June 15, 2009
Sometime last fall we finished our bottle of conditioner and I was determined to figure out a natural, homemade alternative to care for our family's hair. It's taken me 6 months of trial and error to figure out what works. I hope it might be of some help to others who 1) are frugal and want a cheap, homemade solution that works and/or 2) don't want to be putting chemicals on their scalps or their children's skin.
Then I thought to read the ingredients. They've actually gotten worse since I ditched using the product. I'm not sure how "behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth 20 (vegetable derived emulsifier), caprylic acid (coconut derived emollient), panthenol, potassium sorbate" qualify as organic? Chemicals grown in an organic petri dish? It's entirely possible that I'm just really ignorant and these are plant derived goodies that you could serve up for supper with your greens. But I know for a fact potassium sorbate is a preservative and since I'm trying to eliminate eating preservatives I don't want them on my skin either, especially on my children's skin.
And that's what lead me to investigate making my own conditioner.
hair oil: an honest, if not effective, first attempt at making conditioner
Let's just say my foray into making conditioner, as in a cream or oil you apply to hair, failed.
Poor Celine and all I've put her through - greasy hair, knotted/tangled hair, painful hair brushing... Celine you're a trooper! Thanks for putting up with me on this discovery. I hope you know you'll be healthier in the long run because of it. (I love you and that is why I torture you so).
But now we've settled on a routine that works and Celine's hair is healthy and lovely (most days). Just a note, this is what works for long, fine, straight hair. If you have curly hair, frizzy hair, afro hair you'll probably need to discovery your own natural routine.
Brienne's short hair is much easier to care for!
Want to know what I love best about this natural hair care routine? It's not all the money I'm saving or the satisfaction I get "making my own" and being free from the hair industry. It's the time I'm now "forced" to spend brushing Celine's hair. Technically she can do it herself but I enjoy that bedtime hair brushing as much as she does. The rhythm of the brush in her hair, her sleepy conversation with me sitting on the couch or maybe her bed. Time with just her, treasured.
Update: Since originally posting this last year Celine has taken over most of the brushing herself, but I still enjoy the times I sit and brush her silky strands.
At age 13 (three years after I originally wrote this post), Celine has now switched to a store-bought natural shampoo. It's a locally made product, I can't recommend a brand. As her hair got longer she found a bar soap difficult to lather in her hair. Also, her scalp is very sensitive and to get the lather she needs requires quite vigorous scrubbing that is uncomfortable for her head.
Celine was not thrilled with all the patient brushing required by natural conditioner (especially since vigorous lathering with a soap bar resulted in lots of tangles) and I wasn't able to do it for her so we switched to less-than-100% natural Avalon conditioner.
I'm still wondering if I might figure out the perfect natural solution for her hair, but thinking that now she's a young adult my window of opportunity is closed.
The rest of our family continues to use a soap bar to wash our hair.
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Cori on June 16, 2009, 12:14 a.m.
Funny, we've been vinegar converts for months now too. Great for combating tangles and it doesn't mold when you keep it in the shower like lemon juice. Even my own head (short hair washed with soap - like yours) feels softer with a few good sprays of vinegar and a rinse. I keep it in an old baby shampoo bottle with a spray top.
Cori's last blog post... link of the day
Karen on June 16, 2009, 1:06 a.m.
I am going to try this - my hair gets a build-up from all the iron in our water but the vinegar solution should be helpful for that. Thanks for the pictures - I love looking at my beautiful grand-daughters.
renee on June 16, 2009, 1:30 a.m.
Me too - my daughters that is!
Trisha on June 16, 2009, 3:10 a.m.
Great post. I don't use anything but water on Grace's hair right now but I might try vinegar in the back where it gets tangled. I tried baking soda and vinegar on my hair but ended up switching to Castile soap and coconut oil.
Trisha's last blog post... Edit, Add, Appreciate- June 14
renee on June 18, 2009, 1:38 a.m.
I use coconut oil, rubbed into my hands, to work out really bad knots in Celine's hair if she gets them.
Jenn on June 16, 2009, 4:37 a.m.
