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Clean hair care brands like Prose and Aveda help you get healthier hair
We can’t always control what the climate does to our hair, but we can control how our products affect it. Clean beauty encompasses more than just what harsh ingredients a brand leaves out of formulas and includes the sustainable methods that go into making them.
As the definition of clean beauty continues to evolve, getting down to the root of what it means for our hair products can be confusing. Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, tells us, “Beauty brands use the term ‘clean’ to signal that products don't contain certain ingredients (natural or synthetic) that they consider questionable or unsafe.” Ingredients like parabens, phthalates, oxybenzone, and talc are usually off-limits in clean hair brands, she says.
To give you the tools to make the best decision, we consulted three hairstylists, checked-in with a board-certified dermatologist, and researched lots of options that use clean ingredients and climate-conscious efforts to produce products. Below are some of our own favorite clean hair brands that are good for the planet and great for your hair.
Get ready for takeoff — Briogeo has a TSA-approved no-fly list for what it won’t allow in its formulas, like silicone, aerosols, or microplastics. The Curl Charisma line is a popular choice for conscious curly-haired clients for its use of rice amino acids and quinoa extract. According to Hardges, these ingredients don’t just sound like superfoods in a salad bowl—they are “optimal in reducing frizz while building the hair’s tensile strength.” Bonus: Briogeo’s product bottles, tubes, jars, and caps are 100 percent recyclable.
Leaping Bunny certified since 2021, all Olaplex’s cruelty-free viral vegan products continue to stand up against TikTok reviews and harsh ingredients. You won’t find sulfates, phthalates, or phosphates in any of the formulas. Although its products come in plastic packaging, the brand limits its use of secondary packing. Olaplex also participates in sustainable methods that save gallons of water, help prevent the emission of greenhouse gasses, and save trees from being cut down. If you want to save the planet and your hair from over bleaching, our editors recommend Olaplex No. 4 and Olaplex No. 5 shampoo and conditioner, and we ranked the brand as our best overall bond builder.
R + CO Bleu
You can shop guilt-free from all of R+CO’s hair products, knowing they are vegan (minus its hair brushes), cruelty-free, and Leaping Bunny certified, but the R+CO Bleu collection takes it one step further. This line specifically focuses on using sustainable practices through methods such as using packing made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled material, aluminum, and post-consumer recycled paper. If you’re looking for something similar to the brand’s cult-favorite High Dive cream, try the Super Style Crème which hydrates hair using vitamin E and avocado oil.
A Nicole Kidman favorite and a vegan and cruelty-free brand, Vegamour gives us a lot reasons to love it. For me, it’s the brand’s GRO Hair Serum that reversed my stress shedding. The serum, like all Vegamour’s products, only includes ingredients that can be, “absorbed and synthesized by the body,” according to the brand. You’ll also find plant-based marula oil in Vegamour products, which they source through its sister company Southern Botanica. Fun fact: by partnering with Southern Botanic, the brand provides Fair Trade jobs to over 5,000 women in northern Namibia each year.
Did you know your favorite pink packaging is 100 percent green? In addition to having a PETA-approved formula free of parabens and sulfates, Monday haircare also recycles its bottles. According to Stephanie Angelone, master stylist at RPZL Hair Extension & Blowout Bar in NYC, the Monday Shampoo is one of the best natural shampoos for cleansing and detangling hair. We’re also fans of the fact that their products boast an affordable price tag, so you don’t have to increase your budget to reduce your carbon footprint. Monday’s products are vegan and use naturally-derived ingredients like artichoke extract and shea butter for silky smooth hair.
Innersense Organic Beauty
This family-owned brand creates products for all hair types, but its hydrating ingredients make it a favorite for curly-haired customers. Hardges says after styling for over 17 years, “Innersense is the first ‘clean’ product that really knocked my socks off.” She tells us that a former client allergic to 90 percent of personal care products finally found relief using Innersense. “I was amazed at how healthy and calm her scalp was, and no more huge flakes…Her hair felt moisturized and hydrated post-shampoo,” she says. This is partially thanks to Innersense using conscious chemistry to process all its formulas without synthetics.
