The 7 Best Natural Ingredients for Your Hair – Allure Magazine

There’s no shortage of exotic oils and flowers in shampoos and stylers, but only a handful of natural ingredients can actually make your hair healthier — and they’re not the sexy-looking orchids that get top billing on the front of the bottle. “Because of the composition of hair and how difficult it is to penetrate and repair, it’s much harder to change your hair than your skin with natural ingredients,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller. But not impossible. These are the eight 100 percent natural ingredients that are as powerful — if not more so — as any synthetic.


We’re used to seeing it in sushi, maybe in serums — but in shampoo? Yup. New research shows seaweed may help control oiliness on the scalp. “It can’t just be dusted on at the end of an ingredient list, though,” says Schueller. Look for it to come in around number four or five. We like Aveda Pramasana Protective Scalp Concentrate (which also has tamanu oil — more on that in a few) and Verb Sea Shampoo and Conditioner. Soon there may even be a seaweed serum for hair loss. A new study in the journal Archives of Plastic Surgery suggests that a mix of two seaweed extracts (Saccharina japonica and Undaria pinnatifida) stimulates hair-growth-promoting hormones in as little as two weeks.


The herb that’s easy to grow and makes everything smell Italian also has unexpected skills as an elixir: “I recommend rosemary oil to patients with hair shedding or hair loss,” says Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “There’s a study showing it promotes hair growth as well as minoxidil, without side effects like itching.” Fusco has patients squeeze a drop or two into bottles of their favorite shampoos and conditioners. And it’s just starting to pop up in hair care, like Fig + Yarrow Hair + Scalp Tonic.

Clay and Charcoal

Let’s just take a second to acknowledge that charcoal is ash and clay is dirt…and both are weird things to willingly put in your hair. But if you’re going for sexy waves, a little grit is a good thing. “Clay and charcoal leave a residue on the hair that increases friction between strands, resulting in increased body and texture,” says cosmetic chemist Mort Westman. (We like Carol’s Daughter Rhassoul Clay Sulfate-Free Shampoo.) Don’t overdo it with new dry shampoos that contain charcoal or clay, though. “The side effects of breathing in aerosolized clay need to be studied more, but the data I’ve seen isn’t great — prolonged exposure could cause lung damage,” says Schueller. Pomades (like Leonor Greyl Baume Bois de Rose) and nonaerosol dry shampoo powders (like Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin) don’t have the same effect because you don’t breathe them in.


Honey is really good at hydrating hair, but it’s also…honey. That’s why you want to look for hydroxypropyltrimonium honey on ingredient lists — it’s an extract that “sticks to damaged areas of hair to hydrate them without feeling sticky,” says Schueller. (We like MarulaOil Rare Oil Style Extending Primer.) Diluting pure honey in warm water also makes for one really effective, albeit slightly tacky, DIY dandruff remedy. Using it every other day cleared up flakiness, itchiness, and more-serious scalp conditions (like chronic seborrheic dermatitis) in two weeks in a study published in the European Journal of Medical Research.


The worst dessert (you know it’s true) is so chewy because it’s a starch — and that starchiness makes tapioca perfect for second-day hair. “It’s really good at absorbing oil,” says Schueller. “It’s even better than talc, which is a much more common dry shampoo ingredient.” While talc absorbs just over three grams of oil, tapioca sucks up four and a half. Try Herbal Essences White Grapefruit & Mosa Mint Volume Dry Shampoo.

Coconut Oil

Most natural oils sit on top of your hair — which makes it shinier, for sure — but coconut oil goes one step further. “It’s the natural oil that’s been shown to best penetrate hair,” says Schueller. In other words: Coconut oil makes your hair stronger from the inside out. “Studies have shown coconut oil decreases the protein loss that comes from brushing and blow-drying,” says Fusco, who prefers coconut oil–infused treatments over a jar of the raw stuff. (We suggest SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Conditioning Cleanser and OGX Coconut Miracle Oil Penetrating Oil.) “You might overshampoo your hair to get pure coconut oil out, and then you’ll end up drying your hair and undoing any benefit,” she says.

Tamanu Oil

Before you fly somewhere tropical (take us with you!), toss a bottle of tamanu oil in your suitcase. “It has terrific antioxidant properties and even some benefits as a UV block,” says Fusco. “It can’t replace sunscreen, but you can use it for added protection at the beach.” Dilute it with a little jojoba oil (it’s more lightweight), smooth the mixture on your scalp at night, and follow up with a spray sunscreen on your scalp in the morning. Instead of turning you into an oil slick, hair products with tamanu oil “actually calm the inflammation that makes oily scalps worse,” says Fusco. “And it’s antibacterial, which can help with flaking and dandruff.” (We like Shea Terra Organics Madagascan Tamanu Cold-Pressed Oil.)

A version of this article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.

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