I’ve had a loooong journey in my quest towards all-natural hair health. Let me just say…not an easy task! Reaching hair nirvana without resorting to chemicals or paying an arm and a leg takes work and lots of dedication!
I have medium length white-blonde hair. Yes, this is my natural, God-given hair color. I’ve never colored or bleached it in my life (unless you count the time I colored the ends with a neon pink highlighter when I got bored in high-school Algebra class and it wouldn’t wash out for weeks.) The individual strands are thin, but I have LOTS of them, so it appears thick. This combination of hair characteristics combined with having extremely hard water presented many challenges for me.
First, let’s see what DIDN’T work:
I tried the “No-poo” method… Hate the name. LOATHED the results. Seriously…who came up with that anyways? We’re not talking about bowel movements, people! For those of you who are unfamiliar, it involves using watered down baking soda as a “shampoo” and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) as a conditioner/rinse. It supposedly gives people beautiful, strong, silky smooth hair, and plenty of people love this method. I; however, did not have such luck. I learned after 5-6 weeks of “detox” that the “no-poo” method and extremely hard water do NOT mix. My hair was greasy and limp, and I could no longer go on hiding it under hats BUT even though my hair was greasy, my scalp felt dry and itchy 24/7. Talk about a frustrating combo! I read that it sometimes takes up to six months for full detox from modern, conventional shampoos to occur, but I have one question: Who in their right mind waits SIX MONTHS to see if it will work?! Eek. I couldn’t do it.
A lot of people who start off using Baking Soda/ACV end up using plain water most of the time. So I tried scrubbing my hair under hot, hot water with my fingernails and rinsing thoroughly. I only did this a couple of times because my hair just plain stunk! It was better than No-Poo, but not getting clean enough for my taste.
DIY pH Balanced Shampoo
I first read about pH balanced shampoo on Thank Your Body, and it sounded great! She had some great points about how the scalp has a natural pH balance of 7, and that the severe alkalinity of baking soda, combined with a “shock” of the highly acidic ACV can ruin your scalp! However, the first time I used this shampoo, I was left with hair so greasy that it wouldn’t even dry! I washed my hair with this solution at night, put it in a bun before bed, and the next morning it was still soaking wet. I took the bun out and attempted to blow-dry it, but it just got greasier. Yuck! What a disaster! I did tough it out and continue trying it every few days to see if this was just another awful detox, but after another 2 weeks I was done. This was NOT the long-term solution for me!
What DOES Work!
Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
I diluted Dr. Bronners Baby Mild Castile Soap in water (4 parts water to 1 part soap) and used an empty SmartWater bottle with a squirt top for application. Scrub scrub scrub, rinse thoroughly with HOT water, then follow with a diluted ACV rinse(4 parts water to 1 part ACV), and rinse rinse rinse again with HOT water.
The result: FANTASTIC, smooth, non-greasy hair, with a happy scalp! Several weeks later and I still love it. I’m not saying this is going to work for everyone, but I’m more than impressed with the results 🙂
UPDATE: I now use THIS recipe instead of plain Castile Soap in water. It smells better and gives my hair just a little bit of extra body 🙂
How about a selfie for proof?
In full disclosure, after about 2 and a half weeks of using this solution, the ends of my hair started looking dry and brittle. My scalp and the roots of my hair still looked great, but the ends were suffering. To be honest, it probably needed a trim, too, but I had an idea: Use the pH Balanced Shampoo (mentioned above) as a leave-in conditioner on my ends!
Here’s What You Need:
- 1 Can Coconut Milk (or Make Your Own)
- 1 3/4 Cups pure Aloe Vera Gel
- Optional: Essential Oils- I used 15 drops of lavender EO
Here’s What You Do:
- Mix all ingredients well with a wire whisk.
- Pour the solution into ice cube trays, and freeze. (The downside of using ingredients so pure you could eat them…. they go bad quickly. Hence: freezing.)
- When ready to use, take 1/4 of a cube… a little bit goes a LONG way…and set it in a small dish to thaw a few minutes before you need to use it.
- Rub the “shampoo” now used as conditioner onto the ENDS of your hair, (Read: no where near your scalp) and let it sit as long as you can before your shower. I try to let it sit for at least 30 minutes, but with a 14 month old, sometimes that doesn’t happen haha.
