BEAUTY & SKINCARE

The Rapunzel challenge | Hair Health Quest #1

“Your hair is sooo shiny!” (…bitch)
“How do you make your hair bounce?” (She says it’s natural. Oh, come on!)

Oh, those lovely compliments. But I don’t deserve them. You see, my hair sits there and shines and bounces and there is nothing I can do (I know: bitch). Not that I haven’t tried.

My hair colour went in about 8 to 10 years from ginger to garnet red to swedish blonde to platinum blonde to auburn to black to honey blonde to platinum blonde to black to strawberry brown to (now) natural. The shine was always there (except once, as the hair stylist didn’t properly rinse off the bleach and some especially platinum-toned tresses went hell, yes, we’re porcupine quills!). It was always bouncy, and always a massive, stubborn thatch, greeted by stylists with “whoa, that’s a lot of hair”.

The secret to having hair as healthy as mine is simple: I’m totally lazy when it comes to beauty rituals.

I have curled my hair ONCE in my life; and I’m even too lazy to fetch the hair drier. I only bought a crazy expensive ceramic flat iron because my hair stylist said it could also do curls (and I sold it unused on eBay two weeks later). Maybe it were the fumes of my colour treatments? Because I must have been temporarily insane every time I bought a bottle of styling foam, or spray, or gel, or wax. All styling products went to garbage, often unused. Given what I do know about the formulas of those today, my lazyness might have as well saved my hair.

But wait! The horrible revelation goes on. I didn’t own a brush for about ten years. And the craziest thing of all is that I’m even too lazy to… actually wash my hair. Anybody with thick hair knows what I’m talking about: it takes ages to get the hair wet and then to spread the shampoo; it drains the Lake Baikal to send the shampoo down the drain. And then drying it… My hair is rather dry to normal, and so I wash it twice a week if I have appointments, once a week if it’s a quiet week at my desk. I keep a dry shampoo handy, just in case, but I haven’t used it once; it’s organic, lavender-scented and talc-free, and sits in a very Alfons Mucha/ art-nouveau packaging, just for the record.

Oh the irony of fate. Isn’t it BEAUTYCALYPTIC?

It seems I had found, by mere lazyness, the healthiest hair beauty regimen ever! Because that’s what most beauty experts today agree upon as basic steps for healthy hair (oh, there is far more advice but here’s some to start with):

  1. Don’t wash your hair everyday; and rinse it very well
  2. Pick a Sodium-Laureth-Sulfate/Sodium-Lauryl-Ether-Sulfate-free shampoo
  3. Don’t use silicone-based product
  4. Don’t use harsh styling product
  5. Don’t comb wet hair
  6. Try air-drying your hair to prevent it from drying out

Amazing, innit? How all falls into place.

Now for the sake of better understanding, let me break down in a quick way the WHYs to those basic DOs and DONTs. Also: I must admit, my search for a perfect shampoo is not over yet (and I’m testing new stuff for 12 years now).

1. Rinsing: Product residue makes hair look dull or sit flat and causes some dandruff-like flaking. And washing our hair everyday makes our scalp either more dry/sensitive or more greasy: our skin is smart, it tries to fight the dryness (induced by excessive washing) by producing more sebum in order to keep the moisture.

2. SLS/SLES: Those two are very powerful industry surfactants/detergents (“industry” as in: they wash cars and tanks and planes with it). But since our skin needs its natural skin fat, and SLS/SLES can’t tell which fat to remove (dirt) and which to keep (skin fat), the result is dryness and irritation. And dry and irritated scalp  means weakened hair roots – means flaky skin and more hair loss than usual. So yes, SLS/SLES are harsh and irritating. And while they seem non-carcinogenous (they aren’t listed in the IARC Monographs), they’re known to be possibly contaminated with a substance called 1,4-Dioxane. Which is a cancerogen.

I don’t get the fuss, though. This stuff is used to cleanse soil, tar and fat off a tank bum! And there are healthier, non-irritant alternatives used in good organic shampoos, so why we need this discussion and why manufacturers stick with the harsh stuff is really a mystery.

3. Silicones: These are polymers = artificial and non-biodegradable. This said, try to imagine how they work. Other than natural oils that are absorbed by skin, silicones (often referred to as “dry oils” for their silky but fat-free texture) wrap around everything they are put on.

But anyway, if you use a silicone styling product once in a while – for shine or defrizz – it will really work beautifully. It’s just that your whole hair care and styling line shouldn’t be silicone-based, as most hair experts say today. Ironically, you’ll need SLES/SLS to get rid of silicone residue in your hair, because milder detergents will not be able to remove the plastic. There are more things about silicone to know – for example that it’s nonrecyclable – but for now let’s settle with:

The knowledge of unwanted silicone effects has become so popular these days (as opposed to, say, five years ago) that even major, non-organic brands are launching “silicone-free” lines. There we go.

4. Styling: Many styling products’ INCI/ingrendient lists often read like a mad scientist’s shopping list. Again, if you stop preventing your scalp from doing its job (e.g. if you stop washing it everyday using irritant shampoos and if you ditch polymers for natural oils), you might discover that your now softer tresses look better and need less styling. A good haircut is another story 🙂

5. Combing: Wet hair is extremely soft and weak. If your curls and tresses do need detangling, carefully (!) use your natural comb: your fingers.

6. Air-drying: It’s all about preserving the moisture. Many hair experts say you could use the cold-air mode of your hair-drier, but personally I don’t like it. It’s like standing in the wind that smells of smoldering plastic 🙂

You think that way easy? Hold on, I’ll pick up on the matter next week, examining in my alchemy cellar some widely used (and grossly unhealthy) hair care ingredients.

But this, dear Adventurer, is it for now. Good luck!
The ride goes on.

16 replies »

    • Yup! A friend of mine says it’s like with a watch: the day you let a watchmaker cleanse or fix it it will constantly be out of order 😀

    • Yup, that’s the main idea. I’ve seen so many friends change their shampoo and, you know, stop clogging up the drains and “montblanc’ing” their shoulders. But I’m always, always pro health checks too. It’s pointless to bathe in expensive or even healthy cosmetics if one is lacking vitamins or something else’s wrong.

        • the natural are the best; yet nutritionists claim that industrial processing drains the good stuff. it’s all tricky.

          • Finally found tonight sulfate free shampoo and conditioner–totally sold, merci!!!

            And yes, because of you, I actually read the ingredients on some of the Frenchy “healthy” hair stuff I have and found a ton of…alcohol???

                • useful INCO knowledge: they put it on most used first, and all things that make <1% of the content are put in no specific order right behind so it's impossible to tell how much of #9 they put into it. but whatever's number 1 (usually water) is like 90% of the bottle. so alcohol shouldn't be the second or third, the common sense suggests.

                  but yea. it's kind of a science of its own.