Why I Only Use Clean Haircare Products

by Jessica DeFino
Originally Published: 
La Tierra Sagrada
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Ask me about clean skincare products, and you’ll be sorry-slash-grateful you did. I will unleash a steady stream of scary-sounding statistics. I will lecture you with a passion that borders on pretentiousness. I will overhaul your top shelf and set you up with safe, effective alternatives — all while finding a way to sneakily download the Think Dirty app to your iPhone. But when someone asked me about clean haircare products a few months back, it hit me: I was a fraud. I knew nothing. I’d been letting my scalp down hard.

The revelation prompted me to clean up my own haircare routine… not that it was easy. Clean haircare still isn’t as accessible as clean skincare, so options are limited. Then, of course, there’s the fact that “clean” has no official definition. Brands basically have carte blanche to slap that word — along with "natural" and "non-toxic" and the like — on any beauty product, even if that product is filled to the brim with questionable chemicals. For this reason, going clean often involves defining what that means to you, and double-checking every individual ingredient on every individual product you purchase to make sure they meet your personal standards. (So, yeah, not easy.)


To me, “clean haircare” means mostly natural ingredients and zero potential carcinogens or endocrine disruptors (like parabens and phthalates), with bonus points for eco-friendly packaging. Your definition might differ, but if you’re looking to be more mindful about what you massage into your scalp, the 11 haircare products ahead are a good starting point. Each has passed my personal test — not only for safety, but for bouncy, shiny, healthy hair.

Sangre de Fruta Head of Roses Botanical Shampoo

This Sangre de Fruta shampoo is 100 percent plant-based, smells incredible (thanks to rose and sandalwood), and comes in a giant bottle (so over time, you waste less packaging). It takes some getting used to, since it doesn’t lather like a traditional shampoo — but that’s just a sign it’s free from moisture-stripping surfactants.

Sangre de Fruta Head of Roses Botanical Conditioner

The conditioning counterpart is just as good, for all the same reasons. Plus: It has just the right amount of slip, rinses out easily, and leaves my strands feeling super-soft.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner’s multitasking castile soap is a staple in the natural beauty community, and I use it for everything: as a body wash, dish detergent, and yes, even as a shampoo. It gets all the jobs done with certified fair trade ingredients like jojoba and hemp oils, and comes in a bottle made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.

Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Honey Moisture Deep Conditioning Mask

When I use Dr. Bronner’s to cleanse, I follow it up with a deep conditioner to lock in moisture — most recently, this limited-edition, honey-infused release from Briogeo. Besides being packaged in the cutest bear-shaped bottle, it earns the Clean at Sephora seal.

Captain Blankenship Dry Shampoo

Captain Blankenship’s dry shampoo is genius in every way, from the ingredients to the packaging. It features organic arrowroot powder, kaolin clay, and aluminum-free baking soda (all of which absorb oil and add volume) alongside natural essential oils (for scent). The powder comes in a cardboard shaker tube, so it’s recyclable and doesn’t contain the ozone-degrading volatile organic compounds (VOCs) typically found in aerosol sprays.

Reverie Milk Anti-Frizz Leave-In Conditioner

My hair tends toward dryness, so a leave-in conditioner is a must. This one from Reverie relies on hydrating naturals (coconut oil, shea butter) and comes in a sturdy — and recyclable — glass bottle.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave–In Defining Crème

It’s especially difficult to find good, clean products for curls, but every single offering from Briogeo is a win. I mix a little of this Defining Crème with the above leave-in conditioner for soft hold.

Captain Blankenship Mermaid Hair Oil

In my humble opinion, oil is the unsung hero of haircare. I add a few drops of this camellia seed, argan, and jojoba oil blend to the ends of my hair when it’s damp for extra shine (and fewer split ends).

La Tierra Sagrada Salt Spray Hair Medicine

Traditional salt sprays dry my hair out like nothing else — but this one from La Tierra Sagrada does just the opposite. It’s made with a base of Oregon spring water and sea minerals that moisturize, with a dash of ayahuasca essence to strengthen.

Rahua Beauty Founder’s Blend Scalp & Hair Treatment

Whenever my scalp is in need of a little love, I apply Rahua’s new Founder’s Blend Scalp & Hair Treatment overnight. Like all of the brand’s products, it features Rahua oil that’s been wild-grown in the Amazon rainforest and harvested by the area’s indigenous tribes — a practice that ensures sustainability for the land and for the local economy.

Wooden Hair Brush

Most hair brushes are made of plastic, and plastic isn’t the most eco-friendly material in existence. It’s probably the least eco-friendly material in existence, actually. My new favorite beechwood-and-hornbeam brush from Package Free Shop is plastic-free and 100 percent compostable — and very chic, no?

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