The game-changing results don’t come at a cost to the planet either. The B Corp and Climate-Neutral certified company keeps its water usage low by keeping its concentrations of key ingredients high. We also love that Innersense makes its white bottles from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
I didn’t realize that while Davines Love Curl Shampoo was saving my hair from becoming a frizzy nightmare, it was saving species from becoming extinct. The certified B Corp brand partners with Slow Food Presidia, a nonprofit focused on protecting food biodiversity, to source ingredients like almond and buckwheat from small family farms in Italy. By supporting sustainable ingredients and using ones at risk of extinction, our hair and planet become healthier. While not all of its products are vegan (you can find the three that use animal-derived ingredients here), it is a cruelty-free brand, and Davines does not include sulfates or parabens in its formulas.
This classic brand has always been a forward-thinker, and not just when it comes to creating formulas for healthier hair. “Aveda is the ‘founding father’ of clean beauty,’” Hardges says. She adds, “The brand is known for their naturally derived plant-based ingredients and their commitment to the environment and the communities from which their ingredients are sourced.” Case in point: they manufacture their products with 100 percent wind power.
The brand makes solving all your hair woes just as breezy. I finally found success in taming flyaways when a former stylist recommended trying the Aveda Botanical Repair Shampoo and Conditioner. The vegan formula uses plant-based ingredients to strengthen heat-damaged hair, leaving it super soft and smelling of essential oils.
Have you ever had a friend rave about their new shampoo only for you to try it and have the results (and your hair) fall flat? Clean beauty brand Prose recognizes no two strands are the same, which is why it creates a custom routine for clients based on an online consultation. Your quiz results determine which Prose product — all formulated with natural ingredients like Aloe Vera, sea moss, kombucha, and even okra — is the best fit. The B Corp Certified company (AKA: the brand commits to using sustainable and ethically-sourced materials and ingredients) is the first and only carbon-neutral custom beauty brand according to its site.
Using a Pureology product is another way to cut water consumption while you’re taking a shorter shower. According to their website, the brand reduced the amount of water needed per batch in their manufacturing processes. Pureology scores straight As for sustainability by packing its vegan products using 95 percent post-consumer recycled materials that are 100 percent recyclable. And for those days when your hair is 100 percent not washed, Angelone says the Style + Protect Refresh & Go Dry Shampoo is one of the best dry shampoos on the market. It uses rice starch and almond milk to prevent dry strands, and Cedarwood leaves hair smelling fantastic.
We know you’ve seen this brand on the shelves of your salon, but were you aware that many of their products use sustainable and cruelty-free practices, including having a clean beauty line that packages products in 100 percent recyclable material? We especially love that their Tea Tree Collection partners with Reforest’Action to plant two million trees by the end of 2030. When you check the back of the bottle for the Tea Tree Special Shampoo, you’ll recognize plant-based ingredients like grapevine sap and chamomile extract, which work to strengthen and soften your strands. A number one best-seller and a favorite for us, too, it uses tea tree oil, peppermint, and lavender to clarify and cleanse the hair.
Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness promotes inclusivity in everything he does, and his hairline is no exception. JVN Hair designs its nongendered haircare products by taking every kind of customer’s concern into consideration. The main character starring in each product is the line’s patented ingredient Hemisqualane, which reduces frizz and improves color. Per the website, the brand creates it through a bio-fermentation process that uses sustainable sugarcane.
In addition to using clean beauty practices in his ingredients, when we spoke to Van Ness last year, he also told us the brand chooses sustainable packaging whenever possible and opts for materials like aluminum and post-consumer plastic.
Even a quick trip to the drugstore can result in a thoughtful choice for the planet. Odele is an affordable women-owned brand that creates gender-neutral haircare products manufactured using wind energy. Between being cruelty-free, vegan, and using packaging made of post-consumer recycled material, Odele proves you don’t need a high-price point to have high standards for your hair products. All of their formulas contain gentle ingredients, but if you need some extra TLC we recommend Odele’s Ultra-Sensitive Shampoo. Amino acids and oat extract give you shine and nourish hair without harsh chemicals.
I originally swiped a bottle of Acure’s Ultra Hydrating Shampoo during a visit home. After trying it once, I remembered being so wowed by its vegan formula, which significantly softens hair, that I was tempted to cancel all future blowouts. So, imagine my surprise when I learned I could pick it up at the same store I do my grocery shopping and that it has a list of clean beauty benefits. Acure is paraben, sulfate, mineral, oil, formaldehyde, and cruelty-free. While the brand does use plastic packaging, we’re pleased to see it offers a recycling program with Terracycle.
