Flowers in Your Hair

by Emily Barth Isler
Woman wearing flower crown

“If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”

—“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)”Scott McKenzie

Literal flower crowns may not be all the rage now, but those of us who use natural and organic hair products can relate to the concept. Every spring I have the urge to adorn my head with flower petals, their fragrant blossoms and vibrant colors calling to my sense of whimsy. But on a more practical level, we can—and do!—still use flowers in our hair, when our shampoos, conditioners, styling products and treatments contain the best of what plants have to offer. 

Going back to nature is beneficial for our hair and for the planet. “We love to use plumeria (frangipani) as a natural heat protectant in place of silicones or other plastics,” says Greg Starkman, cofounder and CEO of Innersense Organic Beauty. “Plumeria is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and humectant that helps to lock in moisture to shield from thermal damage.”

We can also look at sustainability in haircare beyond the usual definition of the term. Yes, we still want our haircare to be ethically produced, good for the planet and distributed without excess waste, but what about asking ourselves this question: How do we style and care for our hair in a way that is also sustainable in our lives? Something that doesn’t take up too much time on a daily basis, that makes us feel good and doesn’t waste our personal resources of energy. Having sustainable hair is about finding ways to imbue our follicular style with significance, functionality and ease.

Whether used in haircare products for their anti-inflammatory properties, moisture, antioxidants or, as they are most commonly thought of, for their heavenly scents, flowers are popping up everywhere this spring. Here are some of our favorites, and the sustainable haircare we love that utilizes their magic.

Lavender

We might to expect dry shampoo to be chock-full of active ingredients, as most of us use it as an emergency stop-gap to avoid washing for one more day, but Cleo+Coco has managed to make its dry shampoo effective, useful and good for your hair and scalp. One key ingredient? Lavender.

“I chose lavender essential oils as a scent because of its many properties,” explains Suzannah Raff, founder of Cleo+Coco. “Aside from its calming effect on the mind and body, and its beautiful fragrance, it is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory so it can clear toxins from the scalp, calm the scalp skin and help to promote hair growth.”

Lavender may be one of the most universally appreciated scents, but the flower has power far beyond its fragrance, and it makes a lot of sense used in hair products, especially ones that sit on the scalp.

Lavender is also used in natureofthings’ Cleansing Body and Scalp Polish, which, much like the Cleo+Coco dry shampoo, boosts active ingredients one might not expect in an exfoliant, thus elevating the product into hero status! Nuele Hair’s brand new Nighttime Scalp Serum also uses lavender, which makes sense, as the overnight treatment is made extra-relaxing with the use of the calming flower. Lavender isn’t just for scalp care, as these products might lead you to believe. Eu’Genia Shea’s pure, raw shea butters come in a lavender blend and are wonderful for soothing dry, damaged hair with frayed ends. Prim Botanicals’ That One Summer Hair Oil is famous for its four-in-one uses, and for its evocative scent, which, of course, includes our pal lavender.

Lotus Flower

Innersense has recently incorporated lotus flower into a new product. “One of our favorite new fragrances comes from I Create Shine, a silicone-free glossing serum that we just launched in March for International Women’s Day,” says Starkman. “We utilize lotus flower as the main fragrance to provide a grounding scent that doubles as a luxurious hair perfume.”

Lotus flower has been popular in hair products for a while. Mo Mi has long used it in the Lotus Wei blend of organic essential oils used in its Hydrating Mist and Dry Shampoo, and EVOLVh uses it in its shampoos and conditioners.

Calendula

One of the most popular ingredients in skincare, calendula, also known as the daisy-like “pot marigold,” is also widely used in haircare products. It’s no surprise, as calendula is known to be anti-inflammatory and helpful in healing.

It’s in so many natural hair products, including Briogeo Hair’s Blossom Bloom Volumizing Conditioner, Innersense Organics’ I Create Waves spray, Yarok’s Feed Your Volume Conditioner, and Babo Botanicals’ Swim Sport Shampoo and Wash as well as the brand’s legendary Moisturizing Baby Shampoo Wash with oat milk and calendula. Josh Rosebrook wins the prize for the most use of calendula in his formulations; it’s in much of his famous skincare, as well as in the brand’s hair products, like the Serum Spray, Nourish Shampoo, Nourish Conditioner and Enrich Hair Mask.