That's so ironic...that is exactly what I have done with my hair for years...wash only once every 3rd day, rinse with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar (which I store in the shower in a squirt bottle!) and brush it. That's it. It's to my butt, so it's very long and straight and it's always been healthy. I do not put anything on it...just brush and go.
renee on June 16, 2009, 11:28 a.m.
Jenn, wow hair that long, that's very encouraging to hear this works for you so that as Celine's hair grows longer this routine will still work. THanks for sharing.
Shawna on June 16, 2009, 6:49 a.m.
i'm currently in the process of no-pooing :O) i'm doing baking soda and white vinegar every few days as my hair transitions. it's hard to go cold turkey when i have to look acceptable at work! i'm really enjoying not having to take the time to wash it, though i do miss the smell of the yummy mango stuff i last used. of course, it's still in the shower, so i can sniff it whenever i want! i have plans to try a coconut oil conditioning this week, we'll see how that goes!
Shawna's last blog post... thought splatter
kyndale on June 16, 2009, 3:07 p.m.
I love the idea of making my own hair care products. Why is your soap not good for curly hair? Mine is wavy/curly semi long.
renee on June 18, 2009, 1:41 a.m.
I think my soap would be perfectly fine for all types of hair, there's a lot of moisturizing oil in it. But what I wonder about is if "the routine" I described here would work for curly hair. My hair is naturally curly, very lovely actually when I let it grow, and I know I couldn't comb it out the way I do my daughter's. But I would use my soap on it.
kirwin on June 16, 2009, 4:03 p.m.
I can totally relate to you enjoying the process of brushing C's hair each night. It's like me and the lotion-routine with my kids. This post was full of so much information; I'm going to have to let it digest. Quite honestly, I'm the only one in my household who uses conditioner. My hair is long and fine, but I have lots and lots of it.
Had to laugh that your husband finds your buzzcut hot -- my husband would seriously love for me to get dreadlocks. I'm not kidding. (I like your buzz cut, too. It suits you!) ; )
renee on June 16, 2009, 5:49 p.m.
go for it! I love dreads, that's on my "list of things to-do someday"
kirwin on June 17, 2009, 2:52 p.m.
LOL My instinct is to say, "Maybe in the next lifetime, I'll get the dreads and that tattoo on my wrist that I've been coveting."
Then, I argue with myself, "Why NOT this lifetime?"...
I don't know. It's an ongoing-struggle within; part of finding myself, I guess.
If I get either of them, I'll be sure to let you know. ; )
renee on June 18, 2009, 12:55 a.m.
Please do! I'm not sold on a tattoo... yet but my husband has been thinking for years of tattooing a band around his wedding ring finger - his skin has reacted to gold in the past.
Amber on July 29, 2012, 3:35 a.m.
Funny to read this post. We have too much in common. I'm not sure if I'll end up with dreads, but I think about that and the tattoo almost daily. :)
nicola on June 16, 2009, 8:13 p.m.
fabulous, much appreciated post, thank you! we are into chem-free scalps here, too. i was thinking about you and yours soaps, wondering if you will start selling them???? :) but for now, i use a skin friendly bottle on our kids' heads. and i use a de-tangler comb, instead of conditioner. nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com
nicola's last blog post... fresh bread
renee on June 18, 2009, 1:51 a.m.
Nicola, I can't sell them officially until we have our permanent residency in the states. For the long story you can read that here. No etsy, no cottage industry for me. But they will be available at our csa since we can barter there.
I'm not so sure I want to start a little business anyway. I'm fiercely independent, hate deadlines and like to do things my way. If people start depending on me for their soap and then I don't feel like making it one month that's a real pickle, since I'd want to give good customer service also.
Spring on June 17, 2009, 12:55 a.m.
Wow, cider vinegar for conditioner!? I use my cider vinegar for a lot of things, but did know I could try it for conditioner. Phoebe has been growing her hair out for a couple years, also very straight as you know! and tangles have been a serious issue for us. I'm going to give this a try, since I always have it on hand! Oh, and where did you get your brush?
renee on June 17, 2009, 11:36 a.m.
