxide was used to convert the coconut oil into soap. Decyl glucoside, although it is biodegradable doesn’t exist in nature, it is a combination of coconut oil and glucose and deemed safe. This is probably the closest you will get to organic for the shampoos. [One exception to organic hair products however are organic hair dyes. You can read more about those from my previous post.]
Bear in mind that not all naturally derived ingredients are organic. One example is the mild surfactant: Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). It is derived from coconut oil (natural) and reacted with dimethylaminopropylamine (synthetic).
Drawbacks of organic hair products
- The cost of making these organic products are more expensive because of the ingredient quality. For one, costs associated with maintaining and growing an organic crop are higher.
- Some people cannot tolerate the essential oils due to sensitivity/allergy issues. For instance, products with tea tree oil or mint oil (which is supposed to be great for dandruff/itchiness) make my head sore and even more itchy.
- Depending on the extent of the problem, they may not be as efficient as other medicated hair products.