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12 July 2010 @ 10:27 pm
I've been noticing more fly-away hairs than usual around my hairline, and on top of my head--not more than an inch or so long. At first, I was concerned that something about the way I've been washing or wearing it was causing breakage. Upon further inspection though, the ends of these hairs are definitely tapered, not blunt or split. So I'm assuming this means new growth? Yay :D

I've been playing around more recently on The Long Hair Community. My hair is about 40" long now, and I've gotten this far mostly through laziness. I simply haven't bothered to cut it in years, and I've never cut it shorter than below shoulder length in my life. LHCers use a whole list of terms for different hair lengths based on the relationship between the longest part of the hair and certain anatomical markers. By their standards, I'm somewhere between "tailbone" length and "classic" length now ("classic" is the very top of the thigh; about 43" for me). It sounds so strange to say it, but there is some seriously gorgeous hair over there. It's inspiring, lol.

So, I've decided to actually start actively pampering my hair. It got this far without any special attention, so I'm curious to see how far it can go :P I'm calling classic a "mini goal." Ultimately, I think it would be awesome to get to fingertip length (though practicality might win out in the end). It really all comes down to how much hair I can bun up in a stable way for work; something about dangling braids and caring for patients doesn't seem to mix.

As far as changes to my hair care: admittedly, not much. I've really never been terribly rough on my hair. I never use heat on it, I've only been brushing it when dry, and I've kept it up most of the time with scrunchies or non-metal hair elastics. I don't use shampoo anymore, and the no-poo system really is more gentle.

In the spirit of feeling proactive, I've put away my brushes and am now exclusively combing my hair. I put my hair up during the day with sticks rather than hair ties, and at night I put it up in a giant scrunchie bun. This all seems to be working! The sticks have been amazing; they're extremely secure, and haven't caused any breakage from what I can tell. Hair elastics always get hopelessly tangled up, and they slip under the weight of a ponytail or bun after a few minutes. The scrunchie bun keeps my hair out of my face while I sleep, and it maintains a sort of controlled chaos; when I wake up the bun looks ridiculous, but my hair is free of most major tangles after I carefully undo the scrunchie.

If those fly-aways really are significant new-growth, then this special attention does seem to be paying off already :) I know I have less breakage and I lose fewer hairs to elastics now. That has to count for something.

honey + hair
I tried using honey as a conditioner the other day, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. The theory is that honey draws in moisture. Some people even use it as a leave-in conditioner. I was not that brave, hah! After my conditioning rinse, I smoothed a handful of honey through my hair, and let it sit twisted up while I finished my shower. I rinsed the honey out (which was surprisingly easy! Honey is water soluble though, after all) and finished with my usual tea rinse.

After I towel dried, I could tell my hair was more tangled than it usually is. It took at least twice as long to comb through with the wide-toothed comb, and I couldn't get it to stay untangled. It didn't feel sticky at all, so I don't think it was a matter of not rinsing the honey out well enough. I worked coconut oil through the ends and length as I normally do, and twisted it up to dry.

All in all, I think my hair was softer after the honey. It had very nice volume and shine. Unfortunately, the tendency to tangle up didn't go away for a couple days after the wash. I'm not sure that the honey added any more moisture than my regular method. Since increased volume and tangles don't play nicely together, I think I'll stick with my regular routine unless I read about a better method involving honey. It wasn't bad, it just really wasn't worth the hassle for me.

up-do experiments
For whatever reason, I've never learned how to properly French braid my own hair. This is a sad thing because I really love French braids, and it simply isn't practical to fly my mom clear across the country every time I want pigtails ^^; So, I've been working at it. I'm getting better about making the sections more uniform, but the end product still doesn't look right for whatever reason. It's such an awkward angle to work at!

A few pics from today:

pardon the obvious bathroom shot--does anyone know why this looks wonky? or is it just me...

basically a very low braided cinnabun
16 June 2010 @ 01:04 pm
A couple of days ago, I tried adding oats to my final rinse. My skin has been a bit dry lately for whatever reason, and I was hoping the oats would make my scalp happier...

