Writing about a natural hair routine in the lifestyle realm feels a bit like pandering. Everyone wants a foolproof fix and so there are roughly one million blog posts convincing people that their particular brand of obsession is what will finally be the answer.
Stop washing your hair all together, spin around three times in the front of the mirror, massage a little unicorn spit into your scalp, and voila, EFFORTLESS BEAUTY, EVERY TIME.
For my part, I hope one day that I’ll be able to write a post about how I use just a single bar of soap for all of my earthly needs, but, I confess, I’m still not there.
Indeed, if I’m being honest, this habit shift’s been fifteen years in the making. When I began to buy my own shampoo in college, I went directly to the health food store and chose from among the Nature’s Gate bottles on offer. Weeks into my first experience of dorm living, I was convinced that the water in my dorm was hard, or soft, or whatever it is that turns formerly soft hair into a simultaneously dry and greasy mess. It was months before I realized that the difference between showering at my parents’ house and in my dormitory was my coveted natural shampoo, not the water. But I didn’t turn my back on my new-found commitment. In fact, I doubled down. After my freshman year, I spent the summer working on hiking trails in Vermont. I braided my short hair into tiny braids and didn’t wash it for the entirety of my time away. (You can imagine my dad’s delight when he came to drive me home from my summer adventure.) I didn’t stick with either Nature’s Gate or “no-poo,” but I have spent the last fifteen years on the so-called natural shampoo train, trying a seemingly endless series of shampoo and conditioner. I’ve gone through what feels like the entirety of the EWG Skin Deep database to find products that are free from fragrance and phthalates and sulfates and other things typically found in conventional shampoo. I’ve tried very inexpensive shampoos and very expensive shampoos. I’ve used solid shampoo bars and liquid shampoos. I’ve ransacked the kitchen and dunked my head in vinegar and olive oil and beer. I’ve smeared in baking soda pastes and avocado and coconut oil and eggs.
Before you get too excited, this post isn’t going to offer anyone a final miracle answer. But I’m hopeful that it might open up a conversation. It goes without saying, that the particulars of hair routines are, well, particular. There are a millions kinds of hair out there and what’s true for me won’t likely be true for you, but maybe this can be a space where we can offer each other some sanctimony-free advice or encouragement.
For the curious:
I’m currently using Rahua’s shampoo and conditioner. This set was a gift to me, and it’s very luxurious, smells very good, and makes my hair soft and shiny, but like the Yarok and the Cold Spring Apothecary shampoos and conditioners that I’ve also loved, it doesn’t solve the problem of single-use plastic…
Toward that end, I’m intrigued by Plaine Products. The ingredients list looks promising and their commitment to reusing their metal packaging through a subscription service is encouraging, though I wish their bottles were less branded. I’d love to know if anyone’s tried these guys.
I’ve sworn off bar shampoo no less than five times since I never seem to be able to get them to rinse (or condition) effectively, but I’m not afraid to try again and I’m intrigued by Meow Meow Tweet’s Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar. I know there are shampoo bar lovers out there. Any tips?
Finally, upon encouragement from a friend in the beauty world, I’ve renewed my experiments with good old apple cider vinegar, diluted this time, and in a squirt bottle to make it easier to apply. I’ve used it a few times a week for a few weeks, and I dare say it’s helping with shampoo build-up without also stripping my hair. Maybe the answer lies in the kitchen, after all? Could a combination of ACV and a shampoo bar be my natural hair care holy grail? Who’s here to tell me yes?
What else? What do you guys do?
First photo: ACV and water! Second photo: Yours truly, from yesterday’s post with Tradlands. Photo by Christine Han.
I’m sure like you said it will depend on hair type but after all of my own experimentation bar shampoo and diluted ACV is exactly what I’ve landed on that works the best for me. I have a fancy water softener attachment for my shower to help with the shampoo bar residue since I live in Texas but I’ve found that if I always rinse with ACV I don’t need to keep regenerating the water softener. My favorite so far for bar shampoo has been Tiny Yellow Bungalow, a zero waste blogger who sends her soap wrapped in paper that can be planted to grow flowers. If you try this method let us know how it goes!
I’m in TX also and that’s the routine I use; I use the JT Ligget shampoo bar and diluted ACV rinse. I’ve got fine oily hair and I can get through 2-3 days without looking like a complete grease ball…which is, in my humble opinion, nothing short of miraculous.
If I can add my two cents I’d like to jump in here….My hg is ACV, sometimes diluted sometimes not. It works better than anything on the market in terms of clarifying between washes. Ohhhh the power of nature:) For wash days I use my homemade shampoo bar and an Avocado, coconut cream and honey conditioner that I mix in my kitchen. The less is more concept seems to work for me. Although I do enjoy trying other brands as well. Peter Coppola has an awesome Vanilla Bean conditioner that is part of my stash.
I’ve used the shampoo bar from La Savonnerie des Diligences for almost a year and I couldn’t be happier with my hair! It’s still a bit on the dry side since I do not use conditioner, but it seems healthier and happier with this simpler routine. Would highly recommend!
I love New Wash by Hair Story. It’s a product that shampoos and conditions in one step, which I was skeptical of at first, but it works great. You can get on a recurring subscription where they send you a large metal dispenser and a bag of shampoo to refill it with, making it low waste. However, it’s pretty expensive, so for now I’m back to JR Liggetts and ACV until I’ve paid down my debt.
I second this recommendation! Most cleansing conditioners work better for curly hair, but my straight-wavy hair love(d) New Wash. (Past tense because yes, it is expensive, and I can’t quite make it a habit).
What we use in our house! I find the price worth it so far, as we wash our hair maybe once a week. One pump is all you need!
Also loved new wash!! Chiming in to say that it even worked for a girl with fine hair. I’ve switched to Rahua for now simply because I missed that lather and that squeaky clean feeling.
I’m currently on the hunt for natural hair care products. I experimented with a diluted baking soda mixture as shampoo, and a diluted ACV mixture as conditioner – the ACV worked wonderfully whereas the baking soda was really harsh on my hair (even extremely diluted and used only 1-2 times per week). I’m trying Avalon Organics right now (two weeks into it and I’m really loving it!). However, it’s also single-use plastic. All in all though I’m keeping my diluted ACV to use from time to time!
