"You might think going organic is a cinch: after all, you can pick up an organic celery stick at almost every farmer's market or supermarket, and if you don't want your skin to absorb petrochemicals and other toxic nasties, there is a growing number of organic skincare ranges to choose from. But what about our heads? Until recently, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a shampoo without the industrial foaming agent sodium lauryl sulphate, a recognised skin irritant. Indeed, read the label of any popular shampoo and, unless you have a chemistry degree, you won't understand what your scalp is being exposed to. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more women than ever are striving to follow organic beauty regimes, and that applies to haircare, too. So why are there so few natural haircare ranges? 'It is down to laziness,' says Mark O'Shea, head of retail operations at Ren. 'It is expensive to produce and preserve a product without using chemicals. So, as long as the product works in the short term, most beauty companies are happy to continue using them.'
Fortunately, natural haircare is catching on. John Masters, the world's first organic hairdresser, has just opened his first salon outside New York at Pennyhill Park Spa, Surrey.
As for Masters, unscrew one of the pots, jars or bottles in his Organics range and breathe in the virtuous aromas of rosemary and sage - they smell so good, you want to drink them in. It has taken effort to get these results. Masters spent years testing ingredients from around the world. His rose oils come rom the Valley of Roses in Bulgaria, the vanilla comes from Madagascar, the lavender from Provence. And after 15 years of fine-tuning, the range is going global, hitting shelves as far apart as Denmark, Mexico and Singapore.
The brand has something of a cult following in America. Masters won the ultimate celebrity endorsement when his products lined Carrie's bathroom shelves in Sex and the City, and the cast members subsequently started using them. Winona Ryder and Alicia Silverstone are also fans.
The debonair stylist was an aficiado of organic produce long before it became fashionable. 'I went organic at the end of the 1980's,' he recalls. 'Watching friends die of Aids or opt for healthy lifestyles too late pushed me to get healthy,' he says. Although his diet was pesticide-free, he disliked the inconsistency of slathering people's heads with potential carcinogens and breathing in ammonia every day while dyeing hair. 'So now my dyes are herbal and don't contain ammonia, my gels don't have plastics in them and the ingredients work to promote a healthy scalp, so you shouldn't ever suffer thinning, lank hair.'
For now, Masters is the world's leading organic stylist, but organic beauty is at such a natural high that hopefully others will soon follow in his footsteps."
by Lucy Mayhew