...success :)

What I Did:
I set up my "hair tea" as usual, using 2 cups boiling water, a Tbsp or so of rosemary, chamomile and green teas, and a bay leaf. This time, I also stirred in 2 Tbsp oats (I just used the Quaker Old-fashioned ones we have around for breakfast cereal) before covering it up and letting it steep all day.

I strained it extra-well before pouring it into my squirt bottle, because the oatmeal had softened and there were a lot of smaller chunks. In retrospect, I should have just strained it into a jar and skipped the squirt bottle--even having strained the tea, the squirt nozzle was having a tiny bit of trouble with small particles from the oatmeal.

I usually don't rinse the tea out of my hair, but for this, I did. I've seen what happens to oatmeal left in the bottom of a bowl for too long, and I was paranoid about little bits leftover in my hair doing the same thing :P Next time, I will definitely try adding the oatmeal to my conditioning rinse instead of my final tea rinse--this way, I can rinse out the oatmeal water without rinsing out the tea.

Actually, when I use oatmeal again, I'll probably keep it separate from the vinegar too. I don't like to leave vinegar on my hair for too long, or I lose too much volume. So! I will probably prepare my conditioning rinse as normal (1 2/3 cups warm water + 1/3 cup white vinegar), and then make a batch of oat water (2 cups boiling water + 2 Tbsp oats) in a jar. I'd like to try using the oat water after the vinegar rinse, leaving *it* on for the rest of my shower, rinsing it out well, and then finishing with the tea rinse.

I didn't end up having any issues with pieces of the oats being left in my hair. When I got out, I towel-dried my hair as usual, combed through it with a wide-toothed comb, worked coconut oil into the ends and the length, and then combed through all of it with a finer-toothed comb. The combing got rid of any oat pieces that I missed while rinsing.

My hair is super soft, and very shiny. It doesn't have a *ton* of body, but it's got good weight to it; since I've been braiding it a lot lately, this makes it nice to work with. It's not frizzy--just the usual fly-aways. My scalp is super happy :)

(lol, I have no idea why the color looks so funny in the braided pics. At first I thought "wow, I seriously failed the last time I henna'd," but I checked it out in the mirror and asked a couple other people, and apparently this orange roots vs. red length thing isn't noticeable except in this particular lighting with this particular camera. very strange! I think it looks cool :P)

Click individual pictures to link to a bigger version with better detail.

15 June 2010 @ 11:01 pm
Now for the 2-month catch-up post on how I've been doing the shampoo-free thing :)

Without shampoo and conditioner, washing and conditioning are accomplished using various basic or acidic solutions. Bases cause the scales on the cuticle (the outermost part of the hair's shaft) to "stand up." This creates a rougher texture, but aids in the cleaning process, as dirt trapped by these scales may be cleaned away. Acids cause these scales to lay flat again; this smooths and strengthens the hair, making it more shiny and resistant to tangling. Therefore, "washes" often include baking soda, or some other mildly basic cleaning agent. "Rinses" are usually acidic. The skin (including the scalp) naturally has a slightly acidic pH; mildly acidic rinses are not only important for smoothing and de-tangling the hair, but they help to maintain the natural pH of the scalp.

Basically, I wash my hair whenever it feels like it needs to be washed--lately, this ends up being about every week. I start by combing through my hair, and then I flip my head upside down and massage my scalp to loosen up the dead skin and oils that I'm trying to wash out. This is a really important step--shampoo breaks down dead skin and oils chemically (which is just a little freaky, right?); without shampoo, you'll probably find that manually loosening these things up results in a more effective wash. Then,I hop in the shower, wet my hair, and spray just the roots with the wash. I massage my scalp again with the wash under very warm water for a minute or two, and then rinse very, very well before applying my conditioning rinse.

