Monday, May 30, 2011

Green Washing: Tresemme Naturals


Everyone is trying to cash in on the organic/natural product frenzy. Unfortunately there isn't anyone watching what companies are doing. There's no regulatory body that covers eco products. There are a lot of logos on products but there's no unifying criteria for a product being allowed to put those logos on their products.

I ordered a free sample of TRESemme's new Naturals shampoo & conditioner. By the time it actually arrived in the mail I'd forgotten I'd ordered it. The packaging is very nice. Lots of green and drawings of leaves.

Here's their eco pitch:
TRESemme NATURALS collection has low sulfate shampoos, silicone-free conditioning and naturally derived polymers that will leave hair healthier, shinier, stronger and looking naturally gorgeous. 
Formulas include a blend of nature's purest elements including organic coconut oil, sweet orange, aloe vera and avocado extracts leaving your hair 10X STRONGER after just one use.
Calm frizz and get smooth hair with TRESemme Naturals Vibrantly Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner. 
Formulated with organic coconut oil and jojoba extract, they control unwanted frizz leaving hair feeling noticeably soft and silky. (emphasis theirs)

It sounds good. Right away I have questions. “Naturally-derived polymers” for example. Polymers do occur in nature but “derived” leads me to believe TRESemme uses a chemical modification of naturally occurring polymers. Anything with chemicals involved doesn't sound too natural to me.

All the oils and extracts sound really good but how much is really in the product?

Shampoo ingredients
WATER, AMMONIUM LAURETH SULFATE, AMMONIUM LAURYL SULFATE, COCAMIDOPROPYL, BETAINE, SODIUM COCOYL ISETHONAATE, LAURYL GLUCOSIDE, SODIUMLAUROAMPHOACETATE, SODIUMMMETHYL COCOYL TAURATE, AMMONIUM CHLORIDE, FRAGRANCE (PARFUM), HYDROXYPROPYL METHYCELLULOSE, PROPYGLYCOL, SODIUMXYLENESULFONATE, GUAR HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM CLORIDE, DIPROPYLENE GYLCOL, CITRIC ACIDE, DMDM HYDANTOIN, COCOS NUCIFERA (COCONUT) OIL, QUATERNIUM-80, BISAMINO PEG/PPG-41/3 AMINOETHYL PG-PROPYL DIMETHICONE, DISODIUM EDTA, ETHYL ALCOHOL, SIMMONDSIE CHINESIS (JOJOBA) LEAF EXTRACT. PER-18GLYCERYLOLEATE/COCOATE, POLYQUATERNIUM-7

My eyes went buggy trying to read the tiny lettering on the sample packet. You can't tell me that's “natural”. Sure they might have a little bit of jojoba or coconut oil but they are just add ons. The formula would work without them. And “Fragrance (parfum)” isn't natural at all. Companies are allowed to use that wording to describe a chemical process that the company claims proprietary rights over (trade secrets). No one outside the manufacturer knows what's in it. Whatever it is it ain't natural.

The conditioner has a smaller list but the same problem exists. There are a bunch of chemicals most consumers won't be able to identify and then at the end, thrown it at the last minute, are two natural oils/extracts.

The Test:

I got in the shower to wash my hair as usual. I opened the shampoo and caught a whiff of chemicals that had me coughing. I put it on my hair and lathered up. I couldn't stand the smell so I rinsed it out quickly. The same thing happened with the conditioner. The smell was making sick and a bit dizzy. I rinsed it out well before the suggested two minutes. I had to rinse my hair three times to get the smell out.


The Findings:

Epic fail. After putting up with the smell I should have had some improvement on the hair front. In reality my hair didn't feel or look any different than it does with no name shampoo.

Here's what you need to know: I have asthma. I also have multiply chemical sensitivities (MCS). That means that chemicals can trigger migraines or asthma attacks. This is the reason I'm interested in natural products in the first place.


Recomendations:

Natural shampoo recipe: Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with a cup of warm water. Use as you would a regular shampoo. For oily hair you can use less water so that the soda becomes a paste. Leave the paste on your hair for 5 minutes and then rinse.

Use organic cold pressed coconut oil for a once a month deep conditioner before washing with soda.

You can find lots of recipes for shampoo and conditioner that really are natural. Making your own is cheaper too.

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