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Several years ago, I learned what was in the stuff I was putting on my head. Worse, I found out what I was putting on my kids’ heads. I cringe to think about it now. But, like many people, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Oddly enough, I had stopped coloring my own hair many years earlier. I figured if something could burn my scalp and make my eyes water that much, it probably wasn’t a good idea. But, I never made the connection to the other hair products I was using, and for some reason, I didn’t think of what they were doing to my family either.
There was a veritable drug store on the ledge of my shower. There was the “cheap shampoo” for my husband (at his request), you know the brand, and my personal line up of elite products and potions from all the local salons. A pretty bottle would usually catch my attention enough to try it. If it had a glorious scent and overflowing lather, I would often buy it again.
The kid’s bathroom had a similar array of hair stuff near the tub. I’d buy all manner of kid-friendly hair products, and didn’t think anything of using the “yellow stuff” when they were babies, the colored stuff when they were little, the foamy stuff when they were old enough to shower alone, and the “manly stuff” as they moved into the teen years.
I favored lightly scented hair products, nothing overpowering, but definitely scented. “One had to smell good to be clean” was the limiting belief I held about cleanliness, and I thought I was doing everything right. It was the job of a good mom to be sure her offspring were clean and hygienic, I thought, so I reasoned the cost of those products meant I was being the best mom I could possibly be.
Until the day an article crossed my desk explaining the harms of commercial hair products.
Before then, I had absolutely no idea how chemicals seep into the scalp, enter the blood stream, and wreak havoc on the human body. Here I was in my 40’s yet had never understood how delicate an organ was human skin. I didn’t know how skin lacks the ability to filter anything, thus it sends anything it comes in contact with right into the body, impacting the tissues, organs and everything else.
Until I read that article, and the dozens of other articles I found next, I hadn’t known the dangers of things like sodium lauryl sulfate or phthalates or parabens, now known to be carcinogenic or neuro-toxic. I didn’t realize chemicals could have developmental effects, reproductive effects, could cause cell mutations, or how those tiny little soap bubbles could be harmful in other devastating ways.
I am not an expert, just describing my personal journey to discovering the benefits of natural hair products.
I was angry with myself, to be honest. It was hard to face the potential harms I had done to myself , and even harder to think I might have harmed my children. It broke my heart to remember the many nights my kids would emerge from the tub covered in redness, spots and itchy rashes all over their bodies. I decided in that moment to make a rapid and healthful change by eliminating all the commercial hair products we used in our home. Actually, I couldn’t throw the bottles out quickly enough.
During the initial changeover, we started using hair products I could easily find at a local health food store. Our favorites for general hair care were:
and for dry or flaky scalp we tried:
but none were exactly right. They were fine, just not perfect (and you know how I like perfection). One made no lather, which we were looking for, another was highly perfumed, and the third had an unpleasant odor that lingered after a shower.
Also, the cost of natural hair products really caught me off guard. I was used to spending money on salon products, but not on things I could easily make at home. Seeing the ingredients in natural shampoos and conditioners, it occurred to me I could make them at home for a lot less. And maybe in the process, I could create something we liked even better, too.
So began my journey to create my own recipes for hair products. I read product labels, researched recipes, and experimented with other ingredients on my own, then came up with the recipes you see below. Though I whipped up many batches of more complicated recipes that were fantastic, in the end, these are the ones I like best for their simplicity and extremely low cost.
Tea Tree & Lemongrass Shampoo
1 cup Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Pure Castile Liquid Soap (where to buy) can also use Unscented or Tea Tree
1 T. Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (where to buy)
5-10 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil (brand I use)
10-20 drops Tea Tree Oil (brand I use)
1-2 cups Coconut Milk (brand I use)
3-4 drops Almond Oil (brand I use)
4 cups water
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse (use instead of “Conditioner”)
1/2 cup Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (where to buy)
Fill remainder of 32 ounce container with water
Styling Product Alternative
Organic coconut, olive, avocado or almond oil (what I prefer)
Apply a drop to the hands then massage into the hair
Focus on hair ends, not scalp
Rinse and style as usual
A small amount may be left in the hair for extra conditioning from time to time
I multiply the shampoo recipe to make a large quantity, then divide it into glass bottles for my shower and BPA-free plastic bottles for my kid’s bathroom. I also use a metal funnel to fill decorative bottles I find at yard sales and flea markets, and leave them on sinks and counters too.
Note that the rinse recipe replaces standard hair conditioner, but it isn’t creamy or thick like you’re probably used to. It works by removing that squeaky clean feeling sometimes left by homemade shampoos. If you’ve experienced natural shampoos that leave hair feeling like wet straw in need of detangling, you’ll be happy to know it gets rid of that feeling, too. There is no need for additional conditioning products when using these recipes, but a tiny dab of coconut or almond oil can be rubbed onto the hands and then massaged into the hair (not too close to the scalp) for styling from time to time if you like.
The benefits of making hair products span beyond just eliminating irritants and chemicals. For us, they seem to have corrected the issues we had with hair and scalp. For instance, none of us experience frizzy or unmanageable hair any more, and all the flaky scalp and other issues we had disappeared, too (I am not an expert, but I connect this effect to the tea tree and the vinegar).
Plus, we’re saving a ton of money.
Try it, and let me know how it’s going. There’s a COMMENT area, below.
And, please, if you’re like me, and regret using harmful products in the past, forgive yourself first. That’s truly the first step to making progress in this area. No sense holding on to what no longer serves you.
With much love,
As a coach, writer, recovered over-doer and busyness addict, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle while the mind tries to sabotage your success. In my journey to vibrant health, I created a personalized health system of nutrition and supplementation, lifestyle changes, and I retrained my mind and the energy of my body. I view my success as the formula to my happy, healthy life. I now empower other women to create their own personalized formulas, including the tools and strategies just right for them! Amazing life shifts come from our relationships. I look forward to helping you, too!