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What is the Footprint of Your Natural Hair?

My friend was forced to consider this question recently. She was house-sitting for her aunt and uncle in sunny San Diego, California. It was actually barely any work at all. 

Even watering the plants was passive. Because of the lack of water in California, her aunt and uncle had put in a “greywater system.” It meant that the wastewater from laundry and showers traveled through pipes down to the garden. 

All she had to do was take a shower or do a load of laundry and the plants were watered. They even had special all-natural detergent. But unfortunately, they did not have the same hair. The all-natural combination body wash/shampoo and conditioner they left for her to use was not going to work for her curls. 

She figured that her natural hair products would be fine. They smelled like coconut and proclaimed Jojoba oil all over the packaging after all.

 But when she read the back, she was shocked to find that the “natural” ingredients were way at the bottom of the list. And there were all sorts of chemicals listed first. She had to decide whether to use it and risk murdering the plants or figure something else out.

Don’t Get Greenwashed

The fact that an ingredient is labeled natural doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The word itself is not regulated. Many companies will put a lot of money into looking environmentally sustainable rather than being environmentally sustainable. 

This phenomenon is referred to as “greenwashing.” Think critically about the claims the company makes. Here are some common ones:

Natural: They might use this word if just one ingredient is natural. So check the back! But even if all the ingredients are natural, this does not necessarily mean there is no impact on the environment. 

Cruelty-Free: This means that they don’t test on animals. Something can be labeled cruelty free while still using animal parts though, which seems odd. So if that’s something that bothers you too, you will need more than this label. 

Vegan: This is the label to look for if you want to avoid animal products. But it can be vegan and tested on animals. So make sure it also says “cruelty-free.”

Palm Oil Free: For the orangutans. The production of palm oil destroys its natural habitat. This one has been added more and moreover the years as people have gained awareness. 

Ideally, your beauty products would hit all of these marks. Like Mello Hair products do.

Look Closely at That Label

I probably don’t have to tell you to look at the price. But a lot of times, the price can reveal more than you think. Natural ingredients tend to be more expensive. The quality and amount of that ingredient will also have an impact on the price. 

Ingredients from companies that have good environmental practices can cost more because they cost more to produce. So if your product is filled with high-quality sustainable stuff, it might cost a few more bucks. 

The ingredients listed first are the most abundant. If the first ingredient is water, that means that there is more water than anything else. Be wary of lists of ingredients where all the natural stuff is listed last or in the middle. 

How do You Know it’s Legitimate?

There are different certifying bodies in different counties. One international certifying body for natural and organic cosmetics ingredients is COSMOS. All of Mello’s ingredients are certified through it. They keep a database of approved raw materials and their sources. 

But it’s not enough to just say that the ingredients are “certified” through COSMOS. Remember, we’re being critical. COSMOS is very transparent about their criteria. They make sure that things are labeled correctly and the label means something. Their approval process considers the environmental impact of:

  • The origin and processing of ingredients 
  • Storage and packaging 
  • The manufacturing process

In addition, Mello Hair ensures that all the ingredients used in our products are either Eco-cert or NPA certified. In a time where people will say anything to appear green, you need to be more critical than ever. 

What Can You Do?

There are so many things we can do to minimize our impact on the environment. Nobody is perfect, we all have to pick and choose the ways we’re going to try. There are a few rules of thumb that can help simplify your environmentalism. 

Buy Small: Smaller businesses or local ones make a smaller environmental impact than a huge brand. Mello is a great example of that. We can keep track of our environmental impact and try to keep it low. 

Research: Just a scan of a companies’ website should help you analyze their footprint. If they are not claiming it, don’t assume it. Don’t be tricked by non-specific claims. Verify their claims. Check for Eco cert, COSMOS, or other regulatory bodies. 

Think about Ingredients: Look at the list of ingredients on any product. For every item, there was a process to source that item. The longer the list, and the less natural the ingredients, the bigger the footprint. 

Speak Out: As people make it known that they want transparency and accountability, things begin to change. These labels and certifications are the results of the market’s demand for transparency and ethical practices. 

What Does Natural Mean to You?

The more awareness we have about these things, the more likely we are to make an impact on the damage we’ve already done to the environment. From politicians to influencers, people have already made a difference. 

People are talking about the environmental impacts of beauty products. They’re calling out “Greenwashing” companies and they’re demanding certifications, labels, and regulations. 

You have to decide how much of an impact you’re willing to have on the environment with your hair. It probably isn’t going to be any, but it can be very low. 

Would you be willing to pay a little more? Would you be willing to scrutinize the labels? Would you be willing to tell your friends about the impact of their products?

My Friend Figured it Out

My friend worried about her problem for a few days. She did some research on what happens when certain chemicals meet the environment. She imagined killing the plants or the bees who need them with her faux natural hair products and made her decision. 

Eventually, she realized that if she was worried about these products' impact on a plant, she probably shouldn’t be putting it on her own head. She ended up getting rid of the products altogether and buying something better for her and the plants. 

For the record, you could safely wash any Mello product down the drain and the plants would love you. I didn’t know her at the time, or I would have sent her some. Luckily you can click here to get yourself something your hair and the environment will love. 


What is Greenwashing? Business News Daily

Common Beauty Industry Environmental Issues Conservation Folks

Sustainable and Ethical Beauty, What Do these Words Actually Mean? Sustainable Jungle

Organic and Natural Cosmetics Ingredients Aren't Necessarily More Eco-Friendly Tree Hugger

Cosmos Index of Ingredients

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