One of my first zero-waste and plastic-free switches was a shampoo bar instead of shampoo in a plastic bottle. This option worked well when I paired it with a solid conditioner bar. My hair was softer, shinier, and less oily. I even took them to my hairdresser when I went for a cut, and she said my hair had never looked healthier.
Then, when I cut my hair short in December, the shampoo bar became my arch nemesis. No matter how many times I rinsed my hair, it left a horrible residue. It was a greasy mess, one that tempted a return to my plastic bottle of shampoo.
As tempted as I may have been, buying conventional shampoo in a plastic bottle wasn’t an option. My shampoo bar was no longer an option. This predicament forced me to research other ways to clean my hair.
I embrace simplicity, so any no-poo recipes that included more than two ingredients, or cost more than buying shampoo at the store, wouldn’t work. Therefore, the following seemed like possible solutions: baking soda with an apple cider vinegar rinse, rye flour paste with an optional apple cider vinegar rinse, or a water-only regime.
The water-only option sounded appealing because it was the simplest, but I was in the middle of the work year and I worried about the transition period that could be messier and greassier. This could be my summer experiment, but it wouldn’t work right now.
The first option I tried was the baking soda with an apple cider vinegar rinse. For about a month, I washed my hair with a mix of two tablespoons baking soda to one cup water and followed this with a rinse of two tablespoons apple cider vinegar to one cup water. It worked really well, surprisingly well, but I was still experiencing more residue than I had before I cut my hair. I wasn’t convinced this was the best option. On to the second experiment.
Next, I tried the rye flour paste with the apple cider vinegar rinse. I found unpackaged rye flour at my grocery store for less than two dollars a pound and thought, “This is perfect! It’s super cheap and in bulk!” Again, it worked really well, surprisingly well, but I continued to experience more residue than I had before I cut my hair. Still not convinced this was the best option, I was out of new ideas and resorted back to washing with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar.
Then, one day, eureka! The problem was suddenly clear as day. It wasn’t the way I washed my hair that was causing the residue; it was the way I conditioned it. The apple cider vinegar rinse was the cause of the residue!
I tested my theory that the vinegar rinse was the culprit. Instead of using it as my conditioner, I washed my hair with the baking soda mixture and used my solid conditioner bar in lieu of the vinegar. The result? Beautiful, shiny, residue free hair that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with at work or in public.
Here is a truth about DIY and unconventional personal care routines: it takes research, then trial and error, to find a formula that works for you, your body, and your lifestyle. What works for 30 people may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for anyone else. Are you doing something wrong if you find a formula that works for you that you haven’t read about before? Heck no! I haven’t seen anyone write about using a baking soda wash or rye flour paste followed by a solid conditioner bar, but this is the magic formula for me, my hair, my super hard water, and my simple lifestyle.
Some people in the blogosphere have written about their concerns of using baking soda as an alternative to shampoo (you can google them). Their issues are with the pH levels of baking soda and the damage it can do to your hair over long-term use. Due to these concerns, I have decided to use the baking soda wash only if I start to notice residue building in my hair. After all, my hard water does wreak havoc on my attempts to be toxin free and zero-waste.
If you’re committed to finding zero-waste and plastic-free alternatives to conventional personal care products, be confident that you will find some combination that is your own magic formula. It may take a few trials and a few errors, not to mention a few days of greasy hair, but you will eventually discover what works best for you and your situation. As Dory sings, “Just keep swimming.”
Remember, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.