I’m not going to recreate the wheel. Many, many bloggers have posted about why conventional shampoo and conditioner aren’t healthful choices or even the best choices for gorgeous locks. The approach of not using conventional shampoo and conditioner is known as “no-poo”. Learn about it here and you can also get recipes for the baking soda/vinegar method of no-poo hair washing. The baking soda/vinegar is most popular, but I am not going to go over that here because it didn’t work out for me… and you can find it all over the web!
For most of my adult life, I have been known by family and friends as what I will call the health nut. They weren’t surprised when I proclaimed I would no longer use any sort of chemical on my body. I started by doing a Google search of ingredients in the products I was using at the time and was alarmed by what I found. Every single product contained several ingredients found to be endocrine disruptors, a threat to reproductive health, carcinogens, or immunotoxins. We are not talking a mild concern about an ingredient’s safety. For example, some ingredients would require unrealistically massive amounts to have a negative effect or only cause particular issues in a small amount of he population. We are talking clear cause and effect relationships indicating negatives results from the use of particular ingredients in animal studies. Next, I read tons of studies on the effect of products we apply topically such as medicinal creams, hair products, body washes, soaps, lotions, perfumes… Many studies cited negative effects from the chemicals we happily fork over fifty dollars for and slather all over ourselves. Some studies found many chemicals that seep through our skin are found in our excrement such as urine. This tells us more than just what we are putting on our body is being absorbed into our system. This is a sign our body is recognizing and eliminating said chemicals after they enter our body. Some people point to this as “proof” certain chemicals are not harmful. Their thought process is “Our body naturally eliminates them so there is no need to avoid them!” My question is, why would we put something on our body it feels is a threat to our health and needs to eliminate? On a personal level, when I have no energy and my body is in a constant battle to begin with, why would I put a product on my body containing ingredients my body will have to use energy and resource to eliminate? I didn’t even bother to print out all my research or write it down like I normally would. I decided then and there, I would make the transition to using nothing except natural, safe ingredients in my beauty and hygiene regimen. I have changed many more things than just my use shampoo and conditioner, however they will be the focus of this post since I found them most difficult to replace.
People says things like, “If –> insert ingredient name here <– really caused cancer, they’d make them stop putting it in products.” This just isn’t true, and even if it was, there are a lot of ingredients currently deemed safe that will one day be found to cause problems. I’m not going to get into how difficult it can be to get ingredients banned in the US, but if you’re interested, I suggest researching it. They used to put lead in paint and in pencils. They used to x-ray pregnant women and even people’s feet at shoe stores. We now know better. One scary ingredient I believe one day will be banned is found everywhere, from hand soaps to shampoo. It is called sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS). If a product foams or suds up, it probably contains this ingredient. It contains a component classified by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and in California, is classified as a known carcinogen. The FDA encourages manufacturers to remove the cancerous byproduct in it, but does not require it… so companies generally do not. Learn more about SLS, and why I worry about what I put on my body as much as I worry about what I put in my body here.
On to what I do use.
I have long, thick, dyed hair — about two and a half inches below my collar bone. Hair dye is the only chemical I haven’t banned because I just love my champagne blonde hair dye and am scared to mess with henna and other ingredients to make my own. Maybe some day… Baking soda and vinegar made my hair oily at the roots and dry at the ends. I tried everything for months such as using only vinegar, using less baking soda, only putting baking soda in the roots and only putting vinegar on the ends, moisturizing with coconut oil… My hair was dry at the ends, oily at the roots, and just gross. At this point, I concluded I am just one of those people in doesn’t work for! I think what I was seeing was two things. One, my hair as it naturally was without silicones making it appear healthy and undamaged. Two, this method just did not work for me. By doing a bit of searching, I found I am not alone and many people find baking soda to be damaging to their hair. I tried all sorts of things including fruit rinses but nothing was satisfactory. I’m happy to report, I finally have found what does work for me: clay treatments as needed and dry shampoo to control oil and shea butter, almond/grapeseed/coconut oils to moisturize.
Dry Shampoo Recipe
I use dry shampoo for between washes. It’s a mixture of potato starch, baking soda, bentonite clay, kaolin clay, cocoa powder (for color), and some drops of citrus essential oils. My Mom commented my hair would probably turn gross in the rain, but it doesn’t.
1/2 cup baking soda1/2 cup corn or potato starch (I used potato because I didn’t have corn starch the first time I made this and have just stuck with it)
1 Tbsp Bentonite Clay
1 Tbsp Kaolin Clay (AKA white or China clay)
100% cocoa powder (no sugar), how much you needwill depend on how dark your hair is
10 drops (or however strong you want) essential oil I’ve used citrus, lavender, and citrus/lavender blended
Put all ingredients in a bowl you have a lid for if you’ll be apply this with a fluffy makeup brush. If you’ll be putting this in a salt/pepper/herb shaker, mix it in whatever bowl you have handy. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients except for the cocoa powder. Drop the essential oils all over the mixture, trying not to put too much in one spot. Whisk some more, the essential oil will spread throughout the mixture. Now, add cocoa powder about a tablespoon at a time. You can skip this step, but it helps any leftover dry shampoo in your hair blend in. Also, I’ve seen recipes where people don’t use the clay. I added it because I wasn’t happy with the results of just baking soda and potato starch, but who knows, you may like it.
Some people put the dry shampoo into a shaker and shake it out over their roots. I like to just dip an old fluffy blush brush into the dry shampoo and brush it on oily areas of my hair. You don’t need much. I’d recommend starting with a little and if you don’t see results, add more. I let it sit awhile (I have no exact time, sorry). I then brush it out. The powder brushes out of my hair and takes the oil it has sucked up with it. Most of the time, I put the dry shampoo on at night and brush out my hair in the morning.
