zero waste hair care

Hair

Since the age of 12, I washed with chemical shampoos and conditioners, blow dried my hair, then curled the entire thing.  It took me an hour or so to complete the process, and in between washing every 2 days, I’d curl it all over again every day.  Even when camping.  Even when tired.  Even when I was sick.  I’d been conditioned to believe, like so many women with frizzy or wavy or curly hair, that my hair wasn’t good enough as it was, naturally.  I remember one time when I was 19 and woke up late for work and didn’t have time to do my hair.  I was forced to leave it naturally kinky and wavy.  My male boss pulled me aside and told me that I looked unprofessional and that I needed to “do something” about my hair.  Face flushed red with shame, I could hardly focus the rest of my shift.  From talking to other women, this is pretty normal, and what I experienced is tame compared to others.  If your hair is naturally not silky smooth and straight or symmetrically and softly wavy, it’s not “professional”.  You won’t be taken seriously.  People think you need to brush your hair, or that you’re unkempt and don’t take care of yourself.  I know that hair bias is a serious and disgustingly racist problem in our society, especially for black women.

hair

frizzy, thick, fine, wavy and wild

My mom has naturally super, super curly hair that she’s been wrangling into submission twice a week for decades- she wakes up early to get this done, to complete the transformation from her tightly coiled curls to big, loose, curling iron barrel curls.  Watching this as a girl, I’d internalized this kind of silent rejection of my true appearance too.  Let’s not even touch on the fact that I hated the dark brown shade of it, too- always wanting a lighter and blonder color.  The wave and the brown color + my freckles and bushy eyebrows made me feel out of place and less feminine, alongside blonde haired, blue eyed peers.

I avoided jumping in swimming pools and lakes and rivers and oceans for years in fear that my true waves would show, frantically covered up my hair with scarves in rain and mist, wore tight hoods at the beach prevent the fog from teasing out frizz.

hair

2016: blow dried, straightened and then curled beyond belief hair, also fake eyelashes haha (I used to wear them EVERY single day for years)

Some months ago, I somehow started seeing clearly my attachment to this routine.  My fear of discontinuing it.  It probably sounds silly if you’re reading this, but seriously it was scary to think about abandoning this routine and this look I had stuck to for all my adult life.  It was like uncovering a bit of my barest self and laying it out for the world to see.  It felt vulnerable and sensitive.  Like scrubbing off a scab, and then going out in the sun with that fresh pink skin underneath.

It feels good to get all that time back, to not have to rely on tools and products to project a false self image of myself.  To spontaneously be free to go out in the morning without spending time heating and pulling my hair.  It has been humbling to my ego, too.  The funny thing is that when I stopped fighting with my hair, it actually got more manageable and I became at peace with what it looks like.  It simply is – wavy, dark and wild.  Honestly, we put so much emphasis on our physical appearance when it’s really the most unstable and changing thing.  I’ve learned the freedom to just accept and simply be what I am and be grateful for this vessel.

Hair

no curling iron, no makeup, no problem.  free

This really didn’t have much to do with zero waste hair care, but adopting a more minimalist routine really cut out the need for a lot of my plastic use in this area.  And, I’ve found this voluntary simplicity to be an unexpected benefit of zero waste: needing less, and feeling confident and joyous in the simplicity.

So here’s my really basic routine that I use on my dry but kind of oily, thick but fine, wavy hair.

First:  I wash my hair about once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the weather and what I’ve been up to that week.  A few years back when I read Arianna’s account about water only washing her hair, I was inspired to stretch out the length between my every other day washes.  Eventually I got to the point where I don’t have to wash as much.  If you’re interested in water only washing click HERE.

Second:  I wash with really gentle shampoo.  I buy Griffin Remedy Daily shampoo/conditioner at my local refill store, Refill Madness in old Kombucha bottles with upcycled pumps.  If you don’t have access to a bulk store, you can alternatively purchase a gallon size jug of shampoo (if you have the financial ability to purchase this much at once).  It’s what the refill stores sell out of anyways.  I tried at least 5 different shampoo bars, and various other package free alternative, like vinegar rinses, rye flour, clay, baking soda, rice water, but they all left my sensitive hair and scalp irritated, dry and flaky but also greasy.  Ugh.  The baking soda especially literally RUINED my hair- it bleached it a weird red color over time and broke off my hair.  The griffin remedy shampoo has lots of plant extracts, soothing aloe vera and calendula and it makes my scalp super happy.  Plaine Products also sells hair care in returnable/refillable metal bottles.

