Hair. Most of us have it. Many of us spend hours primping it every year and hundreds (thousands?) of dollars every year removing, dying, cutting, straightening, curling and braiding our hair and many more other things of which I may not be aware.
I’m the closest I’ve ever been to accepting the hair on the top of my head for what it is: thick, wavy and frizzy and getting slightly darker each year.
My hair will never naturally dry perfectly straight…or evenly wavy all over…or without knots.
I have memories of lying face down on my bed and crying while my mom tried to brush the knots out of my hair. If I wore my hair down during gym class or recess, I would end up with a huge knot at the nape of my neck.
Some time in middle or high school, my mom let me have my hair chemically relaxed which didn’t take away the chore of blow drying it straight everyday, it just made it slightly easier by taking out some of the stronger kinks. Straight, smooth hair was the fashion at the time, and I was just so jealous of anyone with naturally straight hair. When you are a teenager with an attitude and angst, you don’t listen to the adults around you who tell you that you have really beautiful hair because you are only focused on what the popular styles are. Plus sometimes it sounded like they were trying to make me feel better.
I do have beautiful hair, but I still don’t quite know how to tame it. In the past year, I seem to have taken a somewhat lackadaisical approach to hair care opting for a lower maintenance, frugal and natural method. It took much trial and error and is still not perfect.
In line with minimalism, I first used up all the shampoos, conditioners and hair products I had accumulated in the medicine cabinets. Then, in line with my zero waste effort, I looked for the most ecofriendly options to replace the shampoos and conditioners I had been using, and I stopped using all other products such as hair spray, lighteners, gels, etc. I got rid of my curling iron because I hardly ever used it. I still have a hairdryer (for guests, because I don’t use it), and I still have my straightening iron which I only use for formal events. I have a brush or two, but I don’t use them because you don’t brush wavy hair! You just don’t! Not even to pull it up in a ponytail or bun because hair bands grip textured hair better.
The comb I use to comb the conditioner through my hair is from a goody bag from someone’s birthday party in second or third grade. Is the fact that I’ve been using it for 20-something years a foreshadowing of my current thought processes?
I had read about using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash hair. Supposedly, it is the most ecofriendly option as apple cider vinegar is usually sold in glass containers and you don’t need a large amount of each to wash your hair. I did not try this option. Recently, I’ve been reading about no-makeup movements which have lead me to some bloggers who are starting to wear their hair naturally. One wrote a year of the baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse method ruined her hair. She didn’t go into detail, but after trying what I did, I believe her.
Sodium laureth sulfate is a detergent and surfactant, is found in most shampoos and can cause skin irritation. It is responsible for creating the nice foamy lather you get when you rub the shampoo into your hair. It improves the interaction between your hair and the shampoo. Many brands are now going sulfate-free as sodium laureth sulfate can also dry out your hair which can cause frizz, especially in people with wavy and curly hair.
I first bought sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner after I used up my stock of sulfate-ridden shampoos. It took getting used to because without the sodium laureth sulfate, your hair feels sticky and not as smooth when you rinse away the shampoo. However, I did not notice a difference after my hair dried. This method worked well, but I couldn’t find a brand that carried it in larger bottles and the thought of buying all that plastic (some of which was not recyclable) every 6-8 weeks didn’t sit well with me.
Then, I decided to use Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap as my shampoo (and dish washing soap – apparently it has 18 uses). It took some getting used to because it also doesn’t have sodium laureth sulfate as an ingredient, but it’s also super natural so it doesn’t contain many other ingredients you find in major shampoo brands. At first I used this in conjunction with my regular conditioner, but was still looking for something more ecofriendly. I then tried apple cider vinegar to rinse out the shampoo. The smell = gross. If I got it in my mouth = double gross. And in my eyes = ouch!
Enter Dr. Bronner’s citrus conditioning rinse. It smelled awesome. But, again, if you get it in your eyes it burns badly. Plus it made my hair so oily (but no frizz) that someone at work asked me if I dyed my hair darker! I used up my (expensive and small) bottle and abandoned the Dr. Bronner method. It only took 3 weeks to use up the conditioning rinse which wouldn’t have been sustainable either due to the amount of plastic involved.
The positive side to going sulfate-free? No more dandruff. I had been an avid Head and Shoulders user for years yet still had times, especially in the winter, when my scalp would peel. Head and Shoulders has sodium laureth sulfate in it, by the way.
I am currently using an organic, fair trade, vegan, sulfate-free shampoo in a large bottle that I really like. I’m still using up some older conditioner, but I only use it 1-2 times a week now. Without the sodium laureth sulfate and other commercial ingredients to dry out my hair, I just don’t need conditioner (one less plastic bottle!). This method is still not perfect because of the plastic bottle. I’m still in search of a store that sells bulk liquid shampoo. So far, no luck in Charlotte.
A more zero waste, plastic free option I could try is a shampoo bar. It’s a bar of soap for your hair. Some people use it for their hair and their skin. I may give this a try in the future.
I went 1 year and 2 weeks without cutting my hair. I find that I spend too much time blow drying and straightening my hair when it is short, and I can’t stand having it naturally wavy when it is short. I can’t brush it when it is short and wavy because then it looks worse, and I can’t pull it all the way back to get it out of my face for work. And I’m not brave enough to try a pixie cut.
So I keep my hair long. Which, for me, is the most low maintenance. I don’t have to get it cut often to maintain a certain shape (saving money) and without the commercial ingredients to dry out my hair and only using the straightening iron 1-2 times a year (saving time), my ends don’t split us much as they used to. Plus I can splurge on my haircuts and an awesome hair wash that feels more like a massage at Poza Salon (plus they donate the hair clippings!) I use almond or coconut oil on the ends of my hair at least once a week after I shower to cut down on split ends. I can easily pull my hair back for work. I can skip all the fancy hair products (saving time and money) by wearing my hair in a braid as it creates even waves without the frizz.
That almond oil I use on the ends of my hair? I also use it to shave my legs. It seems expensive at about $20 per 16 fluid ounces, but I only go through one bottle every 9-12 months. I used to go through one of those Skintimate cans of shaving cream every 6-8 weeks plus despite its promise to moisturize my skin, I still had to apply moisturizer to keep my skin from itching afterwards.
The best thing about having long, wavy, thick hair? Excellent beach hair. Point: Stephanie.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you, and remember that your natural hair or lack of hair is beautiful.