This is a guest post by Laura, who blogs at smash your t.v. and have adventures, as part of a series about hair and how it plays into our concepts of beauty/physical attractiveness, gender, and culture. I’m currently seeking more writers and bloggers to contribute to the series. Contact me if you are interested.
Growing up, I only used a small handful of things for my hair: shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer, and a curling iron (on special occasions).
I also purchased a bottle of hairspray and a straightener when I went off to college because that’s what some of my friends used and I thought it was required to own. I used the hairspray and straightener probably two times, and only because they were there. Both are gone now.
My current morning routine regarding my hair just consists of a shower (some days I wash my hair, some days I don’t), letting my hair dry naturally while I eat breakfast and read, and blow drying the remaining damp hair before I leave. Oh, and I comb my hair. That’s it. I thought that was normal. I was baffled to find out about all the products that many other women use and the time dedicated towards a perfect ‘do.
Hairspray. Shampoo. Conditioner. Leave-in conditioner. Mousse. Hair gels. Gloss. Shiners. Masks. Straighteners. Curling irons. Hair rollers. Hair extensions. Often, three or four products are used at a time. Wow.
How many of these do you have on your counters? How much money do you spend on these products and accessories? How many empty bottles do you toss out on a regular basis?
I understand the desire to have healthy, beautiful hair. Who doesn’t want hair that makes you feel beautiful? The problem is that most people have a skewed perception of what is beautiful and don’t realize that most hair products actually damage hair and body, as well as the environment.
Let me say that again. We are damaging our bodies and our environment with these products. And for what? To achieve a false standard of beauty?
Images of long, shiny, blond hair infiltrate our televisions. Magazines with beauty advice list ten products we need to get a certain look. Drugstores offer dozens of products with appealing labels. We then fill up our bathrooms with these hair care products because that’s what the media says we need to have beautiful hair.
We believe these products make us look good without realizing that our natural selves – whether it be skin color, eye color, hair color and type—are beautifully unique.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need all that stuff.
Your hair is perfect just the way it is.
What about 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Surely, not everyone was walking around with stinky, ugly hair before the first modern shampoo was introduced in the 1920s. They didn’t cut their hair, either. In the 19th century, many women sported long, free-flowing hair, which was a mark of their femininity. Femininity aside, their hair was beautiful and clean.
And guess what? They washed their hair once or twice a month.
Some of us who are old enough may also remember our mothers and grandmothers visiting the hairdresser once a week for cleaning and styling.
You’d be amazed at some of the items women put in their hair before modern shampoos and hair styling techniques were developed. The difference between modern hair products and those belonging to our great-grandmothers is that their products were primarily chemical-free. These ranged from baking soda and herbs to egg whites and oils.
Having slightly dirty hair was also the only way women could achieve elaborate hairstyles that seemed to be held in place with a single comb or pin. The natural oils in hair made it manageable for them to style it. Basically, dirty hair was the style.
Did you know that shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils? Every day, when you slather shampoo on your head, the chemicals in the product remove your body’s natural oils from your hair; as a result, your hair is telling itself to produce oil quickly to make up for the loss. If you stop shampooing your hair on a regular basis, your hair will eventually stop producing too much oil and clean itself.
That was the secret to clean hair hundreds of years ago. Women didn’t need to wash their hair often and when they did, it was washed with items found in the kitchen or done professionally. Many people don’t realize they can still do that (I would go for the cheaper, at-home option).
Can you skip the hairspray today? Can you avoid washing your hair tomorrow? Could you even take the step to drop shampoo altogether and adopt a basic, natural hair care regime?
Here are some ways to treat your hair and the environment better:
Just use less! Kick that hair gel out of your routine. Drop the hairspray. Let your hair air-dry.
Check the ingredients on the label and be mindful of your purchases. Buy organic and natural. Avoid sulfates and parabens, the two dominant and most damaging ingredients in shampoos.
Also look out for petroleum-based ingredients, synthetic colors and fragrances, propylene glycol, DEA and TEA, and nitrates. Formaldehyde is an ingredient in most shampoos that doesn’t even show up on the label.
The scary thing is that what goes on your body also goes in your body. Your skin is not a perfect shield to chemicals. Also, these chemicals end up in our water supply and pollute the earth.
While no shampoo or conditioner is perfect, it is important to be mindful of your purchases instead of grabbing the first pretty bottle you see. Next time you reach for that shampoo or bottle of hairspray, read the label. Think about it. I highly recommend watching Annie Leonard’s The Story of Cosmetics.
Go poo-free! Baking soda is a very popular no-poo alternative. Just mix one tablespoon of baking soda in one cup or small bottle of warm water until it forms some kind of a paste, and use the mixture in your hair, gently massaging your roots. Since this method can make your hair feel dry, use apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. One cup of water mixed with one-two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar will do.
If you do decide to go poo-free, keep in mind that it will take your hair two to four weeks to adjust. Expect some oily hair in the beginning. Be patient. Experiment with mixtures. Another bonus: when I went poo-free, my thin hair seemed thicker!
Love your hair. Turn off your television. Ignore beauty magazines. Embrace your hair.
It is a part of you and you are beautiful.
About the author
Laura is a graduate student earning a master’s degree in special education and loves working with people with disabilities. She also writes about about living simply and consciously, minimalism, and creating happiness at smash your t.v. and have adventures. When not working, she is curled up with a book, drinking tea, walking in cemeteries, meeting new people, and doing cartwheels. Just because.