Zero Waste Hair


If you want to take a very literal "top down" approach to going zero waste, then starting with the hair on your head seems like a great option! 

1. The Clean

How do you wash and condition you hair? There are way too many products you can purchase today for hair care, and many come packaged in plastic and contain harsh chemicals that act as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, not to mention damaging to the water supply. 

So if you want to go the zero waste route as far as your hair washing routine goes, you have a few options.

No Poo

The "no poo" option is honestly the best, since you are pretty much using nothing, but this did not go so well for me. My hair became very greasy and I couldn't alleviate it after about a month of effort.   However, Paris To Go had a completely different experience, so if you are interested in this route, checkout her story on it here. I think if I lived by an ocean I could maybe pull it off, but alas.


After "no poo" we have homemade shampoo. I did this with baking soda and vinegar with great success! I loved my hair on the homemade stuff. I only switched because I got some mermaid color added to my hair, and baking soda will strip this out.

So if you can't get the no poo going, try transitioning to the homemade stuff!

Shampoo Bars and Solid Conditioner

This is the closest to the norm you can get while still staying zero waste, you just need to find the naturally made stuff. Here in Colorado there's a few local soap companies that make shampoo bars like Summit Soap & Company and Tellicherry Trading Co. It's totally worth checking out local soap makers to see if their products work well for you. 

A more widely available brand for these products is Lush. They are an amazing company for almost any zero waste body product you could think of! And they absolutely have the widest variety of shampoo bars on the market.  So no matter whats going on with your hair: it's dry, it's greasy, it's brittle, it's thin, it's thick, it's colored, Lush will have something for you!

If you're really feeling ambitious, you can make your own shampoo bar! I haven't tried this yet but I'd recommend this recipe if you want to give it a go!

NonToxic with Eco-Friendly Packaging

Plaine Products are nontoxic, biodegradable, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and color-safe. Though their products are packaged, they have a unique program where the bottles are returnable, refillable and reusable.  So you can send in your used bottles and they sanitize, refill, and send them back to you.

I have not personally tried these, but they are recommended by Kathryn of Going Zero Waste, who's opinion I trust.


2. The UpDo

When it comes to doing my hair, I mostly keep it simple: down, ponytail, bun, or braided. However the thing you need for most of those is a hair tie. Freaking hair ties... 

Almost all hair ties are made of synthetic rubber and polyester, which we know will inevitably breakdown into dreaded microplastics. On top of it all, most them are manufactured in sweatshops, and therefore almost none are fair-trade. So, even if you keep your look simple, there are still some steps to take to keep it zero waste.

Plastic Free Hair ties

Kooshoo's lila hair ties were my zero waste life saver. They're the only plastic-free, biodegradable, ethically made hair ties on the market! You can read my full post on them here.

Here are the details:

  • Made of organic cotton (75% Organic Cotton, 25% Natural Rubber)
  • Ethically dyed, cut and sewn by family businesses in California.
  • Shipped in 100% Recycled and/or Biodegradable packaging

They are significantly more expensive than regular hair ties, but they are also supposed to last up to a year (if you can manage not to lose them) so the price could end up evening out. However, since its under $20, I'd say it's fair to stretch the wallet for this one, given the plastic-free payoff.


I. Love. Headbands. They are awesome looking, protect you from the sun, wick your sweat away, keep your hair out of your face, keep your ears warm, the list goes on. They are probably my favorite hair accessory of all time. 

My current stock of headbands are from an assortment of companies: BUFF®, Smartwool®, Headsox®, etc. I actually haven't bought one since going zero waste. But even so I've always preferred natural fibers like wool and cotton. 

I'd say as long as you're buying natural fiber, you're in the clear here, and there are tons of natural fiber headbands available from places like prAna and Etsy

Hair pins, hairsticks, hair combs, ponytail barrette

Ok, cards on the table, I have never once used any of these things. They are way out of my league as far as doing hair goes. However, I have had friends who used some of these frequently and loved them! So if you are interested in trying out these more, um, advanced hair wrangling techniques I would recommend checking out Etsy for them - there are so many pretty options! While I haven't tried any of these some of my favorites just from browsing are: these recycled copper hair pins, these wood hair sticks, and this hair cuff.

Update: one of my cousins is a carpenter and he actually made me a hair pin for Christmas! Doesn't get more zero waste than that! 

Clips, Clasps and Slides

When you need just a little extra assistance holding your hair back you can reach for some blank barrettes made completely from metal, easily findable on Etsy. There are some fair trade clips and barrettes options, like these feather clips, but they tend to be few and far between.



3. The stylE

I've never used a ton of hair styling products. Partially because they're expensive, partially because I wouldn't know what I was doing, and partially because it's just not my style. But if you do, going zero waste shouldn't limit what you can do with your hair, just maybe how you do it. 


Ok, so I haven't developed a homemade hairspray simply because I don't have need for it. But if you use hairspray on a regular basis, I would recommend this recipe from Wellness Mama. It's one of the better ones because it's natural, nontoxic, and keeps indefinitely!

Sea Salt Spray

This is a product I make and use daily. I'm originally from California, after nearly 10 years of being a transplant in Colorado, I miss the soft, beachy waves I could get in the summertime! My sea salt spray adds that wave that I don't otherwise get here in dry CO, and it smells very refreshing!

Heat Protectant 

I also don't use a hairdryer, straightener, or curling iron. But one of the best defenses against heat is natural oils (you can read HSI Professional's post about it here).  You've probably seen tons of hair care products being advertised as containing argan oil, because it's amazing for your hair.  But what you want to use is the real deal: 100% Moroccan Aragon Oil. I'd recommend this brand, but just make sure you get it fair trade!

If you don't want to jump for aragon oil, it's not the only protective oil: avocado oil, grape seed oil, and almond oil are all great heat protectants! Just be sure to use an oil mister to evenly coat your hair. 

4. The Color

I got my hair professionally colored for the first time this year at a Paul Mitchell school.  It definitely produced more waste than I expected, and smelled rather chemically. While I loved having some mermaid hair, I don't think I'll get it done professionally again. 

Natural Colors

Henna Hair Dyes are what Lush offers as a natural, nontoxic hair dye. They are biodegradable, come non-packaged and I've seen some beautiful color come from them! However, you should know that stylists recommend not using any permanent hair dye after using henna. So, just be aware that you won't have as many options to change your hair afterword. 

Loud Colors

There's not a perfect solution for this.  Bold bright colors aren't found readily in nature in a form thats easily/cheaply transferable to your hair. Given that, there are definitely going to be chemicals involved, one way or another. When I mermaided up I went to a Paul Mitchell school, because I wasn't comfortable bleaching my hair, their dyes are at least cruelty free.

Another brand that I have not used, but am interested in trying is Lime Crime. They are recommended by Peta because they are a vegan and cruelty free company. They also use vegetable based dyes. This does not mean they are nontoxic, or chemical free, but they are definitely gentler than most bold colors available. And their packaging is a simple plastic bottle which can be recycled or reused.  



In the end, the biggest thing you can do is try to transition to a plastic free and nontoxic hair care regimen. 

Do what you can, as you can.

As with everything zero waste related, this is a transition, but also a great excuse to try some awesome new hair staying methods and/or DIY recipes!