We All Live Downstream: Biodegradable haircare

The "organic" labeling of haircare products is hyperbolic; with everyone from Pantene to Tresemme hopping onboard the proverbial "natural" bandwagon.

But the truth is, a lot of these so-called "organic" and "natural" products are chock-full of harsh chemicals and ingredients that wreak havoc on your hair, your body, and, of course, the environment.

When you wash something down the drain, all you're doing is sending it out into the open ground; either through a sewer, graywater, or septic system. Leeching harmful chemicals into the ground may put it out of sight and downstream, but remember that old adage: We all live downstream.

One of my New Year's resolutions was a commitment to buy only biodegradable products for anything going down the drain, including laundry detergent, kitchen cleanup supplies and dish soap, and hair and body care. But in addition to the scarcity of these products (only two shampoos at my local, heady organic mecca The Mustard Seed are listed as biodegradable), it's unbelievable how much you're expected to pay for fewer ingredients and synthesized chemicals. Since when are avocado oil, castile soap, and rosehips so pricey?!

Here are a few easy, inexpensive recipes that will keep your hair clean and lovely without a bunch of nasties doing damage to ecosystems we all depend on in one way or another.

Basic Shampoo Recipe
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap (buy or make your own)
1/2 tsp. sunflower oil or any light vegetable oil
Mix ingredients together and shampoo your hair as usual.

Moisturizing Avocado and Jasmine Shampoo
1/2 cup natural shampoo base
1/2 cup aloe vera gel
3/4 tsp. avocado oil
3/4 tsp. jasmine essential oil
Mix together all ingredients and pour into a container with lid. Let sit for a few hours so the mixture thickens and the scents take hold. Work into hair, let sit for several minutes, and rinse.

Banana "No Split" Hair Conditioner
1/2 mashed banana
1 tbs. honey
1 tsp. coconut oil
3 drops spearmint oil or 3 teaspoons fresh mint leaves
Mash the banana and mint leaves. Add honey and oil. Combine well. Mixture should be creamy. Apply to freshly shampooed hair. Leave on for at least 15 minutes. Rinse well.

Get more great hair recipes here.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.