Shampoo is a staple product in any household, but few consumers look into the environmental impact of their shampoo when deciding which one to incorporate into their haircare routine. Many name-brand shampoos are not sustainable, and sadly, Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo is no exception. In fact, Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo is arguably the epitome of an unsustainable product. Not only is the shampoo packaged in single-use plastic, but the shampoo itself is also made with ingredients that harm environmental health throughout their life cycle. Ingredients like silicones and sulfates within the product have been questioned for their effects on hair, so the shampoo itself can’t even guarantee that it will leave hair clean, smooth, or sleek. It is no surprise that Pantene is owned by Procter & Gamble (P&G), the multinational company that distinguishes itself as an expert at mass-producing single-use household products. The popularity of P&G brands like Pantene illustrates the need for consumers like you to direct your purchasing power away from name-brand products like Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo and towards natural products made by small, low-impact brands.
Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo is made of the following ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Citrate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Stearyl Alcohol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Dimethiconol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Tea-dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Trideceth-10, Polyquaternium-6, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Polyquaternium-10, Trihydroxystearin, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Yellow 5, Methylisothiazolinone, and Red 33.
This long list of ingredients is common for name-brand shampoos, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are two surfactants that make the shampoo foam up to clean dirt and oil. Their cleaning properties can be too effective, stripping hairs of their natural moisture. In rinse-off shampoos like Pantene’s, they are okay to use because their potential drying and irritating effects are cut short when washed away with water. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are two preservatives that have been deemed safe enough to include in cosmetic products in low concentrations even though they are known allergens. Dimethiconol is a silicone-based conditioning agent that coats hairs in a protective barrier that makes them feel soft and smooth. Silicones prevent moisture from penetrating hairs, and this can either lead to excessive dryness or oiliness as the scalp compensates for the lack of moisture. Overall, silicones have some good and bad qualities, but I think the safest bet is to avoid them if you care about maintaining moisturized hair. Fragrance refers to any chemical that emits a fragrance, but the vague term can hide the use of harmful substances like phthalates, a group of chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system. Some ingredients in Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek like panthenol, argan oil, and avocado oil are beneficial for hair health and are derived from natural sources; however, many are derived from petroleum and do not biodegrade. When you rinse the shampoo out of your hair, the chemicals in the shampoo are sent to water treatment plants that are not capable of treating the plethora of chemicals mixed with the water. These chemicals end up in bodies of water, where they can concentrate and be consumed by wildlife. Dimethiconol and yellow 5 persist in marine environments and can bioaccumulate, or concentrate in the tissue of living organisms. The consumption of seafood can introduce these chemicals into the human body, where they can bioaccumulate as well. Pantene’s shampoo does not need to include non-biodegradable ingredients because there are many natural alternatives to most cosmetic ingredients, but the brand chooses to use them anyways.
The bottle used to package Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo is made of recyclable virgin plastic, but there is no label to signal its recyclability to consumers. In fact, the bottle doesn’t even include the TerraCycle label to signal that consumers can recycle the bottle after use through the TerraCycle program. Why partner with TerraCycle to create a program for consumers to send their used Pantene products to be recycled if the consumers don’t know the program exists in the first place? Another label missing from the bottle is a SmartLabel, a QR code that users can scan to view a more detailed description of the ingredients within the product. The SmartLabel can be found on Pantene’s product site, but it would be most useful if it were placed on the bottle itself. I am disappointed that Pantene hasn’t integrated any recycled plastic into its bottle because it is a basic first step towards sustainable packaging. The creation of virgin plastic is carbon-intensive and is an easy target for improving any company’s environmental impact. It’s a shame that Pantene puts no effort into encouraging the recycling of its products or reducing its own use of virgin plastics. Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo is made of unsustainable ingredients and packaged in an unsustainable bottle.
Pantene provides no legitimate information about how it makes its shampoo aside from a statement on its website claiming that the way the brand sources and manufactures its products are both safe for the environment and people. It’s hard to believe a statement as vague as this when there is no evidence to prove Pantene is being truthful. The brand doesn’t even have a page on its website dedicated to its human rights and labor policies, so it’s unknown whether Pantene intends to or actually does treat its workers humanely. Pantene has set very few manufacturing-based goals for itself to achieve by 2030, but the brand does not include any progress updates that would indicate that it is actively working towards meeting its objectives. The goals themselves are either too ambitious considering the brand’s current lack of initiative, or not ambitious enough. By 2030, Pantene claims it will use 100% renewable energy, cut its emissions by half, and increase water efficiency by 35% at its facilities. I find these hard to achieve considering Pantene has not stated that it currently uses any renewable energy or water-saving technologies. On the other hand, Pantene has set the unambitious goal of making 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2030. Pantene has had plenty of time throughout the duration of its business to make this happen, so I don’t understand why it will take another 9 years to finally make its packaging recyclable. I find it interesting that Pantene’s goals are the same as P&G’s company-wide goals because it means that the brand has no motivation to go beyond the objectives set by its parent company. Aside from its poorly crafted goals, Pantene also states that it does not test its products on animals. This statement is not backed up by a cruelty-free certification from a trusted third-party organization and thus cannot be trusted as totally true. Pantene’s absolute lack of transparency about sourcing, testing, manufacturing, and transportation policies is unacceptable and must change. I cannot give Pantene more than a 0 if the brand cannot be upfront about how it makes its products.
Procter & Gamble is a multinational company notorious to environmentalists for its large-scale, adverse impacts on the environment. Many consumers may not know this dark side of the company because it does a great job of hiding its poor environmental reputation. P&G spends the most money out of all companies worldwide on marketing, creating highly influential content to convince consumers about how great its products and brands are. In reality, P&G contributes to the deforestation of North American boreal forests for its paper-based products, sources palm oil from farms with poor labor conditions, and produces enormous quantities of single-use plastics. Stakeholder pressure has forced P&G to disclose its forestry practices and begin certifying its paper products with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and its palm oil with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). While increasing the use of certified sustainable products reduces the company’s environmental impact, P&G's motives for adopting sustainable practices are insincere. Sustainability is performative if it is pursued as a means of mitigating risk associated with stakeholder expectations rather than as a means of upholding corporate values. P&G has published several files articulating the company’s goals, sourcing commitments, and positive impacts of its beauty brands in attempts to showcase all the “progress” the company has made to become socially responsible and sustainable. These documents exemplify corporate greenwashing because the company includes no concrete evidence of the company’s work to improve its social and environmental impact. P&G’s business relies upon exploiting natural resources and polluting ecosystems, so I cannot give the company more than a 0 until this reliance shifts to a mutually beneficial relationship with the environment.