I guess it’s time to admit that while I speak German and lived in Germany, my real beauty obsession comes from the French. I love their natural, effortless femme, I love the Breton stripes and Coco Chanel suits. I love how their hair is tossed up in a carefree knot and their skin always looks moisturized, plump and healthy. I studied their routines, and went a step further as I got back to basics with my own hair care.
Hair and makeup products were the second hardest thing for me to ditch in my quest to healthier, more sustainable living. I grew up reveling in the latest brand name, expensive makeups and hair styling products. But I knew it had to change.
“WHAT?” I remember thinking when they said to wash it less. They wash every few days? My hair has a mind of its own unless I twirl it into submission with a brush and a blowdryer!
If you let your hair replenish with its own natural oils, it, like the rest of our body, keeps itself in a natural balance.
I tried, and there is a caveat, you won’t reap immediate results and wonderful perfect hair won’t happen over night because your hair and body has to go through a transition period to figure out how much oil to make to re-balance your body’s natural pH levels. Your body has to rediscover itself, which can take a week or more of potentially greasy or waxy feeling hair. I have oily hair to begin with.
Here are the basic, beginner steps I took towards the process of natural, healthy, soft hair.
1. Ditch the chemical shampoos. In my quest to find happy, healthy, environmentally responsible and stylish natural hair I began trying various “natural” shampoos. I tried Nature’s Gate, Desert Essence and Alba Botanica and ditched the mainstream products that have all of the harsh detergents and chemicals that strip your scalp of its natural oils. These make your hair soft and good smelling the way you are used to. Desert Essence’s Coconut volume shampoo and conditioner is my personal favorite, while Alba Botanica’s heavenly scented volumizing shampoos comes in with the best smelling option.
I began my transition with a gateway shampoo that ranks pretty well on the toxicity level and still smelled as good as Herbal Essences, which is important to me, because I’m obsessed with great smells (have you smelled my soaps?!). At first my hair felt grundgy because it wasn’t stripped of oil like it was with my past shampoos or coated with Keratin/formaldehyde to make it soft and shiny. I read reviews that noted, “my hair feels like straw!” Naturally, we immediately assume that we need these chemicals in order to tame and shine our hair for it to behave. Most people grow up accustomed to their hair being coated with all of the chemicals of a mainstream shampoo to make it shiny and behave.
When we wash it the first time with one that doesn’t leave it feeling immediately soft and smooth, it can be shocking! I too, thought it might never work for me and my oily hair.
But I kept at it. I scrubbed my scalp with the heavenly scented Alba Shampoo** and conditioned just the ends to seal in moisture and continued with my baking soda scrubs (more on these below) every now and again. I did this for a week and had to get used to my own, natural hair and how to work with it. It was a process of rediscovering my own hair and skin. I even let it air dry.
2. Embrace Baking Soda. I found that everything I missed about the “regular” shampoo and conditioner I could remedy with a bi-weekly baking soda scrub. Powerful mainstream shampoos that claim to do the same thing, including stripping chlorine and other impurities from your hair, have nothing on my baking soda scrub. What’s even better, is baking soda is cheap and can be bought it bulk, it really does the exact same thing as the expensive products.
3. Don’t blow it. Regular blowdrying wreaks havoc on your hair, as I’m sure you’ve heard. I stopped blowdrying the majority of my hair daily and instead focused on just blowdrying the front strands and crown area right at the top of my scalp occasionally, where the hair tends to have a mind of its own and be greasy. This lessened my natural oil just enough while still allowing the hair to balance itself naturally. I ditched the hairsprays and shine products and found that my hair took on a new personality after weeks of a natural care routine. Low and behold, I don’t need chemicals to have the great, shiny, healthy hair I was after.
When I got back to basics and re-learned to embrace the hair that was naturally mine in all of its glory, I realized that I actually quite liked it.
If you’re looking for the final nudge in going all vegetarian or vegan and ridding your body of just a few more chemicals in our chemical-laden world, I hope these few steps will help you through the first phase of making the switch.
Change isn’t easy. But as always, small steps make great progress. And it’s worth it, and letting your own inner beauty shine will be far more rewarding than thinking that your shine has to come from a bottle or a blow dryer.
* This website explains some of the ingredients to worry about in the cosmetic industry
**Why is this kind of shampoo better? It’s free of parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, harsh sulfates, propylene glycol, aluminum, mineral oil, petrolatum, oxybenzone, PABA, nano-particles, DEA, MEA or TEA, PEGs and PEG derivatives, ethoxylated ingredients associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde donors and more. It’s also vegetarian and vegan.
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