Along my journey to heal and give my body what it needs to be its most kick-butt self, I came upon the Purely Primal Skincare Guide. It’s a comprehensive guide to all things health and beauty: food and digestion, hair care, skin care, nail care, feminine hygiene, household cleaning products etc. It addresses most things that can come into contact with your skin- or have an impact on it, in the case of the food that you eat.
Since it is so extensive, I found it quite overwhelming at first. But I found that the best way to learn was just to take one thing at a time- and test and tweak the crap out of it until I was satisfied with the result!
Ultimate goal: achieve the same OR BETTER results when compared to conventional products!
Something that had been on my mind for years was shampoo. It seemed like a great place to start. We apply it (nearly) every day, and it contains numerous chemicals that are widely accepted as skin irritants and/or carcinogens.
After a pretty quick google search online, you will find that shampoo is a extremely recent convention in hair care. In fact, the present day obsession with shampooing our hair every day didn’t start until the 1970’s, thanks to some ads with Farah Fawcett.
If you dig further into what is included in the ingredients for most shampoos and their purpose, surprisingly few of them actually contribute to the increased integrity of your hair. There is of course water (usually the first ingredient and unfiltered/unpurified), and then a chemical that creates a “pleasing” lather (usually sodium laurel sulfate, a known skin irritant and possible carcinogen), silicones, colors/dyes, and then the dreaded, infamous “fragrance” (since the FDA does not require that companies say what is in their fragrance, this line item alone can have several ingredients of its own- who knows what’s in there!)
So to be rid of my conventional toxic shampoo, I found the No ‘Poo Method. You may have heard of it. It’s not as gross as it sounds (maybe depends on who you are)- you still “wash” your hair, just not with conventional shampoo (hence “no ‘poo). Most people wash with a combination of baking soda and water, and rinse with a dilution of apple cider vinegar. But there are MANY variations of this method that other lovely amateur scientists have cooked up and posted online- so there really is no shortage of information.
The Scientific Method: Summary of my Hair Experiments
I will save the details of some of my experiments for future posts and will stick to a summary here.
My “detox” period was pretty rough I’ll admit. My hair was either in a braid or in a hat for about 6 weeks. I tried 1) just baking soda + water; 2) baking soda + clay + water; 3) Castille soap + water; and 4) Coconut milk +Castille soap. All with apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses. Some worked better than others, but mostly I had a dark greasy head of hair with dry, brittle ends (dry and greasy at the same time- who knew?).
What eventually worked for me was Dirty ‘Poo (yep, continuing the play on “poo”) by Primal Life Organics (which I found through the Purely Primal Skincare Guide!). It is a clay mixture (composed of a couple of different clays, kelp, honey, aloe vera, and baking soda) that you simply mix with water and work into your scalp. A lovely muddy mess.
This had AMAZING results for me for about 9 months. I finally could wear my hair down and not in a nasty braid!
After about 9 months, however, I noticed that my scalp was REALLY dry. Like, dry itchy flakes, dry. So I took again to the inter webs to find homemade remedies for dry scalp and also do research as to what was causing it.
What I hypothesize from my research is that that baking soda is too alkaline for the hair and scalp- which has a surface pH of about 5. While the apple cider vinegar can help neutralize this affect when diluted and applied topically, for my scalp personally, the combination had a drying effect.
So I embarked on making my own! I got some pH strips on Amazon and started experimenting with green clay, red clay, brewed chamomile, honey, witch hazel, ACV, and essential oils.
The concept was the same as dirty poo- essentially a muddy mixture that I poured on my head. Over the next several months I had GREAT results!! It was also super fun. I changed the proportions of the two clays as well as the amount of honey and oils I put in for hydration. I would make a fresh new mixture every time I washed my hair (usually every 3 days).
Here is the last recipe that I tried:
DIY Clay Shampoo Recipe:
- 1 1/4 C Water brewed with 1/4C dried chamomile flowers (results in 6 fl oz of tea)
- Small dollop of honey (I didn’t go as OCD to measure this)
- 2 teaspoons witch hazel (known to reduce itching and inflammation)
- 3 scoops red clay (scoop included- purchased at Whole Foods)
- 1 scoop green clay (scoop included-purchased at Whole Foods)
The chamomile smells divine and the result is extremely soft hair that definitely felt as clean and beautiful as the results from conventional products!
To be honest, I don’t think I ever used the same recipe more than twice, and I’m actually still working on hydrating my scalp. I may experiment with other clays- as I observed that green clay contributed to the dryness of my scalp.
But experimentation is a good thing!
I think it taught me to pay attention and “listen” to my body (scalp and hair) and think critically about what it needs right now. Perhaps right now it needs hydration, but in a few months, because of stress or weather conditions, I will need to change my formula.
Thus is the beauty of the scientific method for hair care!
If you want to go natural with your hair care, don’t just take someone’s recipe or advice blindly. The No ‘Poo Method has worked for many, but not all, and it may not work for you. And if this type of experimentation is not your thing (I have been an engineer for 8 years, so it comes naturally to me!) then that’s ok too! There are more and more brands coming out with non-toxic shampoos that can either ease you into it, or be perfectly sufficient for your hair over the long term!
Stay tuned for future posts on natural shampoo product reviews!
Have you been experimenting with hair care? What works for you?