Our hair is a crown of glory bringing beauty, femininity, and confidence.
If only that were true for all of us or all the time. Our hair is the root of frustration, angst, and betrayal. We spend hours every week trying to get it just right. We question it: long or short, dark or light, bangs or none. And some of us feel betrayed when that first gray pops out or it starts to thin.
Now, I’m not a hair professional, but since I’ve lived with it for 28 years and done my fair share of experimenting, I’ve got some things to share.
My young adult life was much like any of my friend’s–highlights, lowlights, darkening, bleaching. Heat everyday via a dryer and/or curler (ahem, did anyone use their mom’s iron to get the reaalllly straight look?!). Products to smooth, products to fluff. I really put it through the ringer.
It wasn’t until I was well into my natural lifestyle that hair became a concern for me. I hadn’t colored it for a couple years, but I was still using heat and the same ‘ol shampoo and conditioner that I could find on sale. But as I started to rethink my body products, things like lotion, and make-up, and deodorant, I thought about my lovely locks.
The Dangers of Phthalates
Many hair care products contain phthalates which have been linked to reproductive issues in animals. Unfortunately, more and more evidence is coming out against companies who don’t even put this ingredient on the label (source).
And then there’s this straight from the CDC website:
“CDC researchers found measurable levels of many phthalate metabolites in the general population. This finding indicates that phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population.
Research has found that adult women have higher levels of urinary metabolites than men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.”
And then there’s this article from the National Center of Biotechnology Information. A few concerning statements here:
“…makeup, shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products contain chemical ingredients that lack safety data”
“Often, their [phthalates) presence is not noted on labels.”
“The personal care industry remains confident about phthalate safety, however. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, an independent research group sponsored by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association,” **Umm, hello? Who’s their sponsor?! Of course they “remain confident about phthalate safety”.
“The environmental groups respond that although it may be low-level exposure, it is chronic low-level exposure. “
Y’all that is just evidence against one class of ingredients. One. Have you seen the list of toxic ingredients on the back of your shampoo bottle?! I don’t need to wait for human studies (A. because that’s unethical and could never happen anyway) to prove to me that these products are not safe. Reduced sperm count in men. Reproductive issues. No thanks.
If there’s an easy, effective natural option I’m going to take it. Here’s how I naturally take care of my mane.
Now, I’m fully aware that not everyone would be comfortable going “all naturale” with their hair on the daily. But what I want you to consider is the Why. Do you style it daily with product and heat to impress others? Are you putting too much of your worth in the way you look? Are you more confident? Just consider these things and ask yourself why. There’s no right or wrong answer here, I just want you to start considering why you do XYZ to your hair.
The next thing I need you to consider is if you’ve actually ever really tried styling your hair naturally? What are some fun styles you could try that are better for your hair? Styling options that don’t require heat or product? Girl, I’m here to tell you there’s a how-to video for everything now! Start looking up “how to style XYZ hair”.
When I had blunt bangs, I had to heat dry them most days, but one of my favorite styles was the top knot. It was so easy, didn’t require product or heat and I could dress it down or up (yes, that’s how I wore my hair one year to the Marine Corps ball!). I’ve actually found that if I go to bed with my hair still damp from the shower, I get the best curl and volume the next day. How’s that for minimal?!
Step 1 to a more natural hair care routine: Ask yourself why you style. Watch videos and experiment with more healthy ways to style your hair naturally. The options really are limitless.
Once I embraced the texture and type of hair God gave me, I was able to let go of a lot of expectations: I wasn’t born with straight, smooth hair so I didn’t need to straighten it. I wasn’t born with loads of volume and beautiful curls so I didn’t need to tease and curl. I wasn’t born with rich, warm dark hair so I didn’t need to color it. The minimalist inside me actually made the need to style all but go away.
But as I continued researching the ingredients in many body care products, I realized my shampoo and conditioner were full of things being labeled as hormone disruptors and carcinogens. Toxic chemicals being linked to cancer and infertility. (Want a place to research ingredients and products? I love the Environmental Working Group site.)