To start out, I used 1Tbsp baking soda dissolved in 1 cup warm water for washes. I mix my solutions just before showering, because I like them to still be warm--you can easily mix larger quantities in advance though. I put the solution in a cheap spray bottle, because I only really use it on my roots. Baking soda is still milder than shampoo, but its best to try to keep it off the ends of your hair, especially if they're already dry (like mine definitely were).

Baking soda is pretty powerful stuff; a little goes a long way. Even though it's milder than shampoo, it still removes a lot of oil from the hair. Therefore, if you're trying to let your scalp balance to slow oil production, washing too frequently even with baking soda can be counterproductive. In the first few weeks, it's common to go through a "detox" or "transition" period while the scalp "figures out" that it no longer has to produce as much oil as it has been. As long as you don't over-wash in response, this should quickly correct itself. This awkward transition period varies from person to person. The length of time it takes the scalp to balance out seems to depend heavily on how frequently you used shampoo (every-day washers tend to take longer to transition), and how often you continue to wash your hair while switching to no-poo. Washing every day with baking soda isn't necessary; you'll only irritate your scalp.

After the first couple of weeks, I started decreasing the amount of baking soda in my washes. My current "wash" is 1 cup of warm water with 1Tbsp sea salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda dissolved in. I never noticed any problem with the baking soda lightening or changing my hair color while I was using more of it, but because I use henna, I'm dialing back the baking soda just to be on the safe side. Everyone is different--if you find that the baking soda dries out your hair, use less, or stop using it altogether. The no_poo community here on livejournal is an amazing resource; there are whole tags devoted to alternative washes (and conditioners).

I've personally found that Dr. Bronner's castille soap bars work pretty well too. I get a tiny bit of the soap on my hands, work it into a lather, and then apply it to my scalp only where I need it. I would be wary of using this on my whole head, because the texture can be a bit odd unless you rinse well and use a conditioning rinse.

Conditioning Rinses
After thoroughly rinsing out the "wash," I spray my conditioning rinse all over my hair (from roots to ends), concentrating on the ends. I leave this on for a minute or two, and rinse it out pretty well (there's no real harm if this doesn't get all the way out, but if you use vinegar, the smell will obviously be stronger if you don't rinse it well). I always rinse with cold water, because this seems to help slow down oil production somehow.

For my typical conditioning rinse, I mix about 1 2/3 cups warm water with 1/3 cup white vinegar, and pour this into the designated spray bottle. Apple cider vinegar works very well too, but I find that it smells more strongly, and it's "more conditioning" somehow--so my hair, which isn't super thick, ended up hanging a bit flat with the ACV. I've also used lemon juice or lime juice (same proportions, just substitute for vinegar) with great results, though my hair was less soft with the lemon juice than with the vinegar. The lime juice was comparable. This is all a matter of personal preference and what works well with your individual hair though--basically, anything works as long as it's a mild acidic solution. Coffee and black tea are other great options, though they're slightly less acidic (I actually use coffee in my final rinse from time to time, because it's slightly acidic, and smells great. I personally didn't find it conditioning enough to counteract baking soda by itself as a conditioning rinse though--now that I'm using less baking soda, it might work fine).

Final/Leave-in Rinse (aka: hair tea)
I always rinse out my conditioning rinse, and then spray/pour a final tea rinse all over my hair. I like the smell of the tea, and I think my hair definitely benefits from it. While I never notice the smell of vinegar on my hair once it's dried, this tea rinse also helps cover up the smell of the vinegar while it's wet (the smell while wet really isn't bad, but for some reason my husband really hates vinegar--he's never complained since I started rinsing with tea).

My favorite method for this rinse is to boil two cups of water, and pour it into our 2-cup pyrex measuring cup (we have one with a lid, which makes straining easy--you can use anything and cover it up for steeping though). I then add about a tablespoon of dried rosemary, chamomile tea, and green tea. I cover it up with the lid, and let it steep almost all day; I usually set it up in the morning if I know I'm going to be showering that evening, and it's nice and concentrated by the time I'm ready to use it. I strain it well, and pour it into another spray bottle (though really, since I try to pour this evenly over all of my hair, I rarely use the spray part. Any bottle would be equally useful).

