Ever since I was a kid, my mom used to get on me about washing my hair every day, but I never understood what all the fuss was about. I always believed that washing my hair was a good thing. After every day, my hair would get so oily that I felt I had to wash it to get my shiny, “healthy” hair back. Cleansing yourself is always a good thing, right? Wrong. Too much of a good thing can be bad. I was stuck in this cycle of stripping and clarifying my hair, thinking that’s what I needed to do in order to combat how limp and oily it would get. I mean, my hair always looked good after a wash, so I was under the impression that this was proper practice. However, many shampoos and conditioners contain various natural and synthetic ingredients that strip the hair of their natural oils and then mask the hair to give off the illusion of being healthy. In this post, I will break down my routine and the reasoning behind it all.
Have you ever taken the time to actually look at the back of your shampoo bottle? If not, take a look right now. Is one of the first five ingredients a sulfate? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Alkyl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, the list goes on. It’s also not uncommon to see two or more sulfates in your shampoo. Now that you’ve become aware, you may be asking “what are sulfates?” Sulfates are surfactants. What a surfactant does is separates the dirt and oil from your skin or hair to allow them to easily rinse away with water. Sulfates do a good job of bringing instant gratification to the cleansing process; the product creates a luxurious lather, you see it working, and it’s easily washed away. We all love to get clean, and sulfates do the job. However, sometimes they are too good at their job. So good, in fact, that they can not only can cleanse your hair of dirt, but also strip your hair of its proteins and natural oils. Constant cleansing of the hair can cause irritation to the scalp and severely dry out your hair.
To combat that dry feeling after shampooing, we use conditioner in order to replenish. Conditioners do contain nourishing ingredients, such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, etc. But, they also do contain alcohols, sulfates, and other drying ingredients. Though conditioners feel nice and make our hair much easier to manage, most of that is all thanks to silicones. Cetearyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone, dimethicone, dimethiconol, etc. What silicones do is seal off the hair strands to prevent moisture from getting out, but also keeps moisture from coming in. Silicones are also responsible for the the shine we see in our hair after wash. So, that healthy glow may not be too healthy.
Now, before you go running off and trashing all of the products in your shower, let me give you some direction!
Yes, it is ideal to use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, but if that just isn’t realistic at the moment then that is fine. Some people really like the deep cleanse of sulfates, especially for those who use a lot of product in their hair. A clarifying shampoo is perfectly fine to use, but I would advise you to take time between washes. Stripping your hair daily can cause irritation and dryness, but also lead to an oily scalp. Constantly stripping your hair its natural oils makes your scalp produce more oil in order to combat this. So, to all my oily haired friends, try giving the ‘poo a rest for a couple days. I now wash my hair at a maximum of 3 times per week. As an added bonus, enjoy this cringe video of 18 year old me gushing over the condition of my hair after 3 days of not washing it. It did take some time for my hair and scalp to adjust to the routine, but it was worth it. For those of you who can’t bare the feel of an oily scalp and just don’t feel like hiding under a hat or behind a ponytail, invest in a dry shampoo to absorb some of the excess oil to help your hair last another day or two. I personally use Lush’s No Drought Dry Shampoo. It holds a pretty no-fuss ingredient list, featuring cornflour, talc, and various essential oils to leave your hair looking and smelling fresh.
Though I gave sulfates some slack, I do advise seeking out a silicone free shampoo and conditioner as soon as possible. Covering up a problem so it isn’t visible does not mean the problem no longer exists. I’m sure most of us learned this in high school. Though the hair shines and feels nice, it usually ends up back to its dull and dry state once the silicone casing has worn off. Not only that, silicones are extremely bad for the environment! Silicones are made to weather through any storm, making them non-biodegradable. Silicones typically have to be specially disposed of, and washing them down the drain is not the safe way to do so. So, instead of masking your problems, treat it (and treat the earth at the same time). I currently use Lush’s American Cream and Veganese, depending on how I’m feeling. Be advised, these do contain sulfates (though lower on the list, they are still there), so give your hair some time before washing it again. I have quite a few bottles of shampoos and conditioners from Lush stored away and, for the price point they sell at, I can’t justify tossing them. However, after their uses are up, I will be exploring other options.
