Is herbal essence biodegradable? (5 ingredients of herbal essences).

This article shall answer the question, “is herbal essence biodegradable?”.

It shall also address other areas such as:

  • Types of herbal essences.
  • Components of herbal essences.
  • Advantages of herbal essences.
  • Biodegradability of herbal essences.
  • Eco-friendliness of herbal essences.

Is herbal essence biodegradable?

Yes, herbal essences are biodegradable. They are acted upon by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. This is because herbal essences are made from natural plant products.

Some essences may contain materials such as silicone which is non-biodegradable but has no effect on the environment.

Before we cover more on the constituents of herbal essences, we must look into the process of biodegradation.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which organic materials from plants and animals are broken down by such agents as light, temperature, water, radiation, bacteria, and fungi into small particles which are not toxic to the environment.


This causes biodegradation by carrying the materials and causing mechanical breakdown.


Some light wavelengths cause the mechanical breakdown of organic materials into smaller particles.

Light contains different radiations at different wavelengths.

Radiations such as ultraviolet radiation oxidize organic materials which cause them to disintegrate into small particles which are then degraded by microorganisms.


Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.


Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.


They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

Steps of biodegradation.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct steps:

  • Biodeterioration.
  • Bio-fragmentation.
  • Assimilation.


This is the first stage of biodegradation.

Organic materials are mechanically broken down by light, water, and temperature into smaller particles that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.


This is the second stage of biodegradation.

Organic matter is broken down by bacteria and fungi, either aerobically or anaerobically.

Water, carbon dioxide, methane gas, energy, and small biomass are produced depending on the type of process.


It’s the last stage of biodegradation.

Involves the uptake of biomass produced into the body system of the bacteria or fungi to be used in various biological processes.

What is an essence?

Essences are products that are designed to provide some care to the body for instance skin or hair.

Hair essences are the most commonly used essences, they are generally called shampoos.

They mostly occur in viscous forms but some occur in solid forms.

Most hair essences will contain the following components.

  • Surfactants.
  • Cosurfactants.
  • Thickeners.
  • Opacifiers.
  • Sequestering agents.
  • Preservatives.
  • Special additives.
  • Fragrance.
  • Vitamin B5 (panthenol).


These are compounds that are added to hair essences for the following purposes.

  • They act as foaming agents.
  • They act as conditioners, keeping the essence fragrant and fresh.
  • They act as cleaning agents by removing impurities.
  • They act as oil emulsifiers.

Surfactant compounds include the following.

  • Sodium Laureth sulfate.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine.
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate.
  • Lauryl glucoside.
  • Decyl glucoside.
  • Cocamide MEA.
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate.
  • Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate.
  • Sodium dodecyl sulfate.
  • Cocamide DEA.
  • Polysorbate 80.
  • Alkyl polyglycoside.

Shampoo thickeners. 

These are compounds used to make shampoo more thick and viscous.

Since hair is made up of more than 90% keratin protein, shampoo thickeners used are keratin and B5 vitamin (panthenol).

Other thickeners include:

  • Cetyl alcohol.
  • Stearyl alcohol.
  • Carnauba wax.
  • Xanthan gum.
  • Gelatin.
  • Stearic acid.


These are compounds that act as additives to the hair essence.

They make the essence more creamy.

They also prevent light transmission and hence provide a bright appearance to the essence cream.

The following are some of the examples of opacifiers.

  • Glycol stearate.
  • Glycol distearate.
  • Distearyl ether.
  • Sodium laureth sulfate.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine.
  • Glyceryl oleate.
  • Coco-glucoside.

Sequestering agents.

These are compounds that are used as chelating agents to prevent scum from sticking to hair which leads to dull hair and dermatitis.

They include the following.

  • Tetrasodium phosphates.
  • Sodium hexametaphosphate.
  • Tripoly sodium phosphate.
  • Organo Phosphonic acids.
  • Disodium EDTA.


These are compounds that are incorporated in essences to keep them away from spoilage.

They prevent the growth of bacteria which can cause essence spoilage.

They include the following:

  • Behentrimonium chloride.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin.
  • Caprylyl glycol-preservative.
  • Sorbic acid preservative.
  • Potassium citrate preservative.
  • Sodium benzoate.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA.
  • Methylisothiazolinone.
  • Potassium sorbate.
  • Dehydroacetic acid.

What are herbal essences?

These are natural essences that are sulfate-free and are made from organic plant-based products.

They contain essential oils, fruit extracts, and other organic compounds.

