AG Hair products

We’ve been investigating hair care products that do more than leave your hair feeling clean and soft. Like you, we want products with safe ingredients made by an environmentally and socially responsible company. AG Care is making solid progress towards sustainable hair care products.

In the effort to embrace a greener hair care routine, you may have tried some approaches you didn’t love. For example, shampoo bars require less packaging, but might be hard to use if you have thick hair. Or perhaps you make your own personal care products but haven’t ventured out into making shampoo or conditioner.

AG Care produces a line of natural hair care made in Vancouver, Canada, and packaged in refillable aluminum or plastic bottles. Its hair care products are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. In addition, the company gives back by partnering with One Girl Can to promote gender parity for girls in Kenya. The company was founded in 1989 but recently relaunched its brand as a sustainable beauty company, so we were curious to learn more.

The Products

We sampled two AG shampoos and two conditioners to provided by the company. The Balance Apple Cider Sulfide-free Shampoo and the Boost Apple Cider Vinegar Silicone-free Conditioner sell for $34 each. We also tried the Simply Dry Shampoo for All Hair Types, which retails for $24, and the Conditioning Mist Detangling Spray, which retails for $28. The first three come in aluminum bottles, and the detangling spray is in a plastic bottle.

We liked the AG hair care products we sampled and found them effective. In particular, the rinse-out products left our hair light and soft, and we enjoyed the gentle scents. Although we don’t usually use leave-in products, we found them useful. For example, on days we didn’t wash our hair, we could freshen it up quickly with several sprays of dry shampoo on the roots.

About AG Care

AG is a vertically integrated company that formulates and produces its personal care products at its own manufacturing plant. Vertical integration can enable a company to closely control the manufacturing process, making it easier to implement sustainability improvements, decrease waste, and manage their supply chains. The company is working toward B Corp certification, which includes a rigorous verification process and a plan for continuous improvement.

“Care is in our name because it has driven our decisions since 1989,” says Karla Cheon, chief revenue officer at AG Care. “Care for people and planet have always been at the core of what we do. We were clean before it was coined. We launched our first refill center [no longer in operation] in 1989. This brand renewal is about making sustainable choices easier and accessible to a wider audience. High-performance, naturally derived hair care in packaging people can feel good about.”

There are areas where AG could improve its sustainability practices — such as by offsetting carbon emissions from shipping and removing concerning ingredients from products. However, there are also many commendable things the company is doing.

AG Care shampoo and refill pouch
Balance Apple Cider Sulfide-free Shampoo in aluminum pump bottle and refill pouch

Reducing Packaging Waste

AG Care makes it easy to reduce packaging waste with shampoo and conditioner pouches you can use to refill the aluminum bottles. It is also more economical to go this route. For example, the 1-liter refill pouches are $68 and can refill the 12-ounce bottles nearly three times. Plus, it keeps the durable metal bottles productive and limits packaging waste.

Although the pouches aren’t recyclable, the website states, “the caps are recyclable and our pouches use 73% less plastic and take 62% less energy to produce than our previous litre bottles leaving a smaller footprint and generating fewer CO2 emissions.”

AG also uses 30% post-consumer regrind in its plastic bottles, and plans to increase this amount over time, starting in 2023. Our order arrived in a recyclable cardboard box with no additional plastic packaging.

AG Care leave-in detangler
Conditioning Mist Detangling Spray in #2 plastic (HDPE) bottle

Mostly Natural Hair Care Products

Shoppers often need to put a lot of effort into deciphering product labels to find personal care products free of toxic and concerning ingredients. We like that the AG website not only lists its products’ ingredients but also includes a link for additional information.

AG hair care products are free of sulfates, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which can irritate the skin and scalp or leave hair overly dry. Nor do they contain diethanolamine (DEA), parabens, DMDM hydantoin, gluten, or PABA. As long as AG doesn’t use other irritating ingredients, the company’s products should be good for people with sensitive skin — particularly if they are free of synthetic fragrance.

Unfortunately, some AG products contain “parfum,” although it was recently removed from others. Parfum or “fragrance” on a product label refers to a synthetic fragrance, which can be made of many undisclosed chemicals. Synthetic fragrances are associated with allergies and respiratory distress.

The dry shampoo contains isobutane, which can irritate the lungs if inhaled as well as the eyes. It also contains hydrofluorocarbon 152A, a propellant that contributes to global warming.

EWG-Rated Products

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database is a consumer database that assesses the safety of personal care products. Some AG Care products are in this database, including the rinse-out shampoo and conditioner, but they were last updated a few years ago. Since then, some ingredients may have changed, so these ratings might not be completely accurate.

The EWG product rating is on a scale from 1 to 10, with a low score indicating a safer product. Also, it lists scores for specific ingredients, so you can discern which ingredients are concerning.

AG products are cruelty-free and PETA-approved Vegan. Recently, the company changed some of its product formulas. We hope the brand’s renewed focus on sustainable beauty will result in the removal of parfum and other ingredients of concern from all products.

AG Care dry shampoo
Simply Dry Shampoo in aluminum aerosol can

Charitable Giving

AG Care is a strong supporter of One Girl Can, an organization dedicated to education and gender equality in Kenya. It provides high school and college scholarships and operates mentorship programs in an effort to alleviate poverty and empower girls and young women.

Since 2008, AG has provided One Girl Can with hair care products, food, and financial support, totaling about $1.2 million. Organizations like One Girl Can need long-term supporters to fund ongoing programs. AG has certainly proven to be such a supporter.

The Bottom Line

We like the AG hair care products we sampled and are impressed by the company overall.

The company’s use of refillable packaging and pouches, focus on safe ingredients, and support of One Girl Can for 15 years are all good steps for a sustainable beauty company. As the brand focuses on sustainable beauty, we hope to see more third-party certifications from trusted organizations, the elimination of synthetic scents from its products, and the adoption of efforts to mitigate climate change, such as by using renewable energy and offsetting carbon emissions.

All images courtesy of AG Care

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.