everything I've learned about growing, maintaining, styling, and loving long hair

Posts tagged “washing long hair

no-poo success

So I’ve been doing the baking soda and vinegar routine for about a month and a half now.  I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been!  I didn’t have any transition phase.  I haven’t used “normal” shampoo on a regular basis for years, so my scalp really had nothing new to adjust to.  My hair feels soooooo much better!!  It also looks considerably better, as you can see from the photos.  The curls are coming back, it’s shiny, it feels soft and healthy.

image  image

I finally bit the bullet and ordered some good shampoo and conditioner.  I’m not sure yet how I want to continue….. stick to no-poo for a while?….. switch back to shampoo and conditioner?….. use a combination of both?  I’m undecided.


product troubles

If you’ve read much of my past blog, you probably know that my biggest complaint is finding a shampoo or conditioner I love……. and then they change it.  And the hunt for the right product starts all over again.  The past few years, things have been up in the air with products for me, never quite settling on one I love.  And in the process, using my husband’s Pantene in between.  😝

I finally settled (as in, I bought it more than once) on one my hair mostly likes, but it’s about $8 a bottle, and I can only get it online. (No stores around here carry it.) But money got tight, and I stopped ordering it. I used Pantene for a few months, just because we already had it, but my hair felt gross and got really tangled on the under side (a result of cones).  So, I stripped my hair and tried another product.  It’s organic, no cones, cheaper than the one I order, and I can get it in local stores.  However, after using it for a couple of weeks, my hair feels like it’s coated in wax!

So……. with all that, my hair is not in good shape.  It’s limp and heavy, it waves instead of curls, it frizzes as it dries, etc.  The only time I wear it down is when I flat iron it. 🙁  I seriously need a change.

Last week, I decided to get real basic and try the baking soda & vinegar routine.  I’m giving up shampoo and conditioner entirely for the time being.  I can already tell a difference after only one wash!!  I won’t be doing this long-term because I’ve heard it can be damaging.  I’m just hoping to get rid of all the build-up and get my hair back into decent shape.

On the up side though… my hair is thicker and growing faster than it ever has before!  (I’m sure it’s due to pregnancy hormones, since I just had my second child.)  I trimmed off a total of about 8 inches last year to maintain my length.  8 inches in 1 year!!!  How exciting is that?! 😊

Here is a video showing the baking soda & vinegar wash routine.


castile soap results

     In November I mentioned that I’d bought a bottle of castile soap to experiment with as shampoo.  It’s much more gentle because it’s made with saponified oils rather than detergents.  I thought that maybe since my hair is so dry that it would help improve that.  Well, the first few times I used it, my hair felt wonderful, but I noticed that it wasn’t rinsing out thoroughly enough.  After my hair dried, I could feel a bit of residue at the back.  I solved this problem by washing my hair half at a time, with it parted down the middle.  This worked beautifully!  (I would recommend this method to anyone with thick hair who has a hard time getting the shampoo to the scalp because of the bulk of hair)  But… I guess it was too gentle for my scalp.  The oil build-up built up at least twice as fast (probably because of the oils in the soap) which was getting nasty and making my head itch.  After using it about 3 weeks, I had to do a clarifying baking soda wash to get rid of it all.  I haven’t used it on my scalp since then.  Now I’m experimenting with using it on the length.  I want to see if it builds up on that as well.  If not, I’ll stick to using castile on the length and regular shampoo on the scalp.

towel drying technique for curly hair

Wrapping the towel around your hair this way makes the curls form better and they are more bouncy.  I don’t do it exactly like the pictures show, but somewhat similar.  I wanted to add the picture to give you an idea of how it’s done.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, so don’t give up too quickly if I doesn’t seem to be working for you.
     I leave the towel on for 10-15 minutes.  If your hair is shorter or thinner, it may not take that long.

silicones in hair products

 (written by Laura Jane from The Long Hair Site)
Ok, the whole silicone thing… I have a B.S. in biochemistry, so I do know something on the subject…

Silicones are polymers (long, stringy molecules made up of similar pieces all strung together) made of silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, and sometimes other elements (e.g. carbon).  (Note the difference between the element SILICON, the compounds called SILICONES, and SILICA which is SiO2 the compound that makes up both sand and glass.  The vast majority of people don’t know there’s any difference, let alone which is which, but they’re really quite different things.)

As far as hair is concerned…  Silicones coat the hair shaft. This often provides a smoothing effect, but depending on the type, they can build up and cause drying and tangling in the long run.  There doesn’t really seem to be a consensus on whether
they’re bad for everyone.  Personally, they don’t work well for me, but I know people who swear by them.  As with so many other things, it seems to depend a lot on hair type.

Certainly some are less damaging than others.  Whether they’re more or less hydrophobic (literally "water-fearing", as opposed to hydrophilic which is "water-loving") makes a big difference.  All other things being equal, silicones that are more hydrophilic will wash and rinse out more easily, causing less buildup.

Sticking to all-organic products will not necessarily be best for your hair, although there are some excellent all-organic products out there.  I’m personally a big fan of Aubrey Organics, not for ingredients reasons, but because they work well FOR ME.  (This doesn’t mean anything about how well they’ll work for anyone else, of course.)  There are plenty of organics that would be bad for your hair.

Things to avoid, in general, are strongly alkaline substances (this is a big one!), and chemicals that tend to build up on the hair
shaft.  To be used in moderation are detergents (which can strip hair of oils or even damage the proteins if overused, but which must be used to clean the hair unless a soap is being used) and oils (we all know, of course, that too much oil is yucky!).