If my hair is really oily, I use a clay mask. I find my hair is less and less oily as time goes on. This supports the idea shampoo and conditioner actually make our hair produce more oil than they naturally would. Back when it’d get super oily, I’d take my Bentonite clay powder and mix it with some aloe vera juice. Water would be just fine too. I’d make it thick enough that it wouldn’t just run down my hair like water, but thin enough that I could spread it. I’d wet my hair then dump the clay mixture over it, let it sit half an hour, then wash, wash, wash. I don’t have to use this treatment anymore (3 months in) because my hair doesn’t get oily enough to require it.
When I wash my hair (about once a week), I don’t use shampoo. I just rinse it out with water. You’d think I’d stink, but I don’t. I occasionally ask Jake to let me know. He definitely made it known he did not like the vinegar phase. People actually have commented how lovely my hair smells when I am on day 6 since my last wash!
Moisture. For me, moisture was very important. I dye my hair which dries it out and I just have dry hair to begin with. The first thing you need to know is brushing your hair is important. That old wives tale of “100 strokes a day” is true. It distributes the natural oils found at the roots of your hair all the way down the hair shaft. So brush a bunch.
Hair and Body Moisturizer Recipe
I used to use this on my body. One day it occurred to me I should massage into the ends of my hair at night. I put a small amount (maybe half a teaspoon per side for my very thick hair) in my hands, rub them together until it is a liquid consistency, and massage it into the ends of one side then repeat on the other. By massage I do not mean just rub it in. I mean I massage my ends for a few minutes. I do this at night because it appears oily right after doing it, but when I wake up, it is all soaked in. Don’t do this on wet hair, do it with dry hair. If you do it with wet hair, your hair will dry weird and look oily and you won’t be a happy camper. When I first started out with this method, I’d get out of the shower and my hair would look “blah” and frizzy. I’d have the overwhelming urge to rub moisturizer into my wet hair even though it never worked out before. Now, I just don’t look until it is all dry. Also, sometimes I just use a plain old 50/50 blend of grape seed oil and almond oil for my nightly hair massage. Here is how to make your own thick whipped shea butter. I like this recipe because I don’t have to mess with emulsifiers or any of that nonsense. I’m working on a lotion recipe that isn’t so thick and doesn’t use as much oil, but it requires more ingredients. Remember to buy organic ingredients whenever you can.
75-80% African Shea
20-25% oil of choice, I’d recommend an oil liquid at room temperature such as sweet almond oil
15 drops essential oils of your choice, I use lavender and use it at night to help relax me — use more or less depending on your preferences
First, heat up the oil on the stove. I do this by filling a pan with about an inch of water then placing a glass bowl with the oil in it in the water. The glass bowl should have plenty of room for all of your ingredients with some space left over. The volume of the lotion will increase when we whip it. I suppose the microwave would work too, but I feel like I am cheating using the microwave when I’m being all natural. While the oil is heating, measure out your shea butter. I use a scale to measure. Chop the shea butter up into cubes. Once you’re confident the oil is very hot, take it out of the pan and throw in your shea butter cubes. Stir, stir, stir until the shea butter is all blended in with the oil. The reason we are doing it this way is because shea butter can get a funny texture if you heat it wrong. You can let it cool out on the counter, but I prefer to let it cool in the freezer because I can get it done more quickly. After 15 minutes, take it out of the freezer and add your essential oils. Stir it up. At this point, I usually try and whip it a little (I use a plain old electric kitchen mixer), but it usually is not cool enough to be whipped. The reason I whip it is because shea butter is pretty dense and whipping it makes it easier get out of the container and use. If you’re like me, try anyway. Put it back in the freezer. Check on it in 10-15 minute increments, attempting to start whipping it once it starts to thicken. Eventually, it’ll be REALLY thick and that is when I quit. There is definitely a more technical recipe and explanation out there for making whipped shea butter, but this is my method and it works for me. At room temperature, this lotion is very thick and kind of solid. I use it on my body and on my hair. I just scoop out a chunk and it instantly liquifies when it hits my skin. I like to use this lotion at night because it can make the skin shiny but that goes away as it soaks in over night.
So the whipped shea butter is my hair moisturizer most of the time. Any natural lotion would probably do the trick. I’ve used store bought organic, natural lotion and had pretty good results. In the shower, I use coconut oil on the ends as a conditioner when it needs it. I squeeze the water out of my hair, dilute half a teaspoon or so in a big cup of warm water, dump it over the ends, do my other shower/bath stuff, then rinse it out. I made the huge mistake when I first started off by just melting about a quarter of a cup of coconut oil, not diluting it, and dumping it on my ends. Nothing, except good old chemical-laden shampoo, got it out.
Finally, you need to clarify your hair before going “no-poo” and occasionally thereafter to remove buildup. When using traditional hair products, the buildup will be from silicones. After going no-poo, I sometimes get a bit of a build up from the shea. Once a month I put 1/2 cup lemon juice in 2 cups water. I flip my head and dip my hair into the cup, then pour it over my hair, let it sit (although I don’t know how necessary letting it sit is) for 15 minutes then rinse.
I get my shea butter, oils, and clays from www.essentialwholesale.com
If you don’t want to make your own skin/hair products, you can check out the safety rating of products you are considering buying at a really neat site called www.ewg.org/skindeep. Not only can you get the safety rating of a given product, you will be able to see which ingredients contributed to the safety rating. You can see the type of hazards using a product may present (immunotoxin, carcinogen, etc.) and an explanation as to why certain ingredients have been deemed unsafe.