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How can I tell if my shampoo is really natural?

Uma asks…I actually bought a Rustic Art shampoo that claims to be all natural , does not test on animals , is pH balanced, no sulphates, great for the environment and all those good things. I was skeptical as I thought since its so good it wont lather and might just clean my hair and wont be like using silicones and stuff…I didn’t mind as I wanted a natural shampoo. To my surprise, it lathered really well…just needed a small amount too for the lather! Also my hair felt real soft by the end of the wash which I never felt from other shampoos till I used a conditioner…I am really hooked to this and now I am skeptical if this is really using all natural ingredients….sorry I am being skeptical but your inputs would help! I probably should just be happy with the find and stay quiet.

The Beauty Brains respondearth-159131_640

No need to apologize, Uma, we’re all about healthy skepticism here at the Beauty Brains! The trouble with answering a question such as this one, though, is that there is no standard definition of a natural for beauty products. But we’ll see what we can do based on looking at the ingredients.

Rustic Art shampoo ingredients

Demineralized water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (coconut oil extract), Ascorbic acid, Disodium cocoamphodiacetate, Hydrolised Wheat protein, Aloe Vera Juice, Sodium Cocoyl (?) essential oil Blend/Herbal oil blend, and AOS, a plant derivative used as surfactant.

Note: the ingredient list we were provided is not complete as it uses partial names and abbreviations.

To make our point of how confusing the question of “natural” is, let’s look at this through the lens of two different definitions and see how the answer changes.

Definition #1: A product is “all natural” if all ingredients are from renewable, non-petroleum resources.

Through this lens this product would be rated very natural because all of the ingredients can be derived from non-petroleum sources. For example the surfactants are coconut-based can be derived from coconut oil. Ascorbic acid can be derived from fruit. The wheat derivative obviously comes from wheat, and so on. Based on this definition this product does seem “all natural.” So, if you like the answer from this definition, you should just stop reading here.

Definition # 2: A product is “all natural” if all ingredients are from renewable, non-petroleum resources AND all chemicals used in the processing of the main ingredients follow the same rule.

Hmmm. This is where it gets tricky. Let’s look at the main ingredient in the formula, cocoamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) as an example. While coconut oil is a nice natural source for the backbone of this ingredient, several “non-natural” chemicals like chloroacetic acid must be used to transform the nutty oil into CAPB.

So you see, you kind of jump down the rabbit hole when trying to pin down the definition of natural. Is it okay if there is only one non-natural ingredient is used to form the product? What about two or three ingredients? What if one of those “unnatural ingredients” is very toxic or damaging to the environment – does that count against the natural-ness of the product? Or does it not matter since the backbone is coconut oil? There is no single right answer for these questions so everyone is left to fend for themselves when it comes to natural definitions. Therefore, using Definition #2 one would be hard-pressed to describe this product as all natural. It gets even more complicated when you start to layer in other factors such as animal testing, biodegradability of ingredients, waste water management, sustainability (remember palm oil) and so on. So now you see how this works. Depending on the parameters of your natural definition you can declare that everything is all natural, nothing is all natural, or it’s somewhere in between.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Is this product all natural? If you’re cool with Definition #1 and you like the way this makes your hair feel, then I’d say yes.

Image credit: pixabay

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Melissa Semra May 9, 2015, 6:54 am

    What is wrong with shampoo that isn’t all natural?

    • Randy Schueller May 10, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Great question Melissa. Nothing, as far as we’re concerned, but some people persist in believing that natural is better.

    • cynthia feifei gr May 11, 2015, 6:00 am

      Great question!

    • Andreia J July 20, 2016, 3:33 am

      What is wrong is the poisoning caused by chemicals that are largely used by the cosmetic industry. Those chemicals, are called endocrine disruptors, that “can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders”. Some of those chemicals, were banned in EU and Canada, but still used largely in USA.

      Please watch this video for more information.
      After I watched this video, I stopped to use my cosmetics, including the most expensive luxurious ones – almost crying but I did.

      Also I advise people to check the ingredient list of their personal care products at: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

      • Randy Schueller July 20, 2016, 7:43 am

        You don’t need to be so afraid – claims like this from the EWG are exaggerated and are not in agreement with what science says.

        • Andreia J July 22, 2016, 1:46 am

          Hello Randy,

          Each page with ingredient (on EWG database) listed as harmful, contains links, and references, of the scientific studies, on bottom page. Those studies are not made by EWG (believe me I check them) but by scientists around the world.

          I had a personal experience about this matter, I went to the dermatologist about 2 years ago, and he prescribed me Retinol for acne. I changed my health care insurance in the end of 2015 , and my new primary care physician asked me:

          “Do you want have children one day?”.

          My answer was yes, and he advised me to stop to use it. That was months ago. Retinol A is listed as “danger” level 9 at EWG database.

          That said “natural” does not mean “safe”, many health threatening poisons are natural, many herbs should not be used by pregnant women. I believe in science, and makes me pretty mad many “green” people chasing chemists, as if they were the devil. >.< .

          I just wish deeply that the cosmetics companies start to change their formulations, like Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, instead to use Sodium Laureth Sulfate, that was banned at home because my husband developed Eczema.

          I would love to use my luxury products again, but I won't anymore, not while they contain compounds that are scientifically proven bad. because is better to be safe than sorry, even if it does mean make sacrifices.

          • Randy Schueller July 22, 2016, 8:27 am

            You have to consider the merits of each study that they cite. Often times the studies are based on lab testing of cell cultures rather than data on the effects of finished products on real people. That’s a BIG difference.

  • Raji May 10, 2015, 11:27 pm

    Shampoo are really not natural full of chemicals. But making with chemicals + natural fruits, and marketing as natural. Beauty is a natural and making so by visiting beauty spa.

    • Andreia J July 22, 2016, 1:59 am

      I agree with you Raji, most of “natural” cosmetics are nothing than fraud. I found few, little few brands that use good ingredients, then I started to formulate my creams at home.

      I am not a professional chemist (I studied computer engineering), but I arrive to make some very good creams at home. But many things does not arrive close in quality than my old luxury brands…

      I would never fool myself telling me that I am at the “same place” than a professional chemist. They studied and worked hard to do what they do, but I will come back to university and enroll en a chemistry course.

  • Liban October 24, 2015, 6:22 am

    I believe this shampoo formulation is not all natural herbal shampoo. It is better than SLS shampoo.