Its never-ending adventure for me too)
For the hair products its all about PH of the scalp-hair which is between 4,5 – 5,5 ,it depends on type of the hair,most of the shampoos are alkaline,so is any soap bar(I wouldn’t recommend bars for hair at all) or Rhassoul clay which I like to use in mix with yolk(if I can get it from neighbour farmer,would buy it in store ever) or honey and drop of eo oil,but still we have to balance it with last rinse of something acidic to close the cuticles and get the PH we need to,like diluted ACV pr add coffee or rye flour,lemon …. if you can get Ph strips to check your shampoo or anything else its amazing to see where you are at,if you google PH of hair scalp you can read more) I also like Living Libation products
I have had some luck with buying bulk shampoo and conditioner from my local health food store as well as a “soap exchange” that sells all sorts of skincare and household products in bulk. I bring my own glass bottle and I have found a couple of metal pumps for them at thrift stores. The shampoo can be hit and miss but since it’s bulk i just buy a small amount to try it out. I have found the conditioners available to be too thick for my hair so I buy half a bottle and dilute with apple cider vinegar and water. So far so good. Thank you for work. You write beautifully about many things I care about.
I’m curious what you don’t like about Nature’s Gate as that is what we currently use, but my hair is so short, that I could use just about anything and it works. Conditioners are MUCH harder for me because I have thick, dry hair and need really thick stuff to moisturize it. I’ve found the Evo line (australia) does a good job for my hair, but I could do without the fragrance. The Cold Spring line is lovely and smells amazing but with my hair, that tiny bottle of conditioner will last me about 2 weeks, so I need something that comes in a giant tub and with a pump.
Oh, so glad it works for you! It just really doesn’t work for me!
I laughed a bit when I read the part about Nature’s Gate. I recently started using the Nature’s Gate Deep Conditioning Shampoo and Conditioner and it’s actually been great for my hair. I live in a really dry climate and was struggling with finding something that would truly condition my hair and the Nature’s Gate has been awesome. No static or frizz and feels really good. I’ve also tried Living Libations and really liked it but I can’t afford it in the long-term – it’s really expensive for the amount you get + shipping costs. It seems like there are so many individual and environmental factors to consider with everything! 🙂
I sometimes buy bulk shampoo and conditioner from our local coop. I also use ACV as to remove build up from my hair. My hair if very, very curly, and I use a significant amount of curl product that builds up, so about 3-4 times a year I do the ACV rinse and it takes care of build-up and also makes my hair soft, to boot. I’ve heard good things about Lush’s shampoo bars. Living on the east side of Madison, WI, I know people who use only baking soda and some essential oils to wash once a week, and ACV for conditioner, etc.
My stylist of more than 8 years (http://midwestbeautyhouse.com/), uses this line and she’s done tons of research, too: https://www.oway.it/en/#organic-way – a brand called OWay. Nice that they use glass that can be used for other things, too.
That squirt bottle is awfully familiar looking, albit a bit cleaner than the one in my shower. I’ve tried bar shampoo + ACV which lead to brittle straw hair. Maybe it was our hard water, or the type of soap, or my particular chemistry, but I gave up. So, I haven’t figured out the magic formula here yet. I once read about using cocoa powder as dry shampoo (if you’re a brunette) which extends time between hair washing, and leaves you smelling like a chocolate bar all day.
Oh man! I’ve also been all over the spectrum of hippie hair care. Nature’s Gate? Check! No poo? Check! ACV/baking soda/beer/etcetcetc? Check! But, for the moment at least, I’m fairly happy with my process–
What I’m working with: very short, thick, fairly coarse, wavy, dark hair. Prone to frizz if even a bit too dry. Extreme commitment to being “low maintenance”.
My products and process: I wash my hair exactly once per week with beeswax-based bar shampoo* and I don’t condition. I don’t use any goops in my hair mid-week with two possible exceptions. If my hair starts to get a bit on the too dry side, I very carefully apply a smidgen of almond oil to the ends. If my hair starts to get a bit on the too oily side, I use bentonite clay like dry shampoo. If, on hair washing day, my hair is on the dry side, I work some almond oil into my hair before washing it.
* I’m currently using the Honey I Washed My Hair bar from Lush. It has SLS, and it is on the too perfume-y side for my preferences, but for bar shampoo newbies, it might be a good fit because it lathers like crazy. In the past I’ve used a bar made by Orchard Farm Soap (local to me, but also on Etsy) called “Honeycomb Body and Shampoo Bar”. It smells exactly like a beeswax candle (which I love), but it doesn’t lather basically at all, which might make it hard to use on some types of hair. I will go back to it when I run out of my current bar.
I’ve been off shampoo for going-on-six years, and it’s definitely had its ups and downs – but I’ve found a baking soda/ACV system that has worked for the past many years, despite moving to and from very different climates. I even use the same squeeze bottles!
It’s a never-ending balancing act, and there’s always something to work on, but I feel like that’s true of most beauty products (just me?).
I wrote about it last year: http://bebespectacled.blogspot.ca/2016/09/treading-lightly-shampoo-free-update.html
I’m using Plaine at the moment, and it’s been really good to my hair. A top five finish as far as natural shampoos go… which as your post can attest to, is no mean feat.
Glad to know I’m not the only one to dislike Nature’s Gate! I’ve been working on my bottle for nearly three years, on and off, and it’s mostly gone so hooray! It seems to me that hair goes through phases and needs different care at different times. On a whim I started using rye flour to wash my hair, with an ACV rinse, and it was amazing! I didn’t know I had natural waves, but they popped right out with the rye flour. A year later though it started going flat again and looking greasy, so back to that bottle of Nature’s Gate. I still use the rye flour for an occasional conditioner, which seems to be what my hair enjoyed so much. But what next? Maybe I’ll try your suggestion of a bar shampoo.
Tell me more about that rye flour! Mixed with water? Sprinkled over top? Curious!
Good mention Julia! My friend uses rye flour (mixed into a paste with water) because the pH is similar to that of the human scalp. I had initially converted her to my method, which is just good ol’ baking soda and white vinegar. I keep jars of both in my bathroom with a small cup to mix with. First, a few spoonfuls of baking soda, mixed with water, then poured on my scalp and massaged in. I let it sit for ~45 seconds and rinse off. Then I repeat with the vinegar. When initially starting, I found the key was really massaging it in and letting it sit. Been using this system for about 3 years now and haven’t looked back! There’s a pretty strong vinegar smell right out of the shower but it dissipates quickly.