Spring, I picked up the brush at Sally (something) hair in the plaza where Bed, Bath & Beyond, Craft Mania & the theater is? The store is close to the H&R Block office, it was really cheap too, 6 bucks or something, I was expecting it to be more.
SavvyChristine on June 17, 2009, 5:51 p.m.
I loved reading your routine. My hair is curly and frizzy, and everything your daughter's isn't, so a lot of these things wouldn't work for me. For example, brushing every day? That's not so hot for curls (although you make it sound beautiful). I'm still working on the no shampoo thing. We'll see how it goes!
Also, I love that you said you use the same bar of soap for everything. Mr. Savvy and I just started doing that -- how long does your bar last? I'm always looking for tips.
SavvyChristine's last blog post... The Random Act of Kindness that Made My Day
Kimberly on Sept. 25, 2009, 2:45 a.m.
I've been using baking soda & water instead of shampoo and vinegar for conditioner for over a year and a half. I have long crazy wavy super thick hair and it works better than any of the conditioners I've ever used and believe me, I've tried a lot! I love to read about all the alternatives people are discovering. Have you tried making your own deodorant? I've been using mine for months and will never go back!
Kimberly's last blog post... Sunshine & Apples
nicola@which name? on Feb. 27, 2010, 7:09 a.m.
renee, i read this when you posted it and am reading it again now. have you and your family considered the "no shampoo" regimen? i haven't tried it (yet?), but wonder if you have considered it? nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com
renee on Feb. 27, 2010, 12:31 p.m.
Not really I actually like using my soap. Can't help it, I'm a lather girl. Sometimes I do wash Celine's hair with just baking soda and vinegar rinse though which I guess is considered no shampoo.
jenica on March 13, 2010, 5:46 p.m.
hey there! just found this and i'm just about sold on the idea! how does your hair and scalp smell? does the vinegar smell hold on to your daughter's tresses? have you ever had a problem with not getting all of the baking soda out and having the vinegar react to it? is this in a bath or the shower? sorry for all the questions!
renee on March 13, 2010, 7:13 p.m.
Our hair smells wonderful, mostly like whatever soap I happen to be using at the time. I make all our own soaps with wonderful essential oils so sometimes our heads smell like rosemary, mint or faint lavender. Mostly though after it's washed our hair just smells clean!
The vinegar does not overpower my daughter's hair, only if we use too much vinegar in the vinegar/water solution. No, we haven't had a problem getting the baking soda out and yes the vinegar does react if you pour the vinegar/water solution right on top of the baking soda, which we actually do since we think the chemical reaction is fun! I don't think the chemical reaction is necessary for cleaning though but it feels cool. We use this method in the shower but I'm sure it would work in the bath.
No problem with the questions. I don't mind.
Megan on April 8, 2010, 4:31 p.m.
I have super-red dyed hair, (my hair awhile ago, but still the same color: http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs178.snc1/6692_105854615302_709695302_2644477_2436654_n.jpg) and I'm wondering if this will sap dye, or leech it, or oxidize it, or do anything to the color. I've been looking into this for awhile, but it honestly has me a little scared to try. (I'm using sulfate-free shampoos at the moment, but I'm not that happy with them at all. My mom commented on how my hair felt dry and a tad fried recently, and I have to agree.) It's one-step, no bleach, just the dye mixed with 30-volume developer.
renee on April 8, 2010, 5:29 p.m.
Megan, I have no idea, I'm not a dyed hair kind of gal myself and have no experience in that arena.
Megan on April 21, 2010, 2:03 p.m.
Tried it, and the baking soda leeches a bit more of my color than I would like... Like, a lot ;(
I recently switched to a different sulfate-free system, and it works better, so I'll use the baking soda again when I stop dying my hair :)
Anonymous on April 17, 2010, 10:21 a.m.
I use baking soda and vinegar on my long fine hair for the last 2 years, and my hair has much more body than before. I use an organic leave in conditioner on the ends or it gets kind of dry. For the vinegar I have a pump bottle that has straight vinegar with a few drops of rosemary and lavender. I pump some vinegar into a cup and add warm water from the shower. I have been mixing a teaspoon of baking soda into a paste and massaging it into my scalp, but after reading some of these posts I think I will try the bottle of baking soda and water. maybe if I backed off on the vinegar on the ends of my hair I wouldn't need the conditioner.
