Naturopathic medicine understands that, when healing from serious chronic illness, no stone should be left. But what if you couldn’t find natural alternatives to the Trojan horses of toxins that line supermarket shelves? When Dr. Julian Neil noticed a lack of quality natural haircare products in the early 2000s, he realized that he had to do something about it.
When Naturopathic Medicine Created Natural Haircare
Julian Neil began his career as a psychologist, specializing in psycho-oncology. Psycho-oncologist specialize in the mental, emotional, and social aspects of cancer. Additionally, psycho-oncologists offer support on the impacts of treatment and encourage healthy habits that compliment treatment. Eventually, Dr. Neil became a naturopath to better handle the physical and psychological effects of cancer.
When trying to advise patients on ways to avoid carcinogens, Dr. Neil noticed challenges. All conventional haircare products contained carcinogens, and there were no natural alternatives 35 years ago. The coal tar often used to control dandruff in conventional shampoo is a carcinogen that makes the scalp more sensitive to sunlight. Dr. Neil notes that our our skin absorbs some of the substances we put on it. Even rubbing essential oil on your ankle will cause it to appear in your hair in as little as 20 minutes.
Dr. Neil then began making his own shampoo and conditioner for patients. This ensured their personal care routine would not sabotage their treatment protocols. He picked up different ingredients like volcanic clay and seaweed from Iceland, and plant surfactants from South America. “I literally made them in my sink.”
In 2002, Dr. Neil’s first daughter was born with Down Syndrome. She had hypotonia, or low muscle tone, which is a common aspect of the syndrome. Neil met a specialist early on his daughter’s life, and describes the experience as so successful that she even learned to surf in recent years. Beginning work in the same organization for children with special needs brought home the importance of natural haircare even more. Children with disabilities are more likely to be chemical-sensitive, and man-made chemicals play a role in the appearance of developmental disabilities.
Natural Haircare Takes Flight
In 2005, Australian hairdresser “to the stars” Campbell McCauley decided to launch his own line of products. He initially dismissed natural haircare with “Nobody does organics,” but changed his mind when Dr. Neil showed him his own homemade formulations. Their line was eventually sold in Whole Foods and given the Best Green Shampoo in America award.
When the 2008 recession happened, the formulas were licensed back to Dr. Neil, who sold them himself. His line includes two shampoos: Root and Scalp, and Acceleration; and two conditioners: Restorative and Finishing. Root and Scalp aids in complaints such as dandruff and dermatitis, while Acceleration is a powerful growth formula. There are no preservatives, phthalates, or other man-made chemicals in any of these products.
The Neil Naturopathic collection works on a different concept to other brands. Instead of applying, lathering, and rinsing off shampoo and conditioner, it’s recommended to leave the shampoo on as long as possible to get the full benefits. Each shampoo and conditioner also follows the naturopathic principles of detoxification, oxygenation, and nurturing the body. Every ingredient has been traditionally used for their health benefits, including:
- Bentonite clay, which can aid detoxification of the skin and hair
- Sea vegetables, as they provide essential minerals such as zinc, copper, and manganese, that are often depleted on land
- Oils such as olive, apricot, and hempseed oil, which have the optimal omega-3:6 ratio, can protect against dryness and provide essential fatty acids.
- Ingredients such as tea saponins have powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
- Yucca may help prevent hair loss and improve hair quality.
- The South American plant quillaia is used to treat dandruff and skin ulcers, as it soothes irritation and itch.
- Keratin has long been used in haircare to supplement our own keratin, which is often lost to damage or nutrient deficiencies.
Why Holistic Hair Products Matter
Conventional haircare gives short-term benefits in exchange for long-term harm. According to Dr. Neil, most chemical conditioners contain waxy coatings that give the illusion of smoothing and shining hair. Not only does this only coat the hair, but it can eventually damage the hair follicle itself!
We also cannot use conventional shampoo and conditioner every day as they strip oils from our hair. As two pounds of metabolic waste and toxins come through the skin every day, hair is the dirtiest place on our bodies. Dr. Neil believes that we are meant to wash our hair daily, just as we brush our teeth two or three times a day. His goal is to provide haircare strong enough to deeply cleanse, but be gentle enough for daily use.
Frequent, long-term use of nourishing hair products is also a matter of repairing the hair after years of damage. Nutrition is cumulative. As Dr. Neil explains, the hair will use everything it needs and can absorb at that time. Severely fried hair will take a while to show the full benefits of natural haircare. Nothing good comes overnight, but the chemical industry tries to promote the image of near-instant results.
Finally, “Neil Naturopathic treats hair as an extension of your nervous system,” Dr. Neil explains. The hair contains a “feeling element” of silicon, more than any other part of the body. It is believed that this allows hair to transmit all messages it receives from the environment through the spine and nerves. Traditionally, yogis, samurai, and others would tie their hair up on top of the crown chakra, such as in a rishi knot. Although there are no nerves in the hair, there are many around it. These potential lines of communication may be why hair is often seen as a “spiritual antenna”.
It’s Not “Just Hair”
Neil Naturopathic sees hair “in reverse” to the usual perspective, as a reflection of our inner beauty and health. Dr. Neil also runs a 14-day day hair activation challenge, focusing on circulation, nutrition, and stress management, as excessive stress promotes effluvium telogen, where the hair is not supported by sufficient blood supply. Instead of just searching for natural analogs of chemical ingredients, we should see hair in a holistic sense.
Our hair is part of the whole picture, not outside of it. And instead of using harsh chemicals to take over the body’s functions, as both conventional personal care and medicine do, it’s time to support our self-healing processes. This is the key principle of naturopathic medicine.
Alexandra Preston is an Australian naturopath, passionate about empowering others to take charge of their health and healing the planet. Her special area of interest in natural health is antiaging; she also loves the beach and is a semi-professional dancer.
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