Reading My Tea Leaves | Habit Shift: Natural Hair

habit shift: natural hair care.

November 15, 2017

habit shift: natural hair care | reading my tea leavesWriting about a natural hair routine in the lifestyle realm feels a bit like pandering. Everyone wants a foolproof fix and so there are roughly one million blog posts convincing people that their particular brand of obsession is what will finally be the answer. 

Stop washing your hair all together, spin around three times in the front of the mirror, massage a little unicorn spit into your scalp, and voila, EFFORTLESS BEAUTY, EVERY TIME.

For my part, I hope one day that I’ll be able to write a post about how I use just a single bar of soap for all of my earthly needs, but, I confess, I’m still not there.

Indeed, if I’m being honest, this habit shift’s been fifteen years in the making. When I began to buy my own shampoo in college, I went directly to the health food store and chose from among the Nature’s Gate bottles on offer. Weeks into my first experience of dorm living, I was convinced that the water in my dorm was hard, or soft, or whatever it is that turns formerly soft hair into a simultaneously dry and greasy mess. It was months before I realized that the difference between showering at my parents’ house and in my dormitory was my coveted natural shampoo, not the water. But I didn’t turn my back on my new-found commitment. In fact, I doubled down. After my freshman year, I spent the summer working on hiking trails in Vermont. I braided my short hair into tiny braids and didn’t wash it for the entirety of my time away. (You can imagine my dad’s delight when he came to drive me home from my summer adventure.) I didn’t stick with either Nature’s Gate or “no-poo,” but I have spent the last fifteen years on the so-called natural shampoo train, trying a seemingly endless series of shampoo and conditioner. I’ve gone through what feels like the entirety of the EWG Skin Deep database to find products that are free from fragrance and phthalates and sulfates and other things typically found in conventional shampoo. I’ve tried very inexpensive shampoos and very expensive shampoos. I’ve used solid shampoo bars and liquid shampoos. I’ve ransacked the kitchen and dunked my head in vinegar and olive oil and beer. I’ve smeared in baking soda pastes and avocado and coconut oil and eggs. 

Before you get too excited, this post isn’t going to offer anyone a final miracle answer. But I’m hopeful that it might open up a conversation. It goes without saying, that the particulars of hair routines are, well, particular. There are a millions kinds of hair out there and what’s true for me won’t likely be true for you, but maybe this can be a space where we can offer each other some sanctimony-free advice or encouragement.

For the curious:

I’m currently using Rahua’s shampoo and conditioner. This set was a gift to me, and it’s very luxurious, smells very good, and makes my hair soft and shiny, but like the Yarok and the Cold Spring Apothecary shampoos and conditioners that I’ve also loved, it doesn’t solve the problem of single-use plastic…

Toward that end, I’m intrigued by Plaine Products. The ingredients list looks promising and their commitment to reusing their metal packaging through a subscription service is encouraging, though I wish their bottles were less branded. I’d love to know if anyone’s tried these guys.

I’ve sworn off bar shampoo no less than five times since I never seem to be able to get them to rinse (or condition) effectively, but I’m not afraid to try again and I’m intrigued by Meow Meow Tweet’s Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar. I know there are shampoo bar lovers out there. Any tips?

Finally, upon encouragement from a friend in the beauty world, I’ve renewed my experiments with good old apple cider vinegar, diluted this time, and in a squirt bottle to make it easier to apply. I’ve used it a few times a week for a few weeks, and I dare say it’s helping with shampoo build-up without also stripping my hair. Maybe the answer lies in the kitchen, after all? Could a combination of ACV and a shampoo bar be my natural hair care holy grail? Who’s here to tell me yes?

What else? What do you guys do? 

First photo: ACV and water! Second photo: Yours truly, from yesterday’s post with Tradlands. Photo by Christine Han.