9 MONTH UPDATE - From Serial Washer to Cereal Washer 🌾
WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Shampoo & conditioner were very last on my list of handmade toiletries to attempt, and I initially had a lot of resistance towards trying because it's just so easy to buy commercial synthetic products.
Six years ago I did however make the switch to solid shampoo & conditioner bars (Lush, then Grüum) to reduce plastic bottle waste and for ease of travelling. But these bars still contain foaming agents (SLS), preservatives, colourings, synthetic perfumes...a whole list of chemicals you just do.not.need to clean hair effectively ❌
I wasn't happy with the idea of extra rubbish soaking into my skin for the sake of convenience. It seemed counter-productive to the natural swaps I was making with my homemade face wash, deodorant, body wash, body cream etc.
At the start of the pandemic I took the opportunity to try transitioning away from synthetic to natural haircare. This involved a period of:
- going cold turkey on all hair products;
- only using water on hair when showering;
- combing excess oil from the roots down to the tips (gross but very moisturising);
- microfibre and/or cotton t-shirt drying;
- and a lot of slick-backed topknots with head scarves.
I did lockdown 1.0 with my family and was only seeing other people on novel-at-the-time Zoom quizzes so it was an acceptable time to experiment. I knew it would be minging...it was 😬
My previous July blog goes into more detail about this period and all of the kitchen cupboard ingredients I subsequently tried (egg, lemon juice, apple sauce, flour, chamomile) and would recommend reading it if you want to try the transition. I spent lots of time researching the different 'no-poo' (no shampoo) methods and reading forums about what did/didn't work, but essentially it comes down to the fact that everyone's hair is completely different. There are options for curly hair, dandruff scalps, greasy hair, fine hair, porous hair, and I am certainly no expert.
I can only speak of what worked for my hair type which I would describe as: 'a large amount of fine hair with a slight natural wave, oily roots, dry ends, in a bog-standard nondescript shade of blonde.'
This head of hair has also been put through years of bleaching, dyeing, hairdryering, up-dos and pin curls for wigs in shows. At it's absolute worst condition it was grey-purple from over-bleaching, and disgustingly brittle from curling tongs & straighteners during my time in London performing in several musicals that did not use wigs. Sections would break off in my hand, or if I pulled it out horizontally from my head it would stand on end, much to the amusement of my castmates. Defying gravity is reserved for only one thing in the world of musical theatre, and it's not my hair.
| Lyric Theatre, London 2007
(* although I loved having white hair during this period in my life, I finally got rid of it by chemically dyeing it ginger, switching to red natural henna mud, and eventually growing/cutting that out, to reveal the dark blonde it is now. I literally had no idea what my natural hair colour even was.)
SO WHAT'S NEW?
9 months into natural haircare I can confirm that my hair is now the best condition is has ever been. And it's much thicker thanks to rye flour. The process was frustrating at times and I practiced a fair bit of patience but I made progress and I'm finally there.
Big change No.1 - Extending hair washes from daily to every 3 days.
Big change No.2 - I make my own shampoo.
My shampoo is ..... 📣 rye flour! 📣
I also add a small amount of bicarbonate of soda, and essential oils for scent. Essential oils are not necessary so can be omitted, but it's lovely for the shower steam to smell of mint! I make a large batch in a big container that I keep in the shower with a spoon and an empty container.
How to use Piccola Idea's All-Natural Shampoo
Make it fresh every wash
- 1 or 2 spoons, depending on hair length, into empty container
- Add shower water
- Mix to create a thick paste (I do by hand..more tactile/more fun!)
- Slap handfuls randomly on head
- Rub in (does not foam - no SLS!)
Natural haircare enthusiasts will warn of the danger of over-using bicarbonate on some hair types, so I use it sparingly without finding any negative affects to the condition.
* Important - as bicarbonate of soda is alkaline with a high pH, it needs to be balanced with an acidic apple cider vinegar rinse. This neutralises, and amazingly, adds softness and shine. It is essentially the 'conditioner' step in your haircare routine, although it feels nothing like conditioner when using it.