- Rinse thoroughly then wash hair as usual 🙂
- Use as needed. For me that means once every 2-3 weeks.
Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned
This whole process has been challenging, and I’ve learned a lot of things along the way through my searching…and searching…and searching. Hopefully, I can list most of them here in one place for you, but when in doubt, I consult Thank Your Body’s Natural Hair Care Guide.
- Give it Time. If you are going cold turkey from Garnier Fructis or the like to an all-natural hair care regimen, your hair will go into shock! Conventional shampoos strip your hair of its natural oils, (which we want to use!) and natural hair care allows them to stay, so your hair and scalp will be overproducing oils for a little while until they get used to the new stuff. This is called the “transition” or “detox” period. It can take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks (or apparently 6 months for some, but hopefully not you!) for the oils to regulate. That being said…Don’t give up after a couple of washes! It WILL get better, eventually.
- Don’t shampoo every day. This may come as a shock to some of you, but your hair really doesn’t like being washed every single day. I recommend moving to an every other day shampoo ASAP, and then slowly transition down to every 3-4 days or more. The natural hair gurus will tell you that shampooing every 10 days to 2 weeks is ideal; however, I’m at twice a week right now and it’s working out great! I don’t think I could go any longer between washes without feeling stinky. To each their own. If you still want to shower daily (highly recommended haha) try thoroughly rinsing your hair with HOT water and scrubbing with your fingernails. I mentioned above that the water-only method did not work for me BUT now that I found a shampoo that works with my hair, rinsing with plain water on in-between days is actually working out really well!
- Utilize dry shampoo. During the transition period, greasy hair is, unfortunately, inevitable 🙁 But you can use this homemade dry shampoo to ease the transition. You’ll still need to get creative with your pony tails, buns, and hats, but this definitely makes it more bearable.
- Get a Shower Water Filter. If you have hard water (like I do) you may want to consider purchasing a special filter (Like this one) to cut down on chemicals and minerals in your water. This will soften your water and help your natural hair care products work better.
- Less is More. You only need a teeny tiny bit for your shampoo to be effective. I have medium length hair, and a quarter sized amount is more than enough to do the trick. At first you’ll feel like its not doing anything especially because the lack of sulfates make the “shampoo” more slippery instead of foamy. It won’t lather like conventional shampoos, but that doesn’t mean its not working! Just rub it in as much as possible, and you’ll get used to it soon enough!
- Rinse Well. VERY Well. Along the same lines, your new shampoo will be a wee bit harder to wash out than traditional shampoos. So rinse rinse rinse with that hot water! As hot as you can tolerate. Rinse as soon as you get into the shower, then shampoo, rinse well, condition with the ACV, and rinse well again. It sounds like a lot of rinsing (and it kind of is!) but this helps each component work to the best of its abilities.
- Use a Boar Bristle Brush. When your hair is dry, use a 100% Boar Bristle Brush to smooth your hair and distribute those wonderful natural oils from root to tip. You don’t have to buy a Mason Pearson to have great hair, either. Although if someone wants to buy me one, I’ll gladly accept! 🙂 I found a perfectly acceptable boar bristle brush at Wal-Mart for $5!
- Everyone is different. Baking Soda and ACV work great for some people, but not for me. Shampooing every 2 weeks works great for some people, but not for me. Dr. Bronner’s works great for me, but may not work for you. All I’m saying is that you might not get it right on the first try. Play around with it and find what works for you!
What If I Just Want To Buy Shampoo?
I hear ya! Sometimes its just easier to spend the extra money instead of taking all that extra time and effort to find the perfect DIY version that works for your hair. I have not tried any of these, but here are a few natural shampoos recommended to me by trusted friends. As far as I know, they are all sulfate and paraben free!
- Morrocco Method Products– They have an interesting take on hair care
- Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Shampoo– Several different fragrances to choose from, but the mango sounds heavenly!
- OGX Australian Tea Tree Shampoo– This brand is a little bit controversial, and they do not use fully organic ingredients, but I’ve still heard great things!
- Weleda Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash– This shampoo/body wash combo is meant to be used on babies, but I have friends who use it on themselves as well, and they love it!
- L’Oreal Paris EverPure– Specially designed for color treated hair
- Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose– Great reviews and sounds like it smells wonderful!
What About You?
Where are you in your natural hair care journey? What works for you? What doesn’t work?
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