I do the same with my baking soda but I only use 1 spoonful! If I use too much my hair gets crazy dry.
After I get out of the shower, I use a little coconut oil on the ends of my hair.
I’ve used rye flour and it left my hair very soft and manageable – and clean enough for a day or two. My hair isn’t thick, but there’s a lot of it and it can get greasy, esp in summer. A tablespoon or two mixed with water into a runny paste should do it, depending on hair length and thickness. Massage into scalp, then rinse. And rinse. And RINSE. Then rinse some more. Seriously, it can take a while to get it all out; using a handheld shower head helps. Even though I liked the results, I went back to JR Liggets bar and diluted ACV rinse because it was quicker and used less water.
Just wanted to mention Khadi shampoos and powders for hair washing,they are always tolerated in non toxic groups or no poo groups as a great products )
After paring down my life and moving to Australia a few years ago, I tried the minimalist baking soda and ACV route. It’s been over four years now, and I could not be happier. My hair is very thick, curly, and tended to be dry while my scalp was oily. Previously I washed my hair nearly every day in an attempt to always keep that freshly washed feeling. It did take a harsh month or two of adjusting, but my scalp is now comfortable, my hair is hydrated, everyone wins. I do a mask of coconut oil about once a month, and that’s enough to keep my hair shiny, happy, and glorious. I’ve since converted my wife and a few friends, too, after offering ample support during the awful transition.
I think many of the more natural ways of living and taking care of ourselves require significant time for adjustment, and it’s always nice to have someone to lean on who’s either gone through the process of switching, or has always done things that way. If more of us can find a friend who can tolerate, embrace, and nurture our natural bodies instead of only accepting the masking of them, I think we’d all be a lot healthier and happier.
So glad you’ve had luck, Brooke! I agree that friends on the journey are invaluable (though I also think we need to try not judge each other too harshly for any of our various paths to being comfortable in our skin (hair), etc.).
Brooke, totally agree with you–especially that last sentence. I think there is a strong push to make women feel insecure about our bodies. Insecure or unhappy people make great consumers. I believe it’s important to think deeply about the choices we make and also to understand who really benefits from them.
I use J.R. Ligget’s bar shampoo almost religiously, although I have had moderate success with various other bars over the years.
I also use (I am pretty sure I’ve got the right one) this conditioner: http://cantubeauty.com/products/17-products/hair-care-collection/174-leave-in-conditioning-repair-cream#!174:leave-in-conditioning-repair-cream. It probably isn’t great for the environment or for me, but my mom bought it for me years (three? four?) ago, and I still have it so I’m using it up. I don’t have natural hair–in fact, I have really fine, fairly straight, brown hair, and I use a tiny amount, not the recommendation on the bottle, like maybe 1/4 or 1/8 teaspoon, and that works well. I only do this when I wash my hair, normally every two to three days.
Oh, and sometimes, depending on which room of my house I’m in and what I’m feeling like, I’ll use a tiny bit of coconut oil or grapeseed oil instead of the conditioner, normally rubbing it on my face first to make sure there isn’t too much excess (and to moisturize my skin!), but otherwise similarly to the conditioner.
I really like LUSH shampoo bars, especially the Karma bar. No plastic, but LOTS of fragrance. So there’s that.
I happen to like the way it smells, but like you, wish it wasn’t synthetic.
I just rinse with water and squirt with ACV, and it works for my hair. Sometimes a few drops of jojoba oil rubbed into the ends. If my hair’s really dirty (I’m a farmer, and sometimes I do get actual dirt in my hair), a bit of soap suds before the ACV squirt does the trick. Over the years I’ve learned that the less I do to it, the happier my hair is, so I only brush it right before I shower (about every three or four days, usually).
I am also concern about shampoo. I was using a Kerastase (Aura Botanica) new line (for Uruguay at least!) that promise to be organic and in fact it says it does not have silicones and sulfates but it did not work for me.
I am also concern about hair color dyes since I have to go to the hairdresser every 15 days, because my hair is all white and I am very young and do not like white hair. So I would like to know if anyone knows something organic to do the job.???
Henna is a great natural hair dye! Or mixed with a bit of indigo for a less red, more brown tint. You might have to do some searching to find real henna though, where I live (Ecuador) the “henna” sold in naturistas is mixed with regular dye.
Hi, Florencia, greetings from across the pond (BsAs that is)! My mom and aunt swear by Sanotint hair dye and I’m a convert now too with the increasing number of grey hair. It’s natural and has no odour and actually leaves hair shiny and soft and lasts about 2 months on my hair (thick and wavy). Not sure it’s available down here but definitely worth having it shipped.
yes, erin- I am curious how you approach hair dying — your hair is beautiful but appears highlighted?
Thanks! It’s not! Just naturally streaked with blond and red.
Lucky you 🙂
I currently use New Wash by Hair Story. It’s not a perfect ingredient list, but I like that it’s not stripping my hair, uses less plastic waste than others, and is enabling me to wash about twice a week (my hair is similar in length to yours, though a bit wavy, and maybe a bit thicker). My hair tends to be dry, so I sometimes douse the ends in coconut oil at least a half hour before I wash when I need a bit more. I like diluted ACV too, but when used regularly, it leaves me very straw-like. New Wash does get pricey, but also lets me air dry without product, so I’m saving money by not buying other things.
Just tried meow meow tweet rosemary avocado shampoo. It left my hair feeling kind of “stripped” at first then like it had left a residue. It smells great and lathers well and i like it but i dont “love” it. Hope that helps!
In my experiments, baking soda to clean and acv to rinse or condition works really well but takes about three weeks of weird greasy hair to see improvements….also if you’re not using shampoo anytime u backslide the three weeks starts over…
I use JR Liggett’s shampoo bars with great success, along with some shea butter added pre-shower to condition my hair. (Also, the occasional ACV wash because what zero waster could live without that!) My hair is fairly indestructible, though, so I feel bad for people with manageable hair 🙂
I too feel like I’ve tried every natural shampoo and conditioner. The last one I used was Rahua but I felt like it was drying out my hair. After I saw Lauren Singer recommend Plaine products I decided to try it. It’s been about three weeks and I think I can finally say I’ve found what I like. It smells of rosemary and mint which is nice, it manages to have a lather and my hair feels soft. I love how it’s great for the environment too of course!
