I LOVE comments, so please, if you have an opinion or would like to ask a question, do so. But do check back as I shall answer any questions in the comments of the relevant post - that way, everyone can benefit from everybody's knowledge and advice.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Hair Wash -

 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 Wash

IngredientsA 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.


I 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.


A 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.

Rhassoul Mud

If you are happy to try a hair wash experience without any bubbles at all you might want to use Rhassoul mud. Rhassoul comes from Morocco and has been used for many generations as a hair wash and skin cleanser. It is simply a matter of wetting the mud pieces (or granules) allowing them to swell and then massaging onto a damp scalp. The mud can then be rinsed out or left for a few minutes to work in the same way as a face pack. I found that it wasn’t necessary to leave it more than a few seconds on my hair for it to do the job well and unlike many other clay formulations it rinses very easily from the hair. Both natural soap and Rhassoul have what is commonly known as the ‘Big Hair Affect’. Leaving the hair feeling and looking much thicker than usual. But like soap it leaves the hair looking a little dull.  It is worthwhile experimenting with all of the above to find out what works for you.  And once your hair is healthy and strong there is no reason why you can't return to using the occasional bought chemical product for that special look.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Damaged Hair and What to do about it!

What causes Damaged Hair? Well, usually, we do. Poor diet is a major factor in unhealthy hair as well as incorrect brushing, (see the Grooming posts) combing, washing, styling, sun, sea, swimming pools, not to mention shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, straighteners, perms, gels, waxes and hairsprays all have a big part to play in the daily damage done to our hair. Yep, pretty much everything damages our hair.

Split ends, flakey scalp, dull and lifeless hair and excess hair loss at a young age may all be attributed to your lifestyle choices.

There are treatments that you can use to help repair and heal badly damaged hair but none of them work with only one application and many of them contain a cocktail of chemicals that add to long-term damage. In short, if you continue to inflict daily damage on your hair you are never going to get the upper hand. Therefore it is important to re-learn the basics about hair care and begin a routine to correct the damage already done, or shave your head and start again! If it seems that I am assuming that everyone has damaged hair I apologise. I know that there are women out there who do have beautiful, strong, healthy hair but I am sad to say they are in the minority and they can, of course, simply skip this post.

The Most Common Causes of Lifeless Hair

A poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle will show up as damaged hair. Other factors include, stress, hormone fluctuations, tiredness and the weather. With all of these factors conspiring to give us bad hair days s it any wonder we get overwrought about our hair?!
First and foremost it is important to step back and view the situation objectively. We all of us are envious of someone else’s hair. Few of us are happy with what nature has given us and most of us are disappointed after trying the numerous remedies that adorn the shelves of supermarket and chemist.
Stop yourself before you buy your next hair product. Look at it and ask yourself, am I buying this because I believe the girl in the advert? Am I buying this because the picture shows a beautiful person with unbelievable hair? If there is even a moment's hesitation... then perhaps it’s a good idea to just put it back on the shelf and think about it rationally before spending your money.

Healthy hair under the microscope shows that it is coated with a layer of scales that fit smoothly one slightly overlapping the other. With damaged hair these scales can become rough and raised slightly from the shaft of the hair. This kind of damage can be caused by chemicals in hair products or simply rough handling with comb or brush. If the hair is weakened by the use of chemicals then even using hair clips or ties can cause breakages and lasting damage. When enough individual hairs have been damaged in this way the overall condition of the hair looks very bad. The gland at the base of the hair secretes a special oil designed to lubricate the hair shaft and keep these scales smooth and damage free.

Unfortunately hair wash products (shampoos, which are usually made from mild detergent) will often strip all of the oil from the scalp so cleanly that the hair is starved of its natural lubricant, dries out and breaks. The scalp will then overproduce oil in order to rectify the situation giving you an oily scalp that feels greasy and unclean. You reach for the shampoo designed for greasy hair and the vicious circle begins again.

