Comparison of Aveda to Generic Shampoos

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Aveda, the company that produces a line of plant-based beauty products including shampoos, skin care items and makeup, touts itself as having provided “30 years of beauty, environmental leadership and responsibility.” Many familiar with their products assume that Aveda uses all-natural, high-quality ingredients without additives used in generic shampoos that could be harmful to one’s health or the Earth. A closer look at the components in their shampoos reveals whether or not they are, indeed, made up of purely botanical ingredients.


Fragrance is one ingredient most commonly found in generic shampoos. The term itself is generic, referring to some 3,000 products used by the beauty industry to add a pleasant smell. A good one-third of these products are known allergens or irritants to the respiratory tract, according to Good Guide, an online guide to healthy products. Many of Aveda’s shampoos contain “fragrance.”


Methylisothiazolinone, or MIT, a strong chemical substance used in many generic shampoos and some Aveda shampoos, has been shown to cause brain damage in rats. In fact, this chemical is so controversial that it has been banned from use in cosmetics in Canada. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) research has shown that use of this product can damage one's immune system, cause an allergic reaction and/or harm the brain and nervous system.

Benzoic Acid

This acid commonly used as a food preservative is also found in many of types of generic and Aveda shampoos. Arguably the “lesser of evils,” this additive has been found to irritate the skin and possibly other organs in the body.

An Overall Look

A comprehensive look at the ingredients used in Aveda shampoos by the EWG found that four of its hair-care products received a poor rating, the top culprit being in its popular Sap Moss conditioner, which had five ingredients that pose potential breast cancer risks. Their Rosemary Mint shampoo received the highest rating, with only three out of 15 of its ingredients--camphor, benzoic acid and glycerin--raising minor health concerns.

The Good News

A look at some of the additives in Aveda’s shampoos does not dismiss the fact that Aveda itself has demonstrated a long and impressive history of using high-quality plant products in their hair-care line, including cistus oil from Spain, argan from a woman’s cooperative in Morocco and Australian sandalwood, which helps promote sustainable community-based business for Australia's indigenous communities. The company has also committed itself to a green ingredient policy, environmentally responsible packaging and use of renewable energy, all of which reflect Aveda’s do-good efforts—more than generic shampoo manufacturers can claim.