My hair is long. Whenever Andrew finds one of my hairs in some food (bound to happen, right?), he’s gotta pull for a while to get it out. Gross. I love my long hair though. Exactly three years ago, I had similar length hair that I had to cut completely off because I didn’t take care of it. I colored it into oblivion, coated it in chemicals, and regularly used blow driers and straighteners. When I decided to grow it back out, I vowed that I would learn to take care of it. I gave up my blow driers and straighteners. I gave up my damaging combs. I started using exclusively Giovanni products, which worked well. I love their products and highly recommend them. This went on for a couple years, until I started to take self-sufficiency seriously.
Just because Giovanni’s products were great, didn’t mean I wanted to use them. Although they helped me solve the issue of proper hair care (no SLS and -cones), using pre-packaged store bought products just didn’t jive with the homesteading shtick. First, there’s still the issue of “chemicals.” Just because these shampoos don’t contain chemicals that are harmful to your hair, doesn’t mean the other ingredients aren’t harmful to the environment. Also, I just don’t want synthetic ingredients in my life. Second, these packaged goods created a lot of waste. Third, they were expensive. I thought about solving issues two and three by buying bulk gallon vats of shampoo, but it just didn’t feel right to order $200 worth of something that could only be used on my head. Which brings me to my final issue – specialized products are a no-no in this girl’s homestead.
I’m talking to you, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, Windex, deodorant, stainless steel wipes, and all the other crackpot highly-specialized products companies like GE and Proctor and Gamble come up with to encourage us to throw our money away. One of my goals in my homestead is to rely less on ready made chemical loaded products, and instead make do with what I already have on hand. Instead of buying all purpose cleaner, I make my own using white vinegar, essential oil, and water. None of those items are single use products – I use vinegar for pickling, cooking, and odor removal; I use essential oils to make all kinds of beauty products, as well as for aromatherapy. All those non-toxic items are lying around my house. If I run out of all purpose cleaner when I’m cleaning my bathroom, I don’t have to drive to the store to go buy more.
Anyways, I realized it was time to bring this standard to my hair care. Naturally, I turned to the most widely used method of natural hair care: no-poo using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Those are two things I always have on hand! (Side note: we brush our teeth with homemade toothpaste – baking soda and peppermint essential oil. See the theme?) I went full force into no-poo territory. I followed all the directions. I wrote a post about it. I carefully screeched and preened my hair. I went a full week between ACV washes, and a full month between baking soda washes. After six months, I threw in the towel.
One of the wonderful things about doing au natural with my hair is that I’m come to understand it much better. I have extremely fine hair, and I have a TON of it on my head. That makes for lots of little follicles very close together. You know what that spells? Oil, and lots of it. Now, oil is actually very good for your hair – it coats the shaft and protects it from damage, way better than any conditioner can do. Washing your hair daily with commercial products strips it of all this natural oil, which forces you to overcompensate with expensive conditions and keratin treatments.
My problem is twofold. First, oil weighs my hair down, big time. I already have pretty straight, flat hair, and oil exaggerates that. Second, my hair looks “greasier” much quicker than those with thicker hair. I need to be able to control the oil. Giovanni did a fantastic job of this. Baking soda worked, but at price of healthy hair (BS has too high a pH for your scalp – it caused me hair loss).
I moved onto some other homemade shampoos. First, I tried Wellness Mama’s coconut milk shampoo. Meh. I figured the oil in coconut milk was working against me, so next I tried just Dr. Bronner’s. For those of you that don’t know, Dr. Bronners is a castille soap with oil as its base ingredient. Yeah … this didn’t go over well either. I’ve come to the conclusion that washing my hair with oil based products is counterproductive. My next foray is into rye flour…
I’ll do a comparison post later on about all the different methods I’ve tried, including what I liked and didn’t like about each one. But for now, I just want to wrap this post up by talking about the emotional impact all this hair experimentation has had on my life.
You can be like me, quit shaving your legs and wearing makeup, and insist you don’t give a damn about how you look. That’s largely true, but the way I look undeniably informs the way I feel, and the way I feel is pretty damn important to me. The past six months have been brutal for my self image. All the days with greasy, flat hair made me incredibly frustrated and inspired countless self deprecating thoughts. I questioned over and over whether I was doing the right thing in switching to homemade hair care products. I almost went back to Giovanni more times than I can count. There were days I showed up to work embarrassed by how I looked. I wondered if my coworkers talked about me behind my back, making fun of me for not washing my hair every day. Even though my hair looked greasy, it was perfectly clean, but they didn’t know that.
This whole project has been a wake up call to the true nature of self-sufficiency. You don’t get it right on the first try. You have to try over and over, resourcefully innovating until you find a solution that works for you. That’s the big lesson I’ve learned. I can look up recipes for homemade shampoo, read other bloggers no-poo accounts, but none of that is an automatic recipe for success. I have to create my own success that fits into my lifestyle. This is both scary and empowering – scary, because I know there are so many mistakes and so much failure in the road ahead; empowering, because forging through the trials ultimately means a more fulfilling, healthy lifestyle for myself and my family.
You know what I say in the end? Screw you GE and Proctor and Gamble. You’re never getting another dime of my money, even if it means walking around with greasy hair for a few more months while I work out a homegrown solution.