There’s a growing movement towards natural ingredients in skincare, but what about for our hair?
For many of us, the ingredients list in our hair products is basically unreadable, and we tend not to pay it much mind.
While there’s not necessarily much wrong with the chemicals used in haircare products (depending on what they are, of course) and nobody’s saying you need to rush out and completely overhaul your routine or start making your own shampoo – could there be benefits to also looking to nature? And could some ingredients be more suitable for some people than others?
Here’s what you need to know…
"Natural ingredients – those found in nature – often have a wealth of antioxidants and other nutrients that can help improve the overall health of your hair," suggests Gennaro Dell’Aquila, creative director of GA Salons.
He says natural ingredients "often have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help to protect the scalp from damage" – not to mention "using natural ingredients is a great way to support sustainable practices and help preserve our environment".
Natalia Vera, designer stylist on the artistic team at Live True London agrees, saying: "Natural products have been used for thousands of years and can provide amazing results.
"Using products with natural ingredients can be kinder for your hair and scalp, so if you’re suffering from dryness, it could be worth checking in with your haircare and seeing if any harsh chemicals are drying your scalp out. Natural products tend to be a lot milder and more gentle."
Of course, there are some situations where nature can’t quite provide what you need – "mostly in case of lightening services", says Dell’Aquila. In these scenarios, he recommends looking out for the best products you can, and restoring the pH of the hair afterwards "with natural treatments or toners".
What ingredients might you want to look out for?
The list of potentially beneficial ingredients you can find in nature is almost endless, but Dell’Aquila has picked out a few of his favourites.
"For example, damascus rose provides moisture and soothes the scalp, baobab helps strengthen hair strand and reduce breakage, while turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, which can help keep your scalp healthy and has a positive effect on natural hair growth," he says.
Other ingredients he highlights include organic basil, which "adds moisture, shine and protection to hair fibres"; spirulina, which "promotes hair growth, fights dandruff and purifies and cleanses scalp", and olive oil, which "can be used as a conditioner, and it’s been shown to help promote hair growth," notes Dell’Aquila.
Vera loves hemp oil – "a great ingredient for those wanting thicker, glossier locks", coconut oil – "highly effective in preventing dryness and helping restore hair from damage", and argan oil – "it’s rich in substances that can penetrate the hair shaft, dramatically decreasing dryness and improving the look and feel of the hair".
Another favourite for Vera is tea tree oil, which is "antifungal, meaning products that contain it can be helpful for those suffering from dandruff who want a milder solution. However, use with caution," Vera adds, "as using the product directly on the scalp can cause irritation."
What about different hair types?
"It is certainly important to look for products that are specific to your hair type, in order to maintain healthy hair," says Dell’Aquila.
"For example, those with dry hair should look for products that are hydrating and help to lock in moisture. You’ll want to look for products that contain natural oils and botanical extracts, which can help hydrate and nourish your strands.
"Oily hair types may need a clarifying shampoo to remove build-up, and look for products that won’t weigh your hair down or cause additional oiliness. While curly hair may require an extra dose of hydration and may benefit from products that define and tame frizz, those with straight hair might prefer products that provide extra shine."
Ultimately, Dell’Aquila says: "It is always a good idea to consult with a professional stylist before making any big changes to your haircare."
If you do want to introduce more natural ingredients into your routine, he recommends starting slowly – "and to listen to your body to see how each individual product makes you feel."