The rising tide of the health and wellness movement has spilled over into the area of hair styling and hair care products. Sales of natural and organic cosmetics and personal care products are burgeoning, with consumers perceiving them as better or safer than regular cosmetics, and therefore prepared to pay a premium for them.
Should you stock organic products in your salon?
The Case for Organic Products
There’s no doubt that some clients will want organic products for their hair. For those who are committed to buying organic products for health and environmental reasons, they will often ask for products that:
- are green
- are recyclable
- have no alcohol
- have no ammonia
- have no mineral oil
- have no paraphenylenediamine
- are higher quality
- have natural results
- have phyto-active ingredients
For hair products of any type to be certified organic, they must meet Australian Certified Organic requirements.
Australian Certified Organic has two certification categories for organic cosmetics:
Proponents of organic products say that organic products gently infuse hair follicles and skin cells with natural minerals, herbal extracts, and oils; and that natural ingredients such as organic tea tree help address skin conditions such as dandruff and scalp irritation. Commonly used ingredients include aloe vera, coconut oil and shea butter.
There’s also the environmental strain. Organic product supporters say that the chemicals used in hair don’t just stay on your head; they go down the drain and into the environment. Since organic products are largely biodegradable and all natural, organic hair products are much better for the environment.
Supporters of organic products say that they’re safer and better for overall health. Using chemicals in products is a recipe for skin irritation and other allergic reactions, but with organic products, you won’t have to worry about a painful negative reaction to a product. When you use hair products containing chemicals, you are exposing your whole body to those chemicals. You can’t rub shampoo in your hair or coat your hair with product without at least some of the product being absorbed into your skin and processed by your body. By using organic hair products, you eliminate the unnecessary chemical intake that can be harmful to your body.
Finally, organic products are said to give healthier hair. Chemically enhanced hair products may give you the look and feel that you want here and now, but they are damaging the health of your hair in the long run. Organic products are actually good for your hair. The more you use them, the healthier your hair will get, say proponents of organic products.
The Case Against Organic Products
They don't work any better than many of the man-made popular brands which you'll find at your local supermarket, according to leading Trichologist, Philip Kingsley.
'Healthy hair is down to lots of different life factors like environment, scalp health and diet and I'm afraid the wonder shampoo that instantly transforms your hair just doesn't exist,' he says.
'The most important factor when buying a shampoo is choosing the right one for your specific hair type. A product won't necessarily be better just because it has a long list of plant ingredients on the label.
'I also feel that labelling hair products as organic is a great marketing tool, but terribly misleading for the public'.
'For a product to be totally organic it would have to be bereft of any chemicals, including chemical preservatives. In fact, the majority of these 'natural' shampoos and conditioners all contain preservatives to make them last longer
'It's also hard to be sure that each bottle of product is exactly the same as the next - in the same way as you won't find two plants exactly alike in terms of size, colour and scent.
Some people are drawn to natural cosmetics because they have sensitive skin, or suffer reactions to certain ingredients. Fragrances and preservatives are the main culprits and if you know particular chemicals cause you problems, it makes sense to avoid them. But natural cosmetics may not always be a better choice. For example:
Professor Robyn O'Hehir, director of the Alfred Hospital's Department of Allergy, Immunology & Respiratory Medicine, tells us it's mainly a concern for certain people with a predisposition to allergies, especially if the skin is broken or inflamed due to eczema, and she recommends that these people avoid products containing food allergens.
"While unlikely to be a problem for most people, with intact skin providing an effective barrier to the underlying immune system, application of these 'natural' products containing food allergens to eczematous skin may lead to a severe allergic reaction when the food is eaten subsequently."
Another major concern about natural cosmetics is microbial contamination and spoilage. Case in point: in 2013 the ACCC recalled three 'natural' cosmetic products due to microbial contamination. While there are some natural preservatives, certification standards for natural and organic cosmetics often allow for certain 'safe' synthetic preservatives to be used.
Yet the market for organic hair products remains in high demand – so what will you do? Do you already or do you plan to stock organic products in your salon?