Lots of people think living sustainably means growing a vegetable garden, composting, and recycling your plastics. All those things are a great start, but if you are still going to WalMart to stock your bathroom cabinets with expensive, toxic chemicals in plastic containers, you still have a ways to go!
If you added up the ingredients in your daily hygiene routine, how many chemicals are you putting in or on your body every day? About a year ago, I started on a journey of getting rid of all the mass-produced, toxic items that I could from my home. I can’t imagine how much money I’ve saved in the past year on beauty products. (Not to mention trips to the recycling center for all those crazy plastic bottles.) Here’s some examples of what I’ve replaced:
- Shampoo replaced with baking soda and vinegar (sounds crazy, but it does work after a few weeks of your body detoxing from the effects of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, the main ingredient in most shampoos). (Here’s an article from Huffington Post for more details on going shampoo-free.)
- Toothpaste replaced with active charcoal and baking soda (probably sounds crazier than not using shampoo… but my teeth look and feel cleaner than they ever have). (Here is an article about the benefits of charcoal.)
- Commercial lotions replaced with olive oil.
I also quit dying my hair completely because of concerns about chemicals. Even if it doesn’t effect your body, what is the effect of putting all those toxins down our collective pipes and into our water supply? It’s horrifying.
I recently had the good fortune of meeting Linda Mackey of Southland Soap on the wide world of the internet. Linda is based in Lexington and has been making her own natural henna dyes and shampoos for about four years. She graciously agreed to a guest post about how to get shiny hair using what’s already in your pantry. (What can get more sustainable than that?)
I also have to throw out here that I ordered some of Linda’s henna products and am wildly impressed. She has shampoo bars made with henna that gradually color your hair with repeated use. I am madly in love with this concept and the fact that after just a few days, my hair already looks healthier and happier! On to the post:
Shiny Hair Without Going to the Store
You jump in the shower, getting ready for an important event, reach for your Magic Shiny Hair Conditioner and the bottle’s empty!
a) cancel the event
b) threaten to kill your significant other and/or kids
c) remember a handy blog post that gave you several good alternatives?
Right. “C” is the correct choice.
I’m going to share several quick, easy ideas to immediately add shine to your hair, but first let me tell you WHY your hair shines. Hair is shiny when the cuticle, the outer layer that is similar to shingles on a roof, is closed and smooth. Think of glass and sand. Same substance, one shines because it’s smooth and the other doesn’t.
What raises or roughens the hair’s cuticle? High heat from styling tools, roughly towel drying, backcombing and substances that are a basic pH like… shampoo! Chemical hair dyes work by raising the cuticle, unlike natural dyes like henna that deposit a smooth layer to seal the cuticle.
Back to our shower scenario—what to do? Well first, when you shampoo your hair, use the lowest comfortable temperature and massage your scalp, but go gently on the length of your hair. Rinse for a full minute (this is longer than you think). When you’re finished rinsing, gently squeeze out excess water and then wrap your hair in a towel. Don’t rub your hair with the towel!
Things that you might have in your kitchen with an acidic pH are lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (white vinegar can work too, although the apple cider vinegar seems to be more favored). Both make a nice hair rinse by adding a tablespoon of either to about 1 cup of lukewarm water. After rinsing the shampoo out, bend forward and slowly pour the rinse over your hair and rinse thoroughly. Some people enjoy infusing apple cider vinegar with herbs or flowers to add scent and further conditioning benefits for their hair.
What if you haven’t been to the store and don’t have anything on hand? Yes you do: cold water! Remember heat raises or roughens the cuticle, cold will cause it to close. Cold water on your scalp can give you a headache so only put it on the hair itself.
If you would happen to have a rain barrel, rain water is superb to wash and rinse your hair. I have memories of my grandmother doing this and her hair was always shiny. My mother was too modern for this and pooh-poohed the idea so we grew up with bottled hair conditioner. To be fair, I think she was worried about curious young children coming to harm with a rain barrel, since in those days rain barrels were simply 55 gallon galvonized drums with the top cut off.
After your hair has been wrapped in the towel for a few minutes, grab a comb made with wood or horn and very gently start detangling, always starting at the ends. Why not a plastic comb? Besides being bad for the environment, plastic combs often have a small rough edge from where they were molded and this can scratch or scrape your hair strands, leading to breakage, roughened cuticle or split ends.
So there you have it: beautiful shiny hair on short notice.
Linda Mackey has been an osteopathic physician since 1994 and has practiced in central Kentucky since 1995. She became interested in natural hair care and color after becoming sensitized to chemical hair dyes, and went on to develop products and founded Southland Soap LLC in 2010. Southland Soap has grown to become a premier supplier of natural hair dyes, shampoos, and conditioners and ships to several countries in addition to the United States. Linda holds free local workshops in Lexington, Kentucky on henna and natural hair care.
Linda has oh-so-graciously agreed to host a giveaway for us. She is giving away one of her Reality Starter Packages, which includes three different products. To enter, leave a comment letting us know what is one natural thing you’ve tried in your hygiene or housekeeping or one thing you’d like to try. (You can also earn additional entries by liking us and Southland Soap on Facebook.) I’m excited to hear what natural things you are trying out! We’ll select a winner next week, so enter today.