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Proper Green: Shampoos, conditioners, and lotions! Oh My!

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Know how to navigate the aisles of your supermarket and look for household cleaners that are eco-friendly? Proper Green helps you take the next step and consider what personal care products you’re using.
Dear Proper Green,

I am becoming more green with cleaners around the house and I wondered if you can give some good ideas for green self cleaning products like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I don't want chemicals so close to my body, especially so frequently.

- Sarah

Dear Sarah,

When it comes to selecting eco-friendly personal care products, take the same approach you would when shopping for household cleaners or even foods you eat – check the label! Here are some quick dos and don'ts about shampoo, that apply to conditioners, lotions, and more:

  • Avoid antibacterial agents: A few studies have found that antibacterial agents like triclosan, commonly used in shampoo and other personal care products, might be linked to health and environmental issues.
  • Look for plant-based, biodegradable ingredients: Conventional shampoos are frequently made from petroleum-derived chemicals, and it's estimated that 93 percent of shampoos contain ingredients linked to serious health issues. Shampoos that use plant-based ingredients and essential oils for fragrance replace these ingredients with ones that are healthy for you and the earth. In particular, try to avoid ingredients like BHA and parabens, and seek out those labeled as biodegradable.
  • Go organic: Look for the USDA Organic Seal on the label. This seal guarantees that every ingredient is organically produced as defined by the National Organics Standards Board, which bans the use of harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic engineering.

For a deeper dive on the points above, read Choose natural shampoo.

When in doubt, DIY!
Another way to ensure all the ingredients that are going into your personal care products are ecofriendly (and human friendly!)? DIY! You can find great "recipes" for shampoo, conditioners, lotions, soaps, and so on, online.

In the Green Living section of National Geographic, we found great tips for making homemade organic hair care products (shampoo, conditioner, and weekly treatments) and skin care products (from face scrub to night cream!) that we can't wait to test out. Considering the prices of some beauty products out there on store shelves, you may find yourself saving a bit of cash when you make your own, too.

Do you make your own personal care products? Share your tips below!
About Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and the environment are still evolving) to providing easy ways to make your every day more sustainable, Proper Green aims to help smooth the way with answers to questions that are important to you!

Do you have a question for Proper Green? Send inquiries to Please note: Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • Donna C. 2 years ago
    I have tried the DIY shampoo made with just baking soda and water and a rinse made with cider vinegar. It actually does work. I like to make lotions with olive oil, coconut oil, and etc. And I do a homemade facial made with yogurt, honey, oatmeal, and avocado that is better than bought. You don't have to worry about getting it to close to your eyes or mouth. Just put on and 15 min. later rinse off, your skin feels smooth and moisturized.
  • Tony R. 2 years ago
    All comments from 2 years ago? Is that correct? Then I won't say anything...
  • EDDIE S. 5 years ago
  • Anne Lalli F. 5 years ago
    I agree that there are a lot of companies who call themselves "natural" but are not. I think they spread their definition of "natural" quite thin. Fragrance is not natural for scenting, even if the rest of the product is. There are lots of ways to fragrance items with essential oils and they are always natural as they are plant based. I checked the recommended link stated above, and those products are totally natural. No fragrances, no artificial colors, no micas.
  • Wayne B. 5 years ago
    I've noticed that even a lot of the more natural hair care and soap products out there still use artificial fragrance. I have contacted several companies about this since I'm highly sensitive to artificial fragrances and would rather have no scent than an artificial one. It irritates me that everything has to be scented. Artificial fragrance is one of the most toxic ingredients out there.
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