Shockingly, I am twenty-five and just figuring out what on God’s green earth to do with my hair. Ever have those days when you’re just so fed up that you have to practically sit on your hands to keep from grabbing the closest sharp object and slicing through the dry, static-y, frizzy, coarse, tangled strands you call your hair (but really wish you didn’t have to claim as your own)? … Meet me for the last quarter-century.
As a child I had silky, straight blonde locks, but then puberty hit, and I was never the same (were any of us?). I also naively believed that it would get better in high school. And then believed it would get better in college. And finally believed that if I could just reach full-blown adulthood, all my hair-problems would fade away.
My hair has simultaneously been my glory and the bane of my existence. Genetically blessed in the hair department—with my mother’s volume and texture and my father’s coloring—I have naturally thick, fine, strawberry-blonde hair. Sadly, life always seems to try to take your best asset and steal its splendor.
And so? Through the years, my hair has been short and bushy, ultra-greasy (no matter how often I washed it), long and all but dead, and so dry it might as well have been horse hair. I’ve had dead-ends, split-ends, breakage, and surely record-breaking slow growth; I’ve ruined my hair with dye and perms, lost hair, and had hair so thick I couldn’t wear it in a pony-tail without getting a migraine. I moved and lived in a super-dry climate for a couple of years, and my hair is still recovering from the damage incurred then.
However, what I have finally learned is that hair troubles don’t go away when you reach a certain age. They go away when you actually start taking care of your hair.
The industry has an unbelievable tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. There are so many products—products for dry hair, oily hair, curly hair, straight hair, for nourishing, hydrating, restoring, and repairing—to choose from, and as long as there is a commercial of a celebrity whipping her long, thick, shiny, gorgeous locks back and forth we might—just might—get manipulated into trying dozens of different products in our desperation to find something—anything—that actually works.
Unfortunately, store-bought hair products contain harmful ingredients that actually do nothing to repair damage or keep hair healthy. The top 5 toxins in store-bought hair products are sulfates, parabens, fragrances, triclosan, and polyethylene glycol, which are endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic. Also, the industry is so highly unregulated that a product can be labeled “organic” if only 70% of its ingredients are certified-organic.
Luckily, we don’t need to use these products, and there is an alternative that is not only safer and healthier but also more effective and inexpensive (not to mention quick and easy!). Since I have been making my own products, I have eliminated, not one, but all of my hair problems.
In this post, I am going to give you the best instructions and suggestions when it comes to making your own products. Then, I’ll reveal the routine I’ve established that has kept my hair healthier, softer, shinier, and more hydrated than ever before. I’ll end with some tips for some other healthy habits you can instill to promote hair health and growth (hair health = hair growth!).
I will be honest with you (I’m never going to over-promise and under-deliver… I’ll leave that to the industry), adapting to healthier products and a different routine when it comes to haircare is not as seamless as doing the same for skincare. For whatever reason (and this may just be me), the conversion to only using homemade hair products is more of an adjustment, and it generally takes about three weeks for your hair to adapt to the new products. In the meantime, it might be oily, crunchy, or even more dry and coarse.
Although there are many different homemade hair product recipes, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to hair products. I tried a plethora of different recipes, and, in the end and through a long process of trial-and-error, had to tweak the ingredients and portions till I found what worked for me. Don’t get discouraged in the experimentation process, though… you will eventually find what works best for you, and your hair will thank you for it (you’ll thank yourself when in a couple of months you have the healthy, gorgeous locks you always dreamed of).
I am going to give you all the product ingredients that are great for haircare (for shampoo, conditioner, and treatments) as well as some basic guidelines when it comes to combining them. I’ll also reveal what I eventually found worked best for me.
This can be the most difficult product to get right for your hair, but also delivers the best results for your hair health once you actually do! It can also be the most difficult product to adjust to the use of for the simple reason that safe, natural soaps (like liquid castile soap, which is the foundational ingredient in homemade, healthy shampoos) do not lather because they contain no harmful sulfates for that purpose. The labels will tell you they lather. They don’t.
There are dozens of different recipes out there for healthy, homemade shampoo, and they all involve combining a plethora of different ingredients from coconut milk to raw, beaten eggs. What I discovered in my own experience was that the less ingredients I used, the better. The more complex the product I made was, ingredient-wise, the more undesirable the result—from ultra-oily hair, to crunchy, to dry and straw-like.
Now, my homemade shampoo is very basic. And I follow this very simple recipe:
You will need:
- 1 cup liquid castile soap
- 1 tsp. oil – various
- 5 drops essential oil – various
Practically any healthy oil is usable on and effective for your hair. Some of the oils I use include:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Almond oil
- Jojoba oil
- Vitamin-E oil
- Caster oil
- Tea tree oil
The best essential oils for haircare are:
Combine ingredients in either the original liquid castile soap bottle or another container and shake well. Multipy ingredients as desired in order to have more product at one time.
Directions for use:
Treat as regular shampoo.
There are also many recipes out there for natural, healthy conditioner, but I found that using my homemade shampoo, which already contains oil, as well as a conditioner was just too much for my hair and left it greasy and gross.