It is almost worse for those who suffer from dry hair. The hair never seems to have enough oil on it, it never appears shiny or glossy and so products that promise shine by coating the hair with silicon are used. Unfortunately these products are really only short term solutions, since the coating on your hair actually starves the hair shaft of the nutrients that it craves and causes it to further dry out. Ultimately, over time, the hair gets worse not better.

So what do I do first?

The first thing you do is read the Grooming posts. You can begin your new grooming regime right away. Incorrect grooming is often the primary cause of damaged hair. The second thing you do is read the Hair Wash post (coming next) - after this you will be able to make an informed decision about which kind of hair cleaning system you need to use.
As well as reading these posts... YOU WILL NEED PATIENCE. Fixing unhealthy hair takes time - time to improve your diet and to refine your hair care regime. At least 6 weeks of your new healthy hair care lifestyle is required before you can say definitely whether something is working or not. This is NOT A QUICK FIX. In nature there are really no quick fixes.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Good Grooming includes Styling the Hair

As part of your grooming routine you will no doubt wish to style your hair. It is best not to use heat. Of course on occasion it is important to look your best but heat is damaging to the hair and should be used sparingly, if at all. If blow-drying is absolutely necessary, try to only dry the roots and the body of the hair with the heat, leaving if possible the ends to dry naturally.

If your hair is long and you intend to use bands or clips to tie it up always look for the smoothest clips you can find. Any protruding edges or roughness will snag on the hair and can break it. Bands should be smooth and even and should never be tied tightly on the hair. You will find that healthy hair becomes very strong and can stand the abuse that a special day brings, a wedding or a grand function for example, but should not be over taxed by such rigours every day.

I have seen adverts on the tv for shampoo and conditioner that suggested that a lot of hair breakage is due to brushing. This is misleading. If your hair is healthy and you are brushing it correctly (i.e. removing tangles by combing first) then there is no reason at all that your hair would break just from brushing it. Damaged hair of course is something else. Good grooming is a little time consuming and often these rumours are circulated simply to make you feel better about skimping on your routine.
Before going to bed plait long hair loosely and tie it with a covered elastic. During the night we are prone to a lot of movement and weak hair breaks easily. Those who awake in the morning to a pillow covered with broken hair will know what I mean. Those people who have short hair but still find an excessive amount of broken hair on their pillow should sleep in a cotton night cap. This is not an item that can be bought easily nowadays but in the past ladies often went to bed with their hair in a cotton cap to protect it from breakage. If you have any sewing ability at all you can use a shower cap as a template and fashion a cotton equivalent that will do the job – I didn’t say it would be flattering so I offer an alternative, albeit more expensive – change your pillow cases to satin or silk.

I can imagine that many of my readers are laughing now. How far you take this is of course up to you...But perhaps you are beginning to see what good grooming actually means.  It is taking the time and CARE over your hair.  Lets go back to my cats here, they take a great deal of time over their grooming routine, apart from eating and sleeping it is the most important thing they do on a daily basis.  Modern products offer us convenience and speed but it is perhaps time to balance this with a little tlc .  If you are too busy to spend five or ten minutes on your hair every day then you may just have to accept whatever hair problems you have - although you could be one of those very annoying people who just simply have great hair no matter how much you neglect it!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Understanding how your hair works and what it needs.

This might be the science bit but I promise it's short and not too scientific!

The hair root grows out of a kind of bag beneath the skin. The hair strand grows about 0.35mm per day, making an average growth rate of 1cm, or half of an inch, per month. But this will vary depending upon who you are, hereditary factors as well as your diet and general health.

Healthy hair has an average lifetime of between two and six years. During the lifetime of the hair it continues to grow until it reaches the limit of its natural lifespan and then after a short rest period the hair will die and fall out. A new hair will begin to grow from the same bag almost immediately. The lifetime of your hair is determined by many factors, some hereditary, some related to your health and also your current circumstances. The lifetime of your hair will determine the maximum length of hair you can have.

