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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Personal Care 101

It's been a while since I have covered personal care products.  In this series I have covered a number of topics.

Part 1 - Deodorant

Part 2 - Natural Soap

Part 3 - Toothpaste

Part 4 - Facial Products - Cleanser and Moisturizer

Today, I will cover Part 5 - Hair Care

I have been using this all-natural "product" for a little over two years.  It is called "no poo", because it isn't shampoo.  I use baking soda to wash and apple cider vinegar (or citric acid) to rinse.  Click here for more information. You can also Google "no poo" and get lots of information.

Did you know that shampoo was only invented in the last century?  Before that people used to wash their hair once a week, on average, and they used bar soap or borax.  Shampoo is detergent and it is very harsh.  It strips our hair of natural oils and then we have to use conditioner to soften our hair.  But conditioner is just building up unnatural waxes and chemicals on our hair.

I don't really have a problem putting a chemical on my hair, I do color my hair after all, but my issue is what goes on my scalp.  There are various toxins (click here to learn more) in shampoo and these toxins can be absorbed through the skin.

Now, I know that washing my hair with baking soda may sound really odd, but I absolutely love it.  I assure you that I am no hippy, I don't wear dreadlocks, and my hair is not greasy.  My hair behaves better with the baking soda than with conventional shampoo.  It doesn't lie so flat, it has more body (and I need that).  And my hair is so soft!  I used to have bad split ends all the time and now even my hairdresser has noticed that my hair is much healthier.  I still use a hair dryer and flat iron.  In fact, people are always surprised to find out I use baking soda.  They can't tell the difference, that's how well the baking soda cleans.  I have heard from people with curly hair that baking soda makes their hair behave better, too.  So don't worry about my comment about more body.  Perhaps you don't need more body.  It seems that the baking soda brings balance, whether that be more body or less.

The general recipe is 1 tablespoon baking soda to eight ounces water to wash.  Then you rinse with either apple cider vinegar or citric acid.  I used to use 1 tablespoon ACV to eight ounces water, but now I use 1/8 teaspoon citric acid to eight ounces water.  I was using 1/4 teaspoon citric acid for a time, but noticed my hair was a bit dull.  When I lowered it to 1/8 teaspoon, it brought back the shine.  In the summer months my hair can be more oily (in this humid climate), so I increase my baking soda to two tablespoons in eight ounces water.  It's something you have to try out and see what works best for you.

I let the baking soda wash sit on my hair and scalp a few minutes and massage my scalp with it.  Then I rinse thoroughly with plain water.  Next comes the rinse.  I let it sit for about a minute and rinse it out with plain water.

This may sound interesting to you.  It may sound crazy!  Some other options are to use a shampoo bar instead.  This is a natural soap that suds nicely and won't strip your hair of its natural oil.  It's not a harsh detergent.  I have used one from Heart of Iowa Soapworks that I liked a lot.  It had castor oil in it and lathered very well.  I know that you can also buy shampoo bars through the Oklahoma Food Coop.  I'm sure most natural soapmakers sell a shampoo bar.  Just ask.  You don't want a regular soap bar, but one that is meant for the hair.  Then follow this wash with either the apple cider rinse or a citric acid rinse.

Still too daring for you?  Try going farther between washes with your regular shampoo.  I used to think I had to wash my hair every single day.  My hair is oily and if I skipped a day it wasn't pleasant.  But then I tried it.  I tried washing every other day and realized my hair got used to it, my skin produced less oil.  So then I decided to try washing every third day and that worked, too (after a little adjustment period).  I now wash my hair only twice a week.  This has really helped with the split ends since I blow dry and use a flat iron every time I wash.  Cutting back on heat from seven to two days a week is a big difference.  So if you're not comfortable with baking soda or shampoo bars, you can cut back on your chemical load by washing less.  Remember that 100 years ago, women only washed their hair about once a week.  And they typically had very long, beautiful hair.  Women that grow their hair really long will tell you that washing often is damaging.

If you want to give the baking soda method a try, here are a few tips.

Adjustment Period Your skin is used to producing a certain amount of oil to moisturize your hair.  When you stop stripping your hair of this oil, it takes a bit to adjust.  The first couple weeks may be a bit oily.  If you want, you could start out using the baking soda wash every other time you wash.  Then slowly back off the shampoo, try it every third time you wash, then every fourth, and so on, until you don't need it anymore.  That's the way I made the switch.

Vinegar Smell Some people are put off by the vinegar smell of the apple cider vinegar.  Citric acid on the other hand (this is the same acid in lemons) does not have a smell.  You can buy citric acid crystals at the grocery store, they are usually sold with the canning supplies, it's a natural food preservative.  I had some on hand because I made bath bombs a few years ago.  I bought my citric acid from Majestic Mountain Sage.

Fragrance You can add essential oils to the wash and rinse for fragrance and health benefits.  Here is a list of oils and their benefits.

No Detangler?  I'll never be able to brush through my hair! Your hair is slightly less manageable when wet, using the baking soda/vinegar routine (as opposed to using conditioner and being able to pull a comb right through it).  I find that if I just brush through my hair before washing, though, it is fine and manageable.

Learn From My Mistakes A mistake I made at first was not rinsing out the vinegar rinse solution.  For some reason I thought that my hard water would be bad on my hair after washing (I did read this somewhere).  This was a bad idea, my hair felt like straw most of the time.  I almost gave up on "no poo."  Then someone mentioned rinsing the rinse out.  I tried it and wonder of wonders, that was the trick.

Trial Period Give your hair a good two-week trial to see if you like this method.  Like I mentioned, your hair will need to adjust the amount of oil it produces.

Redistribute The Oil You may consider buying a natural bristle brush, it will help distribute your hair's oils down to the ends where it needs it most.  Remember in Little House on the Prairie, Ma and the girls would brush their hair 100 strokes per night?  I don't do that, but I do use the natural bristle brush occasionally.  I just take sections of my hair and brush each one 10 to 15 strokes.  I wash this brush out often since it's picking up the oil from my hair.

Hair Loss? You may notice more hair in your brush, switching to this baking soda wash.  I did.  But don't be alarmed.  I also noticed that there was a lot less hair in my drain.  So it seems I'm shedding the same amount of hair, it just isn't coming out in the shower as before.  I think this is because when you use regular shampoo you are scrubbing more and the shampoo creates a slick environment, the loose hair is easily rinsed out.  With the baking soda, I am massaging my scalp, but I can't run my fingers through my hair as I could with shampoo.  This means those loose hairs aren't being displaced until I brush my hair.

Adjust If Necessary My hair is naturally oily.  You have to see what works best for your hair type.  If your hair is dry, you will want to use less baking soda than I use.  Search a little online and ask me any questions you have.


  1. I forgot to mention another big reason why I love this - no more flaky scalp! I used to really have a problem with flakes and I think, now, that it was because my shampoo dried my scalp out too much. I even tried numerous dandruff shampoos in the past, to no avail. The baking soda does the trick and is so much more gentle and chemical-free.

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