Love this topic and I’ve tried so many similar things! I’m actually using Rahua right now as well and love it, too–but curious if you find something without the bottles that you love, what it is! 🙂
Ok this may be an obvious one, but have you tried using less shampoo? I know I was using two, three times as much as I actually needed. My hair is neither dry or oily, and simply washing the roots of my hair will do… and with washing I don’t mean covering your entire hair in shampooey foam, a little goes a long way! Doesn’t help much with replacing plastic bottles, but at least you need less of them.
Yes to this!
I feel like my hair is so much cleaner now that I’m using less shampoo. I use two pea sized squirts on my dense (fine but plenty of hairs) nearly waist lenght hair and repeat the wash a second time (so four pea sized squirts in total).
Love this discussion! After a few years of baking soda and ACV, I recently switched to just water, aka the ‘do nothing’ approach. I do brush my hair at night to help the oils work their way down my hair. I know this probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve been really happy with the results. My favorite part has been that I no longer find the need to use product to tame my curls, my natural oils are doing that all on their own. I exercise regularly, but I promise I still don’t smell 🙂 Just wanted to share for anyone considering this method!
Also wanted to mention that in my baking soda days my hair was sometimes dry and I found that pure aloe vera works great as a leave in conditioner.
I’ve been using the Plaine shampoo and conditioner for the past 6 months. I love the sustainability and ingredients list, plus their mission. The products smell great too. I like the shampoo enough to keep using it but I won’t buy the conditioner again. I found it was drying and didn’t detangle my hair (I have long hair). In short, I felt like it was missing a moisturizing element or something. That said, I have dry hair to begin with and also found ACV to make my hair brittle and dry, so take my comments with a grain of salt, which I’m sure you will. Hope that helps.
I wanted to add my two cents about the Plaine products … they aren’t for me. *IF* you have very thin or naturally sleek hair, they are probably great. But the clear shampoo and watery conditioner left my thick, wavy (bordering on frizzy) hair a stripped, tangled mess. I need a thick, creamy product that will slick down the cuticle so the strands aren’t at war with each other, and this particular product is at the opposite end of the spectrum from that.
That said, the smell is lovely and not overpowering, and I will consider the body wash and lotion. I also like the little metal sample bottles that they came in … I’ll definitely keep and re-use those.
I did baking soda and ACV for a while, then went back to shampoo. Baking sode and ACV actually did pretty well…can’t remember why I switched back. I have also used Lush bars for shampoo and conditioner in the past but I know they are highly fragranced and contain undesirable chemicals. Still, possible to be 0 waste with them…
I use The Seaweed Bath Co. Argan oil non scented moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. It doesn’t glide through my hair as a traditional shampoo would so I repeat washing and then condition well. Combing out tangles before I shampoo really helps.
I have psoriasis on my scalp, not a terrible case but anything scented is highly irritatating.
I really don’t want to go on oral medication, I use a steroid as needed but I find that using almond oil on the area of my scalp that needs it, letting it sit then washing it out in 30 mins, has made an huge difference.
I would love to be low maintenance with my hair but it’s just not in the cards right now.
I also braid the top portion of my hair every night before I go to bed and that seems to extend time inbetween hair washing. I wash it twice a week. I wake up with a good amount of volume that’s lasts for most of the work day.
Right there with you! I have tried so many different forms and brands of shampoo/conditioner and haven’t really found “the one” yet. (I, too, have exhausted the EWG Skin Deep database!)
I wanted to comment on Plaine Products because I purchased their shampoo/conditioner/body wash 3-pack subscription earlier this year and so far I love it. Great quality, the scents are AMAZING (Rosemary-Mint-Vanilla), and I love that there’s no plastic or other materials that will be wasted. I even kept the cardboard box they arrived in so I could ship them back once they are all empty. I will say that lately my hair has been getting increasingly greasy after only a couple of days but that might be diet- and stress-related, so I’m experimenting with some “kitchen” methods to remedy that because I’d love to keep using Plaine Products for environmental reasons.
This past weekend, I tried a coconut hair mask, which involved: (1) coating my hair & scalp with about 1/3 cup of coconut oil, (2) tying it all up into a bun for a full 24 hours, (3) scrubbing it all out with shampoo (I did this twice for about 3 minutes each just to be safe), (4) and then conditioning and air-drying as normal. So far, I LOVE this method since it’s made my hair quite silky and somehow more voluminous! I’m looking forward to doing this once weekly (FYI – I followed instructions on the Lee From America blog: http://www.leefromamerica.com/blog/coconutoilhairmask)
One thing I can’t recommend enough is a boar bristle brush. They can be a little expensive but will cut down the frequency that you need to wash your hair. I use mine a few times a week, usually at the point at which I would normally look at my hair and think it would need another shampoo wash. After about 5 minutes of brushing, my hair feels AND looks a lot cleaner. I then wash the brush, to clear it of any build-up and have it ready for the next use. The next morning it looks as though I had just washed my hair. I use a bit of essential oil if I feel like I want my hair to smell nice.
Other than that, I use water only to wash and rinse with ACV. This entire combo is as package-free as I think I can get for now 🙂
I can’t promise this would work for anyone else, I have terribly dry hair… shampoo and even conditioner-only washes would always leave it feeling liking straw. This is the first time I have ever found anything that actually worked for me, so just wanted to share. Hope this helps!
The water only method works for me as well, complete with boar bristle brush. ACV works for me too, although I don’t use it often as I hate the smell (byproduct of reading a ‘drink apple cider’ vinegar recipe wrong as a teenager: instead of 2 tablespoons in 16 oz of water, think just downing 16oz of apple cider vinegar…). What really does the trick with the water only method, is putting a few drops of jojoba oil (purchased in bulk) (which I use as my face moisturizer) in the ends of my hair, and then a bit of arrowroot powder (also purchased in bulk) in my hair and brushing it through with the boar bristle brush. I find it makes my hair perfectly soft and easy to style with just my brush. Having spent hours in my twenties styling my hair with shampoo, conditioner, blow drying, hot tools, and product, I’m thankful for the simplicity of my now regular routine. I add some of the arrowroot any time my hair looks a bit oily, and that keeps me from needing to wash it very often (which I consider a blessing as it takes so long to dry! That said, when the world gets to be too much, sticking my head in a shower does wonders every time.).
