When I started switching to non-toxic beauty and incorporating a more minimalist attitude towards everyday essentials, I began with my hair.
One of the first chemicals I learned about were sulfates, a common ingredient in shampoos that is dangerous to the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system, highly irritative, and linked to the carcinogen nitrosamines.
Hair care may be at the bottom of your green beauty switch-list. After all, you’re not putting it “directly” into your body by eating nor slathering it all over your skin. However, if you remember back a few months to my first post about non-toxic living, you may remember these two little factoids:
“It only takes 26 seconds for your skin to absorb something into your bloodstream … Saliva works to break down whatever you swallow, making digestion easier. The skin has no such barrier; what is absorbed goes straight to the blood stream with no filtration and slams into your vital organs.”
Hair care products are just as dangerous. Whatever enters your bloodstream through your scalp, eyes, or breathed in through the lungs goes directly to your vital organs with no barrier. Then these chemicals often accumulate in the body because we lack the enzymes capable to break them down.
Thankfully, I was never one to pay much attention to my hair. Sure, I had my phase as a teenager of trying out hairspray, mousse, leave-in treatments, heat protectant, etc. But for the most part, my hair actually loves to be left alone. I was blessed with good hair genes from both my parents, and due to its fine but thick nature, more often than not anything I put in my hair simply turns it into a crunchy, oily mess.
However, I have made frequent use of hair dyes. Ever since childhood I’ve wanted red hair, and I finally treated myself to getting regular hair dyes for the last 2 1/2 years. Stopping this has actually been the hardest part of this non-toxic hair care journey — not only do I have a phenomenal hair dresser, but when I have red hair I feel more like myself than ever.
But I know what is best for me and my health — I have so many health issues, why would I want to potentially pile on when I could easily avoid these known toxins? Not to mention…my bank account loves me for simplifying my hair routine.
**This isn’t to say I will never dye my hair again. I was actually just contemplating it the other day. The mind is weak, my friends. I don’t know enough about these toxins to know if a hair dye every now and then is just as toxic as consistently dyeing the hair, but it is still exposure to dangerous toxins you could otherwise avoid. I also know once you start dying your hair, it’s hard to stop, especially when you want to keep up with the roots…
Without further speeches, here’s my current hair care routine and a review of the zero-waste shampoo bar I’ve been using for the past month!
Currently, I consistently use four products in my hair:
- Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
- DIY Dry Shampoo
- DIY leave-in hair growth and scalp treatment
Shower Routine: Shampoo 4x a week + Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
I cut conditioner out of my daily routine years ago. Conventional conditioners are not only filled with chemicals and carcinogenic preservatives, but also contain emulsifiers that don’t break down in the environment, increasing danger for aquatic life.
Conditioner may seem like it’s softening and healing your hair, but all it does is coat your strands in silicone, causing build up that eventually leads to damage. (**There are natural conditioners that don’t do this, but I’m speaking generally.) My hair never agreed with conditioner, as the product would always weigh my strands down and make them greasy by the end of the day, so it was an easy product to cut.
Apple cider vinegar rinses are an amazing alternative. ACV balances your scalp’s natural pH level, which helps with dandruff and itchy scalp, and naturally conditions the hair. I try to incorporate a rinse about once a week (too often can actually have the opposite effect and dry out your hair).
All you need for one rinse is 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. Filtered water is the best choice but in a pinch you can also just fill it with your regular shower water. Pour it onto your hair and scalp by sections, let it sit for a minute or two, and rinse well. The end result is silky soft, detangled hair that makes you feel like you’ve just had a professional salon blowout.
Shampoo Bar Review:
To contribute to my goal of creating a zero waste bathroom in 2019, I made the switch over to bar shampoo about a month ago. I chose the Natural Vegan Lavender Ecstasy shampoo bar because I love some of their other products and the price was right. I would either rub the bar directly onto my hair or lather it in my hands, which would usually take four lathers, and then work the soap into my scalp by sections. It’s admittedly slightly time-consuming, but since I don’t use conditioner and keep the rest of my shower routine minimal, it balanced out.
However, I’m just going to freely admit it: I hate the shampoo bar.
I haven’t given up on the idea entirely, as there are bar shampoos made specifically for oily hair that I’d still like to try. However, my hair was getting to the point it was oily right out of the shower, and the dandruff and product buildup on my scalp was getting out of control.
As I couldn’t take the heavy, oily mess on my head any longer, I recently went out and purchased a bottle of the ACURE Curiously Clarifying Shampoo. While I’m not sure the ingredients are completely non-toxic, it is one of the most natural shampoos I have been able to find. (The EWG lists this product as a 3, which isn’t too bad. But they also have this shampoo listed as an “old product.” I think Acure must have reformulated since this listing, as the EWG site warns of an ingredient that contains a rating of 7, but I no longer see this toxic ingredient in the list on my current shampoo bottle).
I used this shampoo last night and wanted to sing in the heavens. It is divine. I won’t give a full review yet since I’ve only used it once, but today my hair is light, silky smooth, and feels healthier than it did before I even started using the shampoo bar. With shampoo like this, I usually wash my hair no more than four times a week.
Other Products: Dry Shampoo + Leave-In Scalp Treatment
Dry shampoos you buy from the drugstore in aerosol canisters contribute to air pollution, and the gas used make the air surrounding you (and anyone else) difficult to breathe and contribute to headaches and nausea. Powder dry shampoos often contain talc, which is linked to respiratory toxicity and cancer.
Enter the magic of natural dry shampoo. To be clear, I’m not supportive of using dry shampoo on a regular basis. No matter what you use, anything you put in your hair builds up and can cause irritation and damage. But I’m a big fan of using dry shampoo on last-day hair.
Mix arrowroot powder with a bit of cocoa (or cacao) powder, sprinkle it into your hair, massage, and be amazed at how healthy and voluminous your hair looks. Then, at the end of the day, when your hair is finally ready to be clean, enjoy smelling like a luscious cup of hot chocolate. I’m not kidding.
Finally, I use a leave-in scalp treatment to treat dandruff (I’ve had scalp issues since I was a baby, so I can assure you this isn’t a result of switching to non-toxic products!) and promote hair growth. I use this basically whenever I feel like it, but if I have a good bottle made up I’ll use it about once a week.
I take ten drops of rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood oil each, combine them with approximately 8 oz of filtered water, put it in a spray bottle and saturate my hair. I give my scalp a lovely massage that both stimulates hair growth and reduces stress, then let it sit for as long as I can before washing.
I own a few tools such as a straightener and curler but literally never use them — I’m to the point of saying I’m going to donate them, as I never could learn how to use them and now simply french braid my hair when I want some curl. I also own a blow dryer that I will use occasionally, but most days I can’t be bothered plus don’t prefer to expose my hair to the heat. But I do keep a hold of this for special occasions or days I’m in a rush.
The only other item I own for my hair is a wooden brush. I could go on and on about the benefits of wooden hair brushes, but a few of the highlights: wooden bristles stimulate hair follicles, reduce hair breakage, prevent static, help with sensitive scalp, and of course is much more eco-friendly.
And that’s it! A long post to tell you that I, basically, use shampoo.
Do you incorporate a non-toxic or minimalist hair care routine? Are you now interested in switching to toxic-free hair products?