I first heard about natural hair care on a healthy living website about 6 years ago. I tried washing my hair with just baking soda and vinegar for about a week. It was an absolute disaster! I tried again a few years later using a different method with great success.
I have not used shampoo on my hair in almost 4 years and usually only wash my hair once a week. My hair is the healthiest it’s ever been, I’m not using harsh chemicals, and my hair care budget is pretty low. I’ve tried just about every natural hair care method and recipe out there.
In this series we will walk through all the elements of natural hair care so you are able to find the right system for you.
First, Let’s Define Some Terms
Natural Hair Care usually means either avoiding products that contain sulfates and/or silicones or caring for and wearing your hair in its natural state, curls or waves, without using any heat or harsh products.
No-Poo means you don’t use any shampoo to wash your hair. For some it means specifically using only baking soda and vinegar (we’ll talk more about this in Part 2).
Co-Wash means you use conditioner to wash your hair in place of shampoo (again, more on this in Part 2).
The Modern Chemical Based Hair Care Cycle
Most people today buy a bottle of shampoo, a bottle of conditioner, and at least one hair care product at the store and follow the typical wash, condition, dry, and style cycle on a daily basis. Many hair care products contain silicones (read the ingredients on your product bottles and words that end in -cone are silicones).
Silicones make your hair stronger, shiny (initially), and can help cut down on frizz. Over time they will build up making your hair feel heavy, dull, and sometimes sticky. Most shampoo contains a sulfate based cleaner (usually sodium laurel sulfate) that strips out the silicone products leaving you with “clean” hair ready for the next round of products.
Most conditioners, leave-in products, and frizz-control sprays contain silicone. So in the typical cycle you strip everything from your hair and immediately add back in more silicone to keep it under control.
My goal with natural hair care is to break this cycle and only use products that are healthy for my hair.
Why Ditch the Chemicals?
I know many people lean toward natural hair care because of the desire to remove toxins from their home. I think that is a great reason, and if you are a regular reader of Intoxicated On Life, I’m going to assume you’ve heard the reasons before. I’m going to skip ahead and talk about why sulfates are bad for you hair specifically.
Think about a nice wool sweater. Would you wash it in harsh detergent with agitation? No, because the soap would ruin the wool leaving you with a scratchy, misshapen garment. Your hair is just like wool, and washing with sulfates leaves your hair dried out, damaged, and full of frizz. Most people mitigate the effects of sulfates with silicone products. I did for a long time too, but never managed to get my crazy curls under control until I completely got rid of sulfates and other harsh cleaners.
The first time I tried natural hair care, I was trying to find a cheaper hair care routine. As a curly girl, I had quite the collection of hair care products that only worked about half the time. My daily routine included shampoo, conditioner, leave-in frizz-control cream, gel, heat protection spray, and a flat iron. It was an expensive habit! As I mentioned above, I tried one method (baking soda and vinegar) that didn’t work for me and went right back to my old routine after about a week. Once I started making efforts to live a healthier lifestyle, I wanted to remove the chemicals but I was afraid of the frizz ball I would likely become without all the silicone to tame my hair. About four years ago my hairdresser suggested I try the Diva Curl system. After seeing how well her hair responded, I was willing to try. In this case it was my desire for frizz-free hair that finally convinced me to try one of the pricy sulfate and silicone free product lines. And it worked!
My frizz free curls about 6 months after I switched to a natural hair care routine.
Have I convinced you to try natural hair care? Over the next three weeks we will talk about what products to use and why. I also have a few tips to make the transition easier.
Do you have any questions about natural hair care? Please leave a comment below and we’ll get you the answers!
When I ran out of conditioner this time, I decided not to buy anymore. I’m using Apple Cider Vinegar and my hair is already seeing a difference. As soon as I’m out of shampoo, I’m going natural there too. 😉 Can’t wait to read the rest of the series, Becky!
I’m excited to read the rest of the series! Upon my first pregnancy 8 years ago, my formerly stick-straight-doesn’t-hold-a-curl hair turned into a wavy/curly mess and I had NO clue what to do with it! I’ve muddled my way into a mostly-decent hair care routine after a few tries but I’ve been intrigued by the natural hair care idea for a few years. I tried the co-wash thing as seen on a popular curly-hair blog for about two weeks but couldn’t commit to it so it was back to the wash, condition, style cycle for me. I’ve recently switched to Tresseme’s new sulfate-free, reduced silicones line (I think that’s what they promise?!) and like it but I’m anxious to hear some alternatives!