I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times; invest in some healthy hair oils such as coconut, jojoba, and argan oil. Introducing oils into your routine not only feeds your hair the much needed vitamins it needs, but also controls the oil production and provides hydration. All that time that I thought I had oily hair, I actually had extremely dry hair! Though our conditioners contain these ingredients already, simply seeing the ingredient does not mean it’s an effective amount or even in a pure form. Believe it or not, these oils can be made in labs. It’s much cheaper to do so, and this is how many “natural” conditioners sell at such a low price compared to their higher end competitors. So, cut out the middle man and invest in an oil of your choice, or cocktail, and apply after every wash (these oils are multi-use, as well). I would suggest going for something that is 100% organic, virgin, and unrefined. My mom and her family travel to the Philippines from time to time and something they always bring back are jars of pure coconut oil. The good stuff. However, whenever I can’t get my hands on that, I use Renpure’s 100% Organic Coconut Oil which you can get at just about any store for around $8. It’s USDA-certified organic, virgin, and unrefined. The company itself also does not test on animals, which is something I am trying so very hard to be conscious of. For jojoba oil, I’ve been using Desert Essence’s Organic Jojoba Oil for years. Depending on where you get this from, it can range anywhere from $8 to $16. This is also USDA-certified organic, and 100% pure, but no statements made on whether or not it is unrefined. There are better options out there, so don’t think what I use is the end all be all. I’ve had my Desert Essence bottle for years and I’m still not done with it, but once I am I will be searching for something else. But, if you’re looking for a good price and convenience, both of the Renpure and Desert Essence oils are pretty good. For those of you needing a little more, Lush’s R&B Hair Conditioner is something I reach for on days where I’m feeling very dehydrated. It can be bit heavy on the scalp, so just focus on the lengths and ends of your hair. R&B is full of nourishing oatmilk, avocado butter, olive oil, coconut and jojoba oils, as well as a cocktail of various essential oils to leave hair conditioned and smelling like a tropical vacation.
Quick tip! I usually wake up with extremely dry hair. So dry to the point where it’s completely unmanageable. I have been applying coconut oil (but you can use whatever it is you prefer) to my hair every night before I bed and tying/wrapping it up in order to moisturize and prevent breakage from all the tossing I do. You can also invest in a silk pillow case, which won’t snag on your stands like cotton cases do.
If you don’t have time to slather your hair in 5 types of oils, opt for a serum! Or, be extra like me, and use both. Serums are a great all in one option for your hair; they condition, add shine, and help protect from heat damage, outside factors like pollution, and UV. Yes, just like your face, you need to protect your hair from the sun. Who would’a thought. Again, invest in a serum that is free of sulfates, silicones, parabens, etc. One that I am absolutely loving at the moment is Mise-en-scène’s Perfect Repair Hair Serum. This serum is free of sulfates, dye, silicones, parabens and contains wonderful ingredients such as:
- Adenosine: Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and can aid in hair growth
- Zinc Oxide: UVA and UVB protection
- Niacinamide: Anti-aging, can help with sebum production levels
- Argan Oil: Hydration, high in vitamin E
- Royal Jelly Extract: Contains biotin which can aid in the production of keratin (essential protein in hair and nails)
- Rose Water: Soothing properties, rich in vitamins A, B3, C, D and E
I’ll have a separate review for this product entirely once I’ve gone through the bottle, so keep a look out for that! I am also well aware that skin and hair health starts from the inside, so I will cover diets and supplements that aid in this in a future post.
This was as lengthy one, but hair health is something I’ve struggled with. Between daily washes, dying, heat styling and dealing with oily/damaged hair to the point where I’ve chopped it off numerous times, I’m at the point where I’ve learned my lesson and am doing my part to keep my hair in good condition. Skin and hair age naturally, but our daily habits can also speed up the process and cause severe damage. So, why not practice good hair health?