My Favorite Non-toxic Hair Products

My hair after washing with shampoo bar and rinsing 
with vinegar (no conditioner).

EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

To determine the toxicity or safety of products or specific ingredients, I often consult EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, which evaluates the safety of personal products based upon research regarding known and probable carcinogens, reproductive and developmental toxicants, as well as allergens and irritants. The higher the score, the more potential toxins your product contains. Personally, I pay more attention to ingredients linked to cancer and developmental/ reproductive problems than those that are allergens (essential oils are often potential allergens or skin irritants).

The one problem with this database is that sometimes it is out-of-date or incomplete. Sometimes for the product I am investigating, an old formulation might be listed. I always cross-check the ingredients listed in the Cosmetic Database against a list of online ingredients (either from the manufacturer or from an online drugstore that lists all ingredients such as Vitacost). Other times the product is not in the database at all. Sometimes I use the Build Your Own Report function of the database, which takes a few minutes, but is easier than typing in individual ingredients in the search box. And then you have your custom report to refer back to whenever you please.

Here are the hair products I am currently using.


For the last couple of years, I have been using a shampoo bar (like a bar of soap) instead of liquid shampoo. I love it! I also converted my husband (it was an easy sell). He prefers the shampoo bar as well, especially when he travels. Shampoo bars make so much sense since the first ingredient of bottled shampoo is often Aqua (aka Water). Packaging is also a big advantage: with a bar, the packaging is a small strip of recyclable paper instead of a plastic bottle. I was lucky to like the very first shampoo bar I tried, a Sweet Orange Shampoo Bar purchased from Etsy shop Dress Green. In case you are wondering, yes the shampoo bar does produce bubbly suds. I know that's an important part of shampooing for many folks.

I just barely ran out of my last bulk order, so I took a moment to make some calculations. Note that I only wash my hair about once a week, but I use a lot of shampoo when I do because I have a lot of hair. My husband washes his hair every day.Our last bulk order lasted us 18+ months, which means that we spent a mere $3.64 per month for both me and my husband on handmade eco-friendly non-toxic shampoo. {Correction: I just realized we spent even less than this since my sister and a friend each bought a bar from me, making the amount spent per month closer to $3.00)} According to the Skin Deep report I built, my shampoo bar has a hazard score of 0 (low hazard and best possible score). Individual ingredients had a hazard score of 0 or 1 (low hazard).

Once a month I also do a vinegar rinse after shampooing to remove any soap buildup, as recommended by the seller. Dress Green recommends doing this once a week. Since I wash my hair once a week, I do a vinegar rinse every month or two. I use apple cider vinegar from the grocery store. Nothing fancy. The smell quickly dissipates, and if you use conditioner afterwards, you probably won't smell the vinegar at all. My husband never does the vinegar rinse, and he also doesn't feel like he needs to use conditioner now that he's switched to the shampoo bar (a common experience of shampoo bar users, according to the seller).


I'm still using my Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Conditioner, even though my sister pointed out to me some time ago that it has some ingredients with higher hazard scores in the Skin Deep Database. According to the custom report I built using the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, my conditioner has a hazard score of 4 (moderate hazard). I'd like to find a conditioner with a better/ lower hazard score. I've tried a few other conditioners and haven't liked them. I really need a thick goopy conditioner to tame my thick curls/ frizzies, and at the moment I'm not feeling that experimental. So for the moment, I'm using up the bottles I have, and hoping I find an awesome conditioner bar soon.

Styling Products

My husband and I have used and liked many different leave-in conditioners and hair gels (my husband who has short thick curly hair tends to prefer the gels and other products which have a stronger hold). Whatever these styling products are called, the important factor for me is that you leave them in and do not rinse them out, so I care a lot about the ingredients. My current favorite is EO's Tame Curl Control Gel (coconut & vanilla). In EWG's Skin Deep Database, it scores a Hazard Score 2 (low). Since this product is not in the database, I used the Build Your Own Report function to get a general idea about any problem ingredients. It has a light natural scent that is mostly gone by the time your hair dries. My husband recently ran out of the gel he was using, and gave mine a try. He liked it, so now we're using the same hair gel too.

Other styling products we have used and liked:

What are your favorite non-toxic hair products?

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  1. i have always had the most difficulty finding a shampoo that works for my hair... and the fact that i wash it every day. i think that is the challenge- because every day washing easily and quickly builds up residue.

    i do really like treating my hair over night with coconut oil though :)

    1. Eco yogini, try a shampoo bar! It's been an easy switch for me and my husband. No adjustment period at all.

      Is there no end to the uses for coconut oil?

