Our Gentle Herb Shampoo is in the news this week having been shortlisted for a Free From Award. So I thought it a good moment to let you know a bit of history about this (amazing) and much loved natural hair product.
Back in the days before Essential Care, Margaret was often asked by friends to find natural remedies for problem skin. One of these with a friend with psoriasis in her scalp who had tried many psoriasis treatments to no avail. Psoriasis is not a curable condition, but she was looking for something that would make it more manageable and stop the flakes and itching.
This was the late 1980s / early 1990s and suitable plant extracts were not readily available in the quality they are now. So Margaret went down to her herb garden and began stewing various concoctions. But natural shampoo is even more tricky to make than a cream or a lotion. How to make it foam and cleanse the hair? She first started by grating bars of olive oil soap, but over time came across the natural cleanser we use now in our shampoos. It is derived from fermented corn sugars and doesn’t foam as much as the much harsher sulphate detergents, but as we found out, foam and bubbles don’t necessarily mean clean.
Another key ingredient is virgin coconut oil. (In a fair-trade blog last week I was extolling the benefits of virgin coconut oil as a skincare ingredient.) Coconut oil has some cleansing properties (in countries like Sri Lanka people use pure coconut oil to cleanse their hair and nothing else) but it is also a fantastic scalp conditioner. This is why it is really important to leave our shampoo on the scalp for several minutes before rinsing and why many people find they don’t need a separate conditioner.
The herbs (nettle and horsetail) don’t come from Margaret’s herb garden any more, but from a biodynamic farm that is renowned for exceptional high quality extracts. Nettle has regenerative properties and horsetail, rich in silica, is known for stimulating healthy hair growth. To that we add chamomile for shine, and aloe vera for hydration and scalp health.
And that's it. - No artificial preservatives, fragrance, colours, harsh detergents or other unnecessary bits. Just lots of lovely ingredients that create healthy shiny hair, soothe, condition and cleanse gently, without stripping the hair's natural oils.
Shortly after we founded Essential Care in 2003 Gentle Herb Shampoo became the first ever shampoo in the UK to be certified organic. It became an instant hit among the eco and green warriors in the media, despite its (at the time) not terribly attractive label design (I am searching the archives for a picture!). It received a glowing recommendation from Jo Fairley in YOU magazine, the Guardian, Telegraph and more. Today Gentle Herb Shampoo is one of our most popular products and has a huge following especially among those prone to scalp problems.
Fingers crossed it pleases the panel of the Free From Awards too!