I’d specifically like to hear about how to help us mostly wavy, semi-curly girls, especially since my curls don’t really even start until down around my eye level. Too much messing around with my hair leaves it frizzy, but not enough styling and my limpy hair makes me look like a drowned rat! Yikes!
I had a similar experience until I started using a ton of conditioner. My hair was extremely dry at first and I did moisturizing masks all the time. Now I use a combination of coconut and olive oil as a leave in conditioner. I go between straightening my hair and wearing it curly. Do you usually let your hair air dry or blow dry it?
Can this work for people with straight hair or is this only for curly? Thanks!
This absolutely works for both! My hair is curly so that is what I’m familiar with, but I do straighten my hair fairly often. It’s a matter of finding the right products for your hair. I will look into it and see if I can find some good recommendations for straight hair. Great question, thanks!
I CAN’T BELIEVE how much more manageable my natural curls are since I stopped using chemicals. All I use is argan oil, and it is absolutely amazing how much faster my showers are now. Hello from the Homestead Barn Hop.
Where do you get argan oil? The only one I’ve found locally is still full of extra stuff that I don’t want to put on my hair. Glad natural hair care is working so well for you!
My sister sells it in her shop (https://www.etsy.com/listing/166900246/pure-moroccan-argan-oil), which is how I got hooked on it in the first place. Or you can get it on eBay or Amazon. I don’t think I’ve seen it locally.
Hi. I’ve just read this blog to my 12 year old daughter who struggles with her hair. We live in Australia, I’m Anglo Saxon and my husband African. My other children have wavy to curly hair but Lydia’s is extremely curly/frizzy. She wants to wear it out but can’t because of the frizz, she can only comb it out when washing it using conditioner and wear it in a bun at all times. Any tips for this type of hair, we live in a rural community where hairdressers arn’t used to this type of hair.
It sounds like her hair is really dry. I know I have the most problems when my hair needs moisture. I use coconut and olive oil masks periodically. http://www.curlynikki.com/ is a good resource for extremely curly hair tips. I would try out different things until you find something that works.
Everyone’s hair is so different. I switched to the baking soda and vinegar cleaning about 2 months ago and love it! My hair is very soft and manageable. d
I’m so glad it works for you! I love when the simplest solutions works.
Your hair looks incredible under the no-poo regimen! I have straight hair, but boy does it get its frizz on oppressively hot and humid days. Excited to learn more about your personal experiences!
Frizz usually means dry hair. I’ve found coconut oil works best, especially on days I straighten my hair. I hope you can find a routine that works for your hair.
I keep wanting to try a poo-free regime, but everytime I get near the end of a shampoo bottle… I open another one. I had a hairdresser recommend diva curl to me when I was on vacation a couple of years ago, and I just assumed it would have lots of chemicals in it based on the “after” pictures he showed me. So good to know! I might be investing after all…
Katie @ Cup of Tea Blog
Hmm – I’m going to have to research this more! I have stick straight, fine hair that’s limp as a wet dish rag. I usually have to wash it every day to get all the volumizing product out!
I’ve been wanting to try this for a while. I have really long hair past the middle of my back and after all of the dying and hair treatments I need to start taking better care of it!
Mama's Happy Hive
This is so interesting! Your hair looks fantastic! 🙂
I’m really interested in natural hair care, I’ve seen so many stories of how well it’s turned out for people. However, I bleach my hair blonde (not ideally natural but I like being blonde), do you think it’s possible to ditch the conditioner and shampoo with bleached hair?
Yes! I do highlights in my hair. Its a bit damaging so you will probably need some extra conditioner. I have my hairdresser use a sulfate free shampoo to watch out the bleach. Then I use my regular silicone-free products.
I like using a very simple hair mask with olive oil. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on my hair and comb your hair carefully. Wait for about 30 minutes, then use your hands to massage the hair gently for 1-2 minutes. Wash off with water. That’s all. I apply this 2 times per week.
Thanks for the tip!