After covering my hair in the tea, I clip it up, finish my shower, and then un-clip my hair and squeeze out the extra tea.

Oils/Leave-in "Conditioner"
I always towel-dry my hair, and then comb through it with a wide-toothed comb. Then, I work a tiny amount of coconut oil into the length of my hair with my hands, and comb through it again with a more fine-toothed comb (this seems to help distribute the oil evenly without getting too much on the roots). When my hair dries, the coconut oil leaves it super soft, and shiny without looking greasy. A little bit of coconut oil goes a long way, and it does seem to absorb very quickly. Coconut oil is seriously my favorite moisturizer for everything but my face now, because it absorbs so quickly into skin without feeling super oily :)

In-between Days/Other Helpful Notes
I only need to "wash" my hair once a week, though I do find it helpful to rinse my hair occasionally throughout the week. Massaging my scalp under warm water for a few minutes, and using the "hair tea" seems to help move the oils down the shaft of the hair, so the length of the hair can benefit from the natural oils as well (it also keeps the hair looking and feeling cleaner between the more powerful cleansing washes).

Brushing through the hair with a boar hair or natural bristle brush can also help evenly distribute the oils. I didn't have a huge amount of luck with this, because my hair is about hip-length, and brushes in general aren't very kind to my long hair. For the amount that I was able to brush, I can tell that the brush did help with spreading the oils though.

I also find it helpful to rub a little bit of cornstarch onto areas of my scalp that feel particularly oily, when I know my hair isn't "dirty" or in need of a "wash" yet. This was especially useful during that awkward transition week. The starch is helpful, because it absorbs the oil off the surface of the hair and scalp, without stripping it completely out; the starch allows the hair to retain it's healthy moisture, and doesn't interfere with the transition process as far as the scalp is concerned.

Finally, I always wash my hair with warm water, and rinse my hair with very cold water (seriously, as cold as you can stand it for a few seconds to a minute). The warm water wash seems to help move oil down the hair to evenly distribute it, and the cold water rinse seems to slow oil production, and makes the hair shinier.


I think that about covers it up until now :) It's an evolving process. I still have a lot of things I want to try (and some things I have tried, but am going to post separately about for the sake of simplifying this already lengthy entry...muahaha, oatmeal).
13 June 2010 @ 11:41 pm
Once upon a time (back in April), I stopped using shampoo.  

Since I wasn't able to start this journal back at the beginning of my no-poo journey, I'm going to split my two months of catch-up into two posts.  The most common reaction I get when I tell people I haven't shampoo'ed my hair in two months is "why??"

I've used shampoo and conditioner my whole life.  Like most products that we grow up using and continue using every day, I never put very much thought into it.   My hair would get oily, I'd shampoo it, and then it would no longer be oily...shampoo is pretty incredible stuff, if all you want it to do is clean hair very, very well.  
The trouble with shampoo is that is too good at its job.  Our scalps produce oil (sebum) which naturally coats the hair.  Shampoo completely strips the oil off of and out of the scalp and hair.  The scalp then has to produce more oil to make up for the oil that's been washed away.  The result:  a seemingly endless loop of washing hair because it seems oily, only to have to wash more frequently to deal with the extra oil the scalp is creating to compensate for the oil that has been stripped.  When I was using shampoo, I would have to wash my hair every other day--not because my hair was dirty, but because it would get greasy so quickly.  Conditioners help a bit by replacing some of the lost oil with artificial substitutes, but the moisture from conditioners often wears off in a day or so as well.  Thus, the length of my hair always felt dry and unhappy, and my roots always felt oily.  

