I began making all natural soap, lip balm, and moisturizers in an effort to combat my dry skin without slathering a lot of synthetic chemicals and petroleum products on my body. I love the simplicity, safety, and gentleness of washing and moisturizing with handcrafted products made with ingredients like olive oil, shea butter, and coconut oil.
Shea nuts, harvested in Africa, are
the source of the shea butter used
in Olive Tree products.

Since I enjoy making natural soap, lip balm, body lotion, and body butter, I thought that the next logical step in my bath and body product line should be a shampoo and conditioner that is botanically based and great for everyone from infant to adult, and from straight-haired to curly. So I engaged in my favorite pastime, research and development, to find the best formula. I spent many days reading reviews and sorting out the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here is what I learned:

Most shampoos on the market contain sulfates, which are chemicals that cause the foaming or bubbling action in shampoos and cleansers. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) are the most commonly used sulfates in the hair care industry. These chemicals are incredibly good at dissolving oil. They are so good, in fact, that they are used in some industrial cleaners and degreasers. Many people assume that more lather equals a better shampoo; however, bath products that contain these lather-generating sulfates strip the oils from your hair and skin and cause eye irritation, itchy scalp, and acne. Some studies show a connection between sulfate shampoos and hair loss as well.

Many shampoos and conditioners contain silicones (ingredients ending in -cone or -xane). These are the chemicals that make your hair feel slick and smooth when you are washing or conditioning it. The problem with silicones is that they are not water soluble, which means that you cannot wash them out. They create an impenetrable waxy coating that builds up on your hair over time. Look at the conditioner label to the left. There are so many awesome botanical ingredients in this product, but the silicone in the conditioner prevents the good stuff from being absorbed! Silicones weigh down your hair and reduce volume. Curly hair may initially seem to benefit from silicone-based products, but as the silicone accumulates, curly hair will become more unmanageable and frizzy. The only way to remove silicones from your hair is to use a harsh clarifying shampoo (laden with sulfates--bad!) or (preferably) a baking soda and water treatment followed by a rinse with apple cider vinegar.

I can personally attest to many of these problems associated with sulfates and silicones. I was suffering from hair loss; itchy scalp; limp, dry, straw-like hair; and blemishes on my face, back, and neck. I had never made the connection between my hair and skin problems and my hair care products until now.  

Parabens are preservatives used in most hair and skin care products. Studies show that parabens demonstrate estrogenic activity, meaning that they mimic our bodies' natural hormones and can disrupt our endocrine system, including our thyroid, hypothalamus, and reproductive organs. This is another category of chemicals that I would like to avoid if possible.
I compared and contrasted oodles of shampoos and conditioners out there and solicited the opinions of friends and family. Some of the most popular and best reviewed sulfate-, silicone-, and paraben-free shampoos use aloe vera as a main component in their formulas because aloe has so many healing and nourishing properties. Additionally, they use sodium lauryl sulfoacetate and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, which are very mild coconut-derived cleansers and foaming agents. 

Once I began using some of these kinder, gentler shampoos, my acne disappeared, my scalp stopped itching, and my hair began to feel less like straw and more like the soft hair I had had years ago.
 After doing my hair product homework, I formulated Olive Tree Shampoos and Conditioners. My formulas are gentle, sulfate-free, silicone-free, and paraben-free. Olive Tree Shampoos and Conditioners nourish and condition due to the addition of aloe vera, oat extract, sweet almond oil, and coconut oil. They are mild and gentle enough for the whole family.

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