Speaking of hair… do you have any information posted about how you cut your bangs? I love your haircut and would like to try bangs, but I’m terrified of getting them cut. How do I get them to look like yours?
Such a tough one!! After trying it all + since I couldn’t find access locally to bulk shampoo, I finally decided to buy a gallon jug of shampoo for myself. The recyclable jug was always a part of the waste resulting from refilling bulk containers in the store. I’m on my third jug (shared with my girls) of Shikai Everyday Shampoo (from Amazon). Works well for all of us + our various hair types.
I don’t know if you’ve already covered this, but what is used to highlight your hair since you only use all natural ingredients? I’m very curious!
Just my natural highlights! I’ve never dyed my hair (save one henna shampoo experiment in college)!
I use Lora’s Beauty Mug-O-Beer Bar on my curly hair. It’s all natural, scented with essential oils and made with beer. The top (the head) is made with a shea butter rich soap so it works as a conditioner as well. It suds up really well , unlike other shampoo bars I’ve used. Works great as a body soap also and all for $5! Bonus points as it contains no palm oil!
I’m based in the UK – more precisely a small island near the UK – and so my retail options are somewhat limited. A few years ago I’ve switched from regular shampoos to this one: http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/avalon-organics-lemon-clarifying-shampoo-60075238?skuid=075238 and have been been happy with it. it is better than the shampoo I was previously using in that I can now get away with washing every 3-4 days without getting (too) greasy roots. I don’t know how environmentally friendly it actually is but I reckon getting anything delivered here wouldn’t be much better for mother Earth. I honestly have never found any miracle shampoos, natural or otherwise, and this one does the job really well. I also have the conditioner, but I don’t care for it as much. In fact, I went on a month-long trip recently and decided not to take any basic toiletries, assuming all of the hotels/relatives that we were staying at/with would have them. Long story short, I had conditioner for maybe two nights for the duration of the trip, and my hair looked as good as always (that is, as good as it looks when it looks good). I’m not ready to pull the trigger permanently yet, the water + wind here makes my hair a bit frizzy, but someday I know I will. Your hair looks a lot like mine, so if you are interested check to see if you can find that one in the US and give it a go.
P.S.: I find that of every place I’ve ever visited, my hair looks its best in NYC, the frizz disappears and the colour is always spot on!
You are reading my mind, just a few days ago I was thinking of coming to your website to search for this topic! I’m on a very similar journey and still haven’t settled on my ‘ride or die’ as the cool kids say. I had a few happy years in Vancouver on baking soda and diluted ACV, but that hasn’t worked for me on the East Coast of the US or now in Ireland (harder water). I recently did a Hairstory New Wash subscription and I loved it so much but for my lower back length hair the cost was breath takingly expensive (like, I could count the cost of each hair washing in dollars). I really don’t want to use shampoo anymore, or at least shampoo with sulphates. They make my hair frizzy and poofy. I love cleansing conditioners but the cheaper (non New Wash) ones seem to leave my scalp more greasy. For now I do feel like cleansing conditioners are the way to go for me so I will keep experimenting. Hope you find your perfect solution soon!
I’m a fan of the LUSH shampoo bars, though they do need a little TLC to keep them from becoming a gummy mess. I haven’t had as much success with their conditioner bars, but I’m about to switch to one that’s supposedly more hydrating, so fingers crossed! Also, thanks to everyone who posted about New Wash, I’ve been way curious about that.
I have long, thick, wavy/curly, dark hair that can get very frizzy, very tangled, and oily at the scalp and dry at the ends. Between 2008 and 2016 I used baking soda and ACV exclusively. I put a tablespoon of baking soda in a squeeze bottle (like the one pictured) and filled the rest with water and scrubbed my scalp and rinsed. I followed it with the same ratio of ACV to water and combed it through and then rinsed. It took about three months for my scalp and hair to adjust. And after three months, my hair was softer, not as frizzy, and not as dry. It also was not as tangled! This worked whether my hair was at my shoulders or down to my waist. In 2016, after the birth of my second child, my hair got dryer and I started using conditioner instead of ACV. That worked too, although I now have a single-use plastic issue. I’m not loyal to any particular conditioner but stick to the ones at the health food store. So, I can attest that baking soda and ACV worked for me but required a significant adjustment period (read: gross/oily hair) where I second-guessed my decision constantly. As I recall I wore my hair up a lot and formed a stronger bond with my hats.
When my need for fragrance-free haircare collided with less-waste, I settled on two bar products. I tested out some alternatives but didn’t have better results so back to these I went: JR Liggett’s Moisturizing Formula Shampoo + Bee Beauty Honey Silk Hair Moisturizing Bar. They last for months — when kept dry on a soap saver — and leaves my hair clean yet soft. Residue is a secret villain so I rinse A LOT. When I think I’ve rinsed plenty, I keep going. (For reference, my straight virgin hair is fine yet thick.)
When I travel, I wrap the bars in a wash cloth. They stay dry and are easy to transport.
It is so fascinating to hear everyone’s routines and journeys, I don’t even know why, but it is.
I use beauty without cruelty, shampoo, conditioner, leave-in, but plastic bottles, which this post is making me feel even worse about. But i really like my hair, i only use a tiny bit, only twice a week. I don’t color or style my hair at all, just wash and air dry, and cut myself. My hair is much shinier and healthier looking since I started doing nothing, and I’m more accepting of nonconforming to beauty norms too.
I make my own soap and have tried out several shampoo recipes with varying levels of success, but in general if you’re going with a bar soap you don’t want coconut oil to be the first ingredient. Ironically, in the saponification process, it becomes quite drying. It tends to be high on many ingredient lists because it is hard at room temperature which makes the bar itself harder without having to rely on Palm Oil which has a sordid harvesting process (killing jungles and whatnot). Shea, Sesame, Olive, and Rosemary are all good things to look for but since bar soap tends to be much more basic than traditional shampoo, ACV rinses are intended to restore (not further strip!) your hair to a more balanced pH. (For me, knowing the reasoning, helped me adjust to my particular hair situation). With ACV rinses, I have had the most success with a ratio of 1/3 raw apple cider, 1/3 aloe vera (I like Mountain Rose Herbs), 1/3 filtered water plus a few drops of Rosemary essential oil and sesame oil (both are great hair conditioners). This is all said with the caveat that I have a pixie and can easily try different things out without too much damage. When in doubt, I go back, to Jason’s Biotin Shampoo and Conditioner, which doesn’t get away from plastic conundrum, but is awesome.
