Herbal Essences has upped the ante on its commitment to using clean and effective ingredients. The haircare behemoth sought out recommendations from the Environmental Working Group and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, earning seals of approval from both organizations on its new Birch Bark Extract and Honey & Vitamin B Sulphate-Free Shampoos. 

To be clear: This is a big deal. It’s the first time products from a mass hair-care brand will bear the EWG Verified mark, which required Herbal Essences to turn over its entire ingredient list to the U.S.-based nonprofit for approval against its stringent list of unacceptable ingredients. “Companies have to go through our very vigorous set of standards and share a ton of testing information with us. We make sure they’re not using any ingredients that we claim are harmful or that we have use restrictions on,” says Jocelyn Lyle, vice president for development at EWG. Allowing access to this highly confidential tradesecret information is a bit like bringing up politics at the dinner table—a decidedly highstakes conversation.

“All of our standards are in the best interest of public health,” Nneka Leiba, EWG director for healthy living science tells us. “Companies [should] disclose to the public the ingredients in their products so the public can make an educated decision. Transparency is one of the most important things when it comes to this certification because it’s so important to public health.” 

Over at London’s Kew Gardens, home to the most biologically diverse collection of plants in the world, botanists combed through the brand’s various botanical extracts, verifying their purity, potency and sustainability. It was a meeting of (what we imagine to be) Sheldon Cooperlike minds that Rachel Zipperian, principal scientist for Herbal Essences, called “magic.”

“Kew is the authority when it comes to recording botanical information,” she says. “But they’ve never looked through their databases asking ‘What can I get for hair?’” It turns out that sharing really is caring, particularly when it comes to your hair. 

A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.