Laura on April 19, 2010, 2:55 a.m.
Wow Renee! I think it's great that you can make your own soap/shampoo/etc! I have long blonde hair like your daughter's, and I've been working on using baking soda/vinegar...but my hair just doesn't seem as healthy as it did with sauve and dove. I just recently started using south of france bar soap and attempted to use that as a shampoo (fail). I was a little concerned with the oils... palm oil and/or coconut oil and/or olive oil... what oil combinations do you use? I'm really trying hard to switch to healthy soaps and poos.
:) Congrats on your perseverance!!
Amber on April 21, 2010, 7:17 p.m.
thats awesome. Earlier today, before reading your blog, I re-used all my old teacups for the same purposes.
Natural Mom on May 4, 2010, 1:25 a.m.
Am definitely going to try this! Thanks!
Fiona on Nov. 4, 2010, 3:06 a.m.
I have to laugh because I always think about that episode on tv when they talk about brushing their hair 100 times and it's SO about spreading the oils!!! I remember correctly, she was saying it would help make the hair healthy and shiny (and I saw this over 30 years ago).
I actually started using Burt's Bees shampoo (the Green tea and Fennel Seed) and chose not to get the conditioner instinctively. I'll probably transition to some homemade stuff eventually.
It's been one week, and I am going through a major transition period - after one full week, my natural auburn hair has sebum spread just past my shoulders, unfortunately the ends, which go just below my shoulder blades, are looking fried, and almost yellow. It only takes until about 9:00 the same night for the sebum to start spurting out (I've been washing every two days). For the time being, I'm putting some olive oil on the ends and have done and ACV rinse once, but I think it was too strong, and am not sure if I should pour it over my entire head or just the ends, and maybe do a more diluted version every time I wash it. Any idea about this? Maybe it's the olive oil that's drying the ends or is this going to improve over time?
The crazy thing is despite the oily look, my hair doesn't actually feel oily, and my roots look clean and healthy. All I need is a good trim and hopefully just a week or two more and my hair should look amazing; already my curl is coming back. What I really like, though, is it naturally stays off my face and so when I'm not out, I wear it down.
Thank for this article, it's given me hope!
Anonymous on Nov. 4, 2010, 9:19 a.m.
Hi! Your daughter's hair looks amazing. I applaud you for your efforts.
I just want to mention that the chemicals you mention in that conditioner really aren't very scary. They are safe, naturally derived ingredients. Panthenol for example is Vitamin B5, behentrimonium methosulfate (BMS) is a detangling ingredient derived from canola oil.
I just wanted to take the chance to say to anyone reading, it's important to learn what these things are that we are so afraid of. I guess I struggle to understand where the line is drawn when deeming things natural/synthetic (or more oddly - natural/chemical, when all natural things are made up of chemicals). Why is soap considered natural when it does not exist in nature and is synthesised by reacting some chemicals (plant oils and lye) together?
Some of these other ingredients with hard-to-pronounce names are no more natural or unnatural than soap and sometimes actually healthier for the skin and hair, yet one is often accepted and the other rejected as safe and natural. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in the importance of eco-friendly, safe, low irritant, biodegradable ingredients, but the only way to determine which ingredients really are is by studying what the individual properties of the ingredients are, and how they are made. I just find it unsound practice to draw the line based on belief or on the idea something conjures up. There is unfortunately a glut of info out there today which does just that, wrongly making us fear things we needn't. (Let me make it clear, I don't blame individuals who are just trying to do the best for their health and their family. I'm not thinking of any blog like this as being responsible, I am more thinking of certain lobby groups that have very actively put a lot of misinformation out there and made it more and more mainstream, as well as the lack of careful fact-checking by the media.)