Third:  If I go in pools or salt water, I try to put coconut oil in the lower parts first.  It blocks the chlorine from drying out the cuticle as much.  I also do this sometimes as a mask.  I just can’t get it anywhere near my scalp otherwise it gets way too greasy.  You can use olive or other oils too.  Experiment with what’s available to you in bulk if possible.

Fourth:  I never brush my hair, it breaks my hair off and disrupts my natural wave.  When I get out of the shower, I gently squeeze with a towel and let it dry without touching it.  That way my natural wave pattern looks best.  If I brush, the wave brushes out and it’s simultaneously frizzy, straight, and wavy.  If you do like to brush, there’s lots of wooden pin hair brushes out there like this one.

Fifth:  If I put my hair up, I do so loosely or with a chopstick/clip etc or use a hair tie for a loose bun or braid.  Tight styles break my hair off and also mold my hair into that pattern- meaning, I have to wash/wet again to get out the weird kinks.  Some people probably are grossed out by this, but I sometimes pick up old hair ties off the ground and boil to sterilize, then hand wash with a few drops shampoo.  Reuse and reduce.

What natural or zero waste hair care routine have you found success with?  Have you ever experienced natural hair bias in the workplace?  I’d so love to hear.

xx Amanda

19 thoughts on “zero waste hair care

  1. Love this so much. I’m a naturally wavy girl too and I am constantly battling my internal voice that says my hair is not sophisticated enough. Mine doesn’t grow long either, so I keep it mid to short which makes it pretty curly. Just recently I’ve been trying to go without any product at all (I usually use something to weigh it down and keep it from frizzing) and washing it less. Strangely, I find it gets very dry as the days go by so I’ve been experimenting with an occasional ACV rinse which seems to help. But I’m with you, I CANNOT brush it at all (which is always standard no-poo advice, to distribute oils) or I get a frizzy, weird-textured mess. Seriously, thank you for writing about this! It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in the struggle. 🙂

  2. I thought I was the only one who picked up hair ties and sanitized them! I haven’t washed my hair with shampoo since 2008, but I have used baking soda and ACV so thanks for the inspiration to just use water!

    1. Ooh glad to know I’m not alone haha! Try it out with water, you may enjoy the results! Arianna’s hair is so lovely after 3 years of water only!

  3. Very interesting read. I used to blow dry, flat iron, heat fry, everything to my hair when I was younger. Its sooooo nice to have so much more time to spend on doing things other than my hair now! Plus its so much healthier. Btw, girl you are gorgeous all natural! Best, Carly

    1. Yes! Totally agree that it’s so much healthier without all the chemicals, pulling, tugging and heat. And the time savings is so freeing. Happy to know I’m not alone. Thanks for your sweet comment and support xoxo

  4. I can relate to your struggles with shampoo bars. They somehow have the ability to simultaneously make my hair greasy, frizzy, flat, tacky, dry, and flaky, no matter what kind of vinegar rinse I follow it with. I found the ones from Lush are my best option, but they have sulfates and aren’t really natural or better than traditional shampoos, except for the fact that they’re unpackaged. I still use them for traveling, but am trying to find a local bulk option as a solution for my hair care woes.
    One solution I can recommend is a sugar/salt spray as a hairspray substitute. I put two tablespoons each of sugar and salt in a quart bottle and add hot water, then cap and shake until mixed. It helps my stick-straight hair hold texture and volume while still being super gentle and alcohol-free, which is great for my very fine and delicate hair.

    1. Ugh yes, shampoo bars have been the worst ever for me. I made the mistake of taking one with me last summer for a couple weeks of camping and OMG. My hair was so unmanageable and tangled. Good to know the Lush work well, but my scalp is so sensitive to sulfates and flakes like crazy. I love the hairspray idea! Thanks so much for sharing your hair tips xoxo

  5. Great post! I have very thick hair that’s coarse and a little wavy. For years I had long hair that took an hour to make look smooth and silky soft. I hated the process and my hair. Now I’m 61 and it’s a nice short length I don’t have to mess with too much.

    It’s funny to read this as I’m getting my hair cut today! I typically keep same style, but just want something a little different. I just read about the zero waste shampoo bar soaps too. Thanks for including your comments on those and I won’t be trying them now.

    I do color and highlight trying to keep the gray at bay. While it’s a natural process to age, and gray hair is so much more popular now than ever. But I tried letting it go and just couldn’t stand the gray. 😂. Work in progress. Thanks again for sharing!

  6. It makes me sad to think women are discriminated because of their hair, especially women of color. I think black women with natural hair are incredibly gorgeous!

