Are your products all natural? - Dreadlocks FAQ's
This is not a short answer so pour yourself a lemonade and get comfy. =]
Did you know that the term "All Natural" means absolutely nothing? It's use is completely unregulated and it tells you nothing about what's inside the product. People have started to look for it as a sign that the product is safe to use, like a short cut, "oh it's all natural so it's all good". This thinking is so widespread that to not include "All Natural" on your label is marketing suicide. But the truth is, it's meaningless.
One of the problems with the term "All Natural" is that everyone has their own definition and almost every one of them is impossible. Some say it's "unprocessed", some say it's "unchanged by man", others say it means there are no chemicals. Oh, that sounds good right... "no chemicals". Right. Let's look at the definition of a chemical:
The definition of a Chemical: Chemistry is the study of matter and its interactions with other matter. Anything made of matter is a chemical. Any liquid, solid, gas. Any pure substance; any mixture. Water is an example of a chemical.
Ok, that pretty much blows the "no chemicals" idea. As EVERYTHING is a chemical. Then the next step might be to say natural things only contain "safe" chemicals.
Ingredients have to be tested for safety regardless of their origin. Some are squeezed directly from plants or mined from the earth (and then processed to be made stable and usable in a cosmetic) and others are made by processing and combining other ingredients that were originally derived from plants or mined from the earth. Wait, what about the ingredients that are squeezed directly from plants and mixed into cosmetics with no processing? To my knowledge they do not exist. EVERYTHING must undergo processing to remove impurities and prevent the growth of bacteria.
Let's say you wanted an organic, unprocessed, "All Natural" mango shampoo - that was just mangos - nothing else. First you'd have to peel and de-seed and blend the mangos until smooth, this would technically be 3 processes but we'll ignore them. If we put the blended mango in bottles at this point it would rot at room temperature in a couple days. It would rot in the refrigerator in a few more and bacteria would run rampant. To deliver this simple (and completely ineffective) shampoo you'd need highly processed preservatives and an anti-microbial added to your mango.
You'd guess that natural sounding ingredients would always beat synthetic ingredients in safety tests but it's just not the case. Allergic reactions are often caused by herbal additives, essential oils and other non-active ingredients that are added for fragrance or perceived benefits. The only real difference between the ingredients that sound natural and those that don't is the amount of processing. All ingredients undergo processing before they can be used. Everything starts out as something and needs to be processed. Natural ingredients are purified and filtered. They are often dehydrated and blended into powders so that can be reconstituted later. Synthetic ingredients do undergo additional processes but they have an advantage in that they don't have to contain water and may not need an antimicrobial to prevent the growth of bacteria.
If the difference between something being more or less natural is processing then are we to believe it's the processing that is making it bad? Sometimes it is. Cooking destroys vitamins -but we know that processing provides some type of benefit or the process would be skipped - Cooking kills bacteria.
There are several processes that nuts must go through to make "nut milk". Therefore nut milk must not be as natural and good for us as eating the nuts themselves? Certainly not, the process doesn't hurt the nut in any way, in fact, it's still raw. I don't know about you but I'd much rather drink water that's been through a filtration process than not. In fact water machines can create alkaline water using electrolysis. Alkaline water has amazing health and longevity benefits because it helps us balance our overly acidic diets. These benefits come from processing. So it's not really processing that makes something good or bad. In fact with little exception the highest grade, purest things almost always undergo extensive processing. We can't blame processing "in general" we have to look at the actual processes involved.
The natural=safe equation is incredibly misleading. There are tons of completely "natural" things that will cause allergic reactions or even kill you. In fact, in a high enough concentration everything becomes dangerous to humans. Even drinking too much water can kill a person. Cyanide is a well known poison that blocks an enzyme needed for respiration. It's quite lethal. Have you ever accidentally swallowed an apple seed? If so you've ingested cyanide. The reason you're still here is because the amount of cyanide you ate was too small to be lethal. Should we stop eating apples because people accidentally swallow apple seeds? Of course not. Should we stop drinking water because it is possible to drink too much? We couldn't if we wanted to. The point is, you can't determine how safe a chemical is, natural or synthetic, without considering how it's to be used and the amount of exposure you'll have to it.
So where the heck does that leave us...
Well, I've pondered this quite a bit. There's no one thing that makes an ingredient good or bad. There IS NO SHORTCUT. The only way to really know if a product is completely safe is to research each of the ingredients, look at what testing has been done, how it's used, issues if any, and then look at the source of that particular ingredient and it's specifications for use. Often the same ingredient is created for different purposes in different grades: pharmaceutical, food, industrial, all meeting different criteria.
Since Dread Head HQ is so uber small, it's not like we have to convince a large board of directors that an ingredient should be changed. If we see a better way or a better ingredient we make it happen. With this in mind I've done tons research on our ingredients and alternative ingredients and I'm really happy with the ones we've chosen. Not only are they all certified as safe cosmetic ingredients with a perfect track record for decades, they are also the best working ingredients for each application, making the most effective products possible.
If you read through our ingredients you will find several "hotly debated" ingredients such as mineral oil and sodium laureth (not lauryl) sulfate. Lot's of people see these and flip out. You might too, it's possible you've heard terrible rumors about them. When you're done flipping out come back and read on. A quick google search will return tons of sites quoting a doctors research stating that sodium lauryl sulfate causes blindness and all kinds of heinous crap. If you dig a lil deeper you'll find that the original source of these articles was a company called New Ways. They published several versions of "Top ten most harmful ingredients" lists that were quickly circulated around the Internet. They also published several pamphlets stating the "findings of research" done at the University of Georgia.
You should check it out, it's terrifying. Well it turns out that it's all bunk. Basically New Ways was looking for an edge in the cosmetic market so they found some ingredients that were in almost every product, then they removed it from their products and started a viral "scare campaign". It actually worked really well for them, sales skyrocketed and it wasn't actually illegal, well most of it wasn't... To give their literature some credibility they needed a doctors name on it. Well the doctor who had done the research didn't find that SLS caused blindness or cancer or anything really. Poor doctor Green was pretty surprised when hundreds of people started calling him to find out more about his "industry shaking" findings. He let New Ways know that they were completely distorting the results of his research and they were not allowed to use his name in connection with it. Surprisingly New Ways did nothing. After several letters from the University of Georgia they still didn't remove is name, so UGA took them to court.
Interesting story, but the Internet remains littered with hundreds of sites regurgitating harmful top ten lists and bunk info about SLS. Well meaning moms forwarded emails about it, you may have even been asked by your mom to check your toothpaste or shampoo forSLS. Usually if mom is all bent out of shape about the toothpaste you assume it's pretty bad and you don't tend to question it too much. It's amazing how many people they were able to reach with their ingredients scare.
So where does that leave us?
Well it left me with a decision. I could either use what research and facts had determined to be the best and the safest ingredients or I could settle for alternative ingredients that were equally as safe, although tested less, and much less effective.
I went with the good stuff that had gotten a bad rap. If it bothers you and you research it yourself you'll feel great about it after. If it bothers you and you don't feel like researching it you can take our word....or not... it's up to you, but at least now you know why we made the decision we did.
Sure, I could have just said "Yes, our products are all natural, since they meet every standard and requirement of "all natural" "...but I respect you enough to give you the information and let you make an educated choice.
If you're interested you can get more information on our ingredients and the facts and rumors surrounding them in the ingredients section here.