Herbal Essences, a well-known haircare brand from Procter & Gamble, has left an indelible mark in the hair industry since its creation in 1971. They offer a wide range of products, including shampoos, conditioners, treatments, to cater to all hair needs.
But in 2021, things got a bit messy for Herbal Essences. They had to recall some of their products because, benzene was found in their dry shampoo. According to the FDA benzene is a known human carcinogen.
So, is Herbal Essences good for your hair? And more importantly, is Herbal Essences safe to use?
The Conscious Insider is reader supported. When you buy something we recommend, we might earn an affiliate commission at no extra charge for you.
Table of Contents
Understanding Herbal Essences Shampoo Ingredients
We undertook a thorough analysis of the ingredient composition of Herbal Essences’ flagship product: the Repair Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo.
This is how the shampoo is described on Herbal Essences website:
“REAL BOTANICALS: Certified by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew—a world-leading expert celebrating 260 years of plant science
MINDFULLY CREATED: SLES-free, paraben-free, colorant-free, certified PETA cruelty-free, and packed in recycled plastic”
1. “Certified by the Royal Botanic Gardens”
Right in the middle of England, you’ll find the amazing Royal Botanic Gardens, a place full of wonderful plants. Now, here comes the big question: how does a well-known botanical garden become a certifier of shampoos? Great question! It doesn’t.
Even though the Royal Botanic Gardens holds impressive botanical expertise, assessing shampoos is not their strongest point. So, saying a shampoo is certified by the Royal Botanic Gardens doesn’t really mean much.
It’s another great example of greenwashing.
2. “Made without SLES, Paraben, and Colorant”:
The website states that the shampoo is “SLES-free, paraben-free, colorant-free“. It’s true, when you look at the list of ingredients, none of those harmful ingredients are present. But what else is in the shampoo?
Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients:
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Chloride, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Histidine, Ecklonia Radiata Extract, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Fragrance, Dimethiconol, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Dimethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Trideceth-10, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Benzylalcohol, Methylisothiazolinone.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, primarily used as a surfactant to disperse fats in water-based formulations, is a well-known irritant. Scientists have been aware of its irritant properties for decades, as evidenced in their publications. It’s often referred to as the “standard irritant”.
According to dermatologist Dr Alpana Mohta, “The baddy of the skin and haircare world, SLS does a great job making foam and effectively removing dirt and oil from the skin, it can also strip away the natural oils that act as a protective barrier. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and potential disruption of the skin’s moisture balance”
Despite this, the ingredient is found in a wide range of products. It’s mostly present in rinse-off products like shampoos, where the doses might not be very high, and many consumers tolerate it well.
Yet, some individuals have experienced discomfort, especially in the case of children’s products and those meant for intimate areas.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
In 2013, Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) earned the unfortunate title of “Allergen of the Year.” Each year, the American Contact Dermatitis Society designates the ingredient that has caused the most harm to patients. MIT has been used as a preservative to replace parabens, which had garnered a negative reputation.
With dermatologists consistently highlighting its dangers, European authorities eventually tightened regulations around this ingredient. MIT has been banned from non-rinse products since February 2017.
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCIT)
MCIT is commonly used in combination with Methylisothiazolinone (MIT). This ingredient is used as a preservative, and is a potent allergen. The MCIT-MIT blend has been prohibited in leave-on products since April 2016 in Europe.
Even in rinse-off products, it’s wise to steer clear of such a harmful allergen.
There are some troubling ingredients in Herbal Essences Shampoo.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), known to irritate, can strip natural oils and mess with your skin’s harmony. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), labeled the “Allergen of the Year,” has sparked concerns, resulting in its prohibition in leave-on products. And if that’s not enough, Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCIT), often paired with MIT, is a strong allergen.
Although it’s great that the shampoo doesn’t have SLES, paraben, or colorant, it’s worth noting that the other ingredients are known to sometimes cause discomfort, irritation, and possible skin issues.
3. “Certified PETA Cruelty-Free”
Herbal Essences is endorsed by PETA as cruelty-free brand, yet their products are accessible in China, a nation that mandates animal testing for the majority of imported goods.
Consequently, the brand is compelled to finance animal testing for their own merchandise to tap into the expansive and swiftly expanding Chinese market.
Additionally, Herbal Essences is part of P&G, a company well known for its animal testing.
The Herbal Essences Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit involving specific aerosol products marketed by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has unfolded.
The 2021 lawsuit followed P&G’s product recall due to the benzene content in its aerosol products. It was initiated by Nicole Asencio, the plaintiff, representing herself and others who acquired specific aerosols such as deodorants, and dry shampoo spray products under P&G brands(Secret, Old Spice, Pantene, Waterless, Aussie, Herbal Essences or Hair Food).
The lawsuit alleges that these products were tainted with benzene, and that P&G engaged in deceptive practices by omitting benzene presence on product labels. Claims include unjust enrichment, violation of New York’s General Business Law § 349 (banning deceptive acts), and violation of New York’s General Business Law § 350 (prohibiting false advertising).
P&G, while refuting these assertions, has proactively recalled the products as a precautionary measure.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, benzene is categorized as a human carcinogen. Exposure to benzene can happen through inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. Depending on the level and duration of exposure, it might lead to an elevated risk of developing cancers and potentially life-threatening blood disorders.
