What we put on the heads of our little ones matters just as much as what we put on their bodies. But when it comes to the best natural hair care products for kids, let’s just face it: there’s a lot of greenwashing out there.
It’s sad, really, because in all the products you’d think there’d be a conscience in, it would be those made for little ones. Still, more products than ever are jumping on the ‘natural’ bandwagon because they know there’s tons of money in it. And yes, that’s thanks to mamas like us who tell companies that we want better for our babies with the dollars they’re so fond of making.
Greenwashing For Greed
In 1986, environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the term’ greenwashing,’ when he noticed how ironic it was that a hotel chain was asking him to save them from washing towels to ‘save the planet.’ Westerveld thought the whole ‘put your towel on the rack’ concept to prevent the waste of millions of gallons of water was a stark and ironic contrast to the fact that the hotel was horribly wasting resources in other areas. In fact, he found it despicable that they were using the ‘save the planet’ gimmick essentially to save them more money, as less laundry meant they spent less money.
And thus, the irony of a company putting more money into marketing its environmental friendliness than it does to actually BEING environmentally friendly led the way for the greenwashing term.
Today, sadly, it also means the colorful and often outright deceptive marketing that happens when companies try to convince you their ‘green and clean’ products are just that–safe and non-toxic–when they aren’t necessarily so. I was a Mothering reader far before I got to be a Mothering writer, and have spent the last decade and a half being a label reader and investigating the ingredients in just about everything I use with and for my family. To this day, I still can’t get over how companies are able to sleep at night, knowing they deceptively prey on a mother’s willingness to do her best for her children.
What’s Wrong With So Many Big Brands?
Think about it…think about the products that you love and how they’re marketed. Think about why you buy them and what you look for in the products you use for your family.
Now, think about the products you often see marketed at your local retailers or in your social media feeds and emails. Think about those big brands that tout themselves as THE baby brands? You see them on television, you see them in magazines…they show you sweet pictures of happy and healthy families using their products, but because there is little FDA guideline that controls what goes into body products? Just about anything can be used, and companies can use just about any marketing ploys they want.
I’ll never forget the picture of a little boy who had his eyes chemically burned by a big name ‘natural’ tear-free shampoo. He was the friend of a friend, and I was appalled because I’d actually BOUGHT products from this company because of their name and supposed reputation. Even I’d failed to look at the ingredients on their wipes (what I was using) and they were HORRIBLE to the mother of the little boy. Instead of taking responsibility for the ingredients in their ‘tear-free’ shampoo, they blamed it on the little boy’s ‘possible’ allergic reaction. I’ll end this recall of that situation with the simple statement that the company went on to spend millions in a class-action lawsuit filed against it for making claims to be ‘organic’ and ‘all-natural’ when they were actually using synthetic and chemical ingredients.
It’s so important that we read the labels!
But What Does Hair Matter?
You may be thinking, okay, okay…we need proper and clean food and nourishment, and we need to watch what we put on our children’s skin since it’s their largest organ, but their hair? Is hair that important?
Yes. Yes it is! It’s organic material and if you think about how we use hair products? We pour them all over our heads and the heads of our children and then we massage that stuff right on into their hair shafts and their skin. Yes, we are taking care of dead hair, but in doing so, we’re massaging and exposing live skin, and we have to take that into consideration for everything that we expose our children to.
Does It Matter If It’s Organic Or Natural?
So here’s the tricky part about greenwashing and why we see it so often. The definition of organic is simply something that contains carbon and is biologic in its origin. Technically, a lot of things are organic and natural, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for us, or good for our bodies or our kids’ bodies.
Most of the time, an organic label will be safer for you simply because you know that the organic product doesn’t have any ingredients that are GMO or that came in contact with any artificial pesticides or fertilizers. They most often don’t have chemicals or unnatural additives or dyes. An organic hair care product for kids that uses plant-based ingredients is one that farms those ingredients organically. That said, you will want to make sure that the labels and certifications are there, because often greenwashing will make it look as if a product is organic (as in the case mentioned above with the lawsuit) but they’re not.
