I’m on a mission to rid my life of skin irritants. My body suffers from a variety of skin rashes and I also break out into hives easily. This means constantly experimenting to find the right type of hair and body cleansers. For hair care in the past couple of years I’ve tried:
►Nature’s Gate Shampoo and Conditioner – left my hair heavy and had to wash often
►Dr Bronner’s Tea Tree Castile Liquid Soap – too harsh and dried out my scalp
►Derm-Essentials for Seborrheic Dermatitis – did not offer much relief
►Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo – burned my scalp
►Baking Soda and Vinegar – led to fried, frizzy hair
My latest experiment was the last on the list, labeled by many as the no-poo method. It involved using a mixture of baking soda and water as “shampoo” and water diluted vinegar as “conditioner.” I did careful research, read several successful accounts and thought I had nothing to lose by trying it. Unfortunately, my hair lost big time in the end.
I washed my hair with the baking soda and vinegar method for three months. After the first wash I was hooked. My hair was soft, fluffy and light again. I thought I’d finally found the solution. Even the rash on my scalp was not irritated at all. Then last week my world of perfect hair came crashing down. I went to see my hairstylist for a simple trim. She stared at the back of hair, face tight, searching for the right words, “You’re hair is very dry and right here (pointing to the back of my head) it looks like you caught it on fire! What are you doing?” What?! Surely she was mistaken. I explained my new hair-care routine, telling her about the no-poo method, not using any products and using coconut oil and olive oil as frizz managers. “Well,” she said, “you need a deep moisturizer at least twice a week and I need to trim away all this damaged hair.” I felt like such a fool. In my attempt to improve, I only caused more harm. Distraught and reluctant, I agreed to the trim. I felt betrayed by the natural beauty community.
She chopped my hair. And I immediately went home to slather my hair in olive oil. Twelve hours later, I rinsed the oil out with water. Or so I thought. That oil wasn’t budging. So I rinsed it again, this time using a baking soda and water solution. I grabbed the blow dryer and began styling as usual. Then I saw it. Frizzled, fried bits of matted hair hanging around my face. My hair had morphed into steel wool.
What went wrong?
The answer is in the ph levels. Healthy hair and scalp oil, sebum, have a ph balance between 4.5 and 5.5. Many shampoos claim to be ph balancing, which means the solution has a ph in range of your natural scalp. Baking soda is more alkaline at 9.5. When you apply it to your hair the ph changes, forcing each hair cuticle to open. Now this is actually a normal practice when you have a chemical hair treatment, but when you are doing it on a weekly basis it can quickly strip away the outer protective layer of your hair and cause split ends. This is where the apple cider vinegar rinse comes in. In theory, the vinegar, with a ph of 3, should force the hair cuticle closed to reduce dryness and breakage. So when you wash with this method, you are forcing your hair cuticle to open and close, making it vulnerable and easily damaged. The real reason my hair felt so soft and fluffy is because I had broken down the bonds in my hair. I should have paid more attention when I came out of the shower with a wad of hair. Loosing that much hair in one washing is not normal.
Removing the Damage
Coincidentally, my sister fried her hair earlier this year so I immediately called her for advice. Her cause was the repeated use of hot tools on wet hair (not a good idea). She found hope in Pureology products. These products have low toxicity ratings from the Environmental Working Group and are working wonderfully to repair her hair. Since I’m skeptical of all new products, I’m holding off on purchasing them until I do more research.
It is not possible to mend split ends. They have to be chopped off to put an end to the damage. Right now I’m still in the mourning stages and not ready to let go of my hair. Eventually I’ll have it professionally cut. My hair is going through a slow rehabilitation process. Everyday I add a bit of coconut oil and olive oil to nurture my tortured locks and I’m using diluted shampoo on it twice per week. I just purchased the Moisturizing Shampoo from Nurture My Body. It’s organic and created to heal damaged hair.
I’ll stay on the look out for the least harmful beauty products and check-in with the Environmental Working Group’s ranking before I purchase something. They maintain a database of most beauty items. Here’s a list of some common shampoos and how they measure up, 1 is low and 10 is high in toxicity:
►Burt’s Bees More Moisture Shampoo, with Baobab 4
►Herbal Essences Drama Clean Refreshing Shampoo 4
►Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo 5
►TRESemme Smooth & Silky Shampoo 4
►Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths Shampoo 4
►Nature’s Gate Herbal Daily Cleansing Shampoo 4
►Organix Shampoo, Nourishing Coconut Milk 4
►Nurture My Body Moisturizing Shampoo 1
No Poo Method, http://www.nopoomethod.com/
Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
Baking Soda Destroyed My Hair, http://blog.kanelstrand.com/2014/01/baking-soda-destroyed-my-hair.html
Balance pH in Hair Naturally, http://www.wikihow.com/Balance-pH-in-Hair-Naturally
Baking Soda & Shampoo Bars Possibly Damaging to Hair, http://www.minimalistbeauty.com/baking-soda-shampoo-bars-possibly-damaging-to-hair/