An Ecological Mexican American Chica:
Doing all she can to live sustainably in body, soul, and on this planet earth.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pantene Nature Fusion vs. Ancient Ayurvedic

The Ecoloxica blog spun off my original blog, Chronicles of Undercover Mexican Girl, when I realized I was frequently writing about my adventures in sustainable living, whether it was growing my own organic garden, eating locally, reducing household and office waste, using products that had a low impact on the environment and a positive impact on my health, and generally learning how to be more resourceful. It was also during this time that I began learning how fellow bloggers who focused on a particular niche were often invited to review products, so I was honored when I was contacted to review Pantene's new Nature Fusion collection...just in time for Earth Day 2012!

Pantene uses natural, renewable resources in its product packaging to help reduce its environmental footprint. The Pantene Nature Fusion collection, which combines Pro-V science with naturally-derived Cassia in a more sustainable bottle, is the first hair care brand to use renewable, sugarcane-based plastic in its product packaging.

Lately, the first thing I do when I evaluate a personal care product is to read the label and look for the following ingredients: sodium laureth sulfate and "fragrance." The toxicity of both of these ingredients is debatable and somewhat controversial. Sodium laureth sulfate, or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), is a detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste - it's basically what creates the foaminess.

Some products containing SLES have been found to also contain low levels of 1,4-dioxane, with the recommendation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that these levels be monitored. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen at concentrations significantly higher than those found in commercial products. So what does this mean? It means that even if SLES is found in products like Pantene's Nature Fusion collection, the levels are probably too low to cause any health damage.

At any rate, I decided to give Nature Fusion a try. While I'm a geeky environmentalist, I'm still a girl at heart, and because my hair is extremely thick and frizzy, I always enjoy trying hair products that will smooth out my hair, making it look and feel silky. Although my hair did not remotely resemble the television commercial models' long, perfect hair, after using Nature Fusion shampoo and conditioner - without any blow drying - my hair did feel incredibly soft. Shortly after I washed my hair, I went to have lunch with a Latina blogger friend. Without mentioning to her that I had tried a new hair product, she commented that I smelled as if I'd walked out of a natural herbal, beauty store.

But many dedicated environmentalists, including me, choose not to take a chance and opt instead for products that do not contain any SLES whatsoever. One online resource for locating these types of products is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database. Because I'm also a fanatic of using locally manufactured products, I've developed an affinity for the Ancient Ayurvedic shampoos sold at Austin's Herb Bar, which use a pure herbal formula, contain no sodium lauryl sulfate, fragrance, sulfites, or artificial colors, and are vegan and have not been tested on animals.

Another ingredient that I avoid is the ever vague "fragrance." The presence of fragrance is usually an indicator of phthalates, which are not only used to soften plastic, but are also one of the oily substances used in cosmetics, perfumes, and many beauty products. Phthalates are labeled on common household products as "fragrance." If you want to learn more about phthalates and plastic, read my article reviewing Bag It, the documentary.

With all that said, not every single personal care product is absolutely perfect. Ancient Ayurvedic products still come in a regular plastic container. The largest size comes in an 8-oz. container, and it doesn't foam up like regular shampoo, so you have to use it very sparingly (otherwise you will be going through lots of plastic bottles). Mine lasts about four to six months, if I alternate with other shampoos, and I only shampoo my hair every 2 or 3 days. (Shampooing your hair every day causes damage anyway - although there is nothing wrong with rinsing it with plain water  on a daily basis, unless your local water is harsh with minerals and chemicals.) Also, it's significantly more expensive. The 8-oz bottle of Ancient Ayurvedic is $20.

According to The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plastics make up more than 12% of the municipal solid waste stream in landfills in the United States, a dramatic increase from less than 1% five decades ago. The largest category of plastics waste are found in containers and packaging such as soft drink bottles and shampoo bottles, and only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling.

The use of sugarcane-derived plastic in Pantene's new Nature Fusion packaging is one step towards reducing its environmental footprint. The old Nature Fusion bottle used 100% petroleum-based plastic. The new bottles use 59% plant-based plastic plus 41% petroleum-based plastic. Sugarcane-derived plastic is effectively chemically identical to traditional plastic. According to Pantene, the only way to differentiate it is through carbon-dating.


  • Sugarcane-derived plastic has a positive carbon footprint, meaning that it reduces the CO2 in the atmosphere by using as much as, or more, than it releases.
  • The facilities that make the sugarcane ethanol operate almost exclusively on renewable energy that comes from the sugarcane by-products.
  • Sugarcane-derived plastic uses less fossil fuels and has a lower potential to cause global warming*:
  • It uses less of the planet’s non-renewable resources than traditional petroleum-based (HDPE) plastic
  • Its production process uses over 70% less fossil fuels than traditional petroleum-based (HDPE) plastic
  • Its production process releases over 170% less greenhouse gases than traditional petroleum-based (HDPE) plastic
  • *When compared ton per ton (or gram per gram) to petroleum-based plastic.

    With all these facts, the choice is now yours. Which shampoo will you choose?


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