So just before I started blogging over here, I shared about my hair issues. I’ve had wavy curls since I was a teenager, but didn’t realise it until I was at university and someone told me about hair mousse and what that weird flying saucer with spikes attachment was that came with my hairdryer was for. Suddenly I discovered what my hair had been needing all those years before GHD hair straighteners were invented.
However, depo provera has (I think) caused me to age more prematurely. My hair began to fall out and started going grey. I started getting it dyed blonde. I was using heavy conditioners and washing my hair every day because my scalp was in a terrible state and the conditioners left build up, plus stripped my hair of natural oils. It was a state.In addition to this, I was concerned about my environmental impact after learning more about marine litter from Surfers Against Sewage. I wanted to find a haircare routine that was better for my hair and for the environment. A few curly haired pals suggested the Curly Girl Handbook, and it was a godsend. I went investigating, tried lots of things. 6 weeks of ups and downs as my hair and skin got used to it’s ‘new normal’ I began to find the products that worked vs. the ones that claimed to be all-natural that were actually full of rubbish. My hair is still not something that people desire, but it’s so much better than it was before I went shampoo free.
Shampoo Alternatives: From Sulphate free to none at all!
My first step was trying sulphate free shampoos, as I wasn’t *quite* brave enough at first. There were also people on internet saying that using baking soda and apple cider vinegar was terrible, had done really horrible things to their hair. However, I didn’t find the sulphate free shampoos all that much better. I tried the Body Shop’s Rainforest range, L’oreal sulphate free and ‘botanical’ conditioner ranges (they were awful), Naked Bodycare (which was good, but then got bought over by Boots and disappeared) and then I gave up as they were all pretty rubbish.
So I decided to try baking soda solution laid out in the Curly Girl handbook. I was mainly worried about how to manage it, given that I’m not a morning person so tend to be in a rush because I’ve hit the snooze button too many times.I found a friend in a small measuring jug and measuring spoon. I was able to run the hot water tap while I used the toilet (TMI? Well, I always have a pee before I get in the shower!!) so the water was running warm by the time I washed my hands, then could fill the jug to the 1 cup mark, then add 3 teaspoons (as the tablespoon didn’t fit into the baking soda recepticle) of baking soda into the warm water, stirred it quickly for a few seconds until I heard the fizz and then took it into the shower with me. I have a little metal basket thing that I can place the jug in that is out of the shower stream while I soaked my hair, then poured the solution over my head and hair. I massage the whole of my scalp, and then rinse it out. Voila! Clean hair. I was also astounded on how long it took for my hair to get greasy again. I still had issues with my hair frizzing and tangling (so I wore a lot of headscarfs and also carried around some conditioner in a travel pump bottle, a comb and some lavender water spray during that first winter – as wooly scarves and long frizzy hair didn’t mix well) but I was soon only washing my hair every 4-5 days instead of every 1-2 days. I also used coconut oil on the ends of my hair if I did straighten it (which sometimes I did for work during that first winter because it was very long and still knotting badly), and a few times I went to bed after putting it all over my hair and scalp and washed it out the following morning with baking soda solution. I eventually cut it short as I realised that it was so badly damaged from hair dye, but was shocked to find the next winter that though my hair was getting longer it wasn’t tangling and knotting as it previously had against woolly scarves and jumpers.
I saved my baking soda containers that I got from the baking ingredients section of the supermarket, then was able to get a larger bag from my local health foods store to continue refilling it. This helped me reduce and recycle the plastic containers.
Although I will admit that this week, I did get totally sales pitched into trying out and then buying this shampoo. The health food shop hasn’t had baking soda last two times I was in, so on my way home I stopped in Lush…
It was a shocking £11.50 (thank goodness for birthday money) but I couldn’t resist how yummy it smelled. You do not need a lot – like literally a coin sized dollop – so hopefully it lasts for months! I also like that Lush let you bring back in the tubs and they’ll reuse them.
Finding a conditioner
The conditioning part was harder. My hair was so damaged, and my scalp was a mess. I tried lots of the ‘recipes’ in the Curly Girl handbook, and eventually I found a conditioner that has served me well. I need quite a lot of it to detangle my hair, but it doesn’t seem to make my hair go greasy or leave build up on my scalp like others did. It is annoyingly £5 a pop (which is expensive in my book) so I try to wait until it’s on offer in Boots and stock up. The other annoying part is that it doesn’t come in a recyclable container. However it is free from lots of nasty chemicals we don’t want in our water.
