In your quest for bouncy, luscious hair, have you considered that you might be doing your health and the planet more long-term damage than good?
From questionable parabens that are known to cause harm to your health, to the cruelty of animal testing in out-of-sight laboratories, there are personal and ethical considerations when deciding how best to lather your locks.
And that’s without getting into the mountain of plastic packaging destined for landfill at the end of every empty bottle.
The good news is that by purchasing more consciously, you don’t have to compromise on salon-quality results. Let’s break it down so that you know what to look out for when it comes to sustainable haircare products, as well as discovering some of the most innovative brands on the market today!
My Top Picks
- Best personalised: Function of Beauty | Skip to brand
- Best refillable: Fiils | Skip to brand
- Best price: Faith in Nature | Skip to brand
- Best organic: Green People | Skip to brand
- Best oil blends: Rahua | Skip to brand
- Best inclusive: We Are Paradoxx | Skip to brand
- Best range: Noughty | Skip to brand
- Best transparency: Beauty Kitchen | Skip to brand
- Best salon-quality: Aveda | Skip to brand
- Best zero waste: Ethique | Skip to brand
- Best award-winning: Kind2 | Skip to brand
- Best bundles: Earthkind | Skip to brand
Here are the best eco-friendly, natural & vegan hair products
For more info on how I’ve selected these ethical and cruelty-free shampoos, feel free to skip ahead. But for now, you’ll be relieved to know that there are plenty of brands out there that use natural and organic ingredients, thoughtful packaging, and care about animal welfare.
Whether you’re looking to cut down on your plastic consumption or go all-out zero waste by transitioning to shampoo and conditioner bars, I’m confident there’s a brand below to suit your specific haircare needs!
Oh, and to make things simpler all around, every brand in this list is certified vegan and cruelty-free.
Liquid haircare products
If you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to your liquid shampoo just yet, then don’t panic! There are still plenty of kinder eco-friendly and vegan shampoo options to choose from.
1. Function of Beauty
- Packaging: Function of Beauty’s shampoo and conditioner bottles are now made from 100% recycled plastic and are also recyclable.
- Price: ££
Who said sustainable haircare was boring?! Function of Beauty’s vegan haircare range prioritises naturally-derived ingredients in carefully optimised dosages, that contain no hidden sulphates, parabens, or formaldehyde donors. The real USP of FoB is that you can fully customise each bottle to your own hair’s needs. First up, select your base shampoo and conditioner (straight, curly, wavy or coily). Next, choose your hair goals and have fun personally tailoring your products! I have tried FoB myself and can personally vouch that their products smell amazing and work wonders!
- Packaging: Fiils offer an innovative refill system where you can subscribe & save on regular deliveries. Whilst Fiils aren’t technically 100% zero waste just yet due to the plastic pumps topping their aluminium bottles, their kits are made to be reused many times.
- Price: ££
80% single-use plastic free and boasting 99% natural, organic formulas, carbon-neutral Fiils is a sustainable subscription service for your haircare and body wash needs, aiming to close the loop on waste. Botanical flower extracts, essential oils, and aloe vera water mean divine scents that also pass on the wonderful healing properties of Mother Nature (think antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties). There are clean, vegan-friendly formulas to tackle all hair types Plus, for every purchase of their products, they will plant a tree in their Ecologi Fiils Forest.
3. Faith in Nature
- Packaging: Faith in Nature use low-impact recycled and recyclable plastic to house their vegan haircare products. They also offer 2.5L, 5L, and 20L refills. Alternatively, you can use this handy postcode checker to find your nearest refill station.
- Price: £
I am a big fan of Faith in Nature for their budget-friendly and accessible range of vegan hair care. This vibrant, family-run brand has been revolutionising the world of personal hygiene since its inception in 1974. All products are produced in their UK factory in Lancashire and can be purchased in major high street stores. Minimal plant-based ingredients pack plenty of health benefits for silky locks, whilst also making less of an environmental impact. They have a partnership with Treesisters, which means that a tree is planted every time you shop their range of vegan shampoos.
4. Green People
- Packaging: Green People have thought about everything, right down to their packaging. What at first glance looks suspiciously like plastic tubing is actually a plant-based bioplastic (made from sustainably-farmed sugar cane).
- Price: ££
Green People was founded by Charlotte Vohtz, a mother whose toddler suffered from skin allergies and eczema. Determined to find skincare products free from synthetic ingredients, she found that many ‘so-called’ natural skincare brands had less than 1% natural formulations. From here, Green People was born. Now 25 years old, this fair trade brand champions fully-traceable, organic ingredients and has played a huge role in setting cosmetic regulations within the industry. They are certified by the Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, and EcoCert.
- Packaging: Rahua uses glass bottles that can be recycled or repurposed once empty. They have also developed sustainable refill pouches (which reduce plastic by 90%). This new packaging is made with 60% plant fibres.
