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My Cosmetics Quest: Favourite Shampoo & Conditioner Brands

shampoo brands

Current Household Brand Favourites

My quest to use safer cosmetics is progressing slowly (but surely). In contrast, changing over the family’s shampoos and conditioners can be done in one quick and easy swoop.

Since day one, I’ve been more careful to read ingredients on the products I used with the kids, so I’ve had some years to try quite a few brands. To date, these have included:

  • Prairie Naturals’ Northern Lights;
  • Mill Creek Botanicals;
  • Green Beaver;
  • EcoKid;
  • Giovanni;
  • Burt’s Bees; and
  • Kiss My Face.

Out of these, the least favourite for the kids was EcoKid. According to Stella, my 10-year-old, it is clumpy and smells too strong. On my end, I never noticed it being “clumpy,” but it is quite thick and takes longer to rinse out.

When it came to the others, she was content to use any of the brands pictured above. However, she does have a clear favourite: Green Beaver Fresh Mint. Her top reason? If you get it in your eyes, it doesn’t sting at all.

Green Beaver Mint Shampoo

Besides that my kids like the product, my reasons include that this shampoo and conditioner are:

  • Canadian;
  • Certified organic;
  • Vegan;
  • Biodegradable;
  • Reasonably priced.

Both Adria Vasil and Gillian Deacon are also fans of Green Beaver (Deacon’s kids chose Lavender as their favourite Green Beaver Shampoo).

Now, I mentioned I’d been lax when it came to what Hubby and I used. I dunno … it just didn’t seem as important somehow. But in reading through There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, Deacon cautions that the “SLS” ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate) have suspected links to cancer and that the Environmental Working Group classifies both as carcinogenic.

So I decided to pick up a new shampoo and conditioner brand for us to. The one I came home with is called Live Clean.

I quite like this shampoo and conditioner and haven’t really noticed any negative differences since switching from my former salon-brand to this one in terms of how my hair looks and feels. I also checked in with my girlfriend who was shopping with me and also bought this combo. She has extremely sensitive skin and experiences nasty reactions to any products with formaldehyde-based ingredients (it is really gross how many of our every day products have formaldehyde in them!). She loves the line and has had no reactions whatsoever.

But in doing a bit of research for this post, it would seem that not everyone is a big fan. Dan Thompson concluded that Live Clean shampoo does not offer “anything “greener” or superior to just about any mass market shampoo.” In reading Thompson’s review (dated 2011), I think he was a bit heavy-handed in saying that it does not offer *anything* superior to mass market shampoo because LiveClean is:

  • Petroleum free;
  • Paraben free;
  • Phthalate free;
  • Phosphase free;
  • Vegan;
  • Biodegredable; and
  • Not test on animals.

However, he’s not the only one noting that Live Clean is not full of all the green and lovely ingredients you might imagine. Many of its ingredients are chemical-based, rather than plant-derived (in her book, Vasil demotes it one star in her rating  for this reason).

But just because something is from nature (hello arsenic?) doesn’t necessarily mean its safe and vice versa when it comes to chemically-derived ingredients. However, one thing that has stumped me a bit is that in a comment, Thompson suggests that the Live Clean shampoo cannot be “phthalate free” because phthalates are one of the main ingredients in cosmetic fragrances. Evita Ochel at Evolving Wellness (in 2008) also calls out the fragrance (called “Parfum” in the ingredient list) in Live Clean as problematic.

But since I’d bought my Live Clean products from Terra20 (remember them? … my personal assistant for avoiding greenwashing), I went back to my handy-dandy list of Terra20’s banned ingredients and confirmed that phthalate-based fragrances are not allowed through its doors. So, it would seem to me that some fragrances are safer than others. (I think I’ll try Stella’s Green Beaver choice next time for Hubby and I too, anyhow.)

But how the heck an average consumer is supposed to know which kind of fragrance or “parfum” has been used in a shampoo though is beyond me! Cosmetic giants sure don’t make it easy for us moms who just want to grab something off the shelf quickly, that’s for sure. What’s that old saying … oh yeah, it’s not easy being green.

Have you been trying out any new shampoos or conditioners? What are your favourites and why?

Update (Jan 17):  Pamela, the Terra20 Community Manager, got in touch with me personally to confirm that Live Clean does indeed meet the strict ingredient policy and does not contain any of the items on the “Banned Ingredients.” (Talk about great customer service, eh?)

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Comments

  1. Thanks to the great people at Terra20, our daughter loves Green Beaver Berry Leave-in-Detangler.  She loves the smell, that it doesn’t sting her eyes when we accidentally miss spraying it in her hair (and yes that happens), and that is has a picture of a beaver on the bottle.  I love it not only because it is safe for our daughter but also because it is much cheaper than the spray in conditioner we were buying from the salon ($13 vs $23).  Our next adventure is the Green Beaver Shampoo – I’m sure both our kids will love it.  Thanks for the posts Julie, as always they are interesting, insightful and fun to read.