Remember the whole “Save the turtles” VSCO girl era? Rahua never let that go, but the brand’s practices are far from performative. While you’re benefiting from using its formula’s shine-enhancing, hydrating ingredients like Rahua oil, palo santo, and aloe, the Amazon rainforest is, too. Rahua partners with nonprofits to help preserve acres and wildlife and provides Indigenous natives with resources to protect the forest. It also uses recyclable, reusable, and refillable packing.
The brand doesn’t just model good sustainable practices, it’s also model-approved. Miranda Kerr is a long-time fan and specifically called out Rahua’s Voluminous Shampoo and Conditioner for nourishing damaged hair.
What to Keep in Mind
Clean beauty products typically won’t include ingredients like parabens, sulfates, silicones, or formaldehyde. A simple guideline to follow is to look for ones that are familiar and easy to pronounce. Hardges tell us to keep our eyes peeled for plant oils like argan, jojoba, safflower, and grape seed, as well as root extracts like burdock or yarrow.
As research constantly evolves, so does what we consider safe versus unsafe. We know it’s overwhelming to keep up, but you can look for a few trusted labels to help decide when choosing a clean beauty product. A Leaping Bunny Certification, for example, is the only internationally recognized symbol telling us that the brand did not conduct any animal testing. If a brand says it's B Corp Certified, that means they meet high standards for social and environmental performance.
While online shopping, you’ve probably also noticed some little green leaves and check marks next at retailers like Sephora and Target signifying a clean product. Most retailers list their standards for what they consider clean, but be wary of greenwashing — nice-sounding claims that don’t actually mean the product is environmentally friendly or “clean”.
Your Questions, Answered
What makes a product “clean”?
Unfortunately, there’s no fast and easy definition, because the beauty industry doesn’t have regulations for what specifically makes a product clean. The FDA only banned 11 chemicals in cosmetics for the United States, so it’s up to the brand and consumers to determine whether or not a product meets clean beauty standards. Dr. Claire Wolinsky of Berkowitz Dermatology in New York City tells us clean beauty focuses on what ingredients are left out of the product like sulfates and parabens. She adds clean beauty centers on environmentally conscious efforts, such as using recycled or environmentally degradable packing.
Note, clean beauty is not interchangeable with natural beauty. Where clean beauty is all about what’s left out, Dr. Wolinsky says natural beauty is about what’s left in, like plant-based ingredients. A product might still be clean even if it uses synthetic ingredients as long as they don’t cause harm or irritation.
Do clean beauty products work as well as non-clean ones?
Absolutely. “Clean doesn't always mean less effective, but rather a signal that the brand took their time to source the perfect combination of ingredients that can exceed their customers’ expectations,” Armstrong says. Hardges adds that sometimes a clean beauty product may require more “elbow grease” on our part. She explains, “It’s like the difference between cleaning with vinegar versus Windex. You have to do a little more physical activity to achieve the desired results.”
Why do people choose to use clean beauty products?
“Our skin is our largest organ, and when we use products containing toxic ingredients, they are absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause complications down the line with repeated use, says Armstrong. She adds, “By choosing to use clean hair care you are reducing the risk of those negative effects while still receiving the benefits of great hair and skin.”
You might also opt for a clean beauty product if you’ve reacted negatively to fragrances, emulsifiers, or preservatives. Also, clean hair products can help reverse damage from heat or frequent bleaching. Since they don’t contain sulfates and many use hydrating plant-based ingredients, you could see the health of your hair improve after using a clean hair product. “Once I started using healthier hair products, I noticed a difference in the integrity of my hair, growth, and strength,” Angelone adds. She explains people with hair types that are more prone to damage (think fine or curly hair) can benefit from using clean products. “They will prolong your blowouts, help nourish your hair and benefit the integrity of your hair in the long run,” she says.
Why Shop with Us
Irene Richardson is a writer with over five years of experience covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched dozens of shampoos, read reviews, and consulted expert hairstylists Faith Huffnagle Armstrong, Leigh Hardges, Stephanie Angelone, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky.
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