To determine whether an essence is herbal, look for the following ingredients:

  • Plant oils such as jojoba oil, geranium, and organ oil.
  • Organic green tea is famed for having antioxidants that help in fat loss, protection against cancer, and reducing the risk of heart diseases.
  • Aloe vera oil helps in relieving sunburn and healing wounds.
  • Chamomile- an essential oil derived from chamomile plants. 

It has chamazulene compounds which have properties such as easing skin rashes and eczema.

  • Coconut oil- provides the skin against UV radiation, relieves skin irritation, and reduces eczema.
  • Organic honey for healthy skin and hair.
  • Bergamot oils.
  • Olive oils.
  • Burdock root extract.
  • Fruit extracts.
  • Peppermint, lavender, and lemon oils.

Different hair essences address different hair needs.

  • Hair loss and thinning are remedied by vitamin B3, minoxidil, Phyto-caffeine, histidine amino acid, and essential oils from lavender and peppermint.
  • Curvy and coiled hair is addressed by glycerin, essential oils, butter, and seed oils.
  • Straight hair is remedied by coconut oil, soybean oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, vitamins B5, C, and E, proteins, and keratin.
  • Dry hair is controlled by silicone, oils, glycerin, and sodium lauryl sulfoacetate.
  • Dandruff can be remedied by green tea oil and fungicides such as ketoconazole and selenium disulfide.

Some compounds should be avoided in hair essences.

This is because they may have one or more harmful effects on the body of the user.

They include the following:


They are used as cleansing agents in hair essence.

The most used ones are; sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.

They cause lathering in hair essences.

They may cause: 

  • Skin irritation.
  • Skin dryness.
  • Skin inflammation.
  • They may increase skin sensitivity.
  • They may worsen conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.


It is added to hair essences to act as a preservative.

It prevents the growth of bacteria.

Its side effects include:

  • Causes dermatitis.
  • Can cause contact allergy.
  • It is a human carcinogen.


These are chemicals used as preservatives for hair essences.

They may have the following side effects:

  • Can cause dermatitis.
  • Skin irritation.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Skin redness.
  • Interfere with hormonal regulation in the body.
  • Can cause breast cancer.


These are used as binding agents in hair essences.

They may cause:

  • Infertility.
  • Low sperm count.
  • Pregnancy loss.
  • Gestational diabetes.


They are used in hair essence as antibacterial agents.

They have the following side effects:

  • Skin redness.
  • Skin dryness.
  • Skin swelling.

Biodegradation of herbal essences.

As mentioned earlier, herbal essences are those that have been derived from organic plant products.

Since biodegradation is the breakdown of organic products into small particles, it is right to conclude that herbal essences are biodegradable.

Are herbal essences eco-friendly?

According to a study, herbal essences are eco-friendly since they are formed from natural organic plant products.

They are susceptible to bacterial and fungal degradation into small, non-toxic particles.

The only challenge with herbal essences is their packaging bottles.

The bottles are made from non-biodegradable plastics.

However, the plastics are recyclable and this regulates their toxicity to the environment.

Are herbal essences toxic?

No, herbal essences which are sulfate-free are non-toxic to the user.

Some herbal essences may be enriched with additives such as phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde, and parabens.

These chemical compounds are known to cause some effects such as dermatitis, skin irritation, hormonal dysregulation, skin dryness, and cancer.

It is advisable to look at the ingredients label before purchasing an essence.


This article has answered the question of the biodegradation of herbal essence.

It has also covered such areas like:

  • Types of essences.
  • Components of different types of essences.
  • Compounds that pose risks to the user.
  • Biodegradability of herbal essences.
  • Eco-friendliness and toxicity of herbal essences.

For queries or comments, use the space provided below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is herbal essence biodegradable?

Is Herbal Essence toxic?

No, herbal essence does not contain parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde chemicals which are toxic to the user.

Is Herbal Essence good for the environment?

Yes, herbal essences are made from natural organic plant products which are degraded by microorganisms into small non-toxic particles.

The packaging bottles are made from recyclable plastics.

Does Herbal Essences have silicone?

No, labels on the Herbal Essences indicate that they are silicone-free.


Marnie Vinall. (October 28, 2020). Shampoo Ingredients for Different Hair Needs: What to Look for.

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Teltscher, Kate (2000). “The Shampooing Surgeon and the Persian Prince: Two Indians in Early Nineteenth-century Britain”. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 2 (3): 409–23. doi:10.1080/13698010020019226

Kiserml. (March 21, 2017). Greenwashing- Herbal Essence.

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