Sunday, 29 April 2018

No shampoo ~ happy hair care easier than I thought

Choosing hair products can be daunting with supermarket and salon shelves loaded with a vast choice of shampoos, conditioners, mousse, gel, 'defining' creams, you name it, row upon row of fancy plastic bottles and tubs each claiming to serve some special purpose.  How to choose has been a hard question.  In addition to the overwhelming choice my not-particularly-discerning nose finds most of them downright smelly!   Why, why, why is the simple task of washing our hair and having it nicely manageable so complicated?

After lengthy experimentation my conclusion is that happy hair care need not be complicated at all, and that I should have listened to my grandmother - who said that she only ever used Sunlight soap and rainwater on hers.  She had beautiful soft wavy hair which always looked lovely, so there was ample proof that it worked for her, but what about me?  Decades after her death and even longer since I'd heard her say this (for she did tell me herself) I decided to try out her way.  The thing about rainwater is that it's 'soft' which affects the solubility of soap and its residues, but I didn't have a handy barrel of rainwater, so what to do?

My solution is nearly as simple: Sunlight soap and diluted white vinegar.  See below for the image of all the hair care products I hop into the shower with.  The tumbler of white vinegar is about a fifth or a quarter full, which I fill up with warm water from the shower head when I'm ready to use it.  The tumbler is plastic rather than glass as a safeguard against possible breakage and glass fragments underfoot.  An enamel one would serve just as well.

My method couldn't be simpler: I wet my hair under the shower, rub the soap on to it to get a nice lather, and then rinse it out with water.  It feels a bit 'squeaky' to touch after that.  I then fill up the tumbler from the shower head, and, tilting my head back, carefully tip it over, rubbing my scalp with my fingertips as I do so, and rinse it with water once again.  After that the 'squeaky' feel is completely gone and my hair just feels nice and soft and clean.  Any trace of the smell of vinegar is of short duration, and after drying isn't noticeable at all.

I've found it just as easy to do this over the bathroom basin or kitchen sink with the aid of a large jug.  Although the vinegar water can get into my eyes a bit it easily blinks out in a palmful of clean water, and I wouldn't rate it as more troublesome in this respect than ordinary shampoo.  I asked a chemist if he thought it could be harmful and he that in that low dilution it would be fine. 

And what else?
My hair is like my grandmother's in that it has a nice wave and is very fine, thick and soft, so it can easily go flat and out of shape.  The best treatment I've found is, once again, one I make myself, and similarly easy: a tiny amount of guar gum, which I buy at the supermarket in powdered form (it's a food thickener) mixed with an equal quantity of vegetable oil and a little water.  You can find my recipe for this is here:
Before applying it I comb or brush my wet hair into some kind of order.  To apply the gel I wet my hands under the tap and then scoop a small amount of the gel onto my hands and rub it over my wet fingers to coat them; I then bend over so that my hair is hanging down, and rub it in as much possible around the roots of the hair.  Because my hair is so soft I don't need much.  After that I stand up, finger-comb it into the shape and apply a little more with my fingertips around the crown where I want it to have a bit more body.  As it dries I scrunch and lift it a bit to encourage the waviness and the little bit of extra height and volume that I want.  

It's that easy!  It took me a while to arrive at though, and what suits me may not suit others.  This is because each of us has different hair and skin, so if trying this out you'll probably find that it's worth experimenting with the ratios, frequency of washing and hair management routines.  When I get up in the morning my hair has usually gone fairly flat and shapeless, and I've found that rather than washing it I just need to wet it with wet hands, running them through it a few times, and then comb it into shape.  The tiny amount of gel that is already in it helps it take the shape I want and once dry it's pretty again.  Others might find that periodically wetting it under the shower - without washing it with anything else, works fine. 

Before arriving at the solution described here I had wondered about alternatives to shampoo for years.  I was finally prompted to experiment seriously at a time when my scalp became irritated in patches.  Although a pharmaceutical product gave some relief I realised that a better longer term solution to my usual hair care routine was needed.  The doctor recommended Johnson's Baby shampoo, which is very gentle, but I found that even that was too drying.  I knew that plain, undiluted vinegar can be used as a soothing application for irritated skin, and took it from there.  With regard to soap I tried the very gentle all purpose pure vegetable oil soap that I use even on my face, but found that that was too drying.  Sunlight soap suits my hair best. 

I've used this method for at least a year and these days happily stroll past all those shelves of hair care products with a sigh of satisfaction - I don't need them any more.  

I avoid hair care products even at the hairdressers: I have a very good stylist, who accepts that I wash my hair at home before going in to have my hair cut, and also decline the blow dry and use of any hair care products.  Establishing this early in our acquaintance was also helpful in arriving at a lower than advertised price, so this point can be well worth talking over - before sitting down in the stylist's chair. 
     Last time I saw my stylist I asked for her comment about the condition of my hair, which I had carefully washed and 'dressed' before my appointment.  She took a strand between her finger and thumb and rolled it a bit before complementing me on its condition, and then said "You wouldn't know this but you have exactly the right amount of oil in your hair!"  I didn't let on my secrets, just smiled and thanked her. 

Here is my the shopping list for hair care products:
  • Sunlight soap, which comes in a pack of four in a nice cardboard box - no plastic or cellophane
  • White vinegar - 'plain pack' is fine, nothing fancy required here, and
  • Guar gum powder.
As well as being free of strange and unpronounceable chemicals this regime is the ultimate in thrifty hair care!

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