A few words on detergents, since this is a big topic in lots of long hair discussions, and so much misinformation exists.  Detergents are not necessarily bad.  Actually, they’re quite useful.  To remove excess oils and dirt and so on from hair, it’s necessary to use either detergent or some form of soap.  They serve essentially the same purposes, and have
essentially the same effects in a general sense.  Soaps tend to build up more than detergents (or, to put it another way, detergents tend to rinse out more completely).  This is actually why detergents were originally developed – to counteract soap scum.  Detergents are often more effective than soaps at removing oils and dirt, which makes them easier to overdo it with (leaving your hair stripped and dry and possibly damaged).

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS, more properly referred to as sodium dodecyl sulfate or SDS) is a detergent.  Contrary to much misinformation out there, it is not dangerous (check with NIH, for example – the claims that is causes cancer are just so much nonsense!), nor is it necessarily harmful to your hair or skin.  Like any other detergent, it can be drying if overused, but so can soap.

Personally, I use castile-based shampoos by Aubrey Organics.  This is not because I think soap-based shampoos are necessarily superior to detergent-based shampoos, but because I’ve tried them and they work well for me.  (They’re also convenient, don’t make my allergies act up – a real challenge anymore, since I have so many – and smell nice without being
overpowering.  For me, they’re cost-effective, because I don’t have to wash my hair as often as I used to, and it doesn’t take much.)

In the end, what’s most important is, of course, what works for you.  The few hard-and-fast rules I’d suggest are watch out for strongly alkaline (basic) chemicals and watch out for peroxides.  Be careful if you choose to use silicones, and keep an eye out for buildup, which may or may not be a problem for you.  Some alcohols can be drying (some aren’t – it’s not really a simple "alcohols are drying" situation, in spite of what you may hear).

Laura Jane
who probably told you much more than you wanted to know

how often to shampoo

(written by Heidi W. on The Long Hair Site)

As you likely know, the scalp has sebacious glands that constantly produce its own sebum (a waxy ester sometimes referred to as oil) that when hair is left unwashed coats the hair for approximately 4-6" down the length from the roots. This natural production of sebum has much to do with age really meaning hormones and to an extent, a response to frequency (or not) of washing.

It is understood that if one washes daily thereby stripping the hair of its sebum, this sebum produces a little faster to replace what’s missing from the scalp skin and the hair. In my opinion, sebum production is not so much something our bodies do to benefit our hair — that just happens to be an aside — rather, it is intended to keep our scalp skin healthy.

However, it’s possible to go too far in the nonwashing. At a certain point, sebum will break down. On our skin (scalp skin included) is ever present bacteria that at a certain point begins to break down sebum. This bacteria can get into hair follicles/roots and cause early release of hair. An indicator of sebum buildup gone too far is a rather pungent odor, and of course, the hair is rather cake-y in appearance on the top of the head.

Locating the balance point between allowing some sebum buildup to occur and the next hair washing. Obviously, one does not want to encourage early release of healthy hairs.

It is also possible, in the process of allowing a longer duration between hair washings to also get clogged hair follicles/roots from sebum buildup. The hair follicles/roots are not unlike the rest of our skin which does have little hairs sticking out all over our bodies (some thicker and easily visible; others are finer and not as easily seen). All skin can get a pimple or an ingrown hair and often these are due to a clogged pore from dirt, grime, and yes, even our own sebum on our scalp.

Hair washing is, in my opinion, more about cleansing the scalp than washing the hair. Notice that hair length does not require the same cleansing schedule as the scalp hair might, or the scalp itself might. This is why some of us scalp wash: to get at the scalp and the hair on top of the head more frequently while leaving the length alone.

In my opinion, being able to grow beautiful hair has much to do with the health of the skin of the scalp since hair itself is dead yet the skin is a very alive organism as are the roots/follicles under the surface of the scalp’s skin.

So, typically, in scalp washing, the first wash is to get the grime off of the scalp hair–the hair. The second wash is to create a slightly larger lather (now that the grime/buildup of sebum is removed), and this lather should be massaged into the scalp skin. Some find they need more than 2 shampoo’s to adequately cleanse the scalp and the hair on the top of the head.

Yes, the scalp does to a degree regulate its flow according to frequency of washing. (For those who do indeed need frequent washings, using a gentler shampoo is required.) Follicles/roots can indeed become clogged from not washing, and although the likelihood increases with less frequent washings, it can occur with frequent washings, too! Not unlike acne. We wash our faces daily yet acne happens even so.

The key in washing the scalp’s skin is massaging the lather into this skin.

With this new consideration of paying attention to work the lather into the scalp’s skin, it may be a while before you notice any increase in hair’s density (hairs per square inch on the head)….but keep aiming to cleanse the scalp and in time you should definitely notice some increase in new growth.

Do not use "clarifying" shampoo at every single washing. Use it when you need it. You might find occasion to use it repetitively two times in a row, but it should not be used as your shampoo choice on a regular basis if it’s a "clarifying" shampoo. These shampoos strip the hair of all oils and leave the hair quite dry. When this occurs, you must replace as immediately as possible what has been removed.

Allow your sebum to manage the top hair down to around the earlobes (give or take). Wash hair, I’d say, approximately every 3 days if you can go that long, depending on your sebum production. (Of course you can scalp wash). Use oil in your hair length to coat the hair with a protective layer that imparts a pleasant shine and supple softness.