By Chere Di Boscio
Most of us worry about what’s in our shampoo, especially after learning that harsh sulphates like sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) can hurt our hair, and even our health. But few of us consider what goes into our hair conditioners.
And we should. Not only do hair conditioners often contain pig-and-cattle derived keratin as a strengthening agent (which is problematic for those who are vegan, Halal or Kosher) but there are also plenty of nasty chemicals in hair conditioners that are included in the products to keep our hair sleek and smooth.
Some chemicals to watch for are:
Behentrimonium chloride: A suspected environmental toxin and human allergen
Amodimethicone: A form of silicon. Generally considered safe, but can build up on the hair, ultimately leading to dryness
Parfum/Fragrance: Unless this is listed as being derived from natural oils it likely indicates a synthetic perfume, which can lead to skin and lung irritation and organ toxicity, and possibly even cancer
PEG-80/ Sorbitan Laurate: Can lead to allergies or organ toxicity
Quanternium 15: This releases formaldehyde and can cause cancer, irritation of skin and eyes, and organ toxicity
Linalool: Can lead to respiratory disturbances; not vegan friendly
Even if you do find a good organic conditioner, quite frankly, they don’t often cut it: some have a weird smell, or you need tons more product to get the same effect you would with a cheap chemical conditioner, and some just don’t seem to work to remove tangles and make hair soft at all. So what to do?
You could make your own: for example, it’s easy to whip up a hair mask rich in Vitamins A and B by blending one super ripe avocado with ½ cup mayonnaise or coconut milk. Apply to hair once a week; leave on for 20 minutes and rinse off. It doesn’t last forever, though – just about a week in the fridge. And frankly, it’s kind of a pain to make, and doesn’t smell great.
For something a bit more long-lasting and sweet-smelling, we’ve tried and tested loads of organic conditioners. You may never know about the bad ones, because we refuse to list them here. But we can promise you: anything that is listed below is there because it works! (and remember: we never accept payment for making such lists—this is just our pure opinions).
Our List of the Best Natural & Organic Conditioners
For us, this is the crème de la conditioners! John Masters has created a whole range of shampoos, conditioners and styling products that we love–not only because they’re all natural, but because they get the job done. Their Lavender and Avocado conditioner is meant to be used like a mask, but I find that it’s perfect as an everyday conditioner for very dry or colour treated hair, especially in the winter, when static can be a problem. I only really need about a pea-sized amount which I spread between my hands first and then lightly smooth through, concentrating on the ends.
Best for: All hair, especially long and thick Price: Around $30 Find it: here.
This brand is gentle and has a nice scent, naturally. A favourite is the Henna & Hibiscus conditioner, which actually has a gentle cinnamon scent. Don’t be put off by the brownish hue or if there’s some separation of the natural oils in the bottle; just give it a shake, and remember: those creamy white mainstream conditioners look that way thanks to chemicals your hair and body don’t need–this one is naturally effective.
Best for: All hair, especially colour treated. Price: Around $20 Find it: here.
We’re not going to lie—you do need to apply more of this than you would a mainstream commercial conditioner to get the same effect. But the end result is softer, healthier hair in the long run. There’s no silicon in this, so the effects that build up from using the product are genuinely stronger hair; silicon on the other hand gives the illusion of healthier hair, but builds up on the shaft, ultimately depriving it of moisture.
Best for: Those who don’t like really rich conditioners Price: Around $30. Find it: here.
This is the most delicious smelling conditioner of the lot! Vanilla and Lime combine to make a hair-silkening formula that smells just like Key Lime Pie–in fact, every time I use this one, I get a bit hungry just from smelling it. Just a little does the trick to leave your hair as sweet and smooth as a creamy lemon pie, too! This also contains antioxidants and cell rejuvenators, which can actually help stop your hair from going grey.
Best for: Those worried about going grey, or who love a citrus scent Price: Around $40 Find it here
Feeling your hair is thinning? This may be the organic conditioner for you. Organic Hemp Oil is described as ‘nature’s most perfectly balanced oil’, and with good reason. The unique properties of this amazing oil are combined with organic plant extracts, arginine (to help hair growth) and a synergistic combination of plant actives that can stimulate hair growth and help to prevent hair loss with notable effects. Continued use of this gentle conditioner can help to restore vitality back into the follicles, improving the hair’s overall appearance and leaving it looking and feeling beautifully nourished and healthy.
Best for: Thinning hair Price: Around $10 Find it: here
A fat dab of this all natural formula is all you need to detangle your hair. Lavender and Lemon essential oils provide a refreshing scent whilst Evening Primrose Oil protects the hair shaft, resulting in a silky smooth mane. All Cowshed conditioners use Soapwort, a natural ingredient that helps to keep the PH balance of the hair. No wonder this was one of our favourite brands when tested – it really does leave your hair soft and smooth, as well as lightly scented, with no chemical nasties.
Best for: Any hair type Price: Around $20 Find it: here
If you choose your conditioners based on scent, you’ll like this brand! They normally use a blend of oils from grapefruit to peppermint to make their range smell sweetly refreshing. All their formulae are also packed with ingredients that are good for your hair, such as Vitamin B5, olive, jojoba, borage and sunflower oils. This conditioner is also great if you are trying to help your hair grow: there’s aloe vera (which prevents breakage) and arginine, which stimulates blood circulation, which could help hair grow as well, but my fave may well be the Biotin + B Vitamin thickening conditioner – yes, I have thin hair, in case you haven’t guessed, and this one really does plump up the hair shaft to give a thicker look.
Best for: Hair growth, nice scent Price: Around $20 Find it: here
Argan oil is known to be a highly moisturising, repairing conditioner for normal to dry, damaged, curly hair, and Acure knows it. So no surprise that the label packed in loads of that precious hair protector in as well as argan stem cells in this conditioner to help manage your locks and repair follicles. Free of all nasties, this also has loads of other natural ingredients like CoQ10, pumpkin seed oil and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It is a reasonably priced option for those seeking an all natural conditioner.
Best for: Deep conditioning Price: Around $10 Find it: here
100% Pure has become a trusted and well loved brand in the world of organic and natural beauty, thanks to its great products, and this conditioner is no exception. This hydrating conditioner moisturises, softens and detangles your hair while soothing and treating your scalp to put an end to any dryness, itching and flaking. It’s rich, but gentle enough for colour treated locks too. And like all 100& Pure products, this conditioner smells lovely, too – it’s got a slightly floral, rosy scent.
Best for: Those with dandruff Price: Around $19 Find it: here
Got dry hair? Your mane gets a boost from this lightweight, silicone-free conditioner, which smooths and softens using the power of natural oils, like antioxidant olive leaf extracts and natural moisturisers from organically grown fruit oils work to restore silkiness and manageability. This is fully vegan friendly, easy on the budget, and does actually leave your hair feeling silkier after the first wash, but the only thing we don’t like is that it does contain alcohol. Why?
Price: Around $10 Find it: here
Of course, we haven’t tried everything in the market, so if we’re missing a brand you know and love, share it in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!