The one where I talk about no-poo haircare…

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.

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Before I went shampoo free

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.

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My hair today – it needs cut and hasn’t had a deep condition treatment in a while, but a vast improvement in my opinion!

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.img_8476I 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…

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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.

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Scalp Treatment

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.

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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!

Styling Curls

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:

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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

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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.

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Natural Haircare Experiment: Weeks 3&4

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So weeks 2-3 were not good for the hair. My hair was unbelievably frizzy, and my scalp felt gross and my hair smelled yucky.

I really didn’t like the conditioner I was using, and I think it was the problem. I noticed when checking out this ‘WikiHow’ on how to determine if a product is ‘Curly Girl’ approved that my conditioner that I didn’t like had Mineral Oil in it. And I think that’s perhaps why the products felt like they were building in my hair between washes. Particularly as often after sleeping or being outside with scarves or a winter jacket on, my hair was so tangled I had to soak it, put conditioner in it, then gel spray to get the waves back.

So last week while hunting down black clothing for my work uniform I went to the big Boots chemist store equipped with my list of ‘no poo’ requirements for conditioner and finally found something that seems to meet the requirements. Botanical oils near the top of the ingredients list? Check. No silicones? Check. No drying alcohols? Check.

To try and deal with the frizz and the itchy scalp I decided to take a brave step for a wavy curly lass! No shampoo. Not even baking soda. I bought a bag of quinoa fairly cheaply at the supermarket and decided to use an exfoliating recipe from Lorraine Massey’s handbook which is basically 1 part quinoa to 3 parts conditioner.

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Not only does this conditioner smell soooo much nicer than the L’Oreal one, I even conditioned my ends after doing the exfoliating and rinsing all the quinoa and conditioner out of my hair. I worried that maybe my hair would be greasy.

It wasn’t.

I put gel in my hair while wet, partly dried my hair with a diffuser, partly left it to air dry…and for the first time it was not super frizzy. In fact it’s the least frizzy it had been since winter coat weather came on the scene!

I’ve also now invested in some scrunchies which are gentler on my hair for times when I’m tying it up in a bun to keep my hair out the way (like doing the dishes, studying, in the shower…)

I think my next challenge is going to be hairdressing…how to explain to a hairdresser that you don’t want them to use shampoo and trying to get a cut I’m happy with without them blow drying and straightening my hair into submission!

Any advice?

Natural Haircare Experiment: Week 2

So it’s been two weeks that I’ve been on the ‘NoPoo’ method. I found that after four days of no washing my hair went crazy frizzy one day, so ended up sticking a headband on and piling my hair into a bun before I headed to a Girlguiding unit meeting last week. On our way back from the Remembrance services one of our Young Leaders asked how the hair experiment was going…

Well…

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My hair is getting curlier. But in strange ways! This was yesterday (three days after a wash). My hair wasn’t greasy but I seem to be growing a short curl in the middle of my forehead, which likes to stick up like a horn (?!)  and random curls sticking out my head. There’s a layer of my hair that remains straight underneath, and often gets tangly if it has any contact with fabric of any kind.

The baking soda washes definitely work, and before I washed my hair last week I did a recipe from the Curly Girl Handbook which involved putting on oil mixed with a few drops of lavender on my hair for 30 minutes, then rinsing my hair with their “Lemon-Aid” recipe (basically lemon juice and conditioner).

I tend to find that the first day after a wash my hair is a bit mental, but about two or three days after it is calmer and curlier. In the mornings between hair wash days, I will wet my hair over the sink with my hands and scrunch it or spray my hair with the lavender spray. Then I’ll scrunch in a little bit of gel spray.

