Lather, Rinse and Treat

Nature’s best ingredients for healthy hair care.

Everyone wants healthy, beautiful hair, but traditional hair care products contain strange chemicals (what is “methylisothiazolinone”?) that don’t take care of hair at all! Your customers are looking instead for natural ingredients to cleanse their scalps and nourish their hair. Let’s discuss some oils and herbs that can replace harsh chemicals in shampoos and conditioners to nurture your clients’ hair and even help it thrive!

Just as there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan, hair care must be tailored to each customer’s individual needs. Dry, brittle hair can benefit from gentle shampoos and conditioners with natural moisturizing agents. Argan oil, made from the nuts of Morocco’s argan tree, is becoming increasingly popular as its uses become more well-known. Rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and essential fatty acids, argan oil prevents breakage by deeply moisturizing the hair and scalp and improving hair’s elasticity (1). It also replenishes nutrients in the hair, promotes hair growth and leaves hair feeling soft and silky (2).

Known for soothing sunburn, aloe vera can also bring moisture back into dry hair. For centuries, women in Mexico have used aloe vera to make their hair more manageable and shiny (2).

Harsh chemicals in traditional shampoos strip the hair of its natural oils, causing it to dry out and be more susceptible to breakage. Yucca root, which provides vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and iron, also contains natural saponins, a cleansing and foaming agent that gives shampoo a sudsy quality without drying out the hair (2).

Bring Back Bounce
For those with oily hair, look for shampoos and conditioners that contain bergamot oil. Bergamot is a citrus fruit similar to lemons and limes, but its extremely sour pulp makes it inedible (3). The oil, cold-pressed from the peel, has an astringent quality; it regulates the activity of the sebaceous glands of the scalp, thus preventing the overproduction of oil (4).

In addition to bergamot, nettle is often found in conditioners for oily hair. The nettle plant is very high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous, and has a higher percentage of protein than any other vegetable (5). It is known to generally improve the appearance of hair, giving it a glossy look, but can also prevent hair loss, stimulate the scalp and fight against dandruff and excess oil (5, 6). Tree tree oil has also been shown to be effective against dandruff, dry, itchy scalp and oily hair, making it clean and more manageable (3).

Just like your body, your hair needs protein to stay strong! Hair care products with protein from milk, soy and silk can help prevent breakage by strengthening and nourishing hair; they can even help restore damaged hair (7, 8). In addition, milk protein contains amino acids that ­­­prevent hair loss and speed hair growth (9). A 2007 study also showed green tea to be an effective stimulator of hair growth, as its active ingredient (EGCG) protects dermal papilla cells, which nourish hair follicles (10).

Biotin (vitamin H), which helps the body metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins into energy, helps strengthen brittle hair (11). Silica is also essential for healthy, strong hair, as it helps the body build collagen (which strengthens) and elastin (which makes hair more flexible and less likely to break) (12).

Some styling techniques, like frequent coloring treatments or using a hot curling iron on a daily basis, damage hair and can make it look lifeless and frail. Deep conditioning can nourish and moisturize the hair, bringing it back to life. Cooking oils like olive oil can be extremely effective for deep conditioning, especially when heated (13). Its antioxidants can promote scalp health and reduce the detrimental effects of harsh hair treatments. Massaging the scalp with olive oil also promotes circulation, stimulating the hair follicles and producing thicker strands (13). To condition with olive oil, tell your shoppers to warm up about a quarter cup in the microwave, then apply it to the hair, focusing on the scalp and ends. They should then wrap up the hair in a shower cap and let sit for 30 minutes before washing with natural shampoo (16).

Coconut oil, when ingested, can promote heart health, immune health and even weight loss (14), but its benefits don’t stop there! Studies have shown that when applied directly to hair pre- or post-wash, coconut oil penetrates deep into the hair shaft and prevents protein loss, strengthening it (15). In addition, regular treatment with coconut oil can help fight dandruff and even protect against lice (14)! Coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature, so tell shoppers to melt it down to a liquid with low heat before applying it to hair.

Your customers can either use the coconut and olive oils straight from the cooking aisle or find natural beauty products that contain the ingredients. For best results, recommend a deep-conditioning treatment as frequently as once a week for very dry hair or once a month for normal hair (16). WF

1. Kiss My Face,, accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
2. Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve, “Hair Care,”, accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
3. Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve, “Essential Oils,”, accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
4. Natural Healing Guide, “Shampoo (Dandruff & Oily Hair),”, accessed Nov. 25, 2013.
5. Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve, “Botanicals,”, accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
6. Herb Wisdom, “Nettle,”, accessed Nov. 25, 2013.
7. Hobé Naturals,, accessed Nov. 27, 2013.
8. Aubrey Organics,, accessed Nov. 22, 2013.
9. Progressive Health, “Try These Amino Acids for Hair Loss,”, accessed Nov. 25, 2013.
10. K.H. Kim, “Human Hair Growth Enhancement in vitro by Green Tea Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG),” Phytomed., 14 (7–8), 551–555, (2007).
11. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Vitamin H (Biotin),”, accessed Dec. 16, 2013.
12. BioSilica Plus, “Collagen Health for Ageless Skin, Hair & Nails,”, accessed Dec. 16, 2013.
13. New Health Guide, “Olive Oil for Hair Growth,”, accessed Dec. 3, 2013.
14. Organic Facts, “Health Benefits of Coconut Oil,”, accessed Dec. 2, 2013.
15. R.B. Mohile, “Effect of Mineral Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Coconut Oil on Prevention of Hair Damage,” J. Cosm. Sci. 54 (2), 175-92, (2003).
16. Dina’s Days, “How To: Condition Your Hair with Olive Oil,”, accessed Dec. 4, 2013.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2014