- Price: £££
Renowned New York hairstylist Fabian Lliguin was visiting the Amazon rainforest as an environmentalist when he noticed the long, lustrous hair of the indigenous women. With rainforest-derived rahua oil, Rahua aims to harness the power of Amazonian beauty with non-toxic, superior-quality plant ingredients. While these bottles are on the pricey side, the highly-concentrated ingredients means that a little goes a long way. Their ethos is based on a strong commitment to working with native communities and protecting the environment.
6. We Are Paradoxx
- Packaging: We Are Paradoxx use aluminium bottles for their haircare products; a material that can be reused without losing its form and grade. They also established ‘Plastic Free Beauty Day’ to raise awareness and discuss alternatives.
- Price: ££
New kids on the block, We Are Paradoxx was founded in 2019. They are proud to offer hairstyling to cater for all hair and skin types. Boasting unique and high-quality ingredients such as carrageen moss, hops and white nettle, you can rest assured that their toxic-free formulas mean no parabens, sulphates, PEG’s, or mineral oil within sniffing distance! Their products are made with up to 100% natural and organic extracts, with locally sourced ingredients used wherever possible. As members of 1% for the Planet, they donate 1% of all sales to environmental causes.
- Packaging: All packaging is recyclable, with a mix of PCR plastic and bio-plastic sugarcane. They are also partnered with Cleanhub, which means that for every purchase, the equivalent amount of plastic is removed from the ocean.
- Price: £
British-born brand Noughty are on a mission to bring affordable, natural haircare to the masses, whilst never compromising on results. Plants power their range of vegan haircare, and all of their product pages have transparent information available as to what exactly goes into their formulations (zero silicones, parabens, or sulphates). With 97% naturally-derived ingredients, “What about the remaining 3%?” you may well be asking. Well, Noughty explains that they use a small number of safe synthetics, but this is only to ensure their products are safe and long-lasting.
8. Beauty Kitchen
- Packaging: With a choice of metal bottles or zero-waste shampoo bars, Beauty Kitchen are truly plastic-free. They have also teamed up with ReRe, a reusable packaging programme which allows you to return your empties for reuse.
- Price: £
For award-winning, botanical-inspired formulations that come in plastic-free packaging, look no further than Beauty Kitchen. As a B-corp certified business, this is a company that takes sustainability seriously. Their products are proudly free of sulphates, parabens, phthalates, and microplastics, and they use Provenance Proof Points to ensure as much transparency in their products as possible. As an added bonus, for every purchase over £10, Beauty Kitchen have partnered with Earthly to plant a Mangrove tree.
- Packaging: Aveda claim to be the first beauty company to use 100% post-consumer recycled materials in their packaging. Now, more than 85% of their hair-styling PET bottles and jars are made from 100% recycled materials.
- Price: £££
I’m happy to include Aveda on this list since they have recently received animal-friendly certification. They are also a B-corp, harnessing renewable energy so that their primary manufacturing facility is 100% wind and solar-powered. Recently, they have even introduced Block Chain technology, which provides full traceability of ingredients from farm to finished product through a secure digital system. With 90% naturally derived haircare, they have an online ingredient glossary that details the function of key ingredients.
- Packaging: Zero-waste packaging credentials mean that Ethique have prevented the manufacture of 25 million+ plastic bottles, as well as saving 20 million+ litres of water since their inception in 2012.
- Price: £
B-corp certified brand Ethique take personal care to the next sustainable level. With a commitment to ethical and fair trade sourcing, palm-oil free products, and a ban on animal ingredients, they also impressively donate 2% of all sales to charity. If one shampoo bar equals three bottles of liquid shampoo, then it seems crazy not to give Ethique a go, especially when you can easily pick up a bar or bundle from their online store. I’m particularly keen to try out their zero-waste purple shampoo and conditioner for blondes!
- Packaging: All Kind2 packaging is 100% plastic-free and either compostable or recyclable (delivery boxes and packaging tape included!). They also support the World Land Trust in reducing their carbon footprint.
- Price: £
Oily hair, dry hair, dull hair… begone! For flaky scalps and damaged cuticles in need of some TLC, Kind2 vegan shampoo has you covered with some of the most eco-friendly haircare on the market. Full of plant-based extracts, these formulations will gently treat your specific haircare needs. Kind2 are free from palm-oil, parabens, SLS, and synthetic fragrances. Their vegan hair products are made here in the UK, and they pledge to plant a tree for every order placed as part of their reforestation project in Madagascar with Ecologi.
- Packaging: EarthKind bars are made in the UK. Because they are highly concentrated, a small amount goes a long way. You can save on two regular 250ml plastic bottles of liquid shampoo for each 50g EarthKind bar used.
- Price: £
EarthKind are calling out a problem with liquid shampoos that goes beyond plastic pollution: diluted products with high profit margins. Added water means weakened ingredients, as well as added weight and size when it comes to transportation, which only increases a product’s carbon footprint. For dry and coloured hair, try their organic coconut oil and avocado oil formulations. Or, for dandruff problems, their Tea Tree and Eucalyptus shampoo bar will help to maintain healthy levels of bacteria on the scalp.