Now, I make and use a serum from a combination of any of the oils listed above. I add the different oils I choose together into a travel-sized spray bottle, spritz the concoction lightly onto my already washed and wet hair, and then towel dry.
Since adding too many ingredients into my shampoo or using conditioner delivers undesirable results, I apply hair treatments regularly in order to hydrate, nourish, repair, and restore my hair… This is my opportunity to go crazy with ingredients!
You will need:
- Coconut milk
- Egg (beaten)
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Bentonite clay
- Aloe vera gel
- Oils – various, listed above
- Essential oils – various, listed above
Combine any of the above ingredients (butters and certain oils will have to be melted in a glass bowl over boiling water prior to product-making) proportionately into a blender or hand-mixer and blend until the mixture reaches a lotion-like consistency.
Directions for use:
Apply generously and massage through already washed and wet hair (scalp and ends). Gather hair up and away from face and neck. Let set for as long as needed or desired. Rinse out with apple cider vinegar rinse or wash out with shampoo.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
If you find that your shampoo or conditioner (should you choose to use conditioner instead of serum) leaves your hair more oily than desired, you can use an apple cider vinegar rinse to remove excess oils (or hair treatment).
You will need:
- 4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup distilled water
- 5 drops essential oil
Combine ingredients, shake well, and pour into container. Multipy inredients as desired in order to have more product at one time.
Directions for use:
Pour through hair after using shampoo, conditioner, or treatment. Allow to sit for several minutes (2-10) before rinsing out with water.
As of right now, my haircare routine is very simple. I order liquid castile soap (I’m an online shopper!) to use for my shampoo, and, after taking some off the top for body wash and face cleanser, I add 1 tsp. oil and 5 drops essential oil per cup of soap remaining in the bottle. I use any oil or combination of oils listed above (right now I am using jojoba oil and lavender essential oil). Then, I shake and set in shower for my next use! (*Tip* I have found that shaking the bottle before each use helps the shampoo to lather more.)
After I step out of the shower and while my hair is still wet, I spritz a serum onto the ends of my hair and then towel dry. Right now, I am using a liquid-coconut-and-vitamin-E-oil concoction (I am currently out of tea tree oil, but this is also one of my favorites for the serum). Careful not to use too much, or your hair will remain greasy after drying.
Other than that, I apply a hair treatment 1-4 times a month. I combine any of the ingredients listed above for a hair treatment and massage the product into my hair (scalp and ends) immediately after showering. Then, I twist my hair into a top knot and allow the treatment to set for anywhere between 20 min. and all day. You can also cover your hair with a shower cap, swim cap, or plastic wrap and leave the treatment on overnight if you find this more convenient. Afterwards, you can either rinse the treatment out with the apple cider vinegar rinse or wash it out with your homemade shampoo (I do the latter because I have found that the rinse just does not get enough of the oils out).
Outside of using my own hair products, there are several other habits I’ve instilled to keep my hair healthy… Establishing healthy eating habits and drinking enough water (half your body weight in ounces is standard) are simply the best things you can do for your hair health. You can apply all the oils in the world, but, if you aren’t eating enough healthy fats and drinking enough water, it won’t make a difference. Healthy fats—such as coconut oil, olive oil, butter, avocados, eggs, and omega-3s (like fish, nuts, and seeds)—are specifically what you need to be eating enough of to insure that your hair stays healthy.
I also no longer dye (only did that once!), perm (twice!), or use heat to style my hair. Thankfully, taking control of my hair health, as far as using good products and eating and drinking appropriately, has largely eliminated my need to even use heat for styling. My hair is no longer frizzy and dead-looking after simply showering and towel/drip-drying, but is, rather, more naturally straight, shiny, and silky-soft, so I don’t need to blow-dry, straighten, or curl it in order to achieve a good, everyday look. When I plan on glamming up, I typically sleep in pins, braids, sponge rollers, etc.—or some combination of all of these—in order to have silky, soft waves or curls to work with (I will reveal all my favorite no-heat styles in a later post). I do, admittedly, own a blow-dryer, straightener, and curling iron and will use these once in a blue moon (usually just a blow-dryer and round brush, though). Normally, however, I style my hair in a creative braid or top-knot, simply because I now have long, very thick and heavy hair, and I’ve found that these hairdos are cooler and a more weightless way to keep my hair out of my face.
Additionally, I trim my hair once a year (I’m currently trying to grow it longer!) because I’ve discovered that, without the split and dead-ends typical of synthetic-chemically treated, heated, damaged hair, an annual trim is all I really need to keep my ends healthy.
And that is the extent of my haircare routine and the products I use. If you truly commit to taking better care of your hair, you will be amazed by the results (I was)! And, not only will you reveal better hair for a better look now, but your hair will age more gracefully in the future. It’s time to be forward-thinking when it comes to self-care.
Follow my blog for more natural, healthy self-care products and routines (and more!). In my next post in the “Spring Clean You Look” series, I will be writing about oral care—among other things, I will reveal how to effectively clean and whiten your teeth using safe and healthy products and techniques.
(This post is the third in the “Spring Clean Your Look” series. You can find the first post of that series here.)