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This is the conditioner I’ve been using which you can get in chemists and supermarkets. I’m not a fan of this conditioner, but it’s the best I’ve been able to find so far. I’ve noticed some conditioners in the health food shop I often go to and I might try with that. This week I tried using Rainforest Moisture hair butter from the Body Shop (which has more natural ingredients) as I had some leftover but it did not help get the tangles out of my hair.  It’s a real shame, The Body Shop used to do a  hair mask which was amazing on my hair (like a friend noticed the difference the day after I first used it without may saying a word about it) and they discontinued it when they brought out the Rainforest haircare range.

Do you notice that they are advertising the conditioner as ‘No Sulphates’? I’ve never actually had a conditioner that had sulfates in it. You want your conditioner to be silicone free.

You also want any styling products (like gels and sprays) to be free of alcohol, silicones, parabens and phthalates. The Keracare is the only hairgel product I was able to find that met these requirments. I would love to try Lorraine Massey’s suggestion of using aloe vera gel, but trying to get a hold of some that is ‘edible’ (as she recommends) is proving difficult!

If anyone has any natural products they’ve found that help with frizz, please share your recommendations in the comments! 🙂

 

Natural Haircare Experiment: Week 1

Does this count as eco-koala? I don’t know but I’ll stick this under the category anyway! So, anyone who follows me on Instagram or saw my old blog may know that I recently decided to try the “NoPoo’ Method of haircare and binned the sulfates, silicones, alcohol and parabens for more natural products.

Last week I went on a search for spray bottles, and some hair gel and conditioner that was free of the products that are apparently evil to hair and my shower drain has not been appreciative of.

However, can I just say that perhaps the day before a job interview is not the best time to experiment with a brand new haircare routine. I was very lucky that I had a little travel sized bottle of sulfate free shampoo from the body shop leftover from my trip to South Africa five years ago because I had decided to coat my exceptionally dry hair and scalp with almond oil. And then more almond oil. It was a greasy mess, but thankfully a shampoo and a baking soda cleanse and then conditioner my hair was actually calmer than it had been for while on afternoon of said interview.

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 Yes. That is ‘calm’ on the Brunette Koala crazy hair scale.

We are still in the early days, but I have been super impressed that my hair takes several days longer before it feels greasy and there is no longer any product build up on my scalp. My hair is still very frizzy, and lots of it still comes out when I comb my hair with my fingers but I’m hoping this will eventually change.

The products I’m using are:

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda mixed with 1 cup of warm water (as shampoo)
  • L’Oreal Sulfate Free Conditioner (I’m not impressed with it, and on the hunt for something that is not L’Oreal, because I’m not a fan of the company anyway, but it was the only conditioner I could find in the shop that met requirements!)
  • I use a lavender spray, made with 4 pints of boiled water mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oil if my hair is a bit flat between washing hair days.
  • I have made my own gel spray with Keracare clear protein styling gel and boiled water. However the spray bottle I got for this tends to shoot the gel at quite a force so at the moment I’m spraying it onto my palms and scrunching it onto wet hair. This is the first hair gel I’ve ever known not to feel super sticky.

At the weekend I also tried a conditioning hair mask. I mixed conditioner, almond oil and a drop of lavender oil together and left it on overnight with my hair wrapped in a microfibre towel so my pillow wouldn’t get oily! I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I did just use the baking soda to wash it out the next morning, conditioned my ends and my hair and scalp were not left at all greasy which I was half expecting to happen. However the smell of the conditioner and lavendar did give me a slight headache and I didn’t get a ton of sleep! I also applied the mask without my glasses on and it was a bit runnier than I expected and as I transferred from my plastic Bob the Builder bowl to hands to hair some of it projectiled across to the door, the wall, the toilet and all down my jeans…

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So that’s how it’s gone so far. I’m hoping to find some better conditioner to use with more botanical products near the beginning of their ingredients list, and the ultimate test will be to see if I can wear a scarf and my hair down (without straightening it) and not end up with my hair as one giant knot within a few hours.

Folks that have gone ‘noPoo’ have you got any fabulous tips or products you’ve found to be helpful for wavy curls?