    • That’s great that Terra20 was able to find a good solution for you and your daughter! They truly seem to love their work in that store! (As for those nice words about my posts … how much do I owe you now?? :))

  2. stop me if I told you this already. But I ditched shampoo altogether. I use natural  bar soap to wash my hair (my SIL’s sister makes it, or I get it from Purple Urchin, most health food stores carry shampoo soap, as does Terra20). And I use a cider vinegar rinse to condition my hair. So far I am the only family member who does this, but I really like it. I hope to convert my DH eventually. And the kids when they are older. It has been almost a year since I started and I am never going back to regular shampoo. 

    • Hi Chantal! No, you haven’t mentioned this before. What was your reason for wanting to get rid of the shampoo? How do you wash you hair with the bar soap: lather it up in your hands and put the lather on your head?

      •  Yup, I just lather in my hands and then on my head. It usually takes a few tries to get it all over my hair as my hair is long. It doesn’t lather in a shampoo sense, it is a lot less lather.

        I had been wanting to ditch shampoo for ages (because of the chemicals) but the only option I heard of was baking soda wash. I did research and people seemed to have hit is miss success at the start and I wanted a solution that I could run with right away.

        A blog was having a giveaway in cooperation with a soap maker on Etsy so I entered it and won. In the blog post they said it took about a week for their hair to adjust to not being shampoo’d (natural hair oils to spread through your hair.) I guess cause my hair is so long, it took longer and I almost stopped but I am glad I didn’t. It took about 2 weeks but once my hair was acclimatized I loved it. I have a natural wave to my hair that vanishes when I washed it with shampoo. With soap it is always there. I rarely use any other products in my hair, but now I find my hair looks like I am using product. It is thicker and healthier looking.

        The only thing I don’t like is that when I colour my hair I have to start over from scratch again (since the colour strips my hair of all its oils). What I have started doing is in the first week or so after I colour I use a conditioner on the ends of my hair so they don’t look dry/brittle. But once the natural oils make their down the hair shaft I am good to go.

  3. Hi Blake! I’m so glad you told me about your experience with SUKI. My most difficult challenge so far has been to try and find a cream that I like. I’ve seen the SUKI brand at Terra20, so I will pick it up and give it a try next time. Also, Lilou! Yes, I know them … there are a lovely little boutique store in Manotick. So great when you can buy online!

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  6. I DO _NOT_ USE SHAMPOO, ONLY CONDITIONER!!!
    You would think you will stay dirty not using it but actually not! Leave the conditioner on for a few minutes then rinse it, then do it one more time!!! If my hair is really really dirty then I use shampoo around max once a month, but I wash my hair 2x a week like this and I’m much better
    NO MORE ECZEMA! WHY??? ALL SHAMPOOS HAVE SODYUM LAURATE SULPHATE OR SIMILAR CONTENT UNDER HIDDEN NAMES! My scalp used to be so itchy that I scratched till it bled, now I’m fine. If ur an adult u can use vinegar and baking soda to rinse ur hair first, as for my kid i just use natural soap bar from health store ($1-2 only in vitamin stores) or sometimes hair conditioner!
    FOR FACE I USE PURE SHEA BUTTER OR COCONUT OIL, THESE ARE CHEAP AND LAST MONTHS, MY CHILD LOVES IT TOO, COCONUT OIL IS THE 1ST THING IN MY LIFE THAT HAS MADE MY SKIN THE SOFTEST, YOU CAN USE IT FOR COOKING TOO. I SAVE SO MUCH MONEY. I ONLY WASH MY SELF WITH SOAP AND USE VERY LITTLE(AGAIN SUPLHATE FREE NATURAL SOAP) I WILL INSTALL A CHLORINE FILTER ON THE SHOWER HEAD AS CHLORINE EXTREMELY IRRITATES MY SKIN. IF I USE FRAGRANCE I SPRAY IT ON HAIR ON CLOTHES, I DONT NEED SCENTED CREMES. IF U WANT TO BATH U CAN PUT FEW DROPS OF ESSENTIAL OIL IN IT, LIKE PEPPERMINT, ORANGE, EUCALYPTUS!!! MY BIGGEST DILEMMA NOW IS HOW TO AVOID PALM OIL, GOOGLE IT, GOVERNEMNTS SOLD THE RAIN FOREST TO GIANTS TO DESTROY IT AND PLANT PALM TREES FOR THE CHEAP FAT IT HAS!!! THOSE TREES WONT EVEN PROVIDE 25% OF THE CURRENT OXYGEN ON OUR PLANET!!! LETS NOT SUPPORT CHIMPANZEE AND RHINO KILLINGS!!! IT’S OUR MONEY WE DON’T HAVE TO BE ON HANDS AND KNEES KISSING THE BUTT OF THE MANUFACTURERS! IF THEY SELL RUBBISH, THEY CAN PUT IT ON THEIR VERY OWN FACE, WE ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO BUY!!! BE SAVVY.

  7. I was disappointed in Northern Lights. Too expensive for a shampoo that hardly had any smell to it. From reading all the ingredients you’d think there’d be some nice essential oils or flowers in the product. Terrible low product. I could’ve bought 4 shampoos for that amount of money that has basically the same cleansing chemicals!

  8. my hair was falling out in clumps. i checked the label of the drugstore shampoo and sls was ingredient number 1. switched to Live Clean (good prices on Well.ca) . problem resolved.

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