Saturday, March 29, 2014

Going Crunchy Starting at the Top

I started out what I found later to be a journey to crunchy living by ditching my shampoo a year ago.

I could preface that by saying I've always had a love/hate relationship with my hair. It's thick and curly and was totally not the hair to have in the '70s when I was a teenager and the plethora of conditioners and styling products most curly haired folks use today was unavailable. I remember the thick, unruly mop it was most days and my first shag haircut. I still remember trying to get my locks to wrap around a brush to use a blow dryer for the Farrah Fawcett look -- I also remember the boy who nailed it every day. But that's another story.

Somewhere in my later high school years I despaired of ever getting along with my hair and cut it off -- myself. I watched the stylist cut my mother's hair and began doing it for her. It's a wonder, I guess, that I now groom dogs instead of people but somehow I was never led that way.

Instead for years I regularly cut, colored, and highlighted my own hair and that of my children, neither of whom ever had professional care for their hair while they lived at home. That just makes it somewhat ironic that my daughter's mother-in-law is a master cosmetologist and my granddaughters have always had their hair professionally trimmed.

Sometime in my 40s I stumbled -- one might say literally, since I had fallen and broken my right arm and was in a cast past my elbow -- into professional hair care. I could not wash my own hair and, one step short of going insane, went to a stylist to have whoever was available do it for me. One thing led to another and I had highlights and regular blow drys, consistent professional care not just for the six weeks I was in a cast, but beyond. All that ended when I went in and the man who'd been doing my temperamental hair handled it as though he'd never seen it and I wound up with bad streaks and straw.

After that I tried a few other stylists but not with any regularity and the end of my journalism career, the loss of the easily wasted income and no need to look professional for the folks I encountered every day ended all that.

But professionals aside, I have never finished a bottle of shampoo and gone back to the store for another bottle of the same kind. The same for conditioner. In fact, I seldom finished a bottle of either because they would never quite do what I wanted and some new product would catch my eye. Gels, mousses and other treatments faced the same fate. Nothing made my hair happy for long.

When I began building my Kindle library with free books (I now have hundreds and have paid for very few and may never borrow from a brick and mortar library again) I found a book entitled Hair Gone Wild by Diane Kidman (the link is to the paperback version)free one day and downloaded it. When I started reading, her hair sounded much like my own and I was inspired to ditch my shampoo, conditioner and everything else I used on my hair. I went with natural alternatives I found in her book for everything and loaded up all my products and gave them away.

I went no-poo. Following Kidman's advice, I mix about a tablespoon of baking soda into water in an old conditioner bottle. That's my wash. It's applied to wet hair, worked in and left for about a minute and a half (or while I wash my face in the shower). After it is rinsed out, I follow it with a splash of apple cider vinegar diluted in an old coffee cup. That's it. I'm done.

I'll admit I missed the wonderful fragrances of shampoos and and to a lesser degree the lather (but since I'd already dumped sulfate shampoos there was less of that any way). But my hair became healthier, more manageable, and occasionally even shiny without products.

As time went on, I've added to my repertoire. I have aloe vera gel (the big bottle of pure stuff you might get for a sunburn), which is great for an itchy scalp. Dealing with dry hair early in the winter, I found a recipe for a spray made with aloe vera, glycerine diluted with water,(ratio of 1:1:2) and a few drops of essential oil, that is on hand for times my hair and scalp have just been dry. I also keep a big bear of honey in the shower and often dilute a handful and work it through my hair -- called a honey-poo. Honey dissolves in water and is not sticky in your hair and is also a great facial. A bit of coconut oil in my palm works great on a frizzy day.

My hair's texture is the best it has ever been. It is slick and generally soft to the touch, although it still has a mind of its own as far as what the curls will do on any given day. The post shower hair loss I'd always experienced stopped almost immediately -- you know the big wad that fills up your comb and drain, it's gone. Although it had never worried me because I have so much hair (thanks to genetics from my dad's mother, the Amburns or Burchams one), seeing less hair come out told me it was better for my hair.

Thanks to my daughter and my introduction to crunchy blogs and Pinterest boards, I'm expanding into new products and finding new ways to naturally nourish my hair. I keep baking soda, vinegar and honey in the bathroom and don't expect I'll ever buy shampoo or chemically treat my hair again.

I know her results have been different as she loved her hair with shampoo and products, and not everyone's hair is the same. I had no hair adjustment period as the book warned me, my daughter is still looking for the right mix for her mid-back length hair (but even she's noticed less on her comb and admits regular commercial shampoo isn't the best option).

So if you're never really happy with your hair, considering healthier lifestyle options all around, or wondering what the heck the ingredients in your shampoo may actually be doing to you, consider going crunchy. Look for some resources, free or otherwise, and jump in. You may be glad you did.

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