Wilderness Hair is a unique, herbalist hair care brand that provides vegan, organic, cruelty-free, handmade products, alongside a pioneering Liverpool-based vegan salon that harnesses the power of herbs and botany and provides an eloquent and peaceful experience. Unlike any other hair salon, Wilderness was founded by ‘folk herbalist’ hairdresser Louise King, who with more than 20 years’ experience in the industry has made it her mission is to re-invent the idea of the typical salon. We love the idea of these non-toxic amazing products and spoke to Louise to find out more about her love of creating natural haircare.
Tell us about Wilderness and your range of products.
We bring the wilderness into the salon by creating our own products out of plants, clays from the earth and using the ancient craft of herbalism and combining it with modern day hairdressing. Within the salon we’re able to create something quite unique.
What inspired you to start Wilderness?
The thing that inspired Wilderness was my love of the earth, to protect it, to protect the health of our clients, sustainably, cruelty free and vegan friendly – I don’t believe that any animal or the planet should suffer for vanity.
Do your customers ask for natural products in the salon and do you use your products in the salon?
We have our own natural products at the salon, we also carry a range of other brands that sit within what we are about. We give the client the choice between something that we’ve created or a different brand, and 99% of the time they will choose what we’ve made ourselves. This way they’ve been able to see what has gone into it, because we’ve created it in front of their eyes. They know exactly what they’re putting onto their body because they’ve been able to watch the process and it’s completely bespoke to them.
What should we avoid using on our hair?
Definitely parabens, sulphates, silicones are three that I would avoid. I would also avoid the chemical, sodium lauryl sulfate, which is found in many, many, many shampoos on the market. If it doesn’t say sodium lauryl sulfate it’ll say SLS. It’s very harsh and strips the hair of it’s natural oils. It’s very abrasive and is actually used in factories to clean oils off machinery and in science to kill cells in the body while research is done.
What are the ingredients that you use in your products?
Our ingredients include clay from the earth, which is high in silica and is what makes your hair strong. We use a lot of nettles and rhassoul clay from the Atlas mountains in Morocco, which has beautiful healing and moisturising benefits. We use sea moss, bladderwrack, which is an algae, rose, calendula, which is great for the scalp, and chicweed. These are all native UK plants that we use, and anything that is not native to the UK we then try and grow ourselves.
How can we be more aware of using natural products ourselves, can we make a natural mask ourselves to condition at home?
To go natural you’ve got to think realistically that the conditioning effect that you’re used to is not how your hair is meant to feel. For people with chemicals on their hair, they would need a chemical to fix any problems, so it’s about being real and transparent. If you wanted to do a natural protein mask, you could mix a banana, avocado and a bit of olive oil – things that you’ve got in your kitchen – and you could apply that as a protein mask. It’s not going to give you the silky soft effect from a conditioner you might be used to, but it’s going to repair the hair inside, not give you that silicon feel on the outside. You can make a protein gel, which is the best gel you’ll ever use for curly hair, out of linseeds, known as flaxseeds, and water. Other things that you can make is a heated coconut milk, maybe with some cinnamon sticks in there, and that’s really good for itchiness on the scalp. If you do have an itchy, flakey scalp and you’re looking for a little bit of shine, an apple cider vinegar rinse is amazing for the hair with water.
What types of plants have you been growing in the salon and why did you decide on them for hair health?
Rosemary is the main one that we grow because we use a lot of rosemary. Rosemary is scientifically proven to bring blood flow to the scalp, which triggers the hair follicles for a nicer, healthier hair growth. We’re going to start exploring to see if we can grow bladderwrack, which is a seaweed, and have an experiment with that. We’re also going to look at some trees. We’re in the experimenting process of new plants. Once we start talking about tropical plants, we have to build a micro-biodome for its own climate. That’s about the heat and the acidity of the soil and that’s where my botany comes in. We don’t want to fly over plants that don’t grow here, we want to be as sustainable as we possibly can and we can grow 365 days a year if we get the climate right within the space.
Where do your skills come from to be able to know what to grow?
At the minute I’m studying a botany qualification, I have a qualification in foraging and I’ve obviously got a hairdressing qualification. I was also raised on folk-herbalist medicine so I’ve just combined all of these skills together and made something quite unique, which people seem to be loving. It’s lovely to work with plants everyday, knowing that my clients are protected and my team isn’t inhaling chemicals and getting them on their hands. It’s lovely to work with these really beautiful ingredients.
Did you struggle with growing any plants?
Seaweed is probably the hardest one to get the water right. We do use seaweed in the conditioner but we buy it in, so we’d like to grow it ourselves.
Is it easy to grow what you need in the UK, what plants would you have grown maybe in a different climate?
I would definitely have grown kaffir limes and that’s something that I want to try and grow. Kaffir lime grows in Hawaii, Thailand, really tropical climates and kaffir lime is a traditional Thai shampoo – the lime itself. People use kaffir lime leaves but the lime itself is not really used in culinary dishes because it’s so hard to get in the UK and it doesn’t taste like a normal lime. So I would definitely try and grow kaffir limes if I got the climate right.
Do you use different plants for different clients?
Yes, the base would probably be rosemary in everyone because everyone can benefit from that. There are certain plants that we wouldn’t use on pregnant women, we would introduce certain plants if we were noticing signs of anxiety or if someone needs a pick-me-up. Where we don’t do it with plants, we’ll do it with essential oils. Psoriasis for example, we would use something like chicweed, which calms the itch. Then we’ve got lavender. Nettles are just brilliant for people whose hair feels a little bit weak, especially after pregnancy. If you eat a large nettle stalk it’s the same nutritional value as three bags of spinach. Unlike spinach from the supermarket which has grown in soil that has been farmed over and over again, nettles grow in something that has never been farmed and the nutrient content in that soil is insane, so that nettle is so powerful – nettle pesto is great! Nettle hair rinses are really good – there is nettle in a few products on the market and there’s a reason why they’re there. What I do is study plant families and then once I study the families, I’ll look for plants with a high mucilage content to get slip for blow-dry lotions. Plants aren’t all safe either, there are plants that you’ll grow in your garden like Foxglove that are deadly and you’d never put into hair care. Also Hemlock is something else that would kill you, so you need to know, that’s why I’ve studied botany to know the dangers as well.
Can you give us some examples of how the salon is sustainable?
We make our own shampoo, which is a powdered shampoo and doesn’t contain any water. Shampoos normally contain between 60 – 80% water and that’s basically just shipping water round the country and it’s not sustainable to do that. We make a shampoo that is water-free, it’s more concentrated and it comes in paper packaging so the postman can post it through your door and no plastic is going into the landfill. We infuse all our own oils. We grow the plants onsite to infuse the oils, which are then applied into products to use in the salon or sell online. When we do have to use plastic in the salon, such as latex gloves, they will go into eco bricks, which are then donated to transition projects around the UK, but we use plant plastic wherever we can. All our colours are from a UK colour house so that we’re not flying colours overseas. A lot of colours come from Italy but our colours come from Glasgow. We’re ammonia free, we are vegan, we are cruelty free. We forage for products where we can and grow and educate people, and that is a part of sustainability because the more people know, the more sustainable they can become, so even just education can be sustainable.
Find out more here https://www.wildernesshair.com