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A few years ago, I looked at each ingredient of the John Masters shampoo (specifically the Honey and Hibiscus Reconstructive shampoo) and published my findings. A few months ago, I heard from my readers that John Masters reformulated their products. So, I gave them a call to learn more and find out what actually happened.
This is what I found out.
In September of 2017, they learned that their manufacturer was using ingredients that they did not know about.
This is not the first time I have heard about this type of problem. Do you remember Ava Anderson, a direct marketing company that was making non-toxic personal care products? Well, they did not make them themselves. They also used a contract manufacturer and the manufacturer was apparently adding synthetic fragrance. A blogger tested their products and, long story short, they went under.
That’s why I always try to see if there is a strong liaison between the company and its manufacturer when I review brands (I have not reviewed John Masters as a brand).
Anyway, let’s go back to the John Masters shampoo and conditioner products. So, after they found out about their manufacturer’s behavior, they updated their website with the full lists of ingredients. I applaud them for that. It is a good thing to be honest. I also applaud them for admitting what happened.
So, the shampoo has not been reformulated; the ingredients you see on the website are not new. These are the ingredients that were there all along, but which were not disclosed. You can check out the position that John Masters shampoo and conditioner products take among 113 brands in my Shampoo and Conditioner Rating List.
Currently, John Masters is in the process of reformulating its products to try to get them more in line with their original vision. One exception is cocamidopropyl betaine, which they are going to keep. And I am disappointed about that.
Luckily, since I saved a screenshot of the ingredients (you can see it in the original post below) of the John Masters shampoo (Honey and Hibiscus Reconstructive shampoo), we can compare now and see which ingredients were not disclosed.
The main difference I see is that water, sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, cocamidopropyl betaine, and ethylhexylglycerin were not disclosed.
Let’s talk about them.
Water: It is not bad in itself. However, when water is listed first in a product, it should tell you that water is the ingredient that is used in the biggest quantity. Before, the first listed ingredient was aloe vera juice, which would be better, as aloe vera has healing and hydrating properties.
Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate: It is a surfactant (a foaming agent). It is rated 2 with limited data available in the Skin Deep database. The main concern with this ingredient is that various studies find that it can be irritating and sensitizing (source).
Cocamidopropyl Betaine: This is another surfactant and foaming agent. We can spend more time on it since John Masters shampoo products are going to continue having it going forward. By the way, I see it very often in shampoos that are marketed as organic and natural. For example, Intelligent Nutrients shampoos that I used to buy for my husband now list this ingredient as well.
Many companies point out that it is derived from coconut and thus it is natural. Yes, it is true that it is derived from coconut but let’s take a look at the whole process of derivation. This is what happens.
- Coconut fatty acids have to be derived from coconut oil.
- Coconut fatty acids go in reaction with 3-dimethylaminoproplylamine (DMAPA) to produce amidoamine.
- Amidoamine is combined with monochloroacetic acid to get to cocamidopropyl betaine.
So, I think the fact that coconut oil is used initially to make CAPB becomes irrelevant. Some amounts of DMAPA and amidoamine may remain in CAPB. Commercial-grade CAPB can contain up to 3.0% amidoamine and up to 0.02% DMAPA (source). Both DMAPA and amidoamine are known skin allergens (source).
Cocamidopropyl betaine is known to cause allergic skin reactions in some people. The American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists cocamidopropyl betaine as one of the core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 1%. Due to high rates of cases involving allergic reactions, it was named the 2004 Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
Also, if there are nitrosating agents in a formulation, under certain conditions, it may break down and form nitrosamines, which are associated with increased cancer risks (source). To my relief, I do not see any nitrosating agents in the John Masters shampoo.
I try to avoid using cocamidopropyl betaine. I did not have a problem with John Masters shampoo when I used it. But the nature of sensitization is that over time you can become sensitive to the ingredient, even if you did not have a problem before. So, I do not want to take chances.
Let us know in the comments how you feel about cocamidopropyl betaine, and if your shampoo has it.
Ethylhexylglycerin: It is an antibacterial preservative. It makes sense as to why it is needed. Water is a breeding ground for bacteria and all water-based cosmetic and personal care products have to have preservatives. And John Masters shampoo has lots of water. Sodium benzoate is not enough to do the job.
114 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !
There are a lot of different preservatives that are used and most of them have some health concerns. So, it is almost like you need to know what the alternatives are before you can decide whether you are comfortable with it. I believe that ethylhexylglycerin is one of the better ones as it is not linked to endocrine disruption or cancer.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel did not find it to be irritating or sensitizing. However, I found some independent dermatology reports referencing some cases where people were sensitive to products containing it (see here).
Based on my knowledge of other choices for preservatives, I added ethylhexylglycerin to my approved list of preservatives, and I use products that contain it. I use and like Juice Beauty face sunscreen with it.
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All in all, I would say John Masters is okay to use but am disappointed that it will continue having cocamidopropyl betaine going forward. I currently use a shampoo that does not contain it. What shampoo do you use that you love? Does it have cocamidopropyl betaine?
Original Post as of March 19, 2015
The idea for my blog was born when I started looking for a safe shampoo for my son. I looked everywhere and read labels for every shampoo I could find. It took me a month! In the end, I concluded that there is nothing better than old-fashioned bar soap made with organic plant oils. I wash my son with it from head to toes.
After I looked into many shampoos on the market for adults, I concluded the same thing – bar soap is the safest. However, as much as I wanted bar soap to work for my hair, it did not work for me. I know that for many of you, it does. And if you are one of them, you should definitely try By Valenti bar shampoo.
So, then I went back and scoured pretty much the whole shampoo industry all over again, looking for a truly safe shampoo that would work for me. I didn’t find anything that is perfect; the nature of shampoo, unfortunately, is that tradeoffs are necessary. Although I didn’t find any perfect solution, I have picked the 3 shampoos with which I am most comfortable.