You are not alone! Working through Plaine products right now. Love the idea behind it, don’t love the actual product. I️ end up washing my hair more often and the conditioner doesn’t do much.- fine in the Texas summer, may not be so fine when it gets dryer. Just received the meow meow tweet bar- I’ll update you! I’d like a bar to work so badly.
Oh man, I identify so hard with this post! I feel like I’ve tried everything too.
I’d love to be able to afford New Wash, but it will be years, so right now I’m using Renpure cleansing conditioner but
1. My friend just pointed out it scores a 9 on the Think Dirty app
2. Single use plastic.
I had pretty good success with the Morrocco Method clay shampoos, but it’s still kind of pricey and again, plastic.
I think I need to start mixing up my own rhassoul clay shampoo. I’m kind of burned out on making my own cosmetics, though.
My husband bought me New Wash for Christmas last year and I *loved* it! Yet, as people have already mentioned, it is breath-takingly expensive, so I couldn’t bring myself to buy any more once my bottle ran out. I’ve been using the conditioner and shampoo from Public Goods, which so far has worked pretty well. It doesn’t have any parabens or phthalates, doesn’t dry out my hair, and it smells good!
I was about to ask you about toothbrushes! Have you found a cool toothbrush solution? Mine are ugly and plastic….
My favorite comment on the matter is just washing infrequently. Once a week, so that whatever I am using lasts longer. I did baking soda for a while until my hair started falling out. I think I was using too much, and that would probably work again in a pinch, or maybe intermittently. I also can vouch for oiling one’s hair…very satisfying. Just grease up with your hands, put a towel on your pillowcase, and then shampoo in the morning. Amazing!
We use brush with bamboo. My whole family uses them. When we are done, we use them for garden markers to know what we planted.
Aaah hair, the one thing I never know if I’ll be able to say one day that I am fully satisfied with mine. Between haircuts and products, it feels like a never ending battle. After trying a looot of stuff, this is what has worked for me (I have curly, thin, normal/dry hair):
– Leaving Paris and its pollution. It’s amazing how hair greases up quickly when in a big city
– 2 french brands for solid shampoo: shampoing Orange/Cannelle/Badiane by Lamazuna, and Shampoing Réparateur by Secrets de Provence. I’ve had one from Lush but it wasn’t a great success.
– Stopping using conditioner. I felt like it made my hair fall down and/or look greasy. Instead I put coconut oil when I go to bed the day before . It all goes away with the shampoo the next morning.
– Never ever use a hair dryer.
This has allowed me to 1)wash my hair once a week (instead of one day out of two!) 2)combined with Alep soap for my face and soap bar for the rest, ban completely plastic packaging from my shower. Yeay!
I do exactly this with the squirt bottle and ACV. I’ve always had dermatitis on my scalp which gets incredibly irritated and itchy during the changing of seasons. ACV is the only thing that calms it, and I’ve tried everything. I’d like to try the Weleda revitalising hair tonic (it’s a local New Zealand, natural company)
I have fine, dense hair that has always been on the greasy side, but is somehow now also chronically dry. I’m still figuring this out. I find that I do best these days with a bit of argan oil or similar applied to the ends before washing with a cleansing shampoo every other day. (I use a Neutrogena anti-residue formulation, would love something greener.) I try really really hard to resist shampooing on the in-between days.
Other hints: Use a boar bristle brush and clean it regularly! It took me forever to learn this. Also, use less shampoo than you think you need; it really only needs to go at the roots. (Less shampoo and less frequent washings together will make a positive environmental impact, to boot.)
i have hair loss problem. i tried using Kitty Cotten’s recipe of scalp treatment. it’s 1:1 castor oil and rosemary essential oil. put the mixture in a amber glass container and use the dropper to apply it to the scalp. she said the treatment made her hair grow super fast. i have yet to see my hair grow quicker. but i do think it smooths my scalp, especially when it’s irritated and itchy.
I’ve been a hair stylist for over fifteen years, and from the get go I dove into the natural products industry. I’ve tried capital E everything. I’m an excellent guinea pig as I have baby fine hair on the thinner side, so it shows product stress easily. Over the years, with both myself and my clients, I noticed that soap of any kind regularly used destroys the integrity of the hair more than any other process. Several years ago I stopped using soap and was able to grow our my hair for the first time in my life. Until I found what I use now, baking soda and acv worked best. It was just too drying over time so I started adding a mask to the routine. Then I found New Wash and that was that. I’ve been using it for eight months and I need no other products on my hair. After all these years in the world of hair, I see through the bs. A product has to work consistently well over time while keeping the integrity of my hair intact, has to be available in bulk, and has to be natural to my standards and this one is standing the test of time. My search is done and I only need one soapless product.
I’ve had good luck with a once-per-week washing with diluted baking soda . My hair is very thick and curly and I have lots of it, and I struggle with dry patches on my scalp (but those have improved since I started this routine). I detangle with apple cider vinegar (scented with rosemary and lavender essential oil), which leaves my hair soft. Back in my shampoo days, I had an annoyingly itchy scalp, and if I went more than 3 days without washing my hair, I couldn’t stand how it smelled. But now my hair smells clean for a week (even during the summer when I’m doing a lot of sweaty trail running). I have to admit it feels amazing to clean my hair so cheaply and effectively using what’s in the kitchen. -t
I also tried a lots of natural products and finaly found something that works for me: Rye flour. From washing every other day to washing two times a week and my hair never looked better… No conditioner needed, no plastic and very cheep.
