That title sounds way more interesting than what is actually happening. Sorry (not sorry).
My journey down this path doesn’t have a clear beginning. No matter the subject, I have always always opted for the route with the highest DIY potential. To my mind, making it at home is less work than buying it, and exactly what I want. It’s a combination of ass-backwards laziness and my unique flavour of finicky obsession. I eventually learned how to Internet and that’s when I happened upon the concept of ‘crunchy’. To put it succinctly, it’s a way of simplifying your life. I have and always will be a diamond of the first water when it comes to this. More on that at a later date.
What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. The discussions regarding hair care and natural living, that gave birth to this entry, have long since disappeared into the aether. Nonetheless, I will valiantly attempt to expand on the multi-coloured magnificence laid out before you. Suffice it to say, this is my brain on sobriety. DISCLAIMER: This is a guide meant to spark dialogue, and by no means covers all the iterations. As with anything pertaining to conscious living it behoves each of us to research, read critically, and ask questions.
Some of the terms above were established before I happened upon the scene. A handful sprang forth from by brain for the sake of symmetry, and personal amusement. I don’t know how prevalent any of them are, but spread them far and wide so that we may all march under the banners of…pegacorn poo.
The premise behind alternative hair care is to use gentler ingredients that are less likely to strip your hair. Stripping triggers sebum production and which is why you might experience an oily scalp after a day or two. The slide above depicts the hair care spectrum as it relates to a progression away from commercial products, with the aim of arriving somewhere west of PooPoo City*. Where you fall into the spectrum is decided by the ingredients in your soaps, shampoos, conditioners, or lack thereof, should you choose to ascend the Ladder of Hairlightenment**. In conjunction with working out the perfect wash, comes the intention to lengthen the period between full washes using other means of redistributing, or adding sebum.
What is this sebum, you ask? Briefly, it is an oily/waxy matter excreted by the sebaceous glands that helps to retain moisture, or lubricate, skin and hair. When left untouched at the base of your scalp it can harden, thus giving your roots a greasy feel that no amount of brushing seems to alleviate. That’s when you turn to oil flushing (see Hairvana).
The acronyms not defined in the graphic:
ACV – (raw) apple cider vinegar.
DWV – distilled white vinegar.
CO WASH – conditioner only. Due to the moisturising aspect this is particularly suited for curly hair. Depending on your ingredients this could be one step below
BBB – boar bristle brush. Excellent for distributing sebum from scalp to tip. I also really like Neem wood combs.
SMP – Scritching (lightly scratching), Massaging (stimulating circulation), Preening (moving sebum down the hair shaft with your hands). Read: all the things I want done to my head by someone else. I’m considering a post on Craigslist…
- Mineral content of H2O: Water hardness is directly correlated to the the levels of calcium and magnesium. The harder the water, the higher the mineral content. Soap followed by an acid rinse makes for waxy hair when you have hard water. It is the cause of much disappointment in my trials with the middle of the spectrum.
- Hair Porosity and Condition: This pertains to your hair’s ability to retain moisture. High porosity hair absorbs moisture just as easily as it loses moisture. Low porosity hair is resistant to moisture but in its healthy state will hold on to it very well. Normal porosity hair falls somewhere in the middle. A spectrum within a spectrum. This is becoming meta… If your hair is damaged, stripped, what have you, that will skew your porosity.
- Environment/Season: How does your hair react to humidity and temperature? I can tell you that the damp hot air of the summer does me no favours. On the other hand, wet, warm snow gives me completely defined and shiny curls. It’s a sick joke to a child of the desert.
- Colouring and Other Activities: Do you colour your hair, be it commercial or natural dye? Henna can be drying for someone. Are you starting with dark hair and need to bleach it first? Exercising frequently so that sweat might be an issue? Are you swimming in a pool, where chlorine is a concern? In the ocean? Salt can be a wash, simply sebum-reducing, or drying to the point of stimulating sebum (over)production.
- Ratios and Other Fine Tuning: Is your ACV diluted to the correct percentage? Is it even the best acid for your hair? Did you strain your flour mixture? Does it help to oil your hair? Was your water too hot, resulting in cooked egg whites? I cannot stress enough how important it is to research, and learn from the wisdom of others, so you never have to experience Scalp Omelette.
Given the aforementioned laziness, I alternate between No Poo and SO (Sebum Only). My position on that ladder depends on the condition of my scalp, the season, and how likely I am to become a hot mess, which is highly probable during foraging months. In the initial stages of SO, my sebum production causes build-up if I am not vigilant about the nightly brushing. I then have to resort to oil flushing which follows the idea that you can clean one oil with another. Applying the tiniest amount fresh oil softens the hardened sebum, and when followed by brushing moves it down the shaft. I will add that I supplement SO with a conditioning spray. During No Poo, I’ve found aritha (soap nuts) blended with other herbs to be the best for my hair. Recipes for all the things to follow.
According to the scale, the ideal phase for every individual would be SO. However, if you produce too little or too much sebum it probably won’t yield the best results for you. Don’t let a few words on the internet dictate your life to the point that you ignore your intuition. Personal evolution of any kind is just that; personal and specific to one’s individual path, trials, and tribulations. Everyone’s hairvana will, and should, be at a different point in the spectrum, and no one solution is better than the other. Ideals be damned… We’re all glittery, iridescent, special snowflakes!
Oh (not OH), and be very patient. With the myriad of options available to you, the X factors, not to mention the dreaded transition period, it would be very lucky indeed to find the right combination on the first try.
Have more questions? There are many forums that deal solely with this topic, and one in particular that is a veritable fount of information and support. The No Poo & Low Poo Hair Care Forum is a public group on Facebook with an extensive set of files, and helpful feedback from its 22,000+ members. That’s where I first learned everything laid out above.
Best of luck with your experimentations. Looking forward to hearing about your path to hairlightenment.**
* Must contact the developers of The Oregon Trail.
**I gave myself some stars for being so clever…nay, dorky.