Shampoo & Conditioner
Finding a natural hair care routine that does not include conventional store bought shampoo and conditioner was tricky.
Store bought shampoo contains many harmful substances, one problematic ingredient is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS is included in many cleaning supplies because of its foaming ability (think toothpaste, laundry detergent, hand soap…). Many people associate sudsing ability with cleaning efficiency; this is a completely psychological effect of using products that contain SLS (bubbles do not equal clean!). There are many serious problems that SLS has been shown to cause, skin irritations and hormone imbalances being some top concerns. More info on SLS: http://slsfree.net
It is popular in the world of “no poo” to use baking soda as the shampoo, and diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) as conditioner; this is a TERRIBLE idea. I did some further research and found that the pH of baking soda is 8.3, and the pH of diluted ACV is around 4. The human sebum/scalp has a natural pH of 4.5-5.5. You want your hair care routine to stay as close to the pH of your scalp as possible to minimize stress on hair follicles. When you use baking soda, followed by ACV, you are not only stripping away the naturally acidic scalp’s sebum (because of the alkaline environment of the baking soda), but you are also putting it through a very stressful process where you are opening the cuticles (baking soda) and then closing the cuticles (AVC). This will cause you hair to eventually fall out…
There is no inherent problem with using diluted ACV as the conditioner, since its pH is very close to the pH of the sebum. It just doesn’t pair well with baking soda. Diluted ACV actually works are a great conditioner, it helps soothe and heal dry itchy scalps because of its natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. And it balances the pH of the scalp, by sealing the cuticles it allows the hair to retain moisture. Dilution ratio: 1 tbs ACV: 1 cup water*. I mix this up, put it in a spray bottle, and leave that in the shower. When you are ready to use it, spray all over your head and let it sit for a minute, then rinse out (can be leave-in conditioner, rinsing is optional!). When you rinse, try to use cold water. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound very pleasant! But once again, it’s all about the hair cuticle. When you rinse with warm water, it opens up the cuticle and allows the shampoo better access to the scalp to do it’s job. Then, rinsing with cold water seals the deal and closes the cuticle, allowing retention of moisture in the hair.
** Instead of water for this ACV spray, try using teas or herbal brews. I like making a strong brew of chamomile tea (2-3 Tbs chamomile flowers to 1 cup water), and using that in place of plain water in the rinse. Chamomile has hair lightening effects, so only use if blonde or looking to get lighter locks. You can also use black tea for dark hair, and other herbal teas for specific hair benefits. Unlimited possibilities!
You may be averse to the odor of ACV, similar to… smelly feet. Do not let this deter you! You can mix 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil to make the smell more pleasant for you. Different essential oils can have different benefits for your hair, and also there are specific oils for certain hair types. I usually do a mixture of lavender and lemon essential oils, lavender because I love the smell, and lemon because it has antibacterial and also hair lightening effects. The lemon essential oil REALLY WORKED, I have only included it in my conditioner twice and I can already see that my hair appears lighter. The reason this occurs is because most citrus essential oils are photosensitive, so they react with sunlight (this obviously means that if you did not rinse the conditioner and then went outside into the sunlight, the lightening effects would be much greater). IMPORTANT: do not use these photosensitive oils on your skin before going into sunlight, they cause the skin to burn. More info on essential oils and hair: http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/essential-oils-for-healthy-hair/
So, now we are left with what to shampoo with… enter RYE FLOUR. Rye flour has tons of vitamins and minerals that feed your hair and also promote growth. It has a pH of 5 which is close to the pH of the sebum, woohoo! Make sure to use light rye flour that is ground up very finely, if you use dark rye flour it will be grainy and hard to wash out of your hair. All you need to do is take a few tablespoons of the rye flour and mix it with some water, then stir it up to make a paste. Method: rub into the scalp and then through the rest of your hair, leave it in for about a minute before rinsing. More information on rye flour shampoo here: http://myhealthygreenfamily.com/blog/wordpress/homemade-shampoo-with-rye-flour-natural-pro-v-for-thick-shiny-healthy-hair/
Honey is another great shampoo, it has a pH of around 4. If you have hair that tends to be dry, honey might work better for you since it is more moisturizing than rye flour. For one wash, mix 1 tbs of raw honey with 3 tbs of hot water. Raw/unfiltered honey has antibacterial and anti-fungal cleansing properties that pasteurized/filtered honey does not have. If you use this method, the ACV conditioner is also optional! This is because of the pH balancing/moisturizing effects of the honey. This method did not work for me, I tried it 4 times and each time my hair was greasy at the crown after my hair dried. My lovely assistant Adam (little brother) has very dry hair, so the rye flour method left his hair feeling even drier. The honey wash has been working great for him so far, bouncier curls and way less frizz than he has experienced in the past! More info on honey wash: http://empoweredsustenance.com/diy-honey-shampoo/
One caveat, your hair might have an adjustment period (lasting one week to a month). It might possibly rebel and miss the oily-build-up-inducing-goop-in-a-bottle. Don’t give up! I personally haven’t had any serious detox reactions so far, my hair looked and felt healthier upon first wash with rye flour/ACV. It is not as frizzy and looks much nicer when left to air-dry than it has before. Oh yeah, and it is definitely CLEAN. I absolutely love what it has done for my hair and I highly recommend it to anyone open to trying!