I am also not a Nature’s Gate fan! Two traditional DIY — and zero waste — options that work for me on an occasional basis are fermented rice water and soap nuts liquid. Both make my hair soft and manageable like nothing else. I always soak my brown rice overnight before cooking anyway, and I just drain and save that water in a jar and let it sit on the counter overnight to slightly ferment. Then you can use it as a final rinse or to wash your hair. More info here: http://www.hairbuddha.net/rice-water-for-gorgeous-hair-and-flawless-skin/. There’s a lot of info online about making soap nuts liquid for shampoo. I find it is too drying for me to use more than once per week, but otherwise I love the results.
We’ve been using Plaine for the last couple of months. The entire family (man, woman, two boys and a baby) uses them. We like them. My husband has thick hair. I have thin hair. And it’s good for both. The rosemary scent is great, and not offputting at all (I am not a fan of strong fragrance or perfume).
I have historically used very expensive French products from my hair salon. It pained me everytime I bought it but my stylist insisted is was the best product for my hair which is a strange combo of dry ends and oily scalp. The products were good for the dry but really made my scalp feel oily which led to more frequent washing… more money… more pain. Ugh. I tried “no poo” with combos of ACV, baking soda and rye flour. Good for a while but I got tired of the rye flakes on my floor and shoulders all the time. I recently switched to natural products from my local refill store The Soap Dispensary https://thesoapdispensary.com/ (a must for anyone in Vancouver Canada) and I just love them. I can go 4 days without washing my hair! Much less expensive, zero waste and effective. Love it.
I’ve also tried everything over the years, to no avail. I finally found my holy grail at Credo – it’s called Innersense. (Organic/no animal testing/no sulphates). I use both the shampoo and conditioner and while plastic, they do last forever — I’ve had them for almost a year and have used about half a bottle.
I love Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve – they make about a dozen varieties of shampoo bar that you can choose from based on your hair type. I’ve had great luck with their soapnuts bar followed by a diluted ACV rinse.
Have you tried soap nut powder (also known as shikakai) with water. You are meant to make a paste and scrub your hair gently. This is the traditional way people washed there hair in South India. Its all natural and is available in most asian stores. One ward of caution just be careful that it doesn’t your eyes. If it does then it causes stingy sensation a little but can be washed off with water and you will be fine in few min. We grew up using Shikakai and my hair was thick and luscious. Not anymore since I switched to shampoo during adulthood.
Castile soap! I use it for body wash, face wash, and shampoo. And mostly just wash the scalp, not the hair. Have done this for the past few years after many years of trying various no-poo shampoos. Dr Bronner’s has a conditioner which I don’t dislike but also don’t use regularly, just don’t think it does much for my hair. I sometimes use a diluted ACV rinse but have found I really don’t need it that often.
I tried the whole “baking soda and apple cider vinegar” method for a few months. I figured that while writing my thesis I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time socialising anyway so it was a good time to get through the greasy period. It wasn’t awful but I would’t exactly call it a resounding success either. My hair didn’t look terrible by the end of it, just a little greasy, but it felt strange, all sticky and strawy at the same time. I am back on conventional shampoo, still looking for the unicorn spit 😉
i’ve been an ACV convert since 2013 and love it. i switch between this and the yarok conditioner from time to time but i’ve found it to be the best natural conditioner that also helps to give the scalp that refreshing feel without needing shampoo. most of my friends are turned off by it because of the smell but i love it. and just like you, mine is also diluted otherwise it’s too strong of a smell and also too harsh. but what i also do when i make my ACV is to add a few drops of orange essential oil. it helps to mask the vinegar smell and so much more pleasant to use.
I have thick hair, that’s also prone to frizz and can be somewhat coarse from all the years of going blonde (dry and damaged). I recently made the switch to Innersense Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner. I wash my hair once a week and don’t blow dry it, and I’ve had consistently good results just using those two products, however, for an additional benefit of getting my hair to be less frizzy and coarse, I was using Davine’s Oi All in One Milk, which made my hair softer. I am looking for a cleaner alternative and am going to try Jordan Seban’s Le Baume, which I’ve heard is fantastic.
I randomly tried the Simple Truth (Kroger’s organic brand) unscented castile soap bar for face, body, and hair, and to my everlasting surprise, it works. I have to detangle a little after the shower but if I rinse really well there is no build up. I have thin, fine, blond hair, so that’s a huge plus for me because my hair gets very oily very quickly. It’s also packaged in a recyclable box and costs about $3. Winning! Hope you find what works for you!
Hey, any thoughts on a good hairspray?
Josh Rosebrook! https://joshrosebrook.com/products/hair-spray-firm-hold
I use L.R. Liggets bar shampoo & it has worked well for me. They sell a sample pac with several difference bars that I would recommend, to find which one works for you.
When changing from regular shampoo it will take a while for your hair to adjust.
I have used some of the ethiquebeauty.com products and about to order their hair care as I like the other bars. Made here in NZ with a great range . Have not tried tha shampoo in their range but it gets good reviews .
Ethique shampoo and conditioner bats are wonderful!
Prairie Naturals (a Canadian hair care brand) is excellent. They offer a wide range of products, too. Sulphate free, DEA free, petroleum free, paraben free, biodegradable, not tested on animals, ph balanced. Single-use plastic bottles, though 🙁
I used baking soda and vinegar for five years with a good deal of success but ran out of steam and returned to conventional s/c halfway through my second pregnancy early this year. My scalp breaks out again, and I plan to go back to bs/v, likely once the big bottles are gone.
I didn’t like ACV, though. I preferred distilled white, with lavender and peppermint EO, in a spray bottle. Better control, lighter application, and I could use it as leave-in conditioner if I didn’t use enough or if my style (s’wavy hair) needed a scrunch/reset.
Just a note for readers with thick, coarse hair that Nature’s Gate is actually my go-to natural shampoo–perhaps different shampoos work for different textures. If had disposable income or companies sent me the more expensive options Erin lists above, then maybe my opinion would change, but for those of you looking for an affordable , natural shampoo , Nature’s Gate is the best drugstore option I’ve found.
I’ve been experimenting for a long while too! I even temporarily gave up and in desperation tried to go back to something less environmentally friendly, only to discover it didn’t work the way it used to. I’ve currently settled on rotating through whatever I can find locally that’s decently graded on GoodGuide and not too expensive (with my budget and amount of hair, the nicer natural stuff feels too cost prohibitive). I haven’t found “the one” for me yet, but it seems to stay manageable as long as I do a weekly rinse with citric acid. I couldn’t handle the smell that stuck with me using ACV. A teaspoon of powdered citric acid in 1.5-2 cups of water seems to work just as well for me, without the lingering essence of pickle scent!
