In today’s world of slick marketing terms and confusing chemical names, it can be hard for hairdressers to figure out what hair products are truly eco-friendly. “It’s a very confusing issue and we’re already busy enough,” says Brian Phillips, owner of worldSALON in Toronto and a member the Environmental Defence’s Just Beautiful Campaign cabinet.
Here’s what hairdressers should know if they’re thinking about making the switch to earth-friendly salon products.
1. Hairdressers can get similar performance from natural beauty products.
Many hairstylists are hesitant to switch to green products for one main reason: “The big concern is performance,” says Donna Bishop, owner and founder of Green Beauty in Toronto. While Phillips admits this has been an issue in the eco sector, in the last decade the options have improved greatly.
Bishop says that when it comes to colour, earth-friendly lines will give you the same amount of grey coverage and vibrancy you’re used to, but admits that a permanent colour is not going to be entirely pure. Her favourite lines are Organic Colour Systems and Davines. She says clients love that they don’t have a strong scent, and that some stylists with skin sensitivities or allergies are less affected by these ammonia-free, organic colour lines. Other options could include Schwarzkopf Professional’s Essensity permanent colour line, which is ammonia-free and uses as many naturally derived ingredients as possible, and Aveda’s demi-permanent full spectrum deposit-only color treatment hair color service, which is ammonia-free and contains organic botanical oils.
Rethinking your styling technique is another way to get around performance issues. Phillips, who started his own line of green, fragrance-free products, called worldPRODUCTS, in 2001, is currently developing an alternative to aerosol hairspray that is used before setting hair. He applies the new product before any kind of heat styling and uses other products to help create the final texture and hold. For instance, on dry, clean hair, he uses worldOCEAN Salt Spray to create texture before using his new holding spray and heat styling. To give finished styles more hold and shine, he uses worldBUZZ Hair and Body Pomade (made with beeswax) while the hair is still warm. “When pomade goes back to room temperature you get more hold. It’s a different strategy to using [an aerosol] hair spray.” He hopes to release the new product in the summer of 2014.
2. Clients want greener products, and hairstylists can help them adapt.
While you may not want to push green products on all of your clients, Bishop says that customers most often call her about trying all-natural and organic hair services.
If hairstylists are worried that green products won’t compare in the client’s eyes, Bishop says that many of the chemicals clients are concerned about don’t have much to do with the efficacy of the product. For instance, parabens, which have been hyped about in the media because of a potential link to breast cancer, are used as a preservative to give products a longer shelf life. “There are other preservatives that aren’t as cheap out there,” says Bishop on finding an alternative. With a bit of research—and watching product expiry dates—you may be able to tell clients your salon is paraben-free if they’re worried.
Phillips says he has found that when clients stop using their regular products, they often think their hair feels unnatural. Coaching them through the switch, and educating them about alternative products is key if they really want a change.
3. Hairdressers should do their OWN eco-friendly product research.
“Going green is a process, not a destination,” says Bishop. “There is an enormous amount of responsibility on the client and hair professional to do their due diligence and find out what matters.” Phillips says he’s had to reformulate his line several times as new information has come out about the potentially harmful compounds. While it is difficult to interpret scientific studies performed on lab animals and keep up with the latest health news, switching to all natural products, can have benefits to the earth and the bottom line at your salon if you’re willing to do the work.
Bishop suggests looking for third party accreditation, like Ecocert or 100% Organic USDA certifications, to help ensure you’re making a good choice. It’s worth noting, however, that many of these accreditations are costly. This means smaller companies with fewer resources may not be able to obtain the certification even if their products are organic, hence why it’s important for hairstylists to do their own research.
Phillips recommends David Suzuki’s website for resources on ingredients you’ll want to learn more about if you’re interested in going green.
If you’re curious about specific ingredients, The Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database has an exhaustive list and easy-to-use search features to help you learn more.
Bishop also recommends joining Green Circle Salons as a way to safely dispose of salon chemicals and reduce your overall impact on the planet.
For shopping guides, tips and news, check out the Environmental Defence Council’s resources.