I say this as someone who once readily believed much of the misinformation, too. 10-15 years ago I had read pamphlets from the health store and books that espoused this same inconsistent, arbitrary idea of what is toxic and synthetic, and what is safe and natural - and enthusiastically believed it. When I first started using the internet, I sought out similar information. But cracks started to show and certain logical inconsistencies jumped out at me, and thankfully I found far better sources of information. I found it particularly enlightening to discover how arbitrarily the labels of 'natural/unnatural' or 'toxic/healthy' are applied to things - two equivalent things are often given opposite labels, simply based on the impression they carry.
I am just so grateful there is so much excellent, intelligent information available today - and I include blogs like this trying things for themselves. I really do believe in what works for you is best, and for some people that is soap, or baking soda. But I also am wary of demonising things that truly aren't harmful (though I commend you for saying you don't really know what the ingredients are), especially if they work for us. I think it can be quite stressful if we end up discarding things that work well for us, believing they are bad for us, and I think it's something we need to caution against doing simply because some alarmist sources out there tell us we should.
renee on Nov. 5, 2010, 1:37 p.m.
I appreciate your opinion. I agree that we shouldn't be unreasonably scared of words we can't understand but my personal philosophy is less is best. Less ingredients, less "naturally derived" chemicals etc... This is the direction our family is moving inch by inch in many regards (less stuff). Understanding what goes on our bodies is just one of those steps.
jackie on Nov. 26, 2010, 7:57 p.m.
hey, i was wondering if you sell some of the soap you make? I have a baby ad a puppy at home, so i have 0 time to make soap, even though I wish I could so badly!! I tried the baking soda/ACV rinse method and loved it... but im interested in your method now..
Sana on Feb. 13, 2011, 12:12 p.m.
hi, my sister likes to make our own detergent, face and body oils (we use them instead of lotions). we have switched to shampoo for babies which is not so agresive on our scalps (i tried baking soda, but it just didn't work for me). so, my sister wasn't pleased to see that i use conditioner, which is a necessity for me, and she talked me into coconut oil. so now after i wash my hair, i rub very very small amount of it between my palms and then put it on my hair, trying to avoid the part next to the scalp in order not to look greasy. and it works for me! i will try vinegar, too! we put it in our laundry instead of fabric softener, with few drops of ess.oils - and it smells great!
greenwitch65 on July 5, 2011, 3:38 p.m.
My grandmother used to use vinegar on my hair over 30 years ago. My hair is oily and vinegar helps to keep it in check. Also, if vinegar isn't available, lemon juice is a great substitute, as vinegar and lemon juice are both mild acids. The only thing I don't like about using vinegar now is smelling like a salad.
The Redneck Princess on Nov. 29, 2011, 6:08 p.m.
This is the second place I have seen Apple Cider Vinegar as a rinse...I am definitely going to try it!! Thanks for the info :)
Melissa on Jan. 24, 2012, 4:50 a.m.
I have been reading several comments on the baking soda/ACV as shampoo and conditioner alternatives. Seems like everyone has had problems with oily hair... I have extremely dry hair, I have long hair and I use moisturizer ontop of moisturizers for my hair... not sure if this would be right for me. Did anyone start off with dry hair?
Jen Cortes on Feb. 12, 2012, 1:35 p.m.
a light braid in her hair before bedtime will eliminate her waking up with knotted hair.
Jen S. on March 7, 2012, 6:03 p.m.
Hi! Jumping into the conversation a bit late, but I recently started an all-natural beauty care business of my own. Paying attention to the products that my family uses in the bathroom & eliminating all the items/products are aren't really necessary, reducing the clutter not only in our bathroom but in our daily life. If you are interested, check us out on Etsy - BeeSilk Naturals. Anyway, I adapted a recipe that I found from Minimalist Beauty for a hair detangler that works wonderfully for all hair types, especially children's long/curly locks. I thought I would post the link for you to check out: www.minimalistbeauty.com/diy-moisturizing-hair-detangler After making her recipe, I changed a few things (added a few other ingredients, like Honeyquat for additional conditioning) & now call it my own & sell it in my Etsy shop. I've been using the detangler for over 3mos & have to admit that it's wonderful! No more tangles, no rat's nest, hair silky & smooth. The best part for me, I stopped buying hair products at my salon. Yes, yes the stuff at the salon used all-natural ingredients, but I was never really happy with how my hair behaved after using them, nor did my wallet appreciate each purchase.
