The natural hair community is a powerful one.
One of those reasons is the fact that we put our money where our mouth is. We want to keep our hair healthy and strong. We are willing to spend money on a product that claims to be of high quality. I recently read an article titled, How Natural Are 'Natural' Hair Dyes? and I couldn’t help but wonder.
Why do companies believe that it's acceptable to include minuscule amounts of coconut (or some other) oil in their products and then slap the natural label on it?
Perhaps they truly think no one will notice their attempt in increasing revenues by taking advantage of consumers’ desire to live healthier lives.
According to Grand View Research, "The global organic personal care market was worth over $8 billion in 2013...North America generated 35% of the revenue share that year, analysts found. They estimate that the sector will reach $20 billion by 2020."
It seems as though the only green some manufacturers are interested in is money.
Mentioned in the article are the dyes found in two popular brands sold at Whole Foods: Naturtint and Herbatint. In addition, listed were other 'green' products by beauty brands Clairol Natural Instincts and SheaMoisture. Each ingredient list was evaluated to find out if the featured ingredients--coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter--were as natural as the packaging has proclaimed.
The evaluators concluded that most of the ingredients listed had been “heavily processed from their original form,” meaning that even if the ingredients started out being natural, they no longer were. All four of the hair dyes reviewed contained at least one synthetic material while all four shared the same one: Etidronic acid.
Etidronic acid is an ingredient found in some cleaning agents (soaps and shampoos). "To deposit color onto the hair, you have to have peroxide, and you'll also have to have an alkalizer," said Sierveld (Principal researcher, Clairol Research & Development) "You have to have those two ingredients, which are very far from being natural."
All the coconut oil or shea butter in the world won’t change that. Focusing on these ingredients only distract from the fact that dyeing the hair is a harsh chemical process that requires the use of harsh chemicals. Hair dyes may no longer contain ammonia, but that doesn’t mean they are suddenly totally safe, either. Being gentler than they were in the past does not make modern day formulations safe, either. The comparison is relative, not absolute.
Scientists have raised concerns about the practice of companies using ‘natural' to mislead consumers about the ingredients in their products.
However, regulators such as the FDA, while acknowledging the risk to consumers when products are incorrectly (and even correctly) labelled as natural seem hesitant to act. What’s more, they seem more eager to point out that being from a plant doesn’t make a product safe than they are about punishing companies that lie. “A cosmetic manufacturer may use any ingredient or raw material,” says the FDA, “and market the final product without government approval.” Scary, isn't it?
We are on our own and we must look out for our own interests by ensuring we are educated on what makes a product natural or organic. We must read the ingredient list of every product we spend our hard earned money on. If we make reviewing the ingredient lists mandatory, then it will become second nature to us and we would be less likely to feel mislead about the actual nature of the products we buy. Even the products we instinctively think are healthy may not be so and this goes as much for food items as it does for personal care and beauty items. We must keep in mind that the 'natural' label does not guarantee our safety.
Having companies try to deceive by claiming their synthetic products are natural will only serve to complicate the issue and unfortunately, we pretty much left to figure it all out by ourselves.