Traditional shampoos, which suds up and clean the hair by stripping natural oils from it, are bad for both your hair and the environment. They can dry out your scalp and cause damage to the environment as well. Now biodegradable shampoo brands have hit the market that focus on biodegradability and leave less harmful residue behind. These types of shampoos don’t contain chemical sulfates and parabens which could lead to cancer growth over time. These chemicals don’t biodegrade easily so they end up in landfill or even worse, the waterways! Majority of traditional shampooing’s ingredients come from petroleum which is a nonrenewable resource that also pollutes our planet when processed at factories such as oil refineries, chemical plants and mining facilities.
Biodegradable shampoo is a loose term which means it degrades and breaks down easily. The main ingredient of biodegradable shampoo is the same as regular shampoos but with biodegradable ingredients instead. Biodegradable products contain an organic compound that degrades into elements such as carbon dioxide, water and biomass. Everything biodegrades eventually but biodegradability depends on what the product’s main compound is made from and how it reacts with environmental factors such as moisture, sunlight, oxygen etc.
Traditional shampoos can be very harmful to both your hair and the environment because they:
- Dry out your scalp
- Damage your hair
- Strip the natural oils from your hair shafts
- Don’t biodegrade very quickly
Traditional shampoos biodegrade really slowly, causing them to accumulate in streams and rivers. This poses a threat to water wildlife as they can become coated with shampoo pollution which prevents oxygen exchange at the water’s surface. Fish and other aquatic animals suffocate due to not having enough dissolved oxygen in the water. People who use biodegradable shampoos don’t pose this risk as biodegradable products biodegrade quickly, breaking down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass instead of harming our environment’s ecosystems .
- Parabens biodegrade slowly and cause skin irritation
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate degrades slowly and causes skin inflammations, allergies or eczema.
- Phthalates biodegrade very slowly and are contained in cosmetics as binding agents, lubricants or solvents. They act as endocrine disruptors. Some phthalates have been associated with birth defects of the male reproductive system. Others may interfere with how hormones work in the body, possibly leading to developmental or reproductive effects. Phthalates are also dangerous because they can increase our risk of cancer due to their ability to imitate human hormones like estrogen which increases the risk of breast cancer in women.
- Lathering agents biodegrade slowly and are made from harsh chemicals that strip the natural oils from the hair shafts, causing scalp irritation, dandruff and damage to the environment.
Traditional shampoo brands also contain artificial colors. Artificial colors can be highly harmful to health as they can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity or even cancer in high doses. They are often made out of coal tar which is used for petrochemicals.
Biodegradable shampoo is becoming more popular with people who feel bad using traditional shampoos when knowing what they do to their hair and the environment. With biodegradable shampoo brands, you can get the same great lather and refreshing scent while making a difference to our planet at the same time!
Shampoo also comes in plastic which is usually made out of polyethylene and polypropylene which degrades quickly. However, biodegradable plastic is still better for the environment as bioplastics are made from renewable plant sources whereas traditional plastics are made from oil.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate biodegrades very slowly but it does not cause any side effects if used in low doses. It binds well with water so it easily gets into water streams or rivers.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate biodegrades really slowly but has no known harmful effects on human health. It doesn’t irritate skin either unlike sulfates which are widely used in traditional shampoos.
- Alkyl Benzene Sulfonates biodegrades really slowly and is mineral oil based. It degrades by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species and Bacillus species which live in soil and water.
- Laureth-3 biodegrades very slowly and is mineral oil based. It degrades by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species and Bacillus species which live in soil and water.
- Lauramide DEA biodegrades really slowly and is not biodegradable, but it does not cause any side effects if used in low doses. It binds well with water so it easily gets into water streams or rivers.
One biodegradable shampoo brand that I know is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps Unscented Baby-Mild Liquid Soap . It degrades by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species, but it does not bind well with water so it easily gets into water streams or rivers.
The following is a list of all the homemade shampoo recipes I’m aware of
Powdered shampoo recipe
- This recipe only makes enough for one or two uses, depending on how much hair you’ve got. You can double it if you want to make more.
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (cornflour) (10ml)
- 2 tablespoons bi-carb soda (baking soda) (20ml)
- Mix the bi-carb with water and then stir in the cornstarch until smooth. Pour into a container with a lid and shake before using. Shake well before each use, as it tends to settle after some time. It doesn’t lather like shop bought shampoos but leaves your hair clean. If you find that your hair is greasy after day 2 or 3, then try using a tablespoon of bi-carb instead.
- 1/4 cup bi-carb soda (baking soda) 10ml
- 1 teaspoon tea tree oil for dandruff – 2 teaspoons cocoa powder for brown hair – 3 teaspoons honey for dry hair – 1 drop lavender essential oil for bath scent
- In a small bowl, combine baking soda and water to make a paste. In another bowl, combine all other ingredients. Add water from the first bowl as required to make a liquid mixture. Store in an airtight container. Shake well before use as bi-carb tends to settle after some time and doesn’t lather like shop bought shampoos but leaves your hair clean .
- 1 tablespoon bi-carb soda (baking soda) 10ml
- 3 tablespoons soap flakes or grated soap (30g)
- In a bowl, combine bi-carb with water to make a paste. In another bowl, melt the soap in 4 tablespoons of boiling water then add bi-carb paste and stir until combined.
- Pour into a lightly greased dish that is about 8 cm square. Leave to set. Once solid, cut into hair-sized pieces for ease of use.
- To use, rub the bar on wet hair then rinse clean . It lathers but doesn’t strip your hair like shop bought shampoos do . If you find this shampoo leaves your hair too oily after 2 days, try reducing the amount of bi-carb by half .
- 3 tablespoons bi-carb soda (baking soda) 10ml
- 3 tablespoons soap flakes or grated soap (30g)
- In a bowl, combine bi-carb with water to make a paste. In another bowl, melt the soap in 4 tablespoons of boiling water then add
- :½ cup coconut oil or olive oil (or any non-comedogenic plant-derived oil)
As a biodegradable product, the shampoo degrades slowly by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species. The advantage is that you can pour leftover biodegradable shampoo into compost or directly onto soil and it degrades by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species.
Natural Shampoo Bar biodegradable only under specific conditions where temperature ranges from 60°C to 70°C and pH is less than 10. It degrades by some types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas species, but it does not biodegrade quickly like other biodegradable products do. The disadvantage is when you use up all your bar soap, you have to add oxygen into the bottle