It’s been about 4 or 5 years since I last used a shampoo or conditioner on my hair. And it’s been about 2 years since I’ve been using soap nuts exclusively to wash hair.
The reason I started on the no-shampoo path was because my hair was getting dirty so fast that I had to wash it daily and still by the end of the day it was not a pretty sight. I went through many different brands of fancy and expensive shampoos, but the result was more or less the same… or worse. My first no-shampoo experience was with a dry mix of some herbs and clay my mom send me from Russia. It worked remarkably well, but we could never find that particular brand again. So the search for natural ways to care for hair ensued.
It’s been few years now since I’ve been using only natural products to wash my hair. I’ve also successfully replaced various other conventional body care products with clean natural ones (see my post here). And for the past year I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring our household as close to zero-waste life-style as possible. I’m hoping you’ll find my experience and the information I share here helpful.
What’s wrong with conventional products
The reason I try to eliminate chemicals from our body care and cleaning products is because I believe we do not conduct sufficient research to truly understand the effects of all these chemicals on our bodies and environment. Various research has shown some of the common ingredients in these ‘beauty products’ to be disruptive to our hormonal system or to our reproductive system or to even affect development in children. And may be individually the amounts of those harmful chemicals are too small to cause an effect, but considering how many of these products are used on the average it can quickly build up. I’ve also seen that our government is primarily interested in the benefit of large corporations rather than safety and well-being of the people, thus permitting products on the market that are far from harmless. The examples are too numerous. If you look on the list of ingredients of a shampoo and check them on EWG.ORG you would be amazed how many of them are potentially really harmful to our bodies. So given choice, I choose the safer way and avoid them all together.
The production of these chemically loaded ‘beauty products’ can’t be good for our environment. The chemical companies in general aren’t known for their environmental stewardship. And then there is a concern of water contamination. Until recently I never considered what happens to water once it leaves our shower or toilets. A couple years ago a friend studying an environmental science told me that waters near Seattle in Washington contain notable doses of estrogen, as well as antidepressants. Apparently they come out with urine from people using birth control or taking antidepressants and in spite municipal water filtration still make it into the environment. I’d think same goes for various chemicals contained in the conventional beauty products. Not good.
Packaging and plastic pollution
Sadly the plastic pollution is all too real. It is devastating to our oceans and marine life. And unfortunately recycling isn’t an answer to this problem, as many states have very limited recycling program to begin with. And things like plastic cups and pumps are rarely recycled at all.
Where to learn about natural hair care
I want to share with you this incredible resource on everything and anything natural-hair-care related – No Poo (no shampoo) & Low Poo Hair Care Group Forum. This FB group is incredibly supportive, helpful and is an absolute wealth of incredible information from hair washing to styling and much more. For example, I never knew that water hardness could be a huge factor in choosing best natural hair washing method. I highly recommend joining this group and reading all their files covering in depth various ways you can wash your hair naturally. And feel free to ask them any questions. Again, they are extremely helpful.
My hair routine:
soap nuts + oil soap
After trying few different hair washes I came to love Soap Nuts in the powder form (pictured below). However I have long hair and they tangle my hair badly. I tried various tea and vinegar rinses, but none of them seemed to work as well as I wished. My hair was still somewhat tangled and also would get dirty faster between the washes. I also tried washing hair with my favorite Gardener’s Citrus Scrub liquid soap from Spinster Sisters, but after a few washes my hair felt weighted down. However, when I combined the two I seem to have found the perfect combination for my hair. Soap nuts cleanse the hair and skull really well. Using the liquid soap immediately after makes the hair soft and silky.
Few words about soap nuts
- Do not let it get in your eyes! It will be very irritating to the eyes.
- Do buy organic soap nuts to support sustainable farming practices, rather than conventional one.
- Some people make soap nut tea to wash their hair. I found that unnecessary. Simply rubbing the powder works really well.
- The washing experience is very different from a shampoo. It feels more like applying a scrub to your skull. 🙂 … no soapsuds.
- You can easily make soap nut powder at home with Vitamix or alike, but be careful opening the lid — the soap nuts dust feels very unpleasant if you breath it in.
Doing it zero-waste style
Spinster Sisters liquid soap
They used to sell their liquid soap in glass bottles, but lately they seem to have switched to plastic bottles unfortunately. In any case, you can order a bulk amount of 1 gallon and then re-use that bottle for future bulk refills. The bulk option isn’t available on their website, but they will do it if you contact them directly by email. And if you live in Boulder or Denver Colorado you can also visit their stores for refills.
If you buy soap nuts in powder form it comes in a plastic bag. You can eliminate this by ordering a large bag of whole soap nuts (which you can also use for laundry) here at Eco Mountain store if you are in US or in other places (Mountain Rose Herbs for example, just check their packaging options) which come in a cloth bag and then turning them into powder with Vitamix or alike. Word of caution — do not open Vitamix lid right away when making the soap nut powder. The fine soap nut dust is very irritating to eyes and throat. Let it settle down or open outside and quickly walk away for a bit.
Other washes I tried
In closing I wanted to share some of my notes on the various other washing methods I tried.
This cleaned as well as soap nuts, but I could never get it fully rinsed out of my hair. And unfortunately even the smallest bits, when dried, would act like glue and result in terrible tangle. My mom however used to use Rye bread before the shampoos became common use. She loved it and said it did not tangle the hair at all.
This washed hair rather well and didn’t tangle them either. However I read that too much protein makes hair brittle, so this wash should only be used occasionally.
At first this seem to work really well. But over time my hair became dull and weighted down. I believe it was soap residue that didn’t wash off due to hard water. You may get different result, so worth trying.
Did not work at all. Hair never became clean and only got more and more unpleasant after each ‘wash’.
Did not work either but I saw on above mentioned FB group some people get really great results, but apparently you have to find a right rinse to work with it.
Vineager and tea rinses
I tried various dilutions of apple cider and white vinegar. I also tried black tea. I did not care for the result. Vintagers in particular, because they made my hair get oily faster while not doing all that much for detangling.
Baking soda and vineager
While I have not tried this a friend has been using this method for some time and loves it. But I also read that some people felt it really dried their hair.
So there you have it. 🙂 But, don’t forget, if it didn’t work for my hair does not mean it will not work for yours. Some people get great results with water only. Envy!! 🙂