When I told my coworker the premise of this post, and judging by her expression, I was wavering between “The Best Hair of Your Life” and “How to Get Amazing Hair and Not Be Disgusting.” I urge you to ditch your shampoo and work with what your creator gave you. My intention is to get you to go natural in your hair routine without smelling like an Ani diFranco concert (a.k.a. dread hell).
Like most of you, my whole life up until a few years ago, I was stuck in a vicious cycle of shampooing every night – because I enjoy clean hair and smelling nice, obvs – and heat styling every morning, trying to force my hair into submission with styling products all day, shampoo, rinse, and repeat.
My hair was shiny and looked nice albeit a little flat, but God forbid I ran out of shine serum or wax, forgot my flat iron, or if it rained…oh, the rain… It took time to get pretty, my ends were split, scalp was dry in the morning, oily by the end of the day, and inevitably, nature would rear its ugly head and my wings – spiral curled baby hairs only around my face – would rebel and take flight at the most inopportune times.
My stylist and some friends with stylish, voluminous (not-stinky or greasy) hair told me repeatedly that I had to change my evil ways, baby, but I like being clean and smelling nice. Drastic, extreme, and dissuasive articles like this one will set you up for failure, while many people try for a week and quit, and unless you have the right process, things are not likely to go well. I’m not going to lie – you have to commit, and be willing to put up with a couple of weeks of less glamorous tresses.
- Get a great haircut: This is important for anyone but even more so if you’re greening your routine. Why? Because you’re going to want to work with your hair’s natural texture so that it falls the right way and has good shape. To find a great stylist, ask people you know or run into who have great hair where they get it done. A lot of trial and error. You can search online with some success, but often the best way to find someone amazing is by referral.
- Be nice to your skin: When you use harsh shampoos – the mass consumer brands we all grew up with – they strip your hair and scalp of all their natural oils and good bacteria. Squeaky clean means too clean. Your sebaceous glands will react to these detergents by secreting extra oils, which is why if you go a day without washing, you get greasy. When you choose a milder, natural shampoo, your scalp will re-adjust and balance, and ultimately your hair will thank you. Acure, available in many supermarkets, is a great non-toxic brand at a reasonable price to start with. Disclaimer: the natural brands aren’t as sudsy (because the suds are made of harsh stripping chemicals), but we must sacrifice that gratification for beauty and health.
- Detox your hair: This is the worst part of the process. I wouldn’t recommend going cold turkey on shampoo, but try to use less of it and gradually ween yourself away. Try shampooing every other day, and for the sake of everyone around you, please continue to shower. Condition every day if you like. If you’re active and sweat regularly, hop in the shower, rinse your hair with warm water and condition. Once your scalp adjusts, try washing every two or three days. I’m keen on a brand called Unwash, and use it in place of shampoo. The point of this exercise is not to scare your neighbors. If you start to get greasy, please shampoo.
- Turn down the heat: Better yet, unplug. Have you ever noticed that little girls have beautiful locks, and do next to nothing? When I used the flat iron every day, my ends were damaged and lost their natural wave, which made me need to flat iron them all the more. I made a deal with myself not to heat style for a month to see if my hair’s condition improved, and mostly wore ponytails and buns in the meantime. Now, I never heat style. When I travel for conferences, I take a curling iron in case of emergency and I never use it. Your hair will remember it’s glory days of its youth.
- Find good, clean products:
- Get a good natural shampoo and conditioner. There are articles out there that will instruct you to go no-poo, using vinegar and baking soda. Not this girl – I don’t like getting a whiff of salad every time I turn my head. Poo if you need too, but make sure you use gentle products.
- Between shampoos, it’s fair to use a dry shampoo. I like this one by Ambiance – the brush makes it ideal for the disaster-prone.
- You may want a leave-in conditioner, like this one by Giovanni (they also make good shampoo/conditioner).
- I swore I’d never be able to live without my shine serum, but the wise Josh Rosebrook will tell you about the trap of silicone shine serums, or liquid plastic as I call them. Deep condition, or rub the tiniest amount of argan oil on your ends for flyaways or damage and before the occasional heat styling. As your hair recovers from heat damage, you’ll find you don’t even need it.
- If you want extra volume and texture, so far I haven’t found anything that beats Josh Rosebrook’s LIFT. Spray damp hair for texture or the roots for volume, and prepare to get gorgeous.
- If you’re not sure what brands are clean, check EWG’s Skin Deep, or buy from one of the clean beauty shops on my shop and resources page.
- Find work-arounds: As I mentioned, I don’t heat style and usually my hair looks pretty good, IMHO – shiny, healthy, with natural wave. Once I detoxed and rediscovered my natural texture, the parts that were always bone straight, started to curve or curl. Sometimes I can just push a comb through and go. Other days, plan B: I wet my hair, spray Josh Rosebrook’s LIFT, and twist in some wave. When I wake up with the telltale hair of what was clearly a bad night, I’ll do a pompadour with bobby pins or a side part and ponytail. You need to find tricks that work with your schedule, needs, and natural hair texture, and remember: you win some, you lose some, but this detox will ensure you have more good hair days than bad.
Your hair and scalp want to be happy, but have been worked into submission. If you’re adaptable, patient, and committed to styling detox, you too can have the best, happiest hair of your life. Make friends with nature. And as any good Arizonan will say, bring on the rain!
Disclosure: A few of the hyperlinked products here that I use and recommend (and link to for your convenience) contain affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking on them, I will receive a small commission (for my convenience). Feel free to buy from the suggested vendors or from anywhere else you frequent or find value.