Between Zach and me, we have a lot of hair to take care of. And while I’ve never paid too much attention to this stuff growing out of my head, I was in the habit for most of my life and applying shampoo and conditioner whenever I washed my hair. If you add it up, that’s a lot of plastic bottles. Yes, they’re recyclable, but they can only be “downcycled,” and will eventually end up in the landfill. When I did an eight-week “Show Your Plastic Challenge” in 2016, switching hair care products was an obvious choice. Also, using alternative methods is good for our shower-to-garden greywater system, which I’ll describe in detail in an upcoming post.
I had already learned that traditional shampoos and conditioners make your scalp greasier. I couldn’t go two days without a shower because my scalp would start to itch and my hair would get unbearably greasy. Now that I’ve switched to non-traditional methods, I can go several days without washing my hair, and I have fewer problems with my scalp. There’s definitely a transition period where your scalp freaks out, but it will balance over time.
Here are the three items I use for hair care:
I originally started with shampoo bars, which are specifically designed to be used on hair, but now I just use high-quality soap which I buy locally at Frenchtown Secret Garden or Elements Herbology. (I just bring my own bag— no plastic packaging needed!) I’ve read that soap isn’t that great for your hair, but it works just fine for me.
How to use: Lather up the bar in your hands, massage it into your hair for a few minutes, and rinse. I shower every few days and usually wash my hair. Zach rotates between simply rinsing his hair, using the soap, and applying shampoo about once a month.
Apple cider vinegar.
If you try to wash your hair with just soap, your hair will turn into a stiff, squeaky mess. But a strategic dose of apple cider vinegar will turn your hair magically soft! And no, you don’t smell like vinegar afterward; the scent immediately dissipates.
How to use: I keep an old plastic bottle, which I refill from the glass bottles of ACV that we buy. (Apparently it’s best to choose the ACV with the “mother” still in it.) I also keep an old 32-ounce yogurt container in the shower. When I’m ready to condition, I splash a tablespoon or two of ACV into the yogurt cup, then fill the cup to the brim with shower water. I pour the pint of vinegar-water on my head, and don’t rinse it off. This seems to be the perfect balance for my hair, but you can play with the ratios to see what works for you.
I’ve read that frequent hair-brushing is very helpful is you’re using natural products, but I’m just too lazy for that. Some days I only brush my hair once in the morning, braid it, and then leave the braid in all day and all night.
And the result? Well, I certainly don’t look like a L’Oreal model, but my hair is downright presentable, and over the course of my life I’ll be keeping hundreds of plastic bottles out of their fast track to a landfill. I’m happy that I’m preventing waste and supporting local businesses... and challenging cultural norms just a tiny bit, too.