    On another note, while I don’t “do” my hair, I do color it. My natural color is so blah, so ashy, and without the color, my hair is incredibly flat. I have tried my going natural and it just isn’t flattering with my coloring. Weird, but true.

  7. Hi there!
    I’m all about minimal and simplicity and less waste. I don’t colour my hair because my goal is to grow it out and then donate it and since you can’t donate coloured hair then I just leave it. Besides, my hairs are not gray – they are iridescent silver!

    I am one of the lucky ones to have straight hair (though I do wish for a wave!) and I have found some wonderful products here in Canada that offer bulk options: Carina Organics, Calia Organics and Oneka. Carina also has bulk options for leave-in conditioner, hair gel and hairspray (all unscented) and both Carina and Calia sell bulk unscented jugs of lotion. All natural and extremely gentle.

    It has taken me a while to get used to the new hair because it is so dry where I live and my hair hasn’t gotten to that soft and shiny stage just yet. I also like to use coconut oil as a hair mask and it’s made a difference in the dry state of my locks.

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s such a relief to know that there are other concerned people out there who are fed up with the peer pressure and insecurities that seem to infiltrate our culture and then ourselves. I think it’s time to re-examine our values. Just think of all we could accomplish when we stop spending so much time (and energy and money) on our looks (just so that we can impress people who don’t really matter). Maybe we could solve world problems with our newfound time and freedom and positivity!

    Things seem to be looking up as we continue to progress and learn and grow. It’s exciting!

    1. Hi Lorraine! Thank you SO much for sharing your story and what works for you. I totally agree, it is really empowering to know there are other women out there refusing the limiting standards of society, especially regarding our physical appearance. So many other truly important and worthy things to focus on instead. Sending love xx

  8. This is SO true for me too. My hair is a combination of thick, soft, and wavy. I’ve been letting it go (no blow dry- just homemade sea salt spray), but, admittedly I curl the top 3-4 pieces because they stay straight well the rest of my hair is curly. Mostly because I told myself it looks messy. I wore my hair completely natural at my wedding and to this day my mom still complains I should have had it styled and my makeup done :O I’ve reduced to doing this touch up only about 1x per week as I’ve become obsessed with head scarves and they help with this. Maybe you’ve inspired me to leave those straight pieces alone! My favourite all natural shampoo that has absolutely saved my hair (also failed at the baking soda method), is Living Libations (the spirulina one), sometimes it allows me to only wash my hair once a week. I am now trying to grow it out again, as I dyed it platinum blonde and cut it short in another attempt to make myself look more presentable by societies standards. Transitioning back to my natural now.

    1. hi Jocelyn! thank you for sharing your story. I totally understand the front pieces, I have the curliest pieces all around my face, much more curly than the rest of my hair and forever I was still straightening those out. So the opposite haha! Now I just kind of smooth those my my hands will they’re wet to manipulate it a touch. Maybe you could do something similar, but with twisting or pinning to create a wave there. But, I don’t think it matters much either way, however you feel good and confident. For me, hair was a subconscious way I was covering up my true self and not honoring it. So it felt good to let that go. Your hair always looks beautiful to me, by the way. Also, somehow I never knew you had a blog! Heading to read now. xoxo

  9. The day I finally gave up expensive ass curl creams was one of the best days of my life. Its ridiculous how much money and time I spent trying to make myself look like the women in the pantene commercials. It’s also ridiculous how close my natural hair, without anything in it, looks to how it looked with all that crap in it. It was never going to look like it was “supposed” to, but that didn’t stop me from trying. It’s so true that voluntary simplicity is an amazing benefit to the zero waste lifestyle. And finally being content with who I am is pretty great too.

    1. yes!!! I love this!! Totally agree. It’s crazy how the beauty industry creates, fosters, and feeds off of insecurities with us. so happy you have been empowered too! xx

  10. I tried shampoo bars with poor results and am now using a biodegradable shampoo and washing twice a week. I’m interested in the whole idea of just using water. Might give it a go and see if it works. What have i got to loose!

  11. Love this! I also have thick, wavy hair, but spent all of my teen years and my 20’s straightening it every day. I lived and worked in DC for years and always felt like I was treated like a child if I went to a work event or function with my frizzy, naturally wavy hair. But a few years ago I got into bike commuting, eventually got rid of my car, and the whole process sort of forced me to embrace my natural hair. No style lasts under a bike helmet! I completely agree—so liberating to finally feel at home with your natural look.

    1. I resonate so much with your story and being treated as a child! I love biking too. How amazing you got rid of your car! An ultimate dream of mine. Thanks for sharing your story xoxo

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