In this post, I will present you with the first of my three picks, John Masters Honey and Hibiscus Reconstructive Shampoo. While John Masters Organics carries many shampoos, I chose this one because I needed a shampoo that would be effective for my dry hair. I have been using John Masters Honey and Hibiscus Reconstructive Shampoo for the past few months and I like it. It helped out with dryness and my hair looks shiny.
The Ingredients of John Masters Shampoo
Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice*, aqua (water), babassuamidopropyl betaine, decyl glucoside, sodium cocoamphodiacetate, panthenol (vitamin B5), avena sativa kernel protein, hydrolyzed rice protein, sorbitol, hydrolyzed rodophicea extract, carageenan, citrus aurantium bergamia (bergamot) fruit oil*, chondrus crispus (irish moss) extract, hydrolyzed soy protein, borago officinalis (borage) seed oil*, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil*, soy lecithin, linum usitatissimum (flax) seed oil*, mel (honey)*, potassium sorbate, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, sodium benzoate, sodium chloride, soy tocopherols, triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil*, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, sodium hyaluronate, citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel oil*, hibiscus rosa sinensis (hibiscus) flower extract*, copernicia cerifera cera, sulfur, limonene†, linalool†
Foaming Agents in John Masters Shampoo
With a few exceptions, every shampoo has to have a foaming agent. When the foaming agent is soap, that’s the same as using bar soap and that did not work for my hair. There are a great many synthetic surfactants and some of them are associated with stripping hair of its natural oil. Some synthetic surfactants may even be contaminated with carcinogens. And then there are surfactants that are so new that they lack independent studies, and so we have no idea whether they are safe. So let’s look at the John Masters shampoo’s surfactants, which seem to do a pretty good job of addressing these concerns.
Babassuamidopropyl Betaine: the Skin Deep database rates it 1 (out of 10, with 10 being the worst) with no data available – in other words, the Environmental Working Group does not label it as dangerous, because they simply don’t have sufficient data to do so. So there may be safety issues with it that we just don’t know about, so we cannot take total solace in the rating of 1.
According to the cosmetic industry study, the chemical composition Babassuamidopropyl Betaine is similar to Cocamidopropyl Betaine; the difference lies in one of its components – babassu oil in this case versus coconut oil; Cocamidopropyl Betaine was named Allergen of the Year in 2004, meaning that in time some people may become allergic to it, which is called sensitization. So, there is a chance that Babassuamidopropyl Betaine is associated with contact allergy, too. Of course, this is just my speculation. The point is that there is no other information available to us consumers.
Decyl Glucoside: the Skin Deep database rates it 0 with limited data available (which is better than none); according to its MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) it is readily biodegradable and mild and does not cause skin irritation. So that seems hopeful.
Sodium Cocoamphodiacetate: this is another surfactant that has 0 data in the Skin Deep database; I found this small study that concluded that this surfactant is mild and causes no allergy.
While I wish we knew more about the surfactants, given the alternatives, I am comfortable enough to use this shampoo. The worst scenario seems to be that over time you will develop an allergy to Babassuamidopropyl Betaine and won’t be able to use any products containing surfactants of the betaine group.
Preservatives in John Masters Shampoo
Because liquid shampoos are mostly water, they have to contain preservatives. There are two preservatives in John Master’s shampoo: potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. While they are rated 3 in the Skin Deep database, they are fairly studied and used in food (not that I recommend eating food with preservatives). If you have to use products with preservatives, these are some of the top choices in my opinion.
Emulsifiers in John Masters Shampoo
My understanding is that soy lecithin and carrageenan are used to keep water and oils from separating. Normally soy lecithin is made from genetically modified soy; however, John Masters states on their website that there are no GMOs in their products. Carrageenan is rated 2 because there is a concern that it may be contaminated with degraded carrageenan. Carrageenan is a gelatinous polysaccharide material obtained from red seaweed (marine algae).
Fragrance in John Masters Shampoo
I highly recommend staying away from personal care or skin care products with fragrance or perfume. Fragrances are mixtures of undisclosed ingredients that may contain ingredients associated with reproductive health problems. The great news is that there are no artificial fragrances and the scent comes from essential oils such as bergamot oil. The scent of John Masters Shampoo is very mild, which is what I like.
Repairing Agents in John Masters Shampoo
I like the fact that it has two proteins, such as a vena saliva kernel protein and hydrolyzed rice protein as well as vitamin B5 that may be helpful to repair the hair. Also, the shampoo has carnauba wax that is a better substitute for silicon that is often used to make the hair shiny and smooth.
Anti-Dandruff Agent in John Masters Shampoo
Sulfur: rated 1 in the Skin Deep database with a fair amount of data.
Hair Conditioners in John Masters Shampoo
The formulation includes a long list of plant oils, extracts and other ingredients that are designed to moisturize, lubricate, and condition the hair. None of them are rated more than 3 in the Skin Deep database.
114 shampoos are rated and described so you can choose a shampoo that you truly want !
In conclusion, while it is not perfect and I wish there were more safety data available, it is one of the top three choices that the shampoo market currently has to offer. The complexity of the formulation shows me that John Masters put a lot of thought into it. And I like how the shampoo makes my hair feel and look.
Where to buy John Masters Shampoo
You can look for in your health store or the company’s website or on Amazon (I will receive small commissions if you buy it on Amazon by clicking on the banner below).
Your Superpower To Read Ingredients
Imagine looking at the ingredients of any shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or cream and in a matter of seconds being able to decide if it is safe to use!
With this easy unprecendented method, you will be able to spot potentially harmful personal care or skincare products that may cause irritation, an allergic reaction, or increase the risk of endocrine disruption or cancer.