  2. My goal now is to find a bar shampoo. Even though I wash my hair about every 3-4 days, sometimes once a week, plastic tubes till add up to our waste.
    I currently use our local Latvian brand that has Ecocert- Madara, I enjoy the shampoo and the conditioner too. They used to take back all the bottles of their products and give a discount for next purchase for that, I hope they still do, in case I can't find a nice bar shampoo yet. I made a commitment to buy only locally produced beauty products, so now I'm in a difficult position since I don't know any bar shampoos in Latvia.. maybe a niche for business, hehe..
    Before I committed to buy Latvian only, I used Urtekram Henna shampoo organic, really well worked with my also curly and frizzy hair!
    When I used to live in UK, I really enjoyed [Al'chemy] Very Gentle Unscented Shampoo (Australia); (sold as [A'kin]too), and A'kin conditioners too.
    I haven't yet found a nice organic styling product apart from Giovanni's natural mousse for styling hair that I use really rarely. My husband uses Jason's hair wax but he prefers Giovanni's styling glue that he had before. I still have a bottle of Biosilk for hair, and it takes only a little bit, so it lasts veeeery long. I'll give another thought for organic styling product when finishing the bottle is nearer.

    As for the perfect hair mask, I use oil- olive or even better, hemp oil, as I have said in my blog :)

    1. On Green Carpet, thank you for so generously sharing your extensive experience with greener hair products. I am impressed with your commitment to local products. Probably aren't too many Latvians on Etsy though I'm guessing.

  3. I have never heard of the shampoo bar, so thanks for the link!

    This past year I converted my whole family to baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse. Even my littles like it. Three of my family only rinse with the vinegar once a month or so (their hair is very fine) but my oldest is like me and she has very think hair, so we have to rinse with the vinegar each time. We leave it in for the duration of the shower or bath then rinse to make sure it has conditioned deeply. Like many people, we clean our home with these ingredients as well, so now we associate the smell of vinegar with cleanliness and no one is bothered by the slight vinegar odour when we wash our hair.

    Hair styling products are my achilles heel. I have very strong, thick hair that sucks up moisture in the air like a sponge so if I don't blow-dry and straighten or put my hair back I might resemble a wicked witch! I have no idea if my blow-dry gel is good or not (it's on my list to research the ingredients) but I have yet to find an eco alternative. The summer is easier because I'm off work (don't care as much about my appliance) and I just throw it back in a pony tail.

    1. There are enough no-poo failures out there online that I have not been brave enough to try it.

      I think it is always hard to give up beloved tried-and-true personal products. It was tough for me to switch hair products b/c even finding non-green products has always been a challenge for me too. You might want to try some of the styling products I listed above. I've tried MANY, and all worked well for me and/or my husband -- we both have very thick, curly hair. Several of my curly-haired sisters use the EO gel as well.

  4. I wash my hair with vinegar only and I've been very happy with it for almost 9 years! I tried also using baking soda, like many people recommend online, but it didn't seem to do anything for me. I transitioned away from shampoo by washing with vinegar every other time and shampoo on the times in between, until my hair began to look and feel bad after shampooing--at which point I began using vinegar only.

    I don't use styling products, just braid the front part of my hair to get it out of my eyes. I realize that won't work for everyone, so I'm glad you've posted these recommendations of safer styling products!

    1. Vinegar only... simple AND cheap (and green). I might have to try that. How long did it take for things to reach a happy place?

  5. I have such a hard time finding shampoos that are non-toxic and actually work! My latest is using Earth Mama Angel Baby for the whole family. Why not??

    1. I'll be using the shampoo bar on my kiddoes as soon as they can be relied upon to close their eyes during the rinse!

  6. I searched high and low for non-toxic hair care products until I stumbled across Monat! I loved it so much that I joined the company as a market partner! Monat's products are not only non-toxic, but they are vegan, cruelty-free, and they work to restore your hair's natural balance and vitality! My hair went from being limp, lifeless, dull, and flat, to full, vibrant, shiny, and healthy as ever! :) Check out my website for more information!

  7. Hey Betsy, thanks for the information it was really helpful. Btw for your audience and for yourself, there is this app in the app store that is really cool. It's called Think Dirty and you can scan any bottle on the supermarket and see their toxicity level and it will tell you the bad ingredients like triclosan, fragrance, sulfates etc. I use that app to see which product is good. Btw thanks for the recommendation, I personally don't like shampoo bars, but I use Tree to Tub products, their products are really good and their shampoo cleans and moisturizes at the same time so their is no need for conditioner. Their website is you should check it out.

  8. I LOVE Monat products! They are salon quality but NONTOXIC they're list of no's is awesome and leaves your hair feeling awesome and also promotes hair growth and follicle strength I tried so many different shampoos after being diagnosed with breast cancer and I finally found Monat, I'm so bayou with it here's a link to check it out

  9. I loved the EO coconut gel as well but have found they've discontinued it. It was great for my hair, light weight, good hold and not flaky. Ever. Have you found anything similar to that product?

    1. Yes, I was very sad about that as well. Currently I'm using this John Masters detangler as a sort of leave-in conditioner.


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