This is the big one. I am like Jo March in that my hair is my one vanity. I don’t wear makeup and I’ve never been able to stick to a skin care routine that’s too complicated or reliant on expensive products. But I do love to take care of my hair. In college, I donated my waist-length hair to Wigs for Kids, cutting back to a funky, shoulder-length shag. I also dyed it burgundy. I felt fun and hip again, but I also felt less feminine. Fast-forward to about 3 and a half years ago, when I got all my previously-dyed hair cut off and started growing out my natural hair color. I have a few grey hairs, but I don’t plan to color my hair again.
In 2009, I joined the Long Hair Community
and really got serious about growing back my beautiful long hair. I experimented with a lot of different methods of hair care, but I eventually found one that meshes well with my views on natural products, as well.
I alternate between washing with diluted baking soda and washing with diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap. My basic baking soda routine is to add a tablespoon of baking soda to a hair dye applicator bottle and then fill the bottle to 4-5oz. with water. I shake it up, apply it to my scalp, and massage it in for a bit before rinsing. To wash with Dr. Bronner’s soap, I put a teaspoon or two of soap in the applicator bottle and dilute it with 2-3 oz. of warm water. This I also squirt onto my scalp, and then lather it up with my hands. Rinse well.
After washing with an alkaline solution, you need to re-balance your hair. I achieve this by putting 2-4 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar in a pint-sized jar and filling it the rest of the way with warm water. This I pour over my head, making sure it gets everywhere. Then I rinse again. This rinse will also remove any mild soap scum that might have resulted from the interaction of your water with the soap.
I do find that if I use soap exclusively, I get tangly buildup on my ends. I have to use baking soda at least once every couple weeks to keep this at bay. The main point is that I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week. I try to schedule washes for days when I go running and my hair will be sweaty, but if I do go running on a non-wash day, I will just rinse my hair with water.
I like to use oil on damp hair in order to condition my hair, provide slip for detangling, and hold in moisture. I have used coconut oil in the past, but I find that in the winter, it is hard to get it to soak in before it solidifies. So I mostly use liquid oils. My favorite right now is grapeseed oil, which is very lightweight and provides excellent slip. I also use sweet almond oil for a richer oil.
I apply about 1/4 tsp. to the ends of my hair with my palms, working my hands up my length. I have hair down to the middle of my back, so someone with shorter hair will need less oil and someone with longer hair will need more. I did not find oiling to be useful until my hair was well past my shoulders, as applying oil too close to the scalp can sometimes leave your hair looking greasy. I apply oil before putting my hair up in a towel turban, but after a light towel-blotting.
I have to stress that this is just my personal hair care routine. I’ve done a lot of experimenting to get to this point, and what works for me will not work for everyone. If you have curly hair, you may find that you need more moisture. One thing you might try is the Oil Shampoo Method,
which has been successful for people who need more moisture out of a wash. I use this method once in a while, with Dr. Bronner’s soap as the base, to alleviate scalp itching in the winter, but I cannot use it regularly as my hair does not need this much moisture and it leaves my hair looking greasy.
You can also experiment with different oils, or how much oil you use. If you have coarser hair, you may need more oil; if you have finer hair you may need less. Right now, I find that grapeseed oil is the closest thing to a lightweight silicone serum that I can find using natural products. The almond oil is richer. You can also look at this list to choose a different oil or butter, based on your needs.
Also, if you have harder or softer water, you may need adjust the strength of your diluted vinegar rinse, or use a different acid. If you have blond hair, you may want to use lemon juice or white vinegar, as apple cider vinegar has been known to darken or redden blond hair. If you find that your hair feels waxy after washing with soap, you need to increase the amount of vinegar in your rinse. If your hair feels limp, lank, or greasy, you need to reduce the amount of vinegar in your rinse.
One more caveat: The first time I tried washing with baking soda, as part of the “no ‘poo” method, I found that the baking soda stripped out all the artificial color in my hair, leaving the dyed length of my hair brassy and faded-looking. It was also visibly damaged. It made it easy to show the hair stylist where to cut to get rid of the dyed stuff, but if you want to continue coloring your hair with chemicals, you may want to skip baking soda washing. If you want to try something more natural, consider henna, indigo, or other herbal blends.
I hope this primer on my basic natural hair care has given you some ideas to help make your beauty routines more natural! Next, I’ll share some of my hair styling tips for very long hair.