When it comes to natural hair care products for kids, the thing that you need to pay attention to is the quality of the ingredients. Sometimes a natural product may be better than organic, if an organic product is ‘mostly’ organic but the rest horribly synthetic, while a natural alternative is simple in ingredient and processing. When it comes to looking for non-toxic products, it is still important that we look at the ingredients and pay attention to how they affect our children and our planet.
Chemicals To Avoid In Natural Hair Care Products For Kids
Honestly, look at the back of your own hair care products and see how many things you can maybe not even pronounce? That’s usually a first place to start. If your children’s hair care products are similar in their ingredient listings, you want to go ahead and become a detective right now. Pull up a chair and EWG and see where your hair care products rank. Let us start you off easy, though, with some basic ones you’ll want to avoid.
- Parabens. Thankfully the word has spread the parabens are HORRIBLE for our bodies. Parabens imitate estrogen and are endocrine disruptors. They’re linked to cancers, especially breast cancer, and they used to be a staple in many hair care products because of how cheap they are. They still are in a lot of less expensive shampoos and conditioners, as they help stop the growth of microorganisms and keep shelf-life longer. For the most part, though, ‘paraben-free’ has become one of those tags that companies like to use because it ‘looks’ like they’re concerned about the ingredient lists. What it really means is that as more research occurs, companies realize they won’t sell to more and more mamas with these things in them.
- Ethylparaben. See above! Basically, if you see any ingredient ending in -aben, watch out. These are also used as preservatives and can cause allergies and irritation as well as sometimes hair loss and possibly cancer.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). These are used in all sorts of body products–shampoos, conditioners, soap, body washes, laundry detergent and even toothpastes! They’re what makes those things bubble and lather, and they’re contributors to eczema, irritations, allergies and hair loss. Sometimes you’ll even see sodium Laureth sulfate, cousin that can make your skin dry and irritated.
- Sodium Hydroxide. This is to chemically relax or straighten hair. Hydroxide!!! Danger! We can’t believe it’s in kids’ products, but it is sometimes to help tame kids’ hair and we just have to ask if it’s worth it? (Spoiler: it’s not!)
- Petrolatum, Mineral Oil or Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB). You want to stay away from just about anything that’s a petroleum derivative. They’re surfactants in a lot of shampoos, and what is used to ‘break down’ the dirt in hair. In essence, they break down the water tension so the hair shaft can be more absorbent but they can also cause skin reactions and are moderately toxic if ingested.
- PEG-80. The scientific definition of PEG-80 (Sorbitan Laurate) is gobbledy-gook. It’s an ethoxylated sorbitan monoester of lauric acid and has an average of 80 moles of ethylene oxide. Bet you wish you paid better attention in chemistry, huh? No worries, though, because basically you need to know it’s a human skin allergen that is also often used for fragrance, surfactant and emulsifying. While you’re at it, stay away from PEG-150 Distearate too. Companies will tell you the thickening agent is not toxic, but some of its impurities have been found to increase brain, uterine and breast cancers and leukemia.
- Citric Acid. This is an alpha hydroxy acid that you find in citric fruits in juices. It adjusts the pH balance in hair and skin, but you have to be careful with products that have this natural ingredient because as is often the case when it comes to finding ways to do things cheaper, it can also be created using Aspergillus niger. You may also know that as common black mold. Yes. Some find it easier to make it from BLACK MOLD than just use the natural ingredients!
- Sodium Benzoate. While we’re talking about making things in labs… let’s talk about this. Sodium Benzoate s a sodium salt used as a preservative. You usually find it in low levels in apples, berries, cinnamon and other natural foods. When it’s by itself, it’s not a big deal. But when it’s combined with citric acid? A lab-synthetic sodium benzoate will then form benzene, which is a carcinogen that’s associated with leukemia and other blood cancers. Think about the ingredients to stay away from in chemical sunscreens–sound familiar?
