My experience with Skin Naturals Hydrating Shampoo ($16) and Conditioner ($16) has been a lesson in theory and practice not always being aligned. Skin Naturals’ hair products look good with mostly natural, organic ingredients and, perhaps for some people, they are good. But, in practice, for me they didn’t work at all. But more than that, one of its ingredients, got me thinking about the theory and practice of certified organic materials.

After using both the shampoo and conditioner my hair looked limp and dull. Moreover, for something termed a ‘hydrating’, I was surprised that my hair felt a bit dry; it certainly didn’t feel soft and silky. I think one of the issues with Salon Naturals is that both the shampoo and conditioner take quite a bit of rinsing out. I seemed to be standing under the shower for an awful long time before I was satisfied that my hair didn’t have any residue left.

Although Salon Naturals has a gentle surfactant, coco glucoside and a non-irritating detangler Behentrimonium methosulfate, as well as botanical ingredients, I really can’t get over the fact that there is sodium benzoate. This is the preservative that goes by the name of Geogard Ultra and is approved by ECOCERT. In my opinion, ECOCERT has no business approving it for anything.

Sodium benzoate is an extremely controversial ingredient was the subject of a media storm in the UK when it was discovered that it is carcinogenic when mixed with vitamin C and that, along with artificial food colorings, can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive. Coca Cola started to remove sodium benzoate from its drinks in 2009. Not only that, but lab animals regularly fed a 5% concentration of sodium benzoate have a habit of dying. The most damning indictment comes from a British scientist whose in vitro tests showed that “these chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether.”

Sodium benzoate is readily absorbed by the skin, although there is arguably less to worry about when it is in a wash off product such as shampoo.

I don’t want to pick on Salon Naturals and I am sure other people enjoy using their products. But I do think that ECOCERT has some answering to do. This body was established in France around 20 years ago and it is extremely opaque as to its methodologies. The website’s ‘about’ page merely says: “ECOCERT is a control and certification organisation, whose activities are governed accordingly by the public authorities and legislation.”

With Earth Day coming up in April, expect ECOCERT to come under criticism for giving its seal of approval to brands that call themselves organic even though many of the ingredients they use are not. Similarly, the USDA is being accused of allowing organic fraud by personal care  companies in the US in a campaign that will be stepped up over the coming weeks.

Ingredients in shampoo

Aloe barbadensis 1 (aloe vera juice), Coco Glucoside 4, Vegetable Glycerin 2 (glycerin), Behentrimonium Methosulfate 2 (&) Cetearyl Alcohol 2 (BTMS), Carboxymethyl Cellulose 2 (cellulose gum), Shea Butter 2 (Butyrospermum Parkii), Pantothenic Acid 2 (pro vitamin B5), Geogard Ultra 4, Potassium Sorbate 2, Citrus Sinensis 1 (sweet orange essential oil), Mentha Piperita 3 (peppermint leaf extract), Yucca Schidigera Stem Extract 3 (yucca leaf extract), Equisetum Arvense 3 (horsetail leaf extract), Urtica Dioica 3 (nettle leaf extract), Melissa Officinalis 3 (Melissa leaf extract)

Ingredients in conditioner

Aloe barbadensis 1 (aloe vera juice), Vegetable Glycerin 2 (glycerin), Behentrimonium Methosulfate 2 (&) Cetearyl Alcohol 2 (BTMS), Coconut oil, Pantothenic Acid 2 (pro vitamin B5), Geogard Ultra 4, Potassium Sorbate 2, Citrus Sinensis 1 (sweet orange essential oil), Mentha Piperita 3 (peppermint leaf extract), Yucca Schidigera Stem Extract 3 (yucca leaf extract), Equisetum Arvense 3 (horsetail leaf extract), Urtica Dioica 3 (nettle leaf extract), Melissa Officinalis 3 (Melissa leaf extract)

1Certified Organic 2Natural 3Botanical 4ECOCERT Certified