I grew up believing my hair was ugly. Too thin, too much frizz. Undefined curls. Try this cream, they told me. Switch to a different shampoo, someone else said. Why don't you straighten your hair? The truth my hair looked ugly because of the solutions I was given. The products I was using were damaging my hair without my knowledge. When I stopped using shampoo and conditioner, my hair became stronger, thicker and more defined, and all because I stopped using shampoo! So here I share a bit about what shampoos really are, and how my hair transformed once I let go of the idea that clean hair needs shampoo.
Shampoos are detergents.
Brands don't really call them detergents because who would buy them if they did? Soaps have been made naturally for ages, until detergents were developed in the 1930s. Detergents are synthetically made to mimic the cleansing effects of soap, but they are stronger and more aggressive. In the 1950s they had replaced most of the soap industry and are now used for everything from our home care, our body care (industrial soaps are usually not soaps!) and well.. for our hair.
Wait, detergents? Like laundry detergents?
Yes! Laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents and shampoos are all surfactants. They are cheaper and easier to produce than soaps, and are also stronger. Today, they are available under different names (detergents, soaps, shampoos..). The strength of these surfactants dissolves dirt, making them effective cleaners. The problem is that they clean so well that they end up dissolving the protective oils that our scalp produces, making our hair weaker and deregulating our scalp system.
Shampoo damages hair
- Scalp sensitivities such as dandruff are enhanced by removing our scalp's natural protection. Our scalp becomes sensitive and dry, sometimes irritated, and more likely to develop allergies and rashes.
- Unbalanced scalp health is what creates "oily" or "dry" hair. When we dissolve and remove all the oil from our scalp, our sebaceous glands have to work harder to produce more protective oils, creating what we call "oily hair". When these glands don't produce this extra oil our hair becomes "dry". Both oily and dry hair are a result of deregulating our scalp health and over washing it with powerful cleaners.
- Conditioners are used to mask these problems. Since we remove essential oils present in our hair every time we wash it with shampoo, we make our hair weaker and more brittle, which creates frizz, double hair ends and dullness. Conditioners mask this damage by adding a layer of silicone to our hair in order to make it look smooth and shiny. Overtime, the silicon builds up in our hair, making hair weaker and more likely to break.
Shampoos can damage the earth: besides damaging our hair, shampoos can also be bad for the environment.
- Most surfactants are not biodegradable, polluting our water bodies and disrupting biodiversity.
- Plastic packaging from shampoos is still plastic.
- Most shampoo bars are still detergents but in solid form. When looking at shampoo bars, google the first 3-4 ingredients in the formula follower by "is this a surfactant?" to find out if your shampoo is a detergent.
What are the alternatives?
Saponified Shampoo Bars are made with only saponified oils and water. They have been used for almost five thousand years by humans for cleaning purposes. They gently clean hair letting your scalp self regulate and allowing your hair shine naturally. It might take a while to adapt when transitioning to a saponified shampoo bar, since your hair has build up from synthetic shampoos and conditioners, but with time (2 weeks - 6 months) your scalp regulates its oil production and your hair regains shape, thickness and shine that you probably haven't seen since you had baby hair. What changed with your hair that it is not soft and shiny like kids hair? Mostly, the products you have been using on it for years.
Never use conditioner again
When you use a saponified shampoo bar, your hair's protective layer will remain and your hair will not need conditioner to look shiny and soft: it will actually be shiny and soft! There are a few natural ways to boost that hair softness and give it some extra moisture or protection.
- Using an apple cider vinegar rinse in the shower will increase shine and help hair untangle.
- Massaging ends with a nourishing mask (like our Calm Body Cream!) or sesame oil the day before washing will give it a deep moisturizing mask.
- Using a gentle serum on your hair ends (like our Matcha Serum!) will help reduce frizz and create a protective layer to sun and heat.
What ingredients to look for
The least ingredients are in a formula, and the more you understand them, the better! Look for cleaning bars with oils, water and lye. Stay away from synthetic added ingredients and stick to formulas as simple and pure as the ones our ancestors have used before we developed synthetic ingredients (like detergents!). All our hair needs is simple cleaning and wholesome oils for moisture. Our scalp is self regulating like the rest of our body. We are here to just help our bodies help themselves.
One bar for it all
Our Body Bars are made with simple unrefined ingredients focusing on your hair health. They can also be used on your face and body. It is our minimalist essential. I can't wait for you to try a saponified shampoo bar and see your hair transform itself.
Have other questions about natural hair care? Let us know in the comments!