I feel I need to preface this post with a statement: I have strange hair.
It’s the kind of hair that is course like a horse’s, and it can’t always decide if it’s going to be curly or wavy. It’s thick, but not because I have lots of hairs – because each individual hair is thick and kinky and twisted. Sometimes it’s fuzzy, sometimes it’s not.
It’s heavy hair, and I have quite a bit of it streaming down to my lower-mid back. It’s not even an easy color to describe. Not blond, not brown, not red… I have individual hairs in each color, including some so dark they could be called black, and some so light well… they’re outright grey. I understand that my hair is unique and I have never met anyone else with similar hair except for one of my teenage riding students, who now dyes her hair purple. Hehe. Because my hair tends to be dry rather than oily, I have always gotten away with shampooing once a week (sometimes less).
My adventure into shampooless hair care came about during Plastic Free February Challenge that Rodale publicized. I had to find a way to minimize plastic in the bathroom and I decided to do so by going shampoo free. Completely. Cold Turkey. Obviously going without traditional shampoo may not be for everybody, it certainly works for my hair and I encourage everybody to try it, as long as you’re willing to go through… dun dun dunnn… the transitional period.
Have you ever tried to grow dreadlocks? I did in high school (it was kind of a disaster!) and this is the closest I can come to as an example of what the first few times washing my hair without shampoo was like. Your scalp is used to producing quite a bit of oil (even on dry scalps/hair) to compensate for the awful degreasing power of your shampoo. Even the all natural shampoos strip your hair of protective oils, causing the itty bitty oil glands in your hair follicles to produce lots of oil. When you go without shampoo and switch to home recipes it takes a few washes for your oil glands to chill-the-heck-out. In the mean time you are left with oily hair that picks up dirt very quickly, especially if you work in a dusty horseback riding arena! Ew.
If you stick with it though, your scalp adjusts and you are left with hair that is softer, healthier and easier on the planet than it was before. Your hair won’t have harmful chemical residues and it won’t smell like … whatever it used to smell like. It’ll just be hair. Since switching off of shampoo, my hair is consistently less frizzy and “burnt out” feeling. It’s much more manageable and I find that if I style it it stays instead of flying all over the place.
The way I wash my hair now is I take two tablespoons of baking soda and mix it in two cups of hot water (often from the shower head). If you don’t have crazy Neanderthal hair like I do, you can use one tablespoon soda and one cup water. I let the baking soda sit on my hair, worked into my scalp, for about a minute (maybe two) and then I rinse it in the water. The next part is important.
When you use baking soda, you have to use a rinse or else your hair will be atrociously sticky afterward. I use a glug of apple cider vinegar mixed with a tablespoon of honey in 1-2 cups of hot water. This works as a fantastic detangler though I have to wonder how it’ll effect my rapport with the honey bees in the garden this summer. Eek.
There are so many recipes out there that one is sure to work for your hair. I have used this web site as a starting point and it’s got plenty of information. I urge you to try going shampoo free for at least a month to really get the balance correct. When I first started I wasn’t using enough rinse and my hair was quick to dirty. Now my hair is shinier and softer than ever before. I have less split ends and I love the way it smells, or doesn’t smell, after it dries. I will warn anybody who detests the smell of vinegar that your hair will smell as it dries. After it dries, it’ll be all scent-free, but I have gotten some strange looks when going to the store with went apple-cider-vinegary hair.
Another thing to try is rinsing with beer. A close friend of mine has suggested this and I have yet to try it because I’ve gotten balanced out with the recipe I use now, but if you want to avoid smelling like vinegar it would be a good place to start. One thing my friend pointed out though is make sure you either open the beer before getting in the shower, or take a bottle opener with you. Running across the house sopping wet in a towel (or not!) while trying to find a bottle opener sounds like a nightmare!
Do you use any alternatives (or natural supplements) to shampoo?
Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.