Charmaine Burnett never intentionally set out to make Australia’s first fully organic hair dyes. It’s just that other brands claiming their ingredients were all-natural often caused the cirrhosis on her scalp to flare up – a sure sign that something far less than natural had snuck into the mix.
So a few years back, Charmaine and her partner in life and business, Tomas, started researching different plant dyes. Not content to just go on the word of suppliers, the pair actually travelled to India to suss things out firsthand.
There, they found a self-sufficient certified organic farm producing plants for Ayurvedic medicines. The whole show is solar-powered, and companion planting ensures the best possible soil quality.
Soon after, in 2008, Charmaine and Tomas launched Desert Shadow and got to work making 100 per cent organic certified hair colours.
“I started off thinking: ‘Let's see what happens.' And since then, not only has the business grown, but I've grown a lot as well,” Charmaine told us.
So what exactly are all-natural organic hair colours made of?
Charmaine says every Desert Shadow hair colour is made only from botanical ingredients, all sourced from the Indian farm. They’re harvested twice a year, in April and October, and then shipped over to Australia.
“Most of the plants we work with grow in the desert and thrive in those tough conditions, and somehow we connect to that. The plants also produce dyes that only go darker, they’ll never go lighter, producing shades of their own colour. That’s how we came up with what we thought was a really cool name – Desert Shadow,” she says.
Desert Shadow now has a full range of hair colours, from blonde to black, all made from plants such as aloe vera, German chamomile and hibiscus.
“I do lots of reading and research and I would never give something to someone that I wouldn't be happy to put on my own body,” Charmaine says of Desert Shadow’s all-natural ethos.
Intensive hair treatments made from bright green berries? Yes, please.
Charmaine says she’s even created a curly hair treatment from bright green Vitamin C-rich amla berries.
“It makes your hair really soft and brings back the curl. So they harvest the berry and dry them out in a way that they don't discolour, then make it into a fine powder,” she says.
“I used to mix it all by hand when we were doing smaller batches. But we've found someone with a machine who can blend it for us now. Then we package it.”
We here at Fairlings have also decided to stock Charmain’s 100 per cent certified organic lavender and eucalyptus essential oils, which make the perfect all-natural fragrance for those of you washing your clothes with That Red House’s organic soapberries.
Certified organic hair colours without the whopping price tag
Charmaine says she determined to keep Desert Shadow products affordable, so even people on tighter budgets can access healthier hair options.
“I think it's really important to make organic accessible to everybody. And I want to make our product available all over the place so more people can access it. Having said that, we are quite particular about where we stock our products. We only want to be in places that are health conscious and do want to genuinely help people,” she told us.
“It all comes back to helping people. Like, I've helped that person because they don't want grey hair but they don't want to use chemicals, either. It's quite special to see that we've made good things and people are responding to them.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Charmaine.