Herbal Essences is one of the most popular drugstore shampoo brands. The company claims to use "Ingredients You Trust" in hair products that give customers "Hair You Love."
But does Herbal Essences contain research-backed ingredients for improving hair quality, or are these just marketing claims? Does the brand use any questionable additives? And why was Herbal Essences sued?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Herbal Essences Shampoo and Herbal Essences Conditioner based on clinical studies, to give our take on whether or not the brand is good for hair.
We'll feature unsponsored user reviews of the brand and explain why Herbal Essences was sued in 2021.
Shampoo Ingredient Analysis
The ingredients in Herbal Essences Repair Argan Oil Shampoo are shown above.
There are some ingredients in this formulation which are clinically shown to improve hair quality.
Argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil can protect hair against oxidative damage, according to a clinical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Aloe vera stimulates creation of collagen and elastin in skin, according to a 2008 medical review, which suggests it may enhance scalp health.
Ecklonia radiata extract may promote hair growth, because a different species (Ecklonia cava) within the same genus of kelp was shown to do so in a 2013 clinical trial.
While there are some effective ingredients in this formulation, there are also some ingredients that we consider to be questionable from a health perspective.
Fragrance may be a serious risk to human health according to at least one medical review, as we discussed in our Maui Shampoo reviews article.
Methylisothiazolinone is a synthetic preservative that induces cell death and inflammation in human cells, as documented in a clinical trial published in the Environmental Toxicology journal.
It's worth noting that the above-linked clinical trial was a test tube study, which is a weaker standard of evidence than a trial with human participants. We still consider this data to be concerning.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone is another synthetic preservative, and the authors of a 2019 medical review on this compound concluded that "Dermatologists should be aware of this situation, and counsel patients to avoid products containing [Methylchloroisothiazolinone]."
Real People Try Herbal Essences
A YouTube creator named Frankie White shared her experience using the Aloe line from Herbal Essences:
A YouTube creator named "BudgetGlam Babe" reviewed Herbal Essences' rose hip shampoo and smoothing spray:
Conditioner Ingredient Analysis
Argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil, aloe vera and Ecklonia radiata extract are included in this formulation, and we explained in the previous Ingredient Analysis section why we consider these ingredients likely to support hair health and appearance.
Fragrance is also included in this formulation, but the two synthetic preservatives we highlighted in the shampoo are not.
Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative shown to be toxic to human cells in a 2020 clinical trial.
We consider this formulation to be healthier than the shampoo formulation, but we don't currently recommend it due to the inclusion of fragrance and phenoxyethanol.
Why Was Herbal Essences Sued?
In 2021, Herbal Essences was sued in a class-action lawsuit because of a recall.
According to About Lawsuits, some Herbal Essences products were recalled because they contained benzene, which has the potential to cause cancer.
The plaintiff alleged that the Herbal Essences products were marketed in a false and misleading way, because benzene was not mentioned.
At the time of publishing this article, it's unclear what the status of this class-action lawsuit is.
Since the products containing benzene were recalled, we have no reason to believe this is an ongoing consumer safety issue.
Our Clean Hair Care Picks
Acure Vivacious Volume Shampoo is our top shampoo pick, and only costs $7.49 at the time of updating this article.
This shampoo is formulated with effective and non-toxic plant-based compounds like aloe vera juice and argan oil. It also contains rosemary leaf oil which was shown in a clinical trial published in the Phytotherapy Research journal to promote hair growth.
Happy Head Topical is our top hair growth solution.
This formulation uses FDA-approved hair loss ingredients like minoxidil which is clinically shown to increase hair count by 11%.
The brand also publishes the percentage concentration of each active ingredient, which is a sign of quality and transparency.