The Complete Guide to Natural Shampoo

When making changes to a more sustainable lifestyle, our bathroom can often be the last place we think to make plastic free, but when you think about the disposables involved in our daily beauty and cleansing routines — toothbrushes, razors, sponges, floss, picks, face wipes, make-up remover, cotton balls and pads, sanitary products, shampoos, conditioners, body and face washes — it’s actually quite clear we could do with making some sustainable bathroom swaps.

Packaging accounts for over 40% of total plastic usage. More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, half of which is used only once. Approximately 8 million pieces of plastic enter our oceans every single day. If no action is taken to reduce this wastage, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

(Along with swapping tampons for a cup) changing your chemical laden, plastic packaged shampoo is a good place to start when making your moves to help.

Switching to a 100% natural, chemical free shampoo can be a tricky and even frustrating process, but if you’re conscious of your impact on the environment and your own health, it’s a worthy process. Scroll down for my tips on using natural shampoo.

I avoid ingesting chemical products and putting them on my skin, so I was determined to switch to a natural shampoo. Now I’ve finally committed and am almost through what’s called the transition, or adjustment, period, I can say I’m so glad I did.

For the sake of full disclosure, the first few weeks of using natural shampoo can be a faffy pain. I’ve given up at this point before because I couldn’t deal with the waxy, stickiness of my natural hair—without all of the chemicals in it, hair feels very different! And my hair still hasn’t fully gotten used to it. It might feel like a big mistake at first, and you’ll wonder how your hair could possibly feel good again — but stick with it!

Lather Box: Natural Plastic Free Bathroom

I’d been dithering on the decision of which natural shampoo bars to start using for a while, unable to commit to any based on varied reviews I’d read of the most readily available bars. Then The Lather Box kindly offered to send me one of their bathroom bar boxes to try, and my decision was made!

The four available boxes are based on different variations of shampoo, conditioner, shaving foam, body wash and cleanser. I chose the Raglan box, which includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash and shaving bars.

Lather Box subscription boxes are plastic free, paraben free, vegan, all natural and come in fully recyclable and minimal packaging and the company donates 10% of the profits from their sales to the charity Surfers Against Sewage.

NB: I was gifted my first box, but I have since bought my own because I really support this lovely company and its commitment to driving change.

Whichever brand of shampoo bars you opt for, look out for brands that steer clear of palm oil, foaming agents, parabens, SLS, sulphates, triclosan, and phthalates. Traditional shampoos contain these harsh chemicals, which strip hair of its natural oils. These shampoos then leave synthetic chemicals and residues behind.

The reason your hair feels so silky and shiny is because of the silicone, ie. plastic — in your shampoo. You won’t find these in any Lather Box bars and all of the ingredients in them are naturally occurring and fully biodegradable.

The bars have a base of coconut oil, olive oil, or castor oil, cocoa butter or shea butter (derived from a women's worker cooperative in Ghana). They are coloured and scented with essential oils, herbs, spices and flowers, each of which is carefully chosen for its therapeutic and healing properties. You can find a full list of the ingredients in each bar here.

Tips for Switching to Natural Chemical Free Shampoo

  • Be patient!

  • I have really long and thick hair and during the switch it became more tangly. I took a wide-toothed comb into the shower, which really helped with rinsing well.

  • It was also heavier and looked oily. The sticky feeling is apparently your hair cleansing itself of all of the years of chemical build up from non-natural shampoo use — think of it that way and that should be enough to get you to stick with it!

  • How to use shampoo bars: consult the Latherbox video tutorial here.

  • Try a vinegar or baking soda rinse after shampooing.

  • Suds don’t rinse out quite so easily without all the chemicals, so make sure you’re rinsing enough. I didn’t once and had solid soap in my parting for a while!

  • Try shampooing twice.

  • Use a natural conditioner, too. I’ve been using Lather Box’s bar which comes in their Raglan box.

Reasons to Switch to Natural Shampoo Bars

  • They are paraben free. Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body's cells, while estrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer and parabens have been found present in breast tumors they haven't been definitively linked to health risks.

  • They are sulfate free. Sulphates are chemical cleaning agents which give shampoo its lather. While most people might not notice them in their products, they can be an irritant to some skin types. One of my main issues with switching to a natural shampoo the first time around was that without parabens, it didn't lather, which made washing really difficult. Lather Box shampoo actually lathers!

  • Zero plastic!

  • They're vegan. So they're kind to the planet, to you and to the animals.

  • They are palm oil free. Hopefully by now, we all know the devastation caused by the farming of palm oil and are checking labels to ensure we’re not buying products that contain it. We usually think of food products when we think of palm oil so might not think to check the labels on bathroom products - but many do contain palm oil.

  • For more tips and discussion on conscious consuming, living plastic free and educing waste, I recommend joining the Living Consciously Facebook group

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