How to use Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
- Tiny splash in a container (1 spoon)
- Add a lot of water (min. x4)
- Dip tips of hair in container
- Pour rest over head (avoid face)
- Leave for couple of mins
- Rinse (cooler water better for shine)
If trying this, you may need to play around with the ratios of bicarbonate, and stick to it for at least a couple of weeks to give your hair a chance to adapt. Coming off synthetics means your hair will get a nasty shock, so give it time.
If you decide it's not for you, nothing is lost -
bake something delicious with the rye flour 🍞
and give your sinks a good scrub with the bicarb 🚰
(I'll write a post another day about how bicarb revolutionised my home green cleaning regime and sits proudly as king of the cupboard 😉)
|essential oil | bicarbonate | rye flour | apple cider vinegar
*Because ingredients are cheap compared to commercial shampoo & conditioner prices, you can afford to go for a good quality flour & apple cider vinegar. This amount will last several months.
My partner, who has the same length of hair, also uses this washing routine now and loves it. His hair was in much better condition to start with, and (good news for those who can't be bothered!) he didn't do the transition phase. So I'm pretty sure this shampoo would work even if you didn't want to transition.
I personally just needed to:
✅ Get my battered hair in better shape
✅ Break the cycle of washing it so frequently
I'm very happy I've managed to achieve both of these goals and found a haircare routine that works:
no nasties 🚫, cruelty-free 🐇, kind to the pocket 💷, kind to the planet's waterways 💦🐟
A small step in my longer term plan to make conscious choices and live as sustainably as possible ♻
A WORD ABOUT WATER 💦
Not all water supplies are created equal. From my various experiments I can conclude that water softness plays a huge part. I'm now able tell the quality of a water supply from my hair (weird new skill). Soft water is a DREAM 💫. Washing my hair with water on the east coast of Scotland has given me the softest hair I've ever experienced. So soft it sometimes slips out of hair baubles.
Hard water, on the other hand, is horribly cloggy on the hair (and skin). The difference is immediate when washing my hair in central London and western Tuscany where the hard water is high in magnesium and calcium deposits.
When using rye flour alone with hard water, my hair was clean at the roots but heavy, sticky and difficult to comb. Adding a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda to the rye flour sorted this instantly.
In the future I will consider investing in the plumbing of a water softener into our supply to help improve washing & drinking water.
Haircuts - how to break it to a hairdresser you don't use shampoo 💇
This is an awkward one. During this 9 month period, I have both cut/hacked my own hair once, and been to a hairdresser once. Both times I took a good 10cm off to bid farewell to split ends. I was apprehensive about going to a salon as I did't want them using any of their synthetic products.
For added awkwardness, this hair appointment was in Italy and my level of Italian did not stretch to explaining my experiment 😬
The hairdresser thankfully agreed not to use any of his products, and when asked what brand of natural haircare I was using:
'farina' 🌾, 'limone' 🍋 and 'uovo' 🍳
abruptly and bewilderingly ended the small talk... to my relief!
It is a given that many hair stylists will recommend various commercial serums, conditioners and sprays to improve shine & strength....but I'm not interested anymore. I'm aiming to improve these qualities from the inside out. They are, after all, diet-dependent. Everything we consume is reflected in our hair/nails/skin. If my hair is weak and snaps easily, I now know that I am missing an essential vitamin or mineral from my diet...not from my conditioner. A natural indicator in reading the nutrition my body needs 🌿
TREsemmé and her glamorous plastic pals of the cosmetics industry would have you fooled into thinking you need their help to achieve luscious locks, but it's simply not true. It's possible to turn your back on mass consumerism & clever advertising, get to know your own hair type, and carve your path to hair health.
Good luck with your natural haircare journey and keep me updated if you give Piccola Idea shampoo a bash. I'd love to know what methods work for you personally 💚