As a part of the settlement to address claims that its aerosolized products contain benzene, Procter & Gamble (P&G) will provide a payout of $8 million.
Herbal Essences Shampoo – Users Reviews
Rating | 4.6/5 stars over 19,363 reviews on Amazon
Herbal Essences shampoo has received mostly positive feedback from customers. Users praise its scent, moisturizing effects, and softening properties. However, there are a few negative reviews that mention issues like scalp itchiness, hair loss, and dissatisfaction with the scent.
Overall, the shampoo is highly regarded for its invigorating scent and silkiness. The majority of customers find it effective and a good value for its performance.
Users Reviews |
“If you love that argan oil scent this is a must. It keeps my hair smelling so good for a couple days (i usually wash my hair once a week). I love that it does feel moisturizing while in the shower instead of making my hair feel dry and hard like some other shampoos do when you really scrub. Also, great price for the amount of product you get.” Genesis 5/5 stars
“Nice shampoo and conditioner but the scent was so strong it was overpowering. You could smell it everywhere I walked and it was still present at the end of the day. Three stars only because of the scent otherwise it was great.” Cookie 3/5 stars
Herbal Essences shampoo definitely contains hazardous ingredients that have been banned in other countries. But it’s interesting to note that a lot of folks out there absolutely love the product and haven’t reported any problems.
In conclusion, while Herbal Essences shampoo might give you great hair, it could also give you worrying side effects such as skin discomfort, skin irritation, and possible serious skin allergies.
If you have sensitive skin and are prone to allergies or if you want to prioritise natural non-toxic personal care products, you might want to stay clear of this product.
3 Natural & Safe Alternatives to Herbal Essences Shampoos
Prose – Custom Made Natural Shampoo
Prose is on a mission to create personalized hair care using fresh, natural ingredients such as argan and avocado oils, baobab extracts, and bamboo charcoal. Begin by taking their online quiz about your hair type and goals.
Based on your responses, they’ll create a unique hair care routine just for you, including personalized shampoo, conditioner, and hair masks. These tailor-made products are then expertly crafted and delivered to your doorstep within a week, ensuring ultimate freshness.
100% Pure – Natural Volumizing Shampoo
With 100% PURE, you can say goodbye to concerns about harmful chemicals or additives. Operating from California, this brand harnesses the power of natural elements to bring you products that are both healthy and packed with protective antioxidants.
Their assortment of shampoos and conditioners, available in an array of invigorating scents, caught our attention, not to mention their budget-friendly prices.
Avalon Organics is a trusted brand that prioritizes clean and organic beauty. Their products are crafted with thoughtfully chosen botanical ingredients, ensuring a harmonious blend of nature and science.
From skincare to haircare, Avalon Organics offers a range of options that align with conscious and environmentally friendly lifestyles.
Is Herbal Essences shampoo actually good for your hair?
Yes and no.
On one hand, there appears to be a considerable level of user satisfaction with the product, suggesting positive outcomes for many individuals.
While the overall user satisfaction is notable, there’s another layer to consider – the ingredients. Some components present in Herbal Essences shampoos raise concerns. The presence of ingredients such as SLS, MIT, and MCIT with a history of causing discomfort, irritation, and potential skin disruptions invites us to weigh the apparent benefits against the potential risks thoughtfully.
What are the warnings on Herbal Essences shampoo?
Herbal Essences shampoos have faced significant scrutiny, particularly in the context of a lawsuit and product recall due to the presence of benzene, a known carcinogen, in their formulations. This has led to notable warnings and concerns surrounding the brand’s products.
Is Herbal Essences sulfate-free?
Yes some products are, but not all of them.
Which Herbal Essences product is sulfate-free?
Sulfate Free Honey + Vitamin B Shampoo
Sulfate Free Hemp + Potent Aloe Shampoo
Sulfate Free Shampoo with Jojoba Oil for Hair
Sulfate Free Mango + Potent Aloe Shampoo
Here the complete list.
Does Herbal Essences have a lawsuit?
Yes, Herbal Essences has been involved in a lawsuit related to their products. There have been legal actions and concerns raised about certain Herbal Essences aerosol products containing benzene, a known carcinogen.
This has led to a lawsuit, prompting a product recall and generating discussions about the safety and ingredients of their products.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) (owner of Herbal Essences) will payout $8 million.
Is Herbal Essences 100% natural?
No, Herbal Essences is not natural at all. It doesn’t bear any natural certification and uses controversial ingredients.
Is Herbal Essences organic?
No, Herbal Essences is not organic.
Is Herbal Essences bad for hair?
There is no scientific evidences suggesting that Herbal Essences products are bad on hair.
But the presence of ingredients such as SLS, MIT, and MCIT with a history of causing discomfort, irritation, and potential skin disruptions raise concerns.
Is Herbal Essences bad for hair growth?
There is no scientific evidences suggesting that Herbal Essences products are bad on hair growth.
All photos credits belong to respective brands
To know more about sustainable living, read our latest posts:
- Your Guide to the Best Fluoride-Free Toothpastes and the Fluoride Controversy
- 19 Best Vegan And Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands in 2024
- 48 Fast Fashion Facts And Statistics In 2024
- 15 Best Non-Toxic Air Fresheners Plug-In For Clean Air in 2023
- 15 Healthy Non-Toxic Dinnerware Sets for an Eco-Friendly Table (2023)