Monday, January 17, 2011

Healthy Hair

I have always been one to get really into my hair. In high school i graduated with long, pink hair (much to a certain scholarship presenter's chagrine.) In college, i continued experimenting with various bright, candy colors, and my 'adulthood' brought a new obsession of cutting it shorter and shorter and punkier until my wedding when i started to grow it back out for no reason and am now dedicated to getting it as long and as healthy as i can. My hair was quite long in high school, but it was never all that healthy. I ate pop tarts and free lunch. In college i was obsessed with boiled potatoes. In my early 20s i ate salad for dinner every night - which actually was pretty balanced and healthy, but mostly vegetarian. The past few years since the wedding, i've been growing most of my produce, eating more animal proteins and fats, including the gelatin-rich stock i cook and can myself, and have been taking certain grooming steps to improve the health of my hair. When it comes to hair, skin and nails diet is the number one factor contributing to their health of malaise, but there are some 'beauty' tips that can help your tresses manage their stresses.

One step that i actually skipped most of my life is: BRUSHING. Brushing hair helps to dislodge dirt particles, stimulates the follicles, and spreads hair oils over the shaft of the hair and away from the scalp. Brushing can help manage scalp problems and definitely makes the hair happier, especially if you bend over and brush with your head hanging down. Never brush your hair when wet, however: wet hair is more elastic than dry hair and thus can break more easily. For this reason, also never put your hair up in a ponytail or other tightly bound up-do when wet.
Chamomile, nettle, wild cherry bark: good. Sodium Laureth Sulfate: bad
The second most important factor in your scalp and hair's health is: Choose the right shampoo and conditioner and consider adding a hair rinse to your shower regime. It is nearly impossible to find a natural shampoo lacking the ingredient sodium laurel (laureth) sulfate. SLS is a surfectant and a powerful 'de-greaser' that can be found at the car wash! It's no wonder the drying effects it has on human skin. There is also evidence that SLS can contribute to cancers, liver toxicity and other health problems by being absorbed through the skin. Even the natural shampoos usually have some hiding in there. SLS is added to soaps, toothpaste, shampoos and detergents to work up a lather. Most folks aren't too keen on rubbing in a shampoo that doesn't fill their hair with sudsey cow licks because that's what they're used to. A shampoo with less lather is not necessarily less cleansing, and if more folks were willing to wash their hair with less suds, we'd have a lot fewer scalp and health problems.

I have had scalp problems most of my life (no, not dandruff - that would be easy enough to fix) and have long sought a shampoo without SLS, to no avail. I use Nature's Gate shampoo and conditioner, presently, but made some shampoo soap this weekend containing soothing herbs, hydrating and cleansing oils, and NO surfectants! I can't wait to use it, but it needs to cure for one whole month. The shampoo i currently use has all sorts of chamomile and jojoba in it, but also has SLS. Poo on them. I was happy to read the conditioner label, however and find no added surfectants - just nice, all natural herbs and oils as sugested on the label. Jojoba has really helped my scalp, as has chamomile. I recommend that oil and herb combo to anyone else with scalp or other skin problems.

When researching recipes for the shampoo bar i cooked up, i also researched conditioners and found some plausible recipes including this one:
Combine the ¼ cup olive oil,¼ cup vegetable oil, ½ cup water, 2 tbsp honey and boil on stove. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer into a spray bottle. Spray on wet hair and wrap hair in towel for 15 minutes. Remove towel and rinse. Store conditioner in a cool place between uses.
That sounds great, but like an awful lot of effort. I don't take much time to beautify myself very often, so it's hard for me to get into a regiment that involves sitting things on my head for 30 minutes to deep condition. I'm more of a splash it through my hair every shower kind of person. So, i think i'll try my shampoo bar, but stick with store bought "Nature's Gate Herbal" conditioner followed by the hair rinse i already use, it really does make my hair super shiny and my scalp happy. I've also added a nightly polish and brush with rosemary and lavender oil, and may add an occasional deep treatment with olive oil, yogurt, or egg. Rosemary is excellent (in tea form and as an essential oil) for your hair.

I sell my "Herbal Hair Tonics" at market, and have enjoyed using them but wasn't overly convinced they were really the cat's pajamas until i tried upping the cider vinegar content and skipping my conditioner. Soft! Shiny! Detangled! The herbs i choose nourish my hair and scalp ( i have no more scalp problems, by the way ) and the cider vinegar sluffs all the built up oil and soap residue from my hair, naturally detangles, and brings out a really pretty shine. The longest ends of my hair are from 3 Summers ago, yet there are veritably no split ends to the sun damaged locks.


Herbal Hair Polish
Equal parts rosemary and lavender essential oils with optional olive or jojoba oil as an extender
Simply mix together and rub on the hair in the evenings when you brush. I like to dab a little on my palm, rub, then coat the ends. You don't need much, and it makes your hair smell super nice for bedtime. I sometimes braid my hair for bed to keep my hair from choking me to death in my sleep, and the oil can soak in that way.

Herbal Hair Tonic with ACV
Make a tea of organic herbs: rosemary, chamomile, lavender, sage, nettle if you have it.
Strain well and add 3 parts herb tea to 1 part apple cider vinegar
Store in an old shampoo or lotion bottle and rinse over hair and scalp after washing and conditioning as normal. I like to use conditioner in every other shower, but always use my hair rinse. I have naturally wavy hair, that is usually straight: using this rinse makes it super shiny and much wavier.

Herbal Hair Rinse

As a final note - my husband has very thin hair. He's been concerned about his 'bald spot' for a long time, though it never seems to grow. Lately he's been getting a lot of compliments from his friends and family that his hair is looking much thicker and more healthy. I tend to agree. There's definitely a lot to be said for a healthy diet full of leafy green veggies and healthy animal proteins! The hair rinse can't hurt either, ay?

Do you have a favorite product or method to keeping your hair looking happy?
this post can also be found at Simple Lives Thursday - a blog hop.

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Thank you so much for your feedback, especially if you've cooked one of my recipes or tried one of my tips: let me know how it turned out!