To wash or not to Wash - The Natural approach to Haircare.We all have to use a hair wash of some kind right? Or do we? I had suffered with an itchy scalp ever since I could remember. I had always had flakes fall onto my shoulders and I could never wear black tops. I had great difficulty in finding a shampoo or hair wash preparation that would fix this problem without causing me more problems. Gradually over the years I noticed that my hair was thinning and every day I would have to remove stray broken hair strands from my pillow.
I think I let the situation go on so long because everyone agreed that as you get older your hair gets thinner. This is true but it shouldn’t start to happen at age 40. Although we are all individuals and everyone is different, if you are in good health your hair should not start to show age related thinning until you are at least 60 +.
Because I had always used a hair wash for dry hair and also special conditioning treatments I had every reason to believe that what was happening to my hair was the normal degeneration that comes with age. Eventually I had to face facts I was losing the battle to keep up with the latest style, not only did my hair not look good, but my scalp was driving me mad with itching. Finally I snapped. I used to dream of being brave enough to shave my head and start again. Of course I didn’t shave my head. I’m truly not that brave. But I stopped washing it!
Yup! A whole 11 months of not washing my hair. And no, it did not smell - well not after the first 6 or 8 weeks. That's the difficult part. I am not suggesting that everyone would want to be as radical as this, but if you truly cannot find a shampoo to suit and you continue to have an accumulation of hair problems - then you may benefit from simply not washing your hair with any kind of shampoo or soap as I did.
That does not mean to say that I did nothing at all. I used a simple herbal hair washe made at home with herbs and flowers from the garden and the addition of some appropriate essential oils.
Non soap or Shampoo Hair WashIngredientsA large handful of fresh Rosemary
Two or three drops of an essential oils blend of your choice (optional)
1 litre fresh spring water. Use bottled water for this if you live in an area with harsh water.
2 tablespoons cider or apple vinegar.
Place the rosemary into the spring water and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot. Leave it to cool to hand hot temperature. Strain the rosemary water mixture into a large jug and add the essential oil if you are using it. Add the vinegar (if you do not have cider or apple vinegar then do use whichever vinegar you have to hand... it's not that important).
How to use
Brush your hair really well for about five minutes with a good natural bristle brush. See the grooming posts for more information about brushing your hair properly.
Place a large bowl in the bath and lean over so that your head is directly above it. Pass the hair wash mixture through your hair so that it falls into the bowl beneath. Rub the scalp vigorously to dislodge any scurf and transfer the mixture collected in the bowl to the jug and repeat the process about two or three times. Dry the hair with a towel and then allow to air dry. Comb with a wide toothed comb when wet. Don't worry about the smell of the vinegar it soon goes away.
To Vary For blond hair or light coloured hair, try using chamomile flowers - or a chamomile tea - in the wash instead of rosemary.
Use this hair wash once or twice a week instead of shampoo or soap. Initially, it is best to try and avoid using heat on your hair, at least until it is healthier and stronger.
ShampooI say this often, but it needs repeating, would you throw a real silk blouse into the washing machine on a very hot wash? NO you would not, so why treat your hair to very hot water and lots of rubbing and squeezing and squashing? Be gentle!!
If you feel you absolutely MUST use a shampoo then try to find a very mild one and use only a pea sized amount on your scalp. Do not worry about washing the hair shaft with the shampoo... as you rinse your scalp the detergent will latch onto the dirt as it flows down the hair shaft. So concentrate on cleaning the scalp only. Since the scalp is naturally slightly acidic finish with a vinegar and water rinse (just like the hair wash above but you can leave out the rosemary and essential oils if you wish) which will help flush out any remaining detergent.
The real key here is to shampoo your hair only when it is absolutely essential and to use only the smallest possible amount of shampoo at a time. As a rule of thumb once a week is plenty often enough for using shampoo and even better if you can stretch it out to once a fortnight. Try using the hair wash in between times if you feel you need to.
How to wash your hair. If your hair is short this is fairly simple, long hair is a little more complicated. It is important to first comb the hair with a wide toothed comb to make sure that it is free from tangles. You can now use a hair brush to give the hair a really good brushing and to stimulate the scalp. Wet the hair with water at room temperature. Never have the water really hot. Your hair is as delicate as a pure silk shirt… Do not flick your hair around as you wet it, you will only tangle it. Once it is wet apply a small amount of shampoo (or soap) to the scalp and massage it well using the balls of your fingers. Do not scrape with nails. It is not necessary to create loads of foam you are only cleansing the scalp remember. Once you have given the scalp a good massaging with the shampoo, rinse with tepid water. The shampoo detergent will naturally course down your hair removing any vestige of dust or dirt adhering to the shaft of the hair. If you feel you need to repeat the process because of excess grease then do so, but repeat it in exactly the same way… even less shampoo this time since it has already cleaned most of the dirt with the first wash.
It is a good idea not to use a preparatory conditioner to start with, at least until you see what proper washing of the hair achieves. After well rinsing you need to use a towel to dry the worst of the water from your hair. If you have short hair this is fairly straightforward. With long hair, press the hair gently between two sides of towelling to remove excess drips. Do not rough up the hair as you will just tangle it and if it is weak it will break. Now you need to use the wide toothed comb once again working from the bottom to the top to remove any tangles that have occurred during the hair wash procedure.
Ideally the hair should be left to air dry as too much heat simply encourages the hair to dry out become brittle and break. If you must use a hairdryer then try it on a cool heat setting and blow it one way only so that you are not encouraging tangles. Dry the roots and the main body of the hair but try to avoid blow drying the ends.
Do not feel that you have no alternative to shampoo. You could try using a natural soap shampoo bar.
SoapA natural soap can be a wonderful change from using a detergent based shampoo. Choose a soap that has plenty of rich oils included, preferably a soap bar especially formulated for use as a shampoo. My favourite is a super fatted soap rich in Shea butter and Castor oil. The super fatting means that there is excess oils in the soap that will be released onto the hair or skin when you use it. If your hair is naturally very oily this may not be the best hair wash solution for you but it works a treat on dry hair. A shampoo bar can leave the hair feeling thicker and rougher with less shine - depending upon your hair's natural shine ability. But over time it certainly improves the quality and strength of your hair because it is not stripping the natural oils from your scalp. It won't give you the lustrous finish that many commercial shampoos do because it does not contain any chemicals to coat the hair shaft.
Most of us feel we have to wash our hair because it is dirty, this is not usually the case. It is the scalp that is prone to become dirty not the hair and even then it is never as dirty as we imagine it to be. If hair is brushed well and regularly it is unlikely to retain much dirt or dust. So we need to find a way to wash the scalp regularly but leave the hair longer between washes. This is actually easier than it sounds. One way is to part the hair and rub the parting with a flannel which has been soaped lightly. If you keep parting the hair at regular intervals and cleaning the scalp giving the whole head a final rinse when you are finished you will find that a full shampoo is not necessary.
To try and cut down on how much detergents you use in your hair, you will need to rely on careful and considered grooming, along with a realisation and understanding of your hair's natural state. A good hair cut that takes this into consideration can go a long way towards helping you keep your hair healthy.