When was the last time you had a look at the ingredients label of your go-to shampoo?
The sheer number of ingredients is quite scary isn’t it?!
Some of us spend a lot of money and time looking for the perfect hair products for our hair type, while others are more than happy using the same store-brand product without thinking twice.
Whether you’re a haircare enthusiast or just want to keep it clean, the shampoo you use could be impacting the environment.
Here’s all you need to know about the environmental impact of conventional shampoo and where to find the best eco-friendly shampoo in the UK!
What is the issue with conventional shampoo?
First things first, let’s take a look at how most conventional shampoo is made, and what makes a lot of name-brand shampoo unsustainable.
Shampoo is usually made by combining a number of ingredients:
- Type of surfactant
- Chemical compound that reduces the surface tension of liquid
- Moisturising agents
- Other water-based ingredients
Not all shampoos boast the same properties. And while this basic formula is the blueprint for most cleansing shampoos, different types offer different benefits, such as UV protection, dandruff control and colour protection.
These different properties will change what chemicals are involved in the process, but you’re likely to always find the same base ingredients:
- Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate
- Ammonium chloride
Are these chemicals sustainable?
Theoretically speaking, both sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (often shortened to SLS and SLeS) are considered toxic to marine life. This is becuase sulfates have been found to acidify surface water, turning into sulfuric acid.
However, the SLS and SLeS used in shampoo are highly biodegradable!
The real issue with sulfates is how they are sourced. According to a WWF report, many shampoo manufacturers derive their sulfates from palm oil, one of the most destructive crops for biodiversity and a major driver of deforestation.
When not derived from plant-based ingredients, sulfates are commonly petroleum-based instead, which does little to help reduce CO2 emissions.
Parabens and Phthalates
Both chemicals are associated with endocrine disruption in both human and animal life, with phthalates even being a classed carcinogen. Not good.
Finally, both the ammonium chloride and synthetic fragrances you’re likely to find in conventional shampoo are believed to be toxic to aquatic life.
These substances have been found to promote excessive algae growth and biological disorders in aquatic environments, leading to habitat disruption.
Any sort of fragrance is usually bad news for the environment. They are generally made with synthetic chemicals via a heavy industrial process.
This is why natural fragrances, including vegan perfumes are on the rise.
What about shampoo packaging?
In addition to the harmful chemicals and unsustainable sourcing practices, conventional shampoo also comes in plastic bottles.
Even though these plastic bottles are recyclable, they still contribute to carbon emissions.
Some even come in the foil-plastic packaging which are very difficult to recycle.
Eco friendly alternatives to plastic packaging for shampoo is to use:
- Recycled plastic
- Refillable bottles
- Plant-based tubes
- Zero waste bars
5 Best UK Eco-Friendly Shampoo Brands
Thankfully, there are now plenty of paraben-free, sulfate-free, and plastic-free shampoos you can choose from!
Eco-friendly shampoo brands are getting more popular all over the UK. So whether you’re simply looking for plastic-free shampoo packaging or fully going green with zero waste, all-natural shampoo bars, you’re guaranteed to find something that works for your hair and the planet too!
If you’re looking for affordable eco-friendly shampoo, Faith In Nature has you covered with SLS and paraben-free hair products.
The brand’s shampoos and conditioners are also free from chemical fragrances, preservatives, animal products and any petrochemical-based ingredients. All the products for this independent family business are made from their factory in Lancashire.
Faith in Nature’s all-natural haircare products do come in recyclable plastic bottles (sometimes recycled plastic), and refill points are available throughout the UK — just bring your own reusable bottle! You can also buy large 5L refill bottles from their website and send your old bottles back to them.
You can buy their products from their online shop and from Ethical Superstore*.
If you’re looking for a fully plastic-free option, let us introduce you to Beauty Kitchen, a B-Corp certified business!
The brand’s eco-friendly shampoo collection features organic ingredients with no parabens, phthalates, fragrances or sulfates. Their products are animal friendly and Leaping Bunny certified.
On the packaging front there are two options: Zero-waste shampoo bars and plastic-free metal bottles.
Once you’re done with your metal bottle, you can choose to return it at your local Holland & Barrett so it can be washed and reused for new products.
If you go for one of the shampoo bars instead, you’ll be guaranteed that your hair goals will leave no trace on the environment, as they come in fully compostable packaging.
3. Green People
Founded in 1997, Green People have been dedicated to producing sustainable and ethical personal are products. They are committed to preserving our environment during product manufacturing and never test on animals.
A big part of this is producing organic shampoo which comes in a range of naturally fragranced scents or scent free. They’ve even thought about their tube packaging which is plant based bioplastic derived from sugarcane, carbon neutral and farmed on sustainable land.
Their products are also free from silicone SLS and vegan friendly.
If you’re looking for one of the most eco-friendly shampoo bar brand on the UK market, look no further than Kind2’s award-winning bars.
The brand offers palm oil-free, paraben-free and SLS-free shampoo bars coming in plastic-free packaging. Their eco shamoo is vegan friendly too and made in the UK.
Kind2 is also planting a tree for every order as part of its reforestation project in Madagascar, making every purchase even more sustainable!
Zero Waste Path is another natural haircare brand offering plastic-free, palm oil-free, and SLS and paraben-free shampoo bars.
This is one of the most affordable options if you’re looking to try out solid shampoo for the first time. Plus, the brand is also one of the most transparent in the business. Zero Waste Path are powered by renewable energy at their workshop where they hand-make their eco shampoo.
You can look up how the packaging and the ingredients are sourced on their website in full detail. You can even compost the unbleached packaging once you’re done – brilliant! They also offer a return scheme
Green personal care from head to toe
Building a sustainable personal care routine has never been easier.
As well as eco-friendly shampoo, eco-friendly toothpaste, plastic-free toothbrushes and other sustainable skincare and haircare products are becoming more popular across the country, with plenty of options to try out from online eco shops and in stores across the UK.
Whilst you’re greening up your bathroom, take a look at these eco friendly toilet cleaners!
Read more about everyday eco living…
Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.
Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.