Waist length hair takes about 6 years to grow out from a short hair cut. If your hair has an average life cycle of 2 years before falling out it is clear that you will never be able to grow waist length hair. There you have it folks... time to think about how quickly your hair grows and perhaps put those dreams of Lady Godiva hair behind you.

If you are very happy with what nature has given you as a starting point then you are very lucky and all you have to do is to leave well alone or perhaps just spend extra time on grooming. This I believe would be the ideal. You see nature has designed the perfect hair for each of us… and we were born with it… or it grew very soon after! Why is it that most mother’s while applying all sorts of artifice to change their own hair will rarely if ever use such things on their young children? Because your mother knows that your natural hair really is lovely and it is perfect for your face and your personality. It is what suits you best… I don’t care what is in fashion at the time, your natural hair type, colour and texture is the best you will ever have… every chemical, strong detergent or unnatural solution you apply to alter that may give you a temporary change but ultimately will affect your natural condition, usually for the worse.

While we are young many of us can use lots of chemical products and rough treatments on our hair which can be recovered from with little or no lasting damage. As we get older, or if we become unwell, recovering becomes harder and the damage to your hair may be permanent.

A Hairbrush is the key to good Grooming.

Choose your grooming implements with care and do not skimp on cost as far as these are concerned. A good quality brush and comb will last you for years. A wide toothed comb is important for combing out tangles, especially when hair is wet, choose one that is perfectly smooth with no seams or rough edges upon which your hair can catch. If your hair is long or especially thick you will not need any other comb but if you have short or fine hair then choose a smaller toothed comb for fine styling. The comb can be made of anything at all, the most important thing is that it is very very smooth.
Choosing a brush for good grooming is not as simple as it sounds. I know that there are many modern fibres that may make the use of natural bristles redundant but I have yet to find a synthetic brush that did as good a job as the well made natural bristle brush. Most natural bristle fibres are made from pig hair. Many people would prefer not to use a brush containing pig hair. In my opinion there is no synthetic substance to match and until one is invented I am happy to use the natural fibres. In an ideal world it would have come from an organic pig and perhaps one day that will be the norm – that would certainly make a big difference to the conscience side of things but until then… we are stuck with what we have.

Never brush wet hair. Wet hair stretches very easily and although healthy hair can stand a certain amount of this, damaged hair will simply break. Begin your morning hair grooming routine by combing the hair with a wide toothed comb. If your hair is long start at the end holding the hair with your free hand so as not to pull it excessively when tangles are encountered. Slowly work your way upwards towards the scalp. When you have combed the hair thoroughly take up your brush and begin at the scalp with long sweeping strokes. Think about the process as you brush, you are lifting sebum from the scalp and transporting it down the length of the hair. If your hair is very long it is likely that the ends will always be more dry than the roots as the sebum runs out before you get the brush right to the end of the hair. But even if your hair is short it is still a good idea to do the full brushing routine. Brush your hair for a good 5 minutes at least.

The old tale of 100 strokes with the hairbrush is a good one – though it isn’t necessary to count the strokes, about 5 full minutes will do it. Don’t worry about static electricity this can be easily sorted by passing your free hand along the length of your hair behind the brush.

Many modern shampoos and conditioners actually cause static in your hair and a natural bristle brush goes along way to dissipating any static build up. You should not make static the reason why you cannot follow a good grooming routine. It can be very pleasant to brush your hair thoroughly, not only does it improve the health of your hair, it massages and stimulates the scalp too. And it’s a great deal cheaper than paying for an Indian head massage. (and even better if you can get someone to brush it for you!)

If you have long hair that is not tied up during the day it may be necessary to groom again at lunch time or early evening.
If your hair is excessively dry you may wish to try a little natural conditioner at this point. The best natural conditioner is of course the scalps own sebum but sometimes a little help is required.