Clean? Zero-Waste? Cruelty-Free? Vegan? A Quick Note on What It All Means
There are a lot of terms thrown about when it comes to ethical and sustainable haircare. So if you are working towards being more intentional when it comes to your health, sustainability, and animal welfare, then you’ll want to be picky about your chosen brands.
What ingredients should you avoid?
Hair products are typically made up of the same base ingredients:
- A chemical surfactant, e.g. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate (commonly known as SLS) or ammonium chloride
- Preservatives, usually found in the form of parabens
- Gelling agents such as phthalates
- Artificial fragrances
You may have heard some bad press about these substances, but how bad actually are they?
Sulphates create the foamy lather in your shampoo, helping to deeply cleanse your hair by removing oil and dirt.
Despite some concern over the previous decade when it comes to sulphates, there’s no conclusive evidence that they have severe health implications. The problem with sulphates like SLS is that they often end up doing their job too well by removing all the hair’s natural oils. They can also cause reactions in people with sensitive skin. Definitely one to avoid if (like me) you suffer from eczema.
Parabens & phthalates
According to lab studies, parabens and phthalates are both associated with endocrine disruption, which basically means that they can affect your hormones. Whilst we’re still not entirely sure about the long-term health consequences of regular exposure, phthalates have been deemed carcinogenic, with links to breast cancer, developmental issues, and decreased fertility, to name just a few worrying observations.
These chemicals also don’t biodegrade easily, with increasing levels being found in surface water and sediments.
Synthetic fragrances found in conventional shampoos and conditioners will keep your Rapunzel-esque locks smelling delicious for longer, but they are typically made via heavy chemical and industrial processes which take their toll on the environment.
They are toxic to aquatic life, promoting excessive algae growth and disrupting natural habitats. Plus, they can cause inflammation when it comes to your skin.
What is zero-waste haircare?
Most shampoos come in plastic bottles, which although often recyclable, still contribute to carbon emissions both in their original manufacture and end of life.
Many brands are looking for solutions with plastic-free liquid shampoo. This could involve the use of alternative packaging such as recycled or plant-based plastic, and sometimes even aluminium tubes for their hair products. Ideally, these can then be refilled once used up, which helps to close the loop on an endless cycle of waste.
Zero-waste haircare goes one step further by eliminating all packaging needs. Solid shampoo comes in the form of concentrated bars for entirely sustainable hair products.
Are cruelty-free & vegan the same thing?
If you’re anything like me, you’d think that ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’ products were synonymous. However, whilst the two are often used interchangeably by companies and consumers, it’s worth noting that there is a difference in the cosmetics industry between ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’.
In a nutshell, ‘cruelty-free’ refers to a product not being tested on animals, whereas ‘vegan’ implies that a product does not contain any animal products.
For me, it is important to buy both cruelty-free and vegan hair products. If you’re unsure, look out for the Leaping Bunny (cruelty-free) certification and Vegan Approved symbol on your products. I also find it helpful to use cosmetic brand checker Cruelty-Free Kitty for further peace of mind.
What's the deal with palm oil?
Palm oil is used in up to 70% of beauty products as a softening agent (think shampoo, moisturiser, makeup, etc). As the name implies, it is derived from palm so it’s a natural product. Why the big debate over palm oil, then?
Well, palm is tearing down the world’s rainforests and destroying the natural habitats of people and animals. Huge plantations mean major deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
That said, it’s not quite so black and white. Palm is the most productive oil around (coconut and sunflower, for example, require a lot more land). Many conservation organisations like Green Peace and the WWF advise that we shouldn’t boycott palm. Instead, we should aim to purchase more sustainably-sourced palm.
The difficulty at the moment is that the RSPO label (aka responsibly-sourced palm oil) is difficult and expensive to acquire, so rarely makes it onto products. This means that there is a lack of transparency between companies trying to source sustainably and consumer awareness.
If you aren’t certain whether a product contains RSPO-certified palm oil, then try contacting the brand in question directly for answers.
Try Out These Haircare Brands for Clean Hair & A Clean Conscience
Despite any misgivings you may have about ethical haircare, you don’t have to compromise on results when it comes to healthy tresses. In fact, switching to brands that concentrate on minimal, higher-quality ingredients is only going to give your hair the plant-powered boost it needs!
I hope that this post helps to demystify and make clearer what to look out for when purchasing ethical hair products, as well as providing you with a selection of established and upcoming brands that are worthy of your support. If you’re looking for more sustainable bathroom swaps, then check out these refillable deodorants or consider a planet-friendly toilet paper subscription.
Have you tried any of the brands listed above? And if you’ve made the switch, how did you find the transition from liquid shampoo to a solid bar? Let me know in the comments below!