Thought, I would post my experiences with trying to become more all-natural & re-discovering all new ingredients plentiful provided by Mother Nature.
Love your posts & blog. Cheers, Jen
Cara on July 20, 2012, 9:15 p.m.
5 days ago I switched to a ALL natural homemade shampoo bar... I have NOT had good results so after using it twice and getting worse I thought I would use the 1 TBSP baking soda to 1 c. water on my hair for washing and the 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar... still not good even worse my hair looks and feels like STRAW!!! Ugg I am frusterated I want to switch but I don't know if I can handle this! The homemade shampoo bar left my hair felling for lack of a better way to describe it soap scum build up only used it 2 times followed by a normal conditioner I could tell it needed something I just didn't know what its so gross I want to run in and wash it for the 3rd time today w/ normal shampoo and conditioner so bad I even tries warming in my had coconut oil and adding as my hair like I said looks like straw!! Any suggestions??!!
renee on July 24, 2012, 11:09 a.m.
As for the soap scum it could be your water. I'm not sure which - hard or soft water - may leave more soap residue in your hair. I actually don't have any advice with what you experienced.
Anonymous on Aug. 3, 2012, 3:28 p.m.
This article was really informative. Thanks. I've got long hair (below my shoulder blades) which is highlighted (quite heavily by now, since I've been getting highlights for years) and my hair is in a terrible state, dry breaking and brittle. I'm definitely going to try the natural approach you suggest with gentle/home-made bar soap and an apple cider vinegar rinse.
Joan Albright on Aug. 15, 2012, 3:43 a.m.
I've been trying a similar method to yours, but I took my bar soap and turned it into liquid soap with a recipe I found online. I'm only in the second week of it, so I don't know how it will work out for me, but it's good to know I'm on the right track with the soap/vinegar combo.
Dawn Ryan on Sept. 15, 2012, 4:20 p.m.
I have used a weekly or biweekly mix of honey and olive oil on my fine straight hair. Leaves your hair super soft and shiny. You might want to try it out. Let me know what you think. Dawn
E on Jan. 2, 2013, 1:25 a.m.
Hi !! Great post !!! I'm new to this ! I found a youtube video about no poo which might help with your daughter if she chooses to use the shampoo bars again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAmenG5iq0w
Anonymous on Jan. 2, 2013, 4:33 a.m.
Hi! I found your post after a random search on the internet, and I wanted to share my love of olive oil. If you have uncolored hair, rub a very SMALL amount of it on the ENDS of your dry hair, then shampoo as usual. I found that my hair stayed conditioned, not greasy, and didn't get too tangly. After I colored my hair, olive oil didn't condition it enough, but after it grows out I'll return. I also use olive oil all over after I shower in the evenings, I have been amazed at how quickly scars fade, and how much stronger my nails grow.
renee on Jan. 2, 2013, 4 p.m.
good to know! Thanks for sharing.
NaturalMommy on Jan. 15, 2013, 2:36 a.m.
Hi! I am also a no-shampooer. I use 1-2 Tbs baking soda mixed with 8 oz of water to wash, 1 Tabs of apple cider vinegar mixed with water to rinse and-Here is my secret-HONEY to condition! Olive oil makes my hair greasy, even grapeseed oil is too heavy. honey is perfect. Spread it on when hair is wet, let soak in for a minute, then rinse. Honey retains water. My hair is manageable and almost table free, and it is down past the middle of my back. It is my secret weapon! I only use it 2 times a week, and I can wash in between and the softeness stays.
NaturalMommy on Jan. 15, 2013, 2:37 a.m.
Hollie on June 13, 2013, 2:33 a.m.
I loved how the vinegar made my hair feel & shine, but not how it smelled!!! I have curly hair and it is cleansed daily with baking soda and water. The vinegar, to which I added orange oil, smelled great until I got hot and sweated. Others noticed. My Mom said I stank like vinegar : ( so... idk what to do.