My Curly Hair Care

I came to grips some time ago that I have very wavy/somewhat curly hair – something I hadn’t dealt with before.  Living in the high country desert most of my life, my hair was thick, full and straight.  Moving to the Pacific Northwest, I found myself dealing with massive friz issues and perplexed as to why.  I blow dried it straight with heavy anti-friz products with limited results.  My hair stylist at one point told me I had curly hair and my response was an emphatic, “No, I don’t!”.  Denial.  I lived in this state of denial for 10 years.

I’m not sure what finally caused me to rethink and finally accept that curly hair verdict, but I did, and I am much happier for it.  So is my hair stylist.  Since then, I’ve researched curly hair care.  Like any topic, there is always conflicting information.  My desire for more natural hair products, and after a lot of trial and error, I’ve developed a conditioner that I really like.  I’m still perfecting it.  (Shampoo is next).  During this process, my hair was looking and feeling pretty dry and straw like and something needed to be done.  This is a summary of what I’ve learned:

  • Strip:

Remove all the product buildup from your hair using a clarifying shampoo or mix some baking soda into the shampoo you already use.  OR – you can use baking soda by itself – diluted in water (roughly 1 part soda to 3 parts water).  Your hair will feel like straw.  It’s awful and you’re sure it will never be right again.  Relax – all will be well.

  • Deep Condition:

Some say every week, but I think that’s a bit excessive.  Then again, everyone’s hair is different.  I’ve tried several deep conditioners and made up a few recipes of my own, but have discovered that – for me – a hot oil treatment works best.  Don’t go out and buy those overpriced plastic tubes – just about any oil will do, but I’ve found a combination of oils I really like – each oil imparting different qualities that I can’t get from using one alone.

For my hot oil treatment, I combine equal parts Rice Bran or Meadowfoam Oil (light and easily penetrating) , Coconut Oil (moisturizing), Avocado Oil (nutrient rich) and Castor Oil (softness & shine).  For my long thick hair, I need a couple of tablespoons to massage into my scalp and lightly coat my hair.  I typically comb it through to make sure it’s evenly distributed.  Once the hair is oiled, I wrap my hair in plastic wrap, a plastic grocery bag or a shower cap then cover with a warmed towel for roughly 30 minuets.

  • Wash (may need to repeat) & Condition your hair as normal

Full Shampoo, Low ‘Poo or No ‘Poo?

There is no one right way to care for your hair.  Everyone’s hair is different and every one has different preferences.  I have tried the Baking Soda & Vinegar ‘No-Poo’ method and it worked fine, but not the amazing results that others rave about.  I suspect that my curls require more moisture to look and feel their best.  As I stated above, I still use the BS wash before deep conditioning, but no longer on a daily basis.

  • Shampoo:  This method is the traditional shampoo method for cleaning your hair.
  • Low-‘Poo:  These shampoos do not contain the harsh detergents used in regular shampoos, are much milder and often lower sudsing than traditional shampoos.  Many color safe shampoos are low-poo.
  • No-Poo:  Just like the name implies, but that doesn’t mean you don’t clean your hair.  Many conditioners contain enough cleansing agents that they can be used to clean your hair (I’ve heard this called co-washing as well).
  • Baking Soda & Vinegar (BSV) is another No-Poo option.

Wash with the same 1:3 baking soda to water mixture described above

Rinse with 1 part apple cider vinegar into 3 or 4 parts water.  The vinegar restores acidity to your hair and smooths it, making it feel soft and manageable.  It doesn’t smell that great in the shower, but once your hair dries it’s undetectable.

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Shampoo – or Not

As I stated previously, I was geared up to make my own luxury shampoo at a fraction of the cost of store bought.  Here is my tale.

I had read about shampoo bars and how popular they are becoming, so I looked up  few recipes.  I didn’t want a bar soap, I was interested in liquid soap and thought, “If those ingredients make a great bar soap, they should be good in a liquid.- right?”  I proceeded to gather all the necessary supplies.

This was going to be a challenge.  Otion, my friendly local soap supply store, does not offer liquid soap classes because the process is very time consuming, so I did my research and dove it – at around 3:00 in the afternoon.  Plenty of time, right?  Wrong.

Liquid soap is a hot process and the soap has to cook until it reaches the ‘vaseline’ stage – looks not texture – and while it cooks, it has to be ‘stirred’ regularly.  I use the word stir facetiously.  After bringing the mixture to trace, it becomes very stiff very fast.  Stirring in this case is done with a potato masher.  So, every 30 minutes or so, I mash up this near solid goo, hoping that the next time I check it, it is the obligatory transparent gold I’ve been told to expect.  I was up until 1:00 am.  At his point, additional boiling water is added, then the pot is covered and you wait for the soap to dissolve in the water.  I went to bed.  In retrospect, I probably should have started with a tried and true recipe instead of trying to concoct my own.

Come morning, the soap had not completely dissolved, so I added more boiling water.  Sigh.  Big mistake.  When the soap was eventually completely dissolved, it was very thin.   All the instructions I read told me to be patient.  I wasn’t.

I neutralized the soap per instructions and then proceeded to use in on my hair.  Oh.  My.  God.  I have never used a harsher shampoo.  It stripped all the oil right out of my hair.  It felt like straw and not even my super luxury conditioner could fix it.  On a positive note, it lathered great!  Now, how to fix it.  Without getting to detailed about my process, I’ll just say – I didn’t – fix it that is.  I will tell you that we now have nearly a gallon of very nice liquid hand soap that I will never be able to replicate.

I tried again, with similar results.  This time I didn’t bother trying to fix it and just mixed it in with the first mistake.  Two gallons of hand soap/bubble bath/body wash.  NEXT!

I turned to the vast reaches of the internet for guidance and learned that soap doesn’t really make a great shampoo and despite all the hype, shampoo bars are not beloved of most.  Ah- ha!  So, how does one make shampoo?  Detergent.  Turns out there are some good, naturally derived, biodegradable detergents available for the formulation of a nearly natural shampoo.  (Some companies using these derived detergents advertise All Natural.  They get away with it due to the fact that the term ‘natural’ is not clearly defined and this fuzzy area allows for a lot of fudging.  Or is that fibbing?)  ‘All Natural’ or not, they are environmentally safe, non-toxic and pretty gentle on hair.  I’m going to give it a try some day.