Hi Erin! Have you tried any shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley? There are a few that have worked out really well for me. Ayurvedic Herb, Soapnuts Citrus Mint, and Cafe Moreno are some of my favorites. They have samples of each bar too that are pretty cheap so you can check them out before committing to a larger bar. I also use one of their ACV rinses as a conditioner, I find that it doesn’t weigh my hair down like more traditional conditioners.
I heart Meow Meow Tweet. I use their facial soaps, oils.. love their products.
Aesop also makes luxurious shampoo I love. The smells are incredible.
And 2 Note from Hudson NY – organic and great on my hair
Reading your list of natural shampoo attempts brings to mind many of mine ! I have been using shampoo bars and the occasional ACV rinse for three years now . We have hard water (and it DOES make a difference) so the ACV helps with build up there, but it really is the best I’ve found. Best of luck
I’m curious, what do you use to wash Faye’s hair? I have an almost 2.5 year old and have yet to buy “shampoo” for her. I’m not sure where to start, her hair is getting longer and more tangled, so I’m starting to feel the need.
Hi there. Yes, Faye has super long hair. We don’t wash it very often but we do put a little bit of detangler in when she takes a bath to help with snarls! My mom bought her the bottle! Will have to wait ’til I’m hope to look at the brand!
I’m in Australia. We have Davroe. It’s perfect everytime: I end up with gorgeous clean and soft hair.
I am a huge bar shampoo fan! I learned about it from your book (or the blog? can’t remember) and started trying some out. My most favorite so far has been the Grapefruit, Rosemary, and Lavender by The Yellow Bird. The bar is a little large, I plan on cutting into 4ths on the next bar to make it a little easier to hold in the shower. I have also tried the Meow Meow Tweet’s Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar and found that one to be just okay, I do love their body oil though. I also liked J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned Shampoo Bar, better than Meow Meow Tweet’s but not as good as The Yellow Bird bar. I also recently purchased the bar shampoo from Lush, that is my next on the list to try. Thank you for opening my world to shampoo bars, I am all about them!
I tried and liked New Wash but it didn’t feel life-altering enough for me to want to do the subscription thing, and I didn’t like the idea of spending money on something that my heart wasn’t in. Right now I’m just using Acure shampoo and conditioner. I’ve tried both the fine hair one (blue bottles?) and the argan oil ones (orange bottles). I appreciate what it doesn’t have, that it’s readily available in a variety of stores (TJ Maxx!), and that it doesn’t strip my fine hair. Don’t love the plastic.
I tried the New Wash as well and though it’s a nice product – it’s ridiculously expensive !! It’s easily twice as expensive as a high end shampoo & conditioner and doesn’t offer any sort of *transformation* that would justify the price.
You put the bug in my ear to try the shampoo bar — I bought J.R. Liggetts and I like it! I’m planning to sign up for Plaine Products conditioner, too, after trying their products in travel-size. For an all-in-one bar, you could try Dr. Bronner’s or this shampoo & body wash bar I just found on Mighty Nest: https://mightynest.com/shop/bath-body/hair-care/herbal-shampoo-bar Thank you for the inspiration!
my homemade ‘poo is a mixture of aloe vera gel, a little baking soda, a small squirt of apricot oil and essential oils, like geranium, lavender and rosemary…all great for your hair. try it! (I stopped coloring my hair, and that made it super healthy, but also gray, which is soooooo freeing!)
I don’t have a good solution for a conditioner, and I’m sure hair type, lifestyle and a thousand other things are important and make different results for everybody but I’ve been switching between two different Lush shampoo bars and I’m super happy with the results! I have very greasy hair, but since I had it dyed black this past year it is also a bit dry during the first days since I’ve washed it, but a shampoo bar for greasy hair one day and the next I wash one to give shine to my hair are working wonders!
So many ideas… we have to find our own solution. Seems to me that if you do the right thing for your hair there won’t be a build up to constantly rinse away. I lean toward homemade since just about everything out there, even the good stuff, feels overpriced and another business. My entire house, and almost our family, is now pretty dependent on white vinegar, baking soda, coconut oil, essential oils, and hydrogen peroxide. Cheap easy and safe. My favorite for my hair (which I finally let gray and gave up a blow drier) is a blend of aloe Vera gel, a tiny bit of oil, a bit of baking soda and a few essential oils. I wash my hair a few times a week and it seems happy. Happy hunting for what works for you!
I relate to this post 100%. Thank you for starting this dialogue! It’s nice to know so many other women are experiencing the same struggles to stick to our values, greasy-haired and all.
After a similar bout of experimentation over the years, I have finally settled on a wash with rhassoul clay and a rinse with ACV. I keep a ceramic cup in the shower and add 1-2 T. of clay and mix it with water until it’s the consistency of a runny egg yolk. I apply and let it sit for as long as it takes me to shave my legs. I rinse, pour on diluted ACV and let sit as long as it takes me to shave my armpits and wash my face. It’s been working tremendously well for my hair type. I do this about once a week. On the in-between days I use Lulu’s organics hair Powder if it starts to get greasy and Herbivore sea salt spray if it starts to get flat. I’m sure both products could be made at home rather easily, but both were gifted to me so I’m enjoying them while they last.
Thanks again for all that you do. I’m an avid reader and your posts bring me much joy and solace!
Haha this pretty much sums up my hair journey as well. Since 6 months or so I have been washing my hair with Ghassoul (I buy it at the health food store here in Germany) and my hair is very healthy, shiny and requires way less washing than before. I never had my hair looking this good! After working out I often just scrub my head with water. Also, ACV occasionally.
ACV in an aluminum spray bottle with essential oils and water had saved my hair!!! I have really oily hair and skin. Breast Cancer took my hair about 5 years ago and I made this mix up to help my hair to grow and found that I didn’t have to wash 2x a day anymore!! Bonus!! My hair grew ALOT! Longer than it had ever been before! Peppermint and tea tree are superfood for hair!! I fell off doing it for a while and got highlights … recently had to cut 3 inches off my hair and mixed up the magic! I even have my husband using it on his bald spots !! It’s the best!
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