As a self-proclaimed hippie and minimalist, I jumped on the first natural bandwagon that drove by: No Poo. You can read about my experience here here and here. But if you’d rather not here’s the synopsis: Baking soda and vinegar did NOT work for my hair. Plain and simple. I went on to try a couple of natural options that I ended up ditching shortly after.
What I Use Now
J.R. Liggett’s Shampoo Bar
I love this bar because it works–it leaves my hair clean, while only containing different fats/oils and essential oils to scent. Simple, pure, effective. I like it. I’ve tried all the scents based on what’s on sale and often it’s cheaper to buy a 3-pack over a single bar. So once you know you love it, invest a little more upfront to save later.
Yup, I clean my hair with dirt. I told you I was a hippie. Call me whatever you want, but this natural, effective, affordable option works wonders for my hair. For every 2-3 times I use the shampoo, I use the clay once.
Why clay? In the same way that bentonite clay detoxes the body when mixed into bath salts, rhassoul clay detoxes the hair but without stripping it of its natural oils like detergent shampoos will. Also, rhassoul tends to be less drying than bentonite.
How to Make a Clay Shampoo
Step 1: In a 4-ounce jar with lid, mix approximately 1 tablespoon clay with enough water to almost fill the jar (about 3 ounces). Shake shake shake until all clay has dissolved.
Step 2: Hop in shower and wet hair.
Step 3: Shake the jar again and dip the ends of your hair into jar. Rub length of hair together to distribute clay mix.
Step 4: Pour small amounts of clay all over head, rubbing it in between each pour. Using fingers, really work the clay into the scalp.
Step 5: Once all clay is gone and rubbed into scalp, let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Then rinse well.
Now, there is a bit of a learning curve here. I’ve got a few tips: Exactly how much clay to use will depend on your hair length, start with 1 tablespoon. Don’t mix your clay and water until you’re in the shower–the water will be cold when you pour it over your head and that’s not fun. To work clay into the bottom part of the scalp, it’s easier to flip your head upside down, pour a little at the base of your hair and rub it in that way. For ease of use, keep clay under your bathroom sink along with the jar and lid. At first if you have a hard time remembering, then put everything right by your bathtub. I keep a big clip in my shower to keep my hair out of the way while I finish showering, then I rinse it.
The last shampoo option I keep on hand for when I’m in a hurry or otherwise feeling lazy is a shampoo and conditioner set from the essential oil company of my choice. Is it 100% natural? No, but for me it’s the “compromise” I’m willing to make. I honestly only use this about once a month.
Let’s Talk Conditioner
Maybe it’s because I don’t ever use heat on my hair or because of the texture, but I don’t actually need to use conditioner. However, if you’re looking to still condition but want a more natural option I could try using coconut oil on the length. Rub it into the length then wash out (either with shampoo or not). I’ve never used it, but have heard a lot of people rave about it and a few say that it never actually rinsed out (which is why you may need to actually wash it out). Another natural option to consider is diluted apple cider vinegar. While it’s part of the No Poo method that I despise, I still know many, many crunches who swear by this method.
Or you slowly wean yourself off the products and heat and see if you even need a conditioner. Just sayin. 🙂
This is a realm I have yet to step into, but I’m super stoked to try it after my next haircut. Henna powder is a great, natural way to give your hair some color and vibrancy. From what I’ve read it not only adds color, but a richness that I always want. It’s not a “permanent” treatment, but is something that can be done every 2-3 months as needed.
The last thing I’ll add is that water quality not only plays a big role in our hair health, but also in our skin health. There are so many pollutants in our water today, things that are added (chlorine and fluoride) and things that aren’t (environmental run-off, pesticides, and hormones) that unfortunately can be absorbed through the skin–our largest organ–through bathing. To help minimize our exposure to these things, and in hopes that our scalps would stop being itchy and flaky after we moved, we bought a Berkey shower filter. The itchy, flaky scalp went away and I feel better about showering.
That wraps up today’s edition of Natural Hair Care! How are you keeping your locks clean and healthy naturally? Any up-do tutorials that are worth sharing? I’d love to hear from you.