This week I joined fellow beauty bloggers at Liz Earle’s flagship store in Kings Road, Chelsea for an exclusive reveal of their long awaited Naturally Active Haircare range. Six years of product development has gone into this range, and boy are the folk at Liz Earle passionate about their products!
On arriving we were given a thorough and fascinating overview of the soon to launch (2nd September) Botanical Shine Haircare range by Liz Earle’s Botanical Research Manager, Jennifer Hirsch. She enthusiastically spoke of the trials and tribulations (and triumphs) of sourcing ingredients, creating effective formulations and searching for the perfect ‘Liz Earle’ fragrance, and as she spoke I became utterly captivated by the passion and care that goes into Liz Earle products.
Liz was in part inspired to develop a haircare range that would be suitable for sensitive skin because she herself suffers from ezcema and therefore understands that the scalp is just as important as the face when it comes to keeping itchy, flaky skin at bay. Therefore one of the criteria for the haircare range was that it would be free from SLS or SLES (sulfates) – an ingredient which is added to nearly everything that foams – from shampoo to face wash to floor cleaner – and which is a known irritant.
One of the reasons the line took so long to create was because of this determination to find a natural alternative to harsh chemical sulfates which would still create the desired foaming effect. If you’ve tried SLS-free formulations before you’ll know that their ability to foam is sometimes non-existent. And although we don’t actually need shampoo to foam in order for it to clean effectively, Liz Earle understood that foam is what we’ve come to expect from a shampoo, and therefore it’s an integral part of our hair washing experience. So foam it must!
Apparently the Liz Earle team tested over 100 different formulations of shampoo before they finally found the winning formula. First was the problem of getting it to foam. Many of the SLS substitutes they tried were sticky or stripped hair of its colour. (Not what you want if you’ve just forked out at a salon for highlights.) They finally hit the nail on the head after years of painstakingly testing numerous inadequate formulas, and found a coconut based natural wash active which lathers and does not strip colour from your hair.
See, it really does foam!
Once they had a formulation they liked, Liz and her co founder Kim Buckland both personally tested the forumlation. They each loved it, but having very different hair types they were both convinced the other would feel the opposite. When the other members of the Liz Earle clan tried it too, they all found it incredibly effective. And so, there is only one shampoo in the Botanical Shine Haircare range – a one fits all solution – the Cleanse and Polish of the hair world they like to call it.
Jennifer spoke passionately and in great detail about the different ingredients in the shampoo. It is the ingredients which give Liz Earle products their provenance. Each has its own story and special reason to have been chosen to be included. They particularly strive to include botanicals which have been used for centuries for their healing properties and therefore automatically give credibility to the formulations.
One such ingredient is extracts of apple and orange. Like cidar vinegar, these fruit extracts help make hair look shiny – a must have in order to compete with conventional silicon based shampoo. The science behind this was explained something like this: the balance of acids flattens the hair cuticle which causes it to reflect light, thus making it look shiny. Clever, eh? The shampoo also contains shea butter to ensure it’s not completely knotted and unmanageable after washing and 8 essential oils that give its delicious fragrance.
It was at about this point in our product education that Liz Earle herself emerged seemingly from nowhere and sat down right next to us to welcome us and share with us her personal excitement about the range. Apart from being a little star struck (she is one of the most famous women in beauty in the UK after all) I was also absolutely in awe of her appearance. I don’t say that about many people. Yes, lots of women I know are beautiful and well presented and all the rest, but it’s extremely rare that I look at someone’s face and realise that I’m probably staring a little too intensely. Her skin is just perfection! I don’t know how old she is but her skin is youthful and radiant, in a very natural way. And her hair could easily rival Jennifer Aniston’s in any Loreal advert for it’s shine and lustre. She probably had it blow dried just before she came in (after all, if you’re selling your new hair range, you’re going to make sure your hair looks great!) but nevertheless, if that is what Botanical Shine products can do, I am already sold!
As opposed to the one-fits-all shampoo, there are three conditioners to choose from in the range: one for oily hair, one for normal and one for dry/damaged. It makes perfect sense – depending on your hair type you’ll need different levels of moisture.
The way they explained the different formulations was really interesting. In the oily hair conditioner they have added Black Cohosh extract – a lightweight, non-oil-based emolient, which is enough to make hair soft and manageable but will not weigh down oily-prone hair. In the ‘normal’ hair one is Meadowfoam oil which conditions without giving ‘excessive heaviness’. The production of this oil is also considered: cooperative farmers in Oregon grow meadowfoam seed as a rotational crop meaning they can reduce the use of herbicides and don’t practice field burning which is bad for the environment. The richest of the three conditioners contains West African shea butter, well known for its nourishing quality. Again, the production is considered: 450 women harvest this shea butter in Ghana which provides income and helps conserve their ecosystem, they explain.
Also in all the conditioners is Kenyan yangu oil, which is moisturising, blue seakale which keeps hair colour-safe and those apple and orange extracts to give hair that ‘because you’re worth it’ shine.
Ok, so now onto the most important question…
Does it work?
I was so exhilerated after the event that I went straight home to test the shampoo and conditioner (dry/damaged for me). I followed the instructions we were given, notably (1) you must wet hair completely before washing; the product will not foam without a lot of water, (2) only use a ten pence piece sized amount of shampoo, then work it into a lather with your (wet) hands before putting it on your head, and (3) don’t add more product if you’re not getting enough foam; just add more water.
I haven’t had much experience with non-sulfate shampoos yet I confess (it’s one of the only non-natural products I’ve been holding onto before I could find a good alternative). But armed with great instructions and the knowledge that this wasn’t going to provide a bubble factory worth of foam, I was pleasantly surprised. You do have to put a bit more work into the process than with a conventional shampoo, but it’s not a problem. You just need to really work the product in your hands first then put a little more effort into massaging it on your head to make sure it spreads evenly. I absolutely love the smell, which makes a change from any conventional shampoo I’ve ever used, which tends to smell either sickly sweet or chemically. The essential oils they’ve chosen create a beautiful, rich scent which is both zesty and spicy – not too sweet but incredibly sensual. It’s one of the only highly fragrant products which I think would be enjoyed equally by men and women.
As advised, I also tried to be sparing with the conditioner. They claim from a 200ml bottle you’ll get 29 washes – so it’ll last you a month if you wash every day; two if you wash every other day. Personally that should last me at least 3 months then! I’m in the habit of slathering on conditioner as my hair is thick, long and naturally curly. But I tried to be restrained and was thrilled with the results. My hair was manageable when wet to run a brush through and after a quick blow-dry, it felt incredibly soft and smelt wonderful.
So, I am certainly recommending the Liz Earle Naturally Active Haircare range and urge you all to give it a try.
The Botanical Shine Shampoo and Botanical Shine Conditioners hit shelves in the Liz Earle stores on 2nd September, and in John Lewis on 6th September. They are both a very reasonable £7.50 for 200ml and will also be available in travel size (50ml) for £4.
Apparently 20,0o0 people have already pre-registered to get first dibs on these beauties, so if you’re keen, I’d get yourself down there early to avoid disappointment. Even Liz herself has had to reserve her own as the demand is expected to be huge.