- Sodium Hydroxide. Classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful “by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List, it’s also known as lye. It can cause chemical burns and may induce permanent blindness upon contact with eyes. But it’s not a big deal if it’s in hair care products, right? Kids aren’t known to get shampoo or conditioner or anything like that in their eyes, are they? Oh. Yeah…. It’s corrosive to many metals and it should not be in your kids’ hair care products!
So what’s okay to be in natural hair care products for kids?
Just think nature. Jojoba, coconut, argan oils… they’re natural. Sunflower oil, aloe vera and glycerin are some additional ingredients you often see in safe and natural hair care products for kids and they help your child’s hair be clean and healthy.
When you use natural hair care products for kids that include natural oils and minerals, as well as herbal extracts, you’re using products that are safer for your kids. Because we typically bathe and wash our hair regularly, we are adding up exposure after exposure when we use those products. The benefits of using natural and organic hair care products are that we continue to use safe products for our children.
Specifically talking about hair, using natural and organic products can help in other ways too! Some of the following are:
- Safe for your kids to use independently without worry. As your kids get older, they like doing the big-kid hygiene things for themselves. Safe and natural hair care products for kids mean you don’t have to worry about their accidental mis/overuse.
- They can make your child’s hair grow healthy and faster, especially if the ingredients include aloe vera! Aloe Vera isn’t just great for healing, but to stimulate hair growth too!
- Glycerin is often found in organic and natural hair care products and is a moisturizer that protects your child’s hair too.
- Coconut oil is often a staple of natural hair care products for kids, and this helps keep shiny, healthy hair flowing!
- When you use organic and natural hair care products for kids, you’re helping take better care of your children and the planet. A win-win!
The Best Natural Hair Care Products For Kids
Fresh Monster believes that you don’t have to trade off clean and fun for chemicals, and they know that natural products work as well as chemical-ridden products, just without the danger. They also believe that you should have access to safe and affordable products that are made just for kids. This one scores a 2 on EWG.
Babo Botanicals is a Certified B Corporation that’s committed to using premium mineral and botanically-based healthy ingredients. They use an exclusive Organic Nutri-Soothe Complex that’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins and they are cruelty-free. This coconut, cucumber and aloe-based shampoo scores a 2 on the EWG scale and is used to nourish and refresh the hair and body. The shea and cocoa butter help offer moisturization and it’s plant-based formula is perfect for taking chlorine, salt, pollution and grime away from your child’s hair. The conditioner leaves it feeling soft and silky smooth too!
This Shampoo scores the EWG’s Best rating, Verified, which means it meets their strictest standards. It does so by using no synthetic ingredients, no dyes, no fragrances and no testing on animals! It’s good for kids and the environment, using the cleaning power of orange and lime combined with seaweed and aloe to keep your kiddo’s hair clean and soft and smelling divine with no extra parfum or fragrance.
You know and love California Baby and now kids and tweens can have California Kids! This complete hair and body wash blend scores a 1 with EWG and it’s made for those with sensitive skin so it’s perfect for everyone. It’s made with organic calendula and aloe vera to help moisturize, and it’s free of harsh chemicals, alcohol and irritants to keep your kids safe.
This is another great one for your older kids/tweens/teens in that it has a more mature smell (that’s the tea tree) but it’s still safe for them to use with no toxicity concerns. It’s free of biologically harmful chemicals and junk that doesn’t need to be in and it scores EWG Verified. It’s cruelty-free and not tested on animals and it’s effective for summer when you’re using the pool more just as much as it is in the winter when you need the moisturization of aloe.
It’s a fact of life mamas have to worry about those little buggers. I mean, once you get them, they’re awfully hard to get rid of. So a lot of mamas want to use something as natural as they can to keep those things away and Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel does it in a safe way. It’s free of chemicals, with jojoba, chamomile and aloe vera. It scores a 4 on EWG because of the CAPB, but if you make sure it’s not abused or ingested, it may be worth you taking the risk to prevent and help repel lice (using rosemary, so it smells really great!). Lice are one of those things that too often, it’s believed chemicals are the only way. Fairy Tales proves they’re not.