Jojoba oil does this very well but does not suit everyone. Coconut oil is another good choice, but in reality any vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, sweet almond) will do provided you are happy with its natural aroma. A few drops applied at regular intervals throughout the day can be very beneficial. It is important not to overload the hair. If your hair is short sprinkle a few drops of oil onto the palms of your hand and then rub them together. Massage your hands over your hair (avoid direct massage onto the scalp, try to concentrate on the hair only). It is immediately obvious when you have overdone it as the hair becomes lank and dull. If your hair is excessively dry and/or very wiry or curly, you can repeat this process until you get the desired effect.

If your hair is long then begin applying the oil to the bottom and driest portion of the hair first. Work your way up the hair shaft towards the scalp, again it is important not to overload the hair with oil. A little oil applied at regular intervals will work much better than a lot applied all in one go.

If you are using a natural moisturiser on your face in the morning and you find that you have slightly greasey fingers afterwards, simply massge in the excess onto your dry ends - it works just as well as applying neat oil.

In the next post I will talk about styling your hair naturally - and then we will tackle the subject of hair dye.  Including full instructions for using henna and other natural hair dyes.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Take the Tears out of Hair Care

Next to the appearance of our skin our haircare routine is likely to cause more tears during a lifetime than anything else! A natural approach usually advocates simply living with those 'bad hair days'. There is a solution... but it does require a little re-thinking your approach to your hair, but with better understanding you can improve the health and appearance of your hair enormously.

When I was younger it was a bit unrealistic to walk into the hairdressers and point at a photograph of some gorgeous model and say  "I want my hair like that please".  But nowadays you can buy products that will do just about anything you want, from curling straight hair, straightening curled hair and de-frizzng the fuzzy, not to mention the hair dyes!! The world of wonderful hair would seem to be truly at your fingertips. But at a price... alas for some... it is very costly! Natural hair care is the hardest to get right and since your hair is often one of the first things people judge you on, important to get it right.

The most searched for words associated with hair care are 'split ends' or 'dull and lifeless hair'. Along with Bad Hair Day. Alot of the modern products we use to try and cure these problems will ultimately only add to them. Natural hair care isn't just about looking good, it's about the health of your hair and when you have healthy hair, looking good is often achieved so much more easily.

Natural Hair Care Begins with Grooming.

Grooming could be all you need to bring the natural beauty out of your hair. If we assume you are in good health, eat and drink healthily and are still wondering how to bring the life back into your hair then you should consider this.

I have three cats and each one of them has a different type of fur. They are all common Moggies, no pedigrees here, and they all spend a great deal of time on grooming, but each one has fur that feels different to the touch. One especially has the most gorgeous silky coat while another one has a rougher type of fur that although equally soft is not as silky to the touch. The third has silky fur but not as thick or as long as the first one. These differences are the result of the genes that they have inherited from their parents and the natural predisposition of each cat. In particular the cat with the rougher fur is arguably the most handsome of my cats with a very aristocratic almost Siamese shaped face but his fur is undeniably not as pleasant to stroke as the smallest and most silky of my feline friends. No matter how long he spends on grooming his fur he is never going to have the same silky coat as Molly.

So it is with each of us. Some of you will have hair that is naturally shiny, soft and glossy, others will have hair that grows wiry and thick, thin and flyaway or coarse and heavy.

Some people have naturally weak hair no matter what they do, others seem able to mistreat their hair regularly with little damage done.

This is down to your genes and you need to accept this (no amount of grooming will change your hair type) and look for the positive in whatever nature has has given you. I do not mean that you cannot improve on what you have to start with… but just in the same way that you cannot be someone you are not… there will inevitably be some hair types and styles that you can never achieve.

Over the next few days I will be posting more about how to care for your hair naturally, including recipes that may work for you.  I know a few of my readers may be thinking 'where's the soap stuff?  This is after all supposed to be the Soap Teacher'.  Yes there will be more soap stuff coming, eventually.  I just need to get a lot of this stuff online first and then we shall be concentrating on recipes rather than the theory behind it all.