As if disrupting the scalp's natural oil production cycle isn't troublesome enough, shampoo and conditioner are loaded with unnecessary chemicals.  You could easily fill an evening sitting down at your computer with your favorite shampoo bottle googling each ingredient and wondering why it's in there.  Foaming agents, artificial colors, fragrances, thickeners . . . the list goes on and on.  None of these "extras" make the shampoo any more effective at cleaning your hair; I can only assume they're all thrown in there to make consumers feel like the product is working more effectively (thicker, creamier shampoos seem like they must do more).  Many of the chemicals in shampoos and conditioners are not specifically tested for possible adverse effects, and many have been shown to impact the body in negative ways. I have stepped out of the shower far too many times with my eyes burning from the artificial fragrances.  I would pay more just to avoid the chemical mess . . . 

Actually, I don't have to pay more.  No-poo is significantly less expensive than using shampoo and conditioner.  A bottle of my old shampoo cost me about $5.  Add another $5 for conditioner, and yet another $5-ish for leave-in conditioner.  My hair is about hip-length right now, so I would easily go through a bottle of shampoo in a month or so washing every other day.  Now, for comparison's sake, $5 buys me enough baking soda to last many, many months (washing once a week, using 1Tbsp each time . . . I have hardly put a dent in my box of baking soda, and I've been at this for two months now).  The cost of vinegar varies by brand and by type, but suffice to say that it doesn't break the bank either.  My jar of coconut oil would last me virtually forever if I didn't use it for other things too--and it was less than $7.

Because my hair is finally returning to its natural state, I no longer have to wash it every other day.  I can easily go a week between "washes" without looking oily at all.  My hair looks so much healthier, and it doesn't smell bad at all (one of the most common concerns I hear is about smell--my hair smells like the tea I use as a rinse while it's wet, and then it smells faintly like coconut oil for a bit, but it never smells like dirty hair).  Even with the extra time I spend brewing tea for rinses, I spend significantly less time overall keeping my hair clean with no-poo.  

One of the biggest advantages to going shampoo-free is regaining awareness of your hair's health.  Like skin and fingernails, the quality of your hair can reflect your overall health.  If your hair is particularly oily, rather than washing it to death with shampoo, it makes more sense to try improving your diet.  If your hair is very dry, that might be an indication of some sort of deficiency.  Shampoo and conditioner cover up these signs.  

No-poo is all about understanding your hair, and giving it what it needs to be healthy.  No-poo routines vary from person to person, because not everyone's hair is the same.  Even for the same person, a routine will change based on how the hair feels.  Diet, hormones, and even the weather can factor into how much oil the scalp produces. One of the goals of no-poo is to establish a better awareness of what our bodies need, and to learn how to meet these specific needs.  If your hair is dry, you don't want to add more baking soda to your wash; if your hair is limp, you don't want to use more vinegar.  Shampoo and conditioner are like a one-size-fits-all solution; the truth is, we're all individuals with different hair and different bodies.  Wouldn't you expect us to develop different routines for caring for our hair?

Basically, I no longer use shampoo because using it doesn't make any sense to me.  I can clean my hair using fewer chemicals, less time, and less money.  No-poo is a bit of a transition, but it is well worth the time spent working on it; when you find a routine that works for you, you will wonder "why" so many people use shampoo :)
13 June 2010 @ 09:54 pm
It's summer.  Finally.  

I've been meaning to set this journal up for the past two months (two months?!), but I haven't had time for much besides studying  ^^;    Now, I have too much time...funny how that works.

Anyway, I went shampoo-free back in April.  Originally, I meant to set up this journal as a place to document the transition and to keep track of things I've tried that have worked well (or not so well).  Now, I'm clearly two months behind on updates as far as that goes!  I'm definitely going to write up a separate post concerning no-poo in general, and my reasons for switching since that's the thing I find I end up explaining the most.  Then, I've been keeping track of my "no-poo" routine by scribbling notes on my calendar, so I'll definitely go through those notes and report on my experience so far.  

As far as the future of this journal beyond that goes, definitely look forward to more no-poo updates, as it's definitely a work in progress.  I'll probably end up using this to write about other, non-hair-related things as well--nobody wants a journal all about hair :)   

Knitting/crocheting and other crafts, natural living in general, and vegan/vegetarian cooking/baking, and any number of other adventures are all things that I fully expect to find their way in here as well :)