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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Redefining Natural: What to Look for and Avoid in a Natural Shampoo

May 27, 2016 09:47AM ● By Elhabib Benlhabib

Demand for all things natural and organic in the personal care arena has grown tremendously in recent years as consumers have become increasingly wary of using chemically-laden products. Not surprisingly, this demand has been met with an ever-growing number of “natural” products on store shelves. But as the word “natural” is appropriated by products that are chock full of chemicals with just a few token naturally-derived ingredients, it can be challenging for consumers to sift through it all and identify truly natural, healthier options.

Finding a natural shampoo can be more challenging than at first glance. As consumers have become more aware of the truth about sulfates, many have turned to sulfate-free shampoos as a healthier option. Unfortunately, many sulfate-free shampoos have simply replaced sulfates with other equally damaging chemicals. Two common substitutes—cocamidopropyl betaine and olefin sulfonate—may be described as “coconut derived” but are actually highly processed, harsh synthetic detergents that can damage hair by stripping its natural oils. Both can be irritating, have been associated with allergic dermatitis and can contribute to hair loss.

In addition to sulfates and their harsh chemical substitutes, there are other ingredients to avoid in shampoos. Parabens are used as preservatives but are suspected to disrupt hormone balance (potentially contributing to hair loss). Alcohols are also commonly found in shampoos but can be overly drying to the hair. And the seemingly innocuous “fragrances” can also be a common cause of contact dermatitis of the scalp.

Here are a few ingredients to look for in a natural shampoo that can contribute to healthier hair:

Saponins are a great plant-based alternative to harsh chemical detergents. They are natural foaming glycoside compounds that are found in many varieties of plants and have been used for thousands of years as natural soaps.

Natural oils, such as argan, coconut and jojoba, are high in essential nutrients and rich in fatty acids, making them great moisturizers that help protect hair and add shine and softness.

Aloe is another powerful, natural moisturizing ingredient. For natural conditioning, oregano leaf extract and lecithin are effective plant-based options.

To best protect and nourish the hair, don’t settle for simply sulfate-free, pseudo “natural” shampoos. By digging deeper into the ingredients list you can find the best truly natural shampoo option for you.

Marrák products are currently available online at and at some local retail stores, including Gent Cuts and Grooming in Edina and Minneapolis; Tao Natural Foods, Martin Patrick 3, and Lyn-Lake Barbershop in Minneapolis; and Blessings Salon in St. Paul. Marrák will be expanding to additional stores and salons in the Twin Cities and select venues nationwide.

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