On the scalp issues. I now don’t have as much of a problem, other than I’ve not shifted the scalp scratching habit I picked up from when I had psoriasis in my early teens and years of itchy scalp. My scalp is rarely itchy now, but I still scratch and pick at it out of habit. YUK! (Again, sorry for the TMI). But during those first months, I used a conditioner and some quinoa to make a hair scrub. It’s about 1tbsp of quinoa to 3tbsp of conditioner. You mix it up, and then massage all over your scalp from the base of your neck up. It helps exfoliate your scalp, and moisturise it at the same time. I was trying out the ‘Yes-To’ brand at the time, after the original conditioner I was using went out of business. I’ve found their scalp relief conditioner best for doing the scrub with. Weirdly I don’t find it great as a hair conditioner, but it has worked for the scrubs.
I will however warn you that the quinoa scrub will make quite the mess in your shower or bath. Do make sure to rinse it out quickly, and unclog your plug hole. Also, don’t do what I did at surf camp one year and pre-make your quinoa scrub and keep it ready made in a container. That quinoa sitting in moisture filled conditioner will start to sprout and smell really bad after a few days. BOAK!
Onto the curls…I wanted to stop using hair mousse because of the aerosol type cans that again, I don’t think are great for the environment. Curly Girl Handbook recommended using aloe vera gel, however I’ve never been able to find a shop that sells this (other than as a drink and I don’t think that’s what she means). I’ve also killed all my aloe vera plants because I’m basically a serial plant killer. The best thing I could find was in the ‘Afro Hair’ section of Sally Hair Design (according to the hairdressing world, everyone should have straight hair, and it’s only recently that places have started to properly cater for curly hair, and it all seems to be in this section).
The closest hair gel I could find to the Curly Girl recommendations was this one:
I found it a bit sticky still though, but when I went back to get more, I found some new products in a range called Cantu. They’ve also started making leaflets for curly hair care, and this got recommended for wavy hair so I’ve been trying this
It smells divine, but I have to say that if I use too much it makes my hair a little greasy. I find it’s usable if I put a dollop’s worth on just on the ends of my hair and scrunch it in when my hair is soaking wet. I’ll then blow dry with the diffuser.
From hair to skincare?
I’ve also been going make up and other beauty product free for the last two years after realising that my headaches seemed to coincide with wearing eye make up, and last year after a bout of eczema got it on my lips every time I wore a lip gloss. However, after a year of unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I’m wondering if my natural look is hindering me at interviews. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I guess most women in their 30s are expected to turn up with tamed hair, a face of make up, skirts and heels. So I’m now looking into ethical make up and trying some products out. Again, it’s expensive for my budget, but I do miss wearing make up and if it helps me get a job that I love then I’m willing to spend a little bit. I’ve discovered some products at Lush, and been recommended Neal’s Yard who do a few things as well. I expect that will be a whole other post though!
I hope this helps for those of you asking me about going ‘no-poo’ and trying to use more ethical products. I definitely recommend Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl handbook if you have curly hair. I also found the Ethical Consumer website hugely helpful too, and trying to use that more to inform where I shop and what I buy.
I will say that this is just what worked for me. All of us have different bodies and different hair. I had someone who I massively respect and is experienced ‘no-poo’ natural haircare person (much more than I am). She swears by using a boar bristle brush to stop you having to wash your hair as often. I tried it and my hair went nuts. She told me it would definitely work when I said it didn’t on curly hair, so I did keep trying because I knew from experience of it taking a while for my hair and scalp to appreciate the no shampoo and being washed less it might be that…but nope! It just makes my hair greasy at the top and frizzy and static. It’s not a good look. So please know that if you try anything and find it doesn’t work for you…that’s ok! I’m personally sticking with my brush free life with just my wide toothed wooden detangling comb for company (and it only gets used on wet hair).
Let me know if you’ve got any tips on what has worked/not worked for you, as I’m sure others would like to hear your experiences too.