From the list of ingredients on the back of a bottle of shampoo or a tub of moisturiser, they appear to contain more chemicals than toilet cleaner.

Ammonium Lauryl, Magnesium Chloride, Zinc Pyrithione, Methylisothiazolinone... it is mind-boggling to consider what substances we are putting on our hair and faces to look good.

Nowadays, however, a growing number of people are questioning the contents of the lotions and potions in their bathroom cabinet, and making efforts to find a more natural beauty routine.

The demand for ‘green’ products is growing, with a five-fold increase in the number of ethical cosmetics and skincare products being launched in Europe over the past three years.

And more businesses are catering for those who want to know exactly what is being used on their hair or skin.

“People are becoming more interested in doing things more naturally. They are starting to ask about where products come from and what they contain,” says hairdresser James Wood, who is proud of the stance he has taken in striving to create an organic experience for clients at his long-established business.

“I used to suffer from a lot of allergies – to food, smells, chemicals and environmental toxins,” he says.

James suffered so badly that he began keeping a log of where he was and what he was touching or eating when it was at its most severe. “I kept a diary of what I reacted to and noticed that my symptoms were a lot worse at work. I also knew other hairdressers who experienced similar problems with skin irritation or asthma.”

Further research revealed that in some countries, including the USA, hairdressing is considered a ‘toxic’ industry and has been linked with a high incidence of certain medical conditions.

James found relief from homeopathic treatments, which prompted him to delve further into eco-friendly products and learn how they could be applied. He enrolled on a four-year part-time course in the subject at The Lakeland College of Homeopathy in Ambleside and London.

And, at his salon in Cross Hills, he began to change the ways of working. That was a decade ago, before the word ‘green’ became universally accepted as part of daily life. Now his salon is ‘organic’ both in nature and in name.

The hair products used have been carefully selected as less harmful, making use of natural or organic alternatives.

“It is an ammonia-free salon, with less toxic, ammonia-free hair colour used, and ammonia-free perms. We also operate air purifying machines.”

Ionizing and low-EMF (electromagnetic fields) electrical appliances are used. “Everything is chosen for its low toxicity and environmental impact,” says James. “When we think about the environment, it is important not to separate our own health from the health of the planet and the wider world. My view is what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves.”

This year, the salon was selected as an example by Asthma UK in an environmental clean-up campaign, Business Against Asthma.

James, whose clients come from as far away as Manchester and Sheffield, also sells organic and natural skincare products manufactured in the UK.

“If you are choosing skincare products, what is important is what’s not in them. Look for something based on natural or essential oils and antioxidants from plants such as evening primrose or rose hip. Grapeseed is also good, or extracts from avocados or asparagus. There should be no petrochemical ingredients. Everything we use is suitable for vegans too,” says James. “There are no animal products and no palm oil that is not ethically-sourced.”

What Inayah Sher doesn’t know about natural skincare you could write on the back of a stamp.

She holds regular workshops in Bradford, teaching groups of people how to make beauty products such as moisturiser, shampoo and conditioner.

It is important not to use anything made from synthetic chemicals, and to develop a knowledge of what sorts of ingredients to avoid.”

She adds: “It is also important that you don’t use too many beauty products, such as day cream followed by night cream – ask yourself whether you really need a night cream. You must allow your skin to breathe.”

Green beauty queen Rebecca Geldard, who recently competed in the Miss Earth UK finals – which aims to promote environmental issues – does not buy any product without first scrutinising the label. “I look for more natural ingredients, and avoid products that are tested on animals.”

She also thinks about the packaging. “Glass bottles can be recycled, and if you are using a small plastic bottle you can wash it out and use it for shampoo or conditioner on holiday.”

And she recommends investing in a good razor rather than using disposables. The psychology student, who holds the Miss Aire Valley title, also makes use of products such as olive oil in her beauty routine. “This is great for softening cuticles,” she says.

Shipley Green Party councillor Hawarun Hussain advises not only to shop around for green products, and check websites such as and, but to keep skin looking good through healthy eating. “The key message is to eat lots of fruit and vegetables to get healthy from within,” she says.

  • For more about Inayah Sher visit