Nourish Conditioner

Gardenia

While often recognized simply for its smell, gardenia has other benefits, too. Rahua utilizes the heavenly scent and antioxidant power of this white flower in many of its products, including the brand’s Color Full line for color-treated hair, Legendary Amazon Oil and Smoothing Hair Balm. La Bella Figura uses gardenia in its Bohemia Verde Aromatic Hair Elixir. Though they are not technically or solely hair products, both Leahlani Skincare’s Kiele Essence of Gardenia and Josh Rosebrook’s Enfleuria are scents that one can run over hair to gently imbue it with the amazing scent of gardenia.

Clover

“Red clover extract has been used for years across cultures—from Chinese to Native American —to treat various ailments from respiratory issues to skin burns. What we’ve discovered recently is what this herb can do to help stimulate hair growth,” says Susanne Norwitz, founder of Maya Chia. The brand’s relatively new scalp and hair treatment, Power Fol, has been lauded by beauty editors and consumers alike for helping hair grow faster, stronger and shinier.

Trifolium pratense (clover) flower extract is utilized in both the Power Fol scalp treatment and the brand’s equally adored Power Fol Multi-Correctional Eyelash and Eyebrow Serum. Maya Chia isn’t the only brand that uses clover extracts in its hair products. Australian certified-organic skincare brand Mukti Organics recently branched out into haircare, and it also uses clover flower extract in its Botanique Shampoo. EVOLVh uses a slightly different variety of clover, Melilotus officinalis (sweet clover) extract, in its shampoos and conditioners.

Jasmine

Tradition and symbolism also play large parts in why a formulator might choose to use a particular plant. When it comes to utilizing jasmine in haircare, we went straight to the expert, Michelle Ranavat, founder of RANAVAT. The brand’s cult-favorite Mighty Majesty Fortifying Hair Serum packs a punch with only three ingredients: organic sunflower oil, organic amla extract, and, of course, organic jasmine oil.

“I wanted to formulate with jasmine because it has strong symbolism in Indian culture when it comes to beauty and hair,” says Ranavat. “Traditionally women wear a bunch of fresh jasmine flowers in their hair as a symbol of beauty. The jasmine is adorned like jewelry and the fragrance serves as a perfume throughout the day. In addition to the strong cultural connection, jasmine is a great ingredient for haircare. It serves as an antifungal helping control dandruff. The sweet smell and perfume are a bonus and the combination makes this serum absolute heaven!”

We also find (and LOVE) jasmine oil in Innersense Organics’ Pure Inspiration Daily Conditioner and Color Radiance Daily Conditioner.

Orchid

“Orchid Oil [is a] power packed hydrator,” Diane Read tells us. Read is the founder of Mo Mi Beauty, whose Orchid Oil provides intensive hydration for split ends. “This precious oil has been used for centuries and is revered for its protective properties. Orchids have intense hydrating properties, restore moisture, add shine, elasticity and softness to hair that has become damaged from chemical treatments and thermal stress.”

Mo Mi Orchid Oil
54 Thrones' Kenyan Hibiscus Butter

Hibiscus

This colorful, fragrant flower is used in skincare and haircare, just like calendula. Moisture-rich hibiscus enhances the ability of both skin and hair to retain moisture. It gives Rahua’s Enchanted Island Salt Spray its gorgeous pink color, and is found along with Moroccan Rose in 54 Thrones’ Kenyan Hibiscus + Moroccan Rose African Beauty Butter, which is wonderful for smoothing flyaways, calming split ends and keeping hair soft.

Sure, wearing literal flowers in our hair might be out of vogue, and the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)” is over 50 years old (gasp!), but flowers are still, always, a good idea. As Nora Ephron wrote in her classic film, You’ve Got Mail, “Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?” It may seem like a small thing, but connecting to the buds and branches of our most fragrant and lush plants can add joy, whimsy and a sense of well-being. For things that have long been considered dainty and delicate, flowers are the carriers of strong, hydrating and beneficial ingredients.

Whether you choose your products because they smell good and accidentally get the flower-power benefits from the petals, oils and essences or if you actively seek calendula or clover, your hair will be happier for it.

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