Saturday, November 24, 2012

Is a shampoo free life right for you?

I have a confession. I rarely shampoo my hair! I know, I know.. you are probably thinking "Gross!" I thought that same thing when I started reading about the CG or no-poo method. I continued to think that for the first month after deciding to try it! I had been conditioned to think that suds = clean. I now know that isn't true.
I do cleanse my hair every other day to every 3 days. But I use a sulfate and silicone free conditioner to massage my scalp. I also use water soluble products, so they just rinse right out instead of hanging around in my hair. Why, you ask? Because sulfates strip your hair and scalp of it's natural oils and moisture. It can also strip the color out of your hair if you use hair color.
If your hair is dry, frizzy, or undefined, going sulfate free could definitely help! I never even realized how dry my hair was until I started co-washing. My hair is now softer, healthier, less frizzy, more defined... And my previously weak wave pattern is much stronger!
This was my naked (product free) hair in the beginning of my CG journey, it's mostly straight-ish, with a few uneven waves showing through. There is a lot of frizz, and he waves would fall out and my hair would just be poofy by the end of the day.

This is my naked hair now. (Forgive the uneven cut, I corrected that!) I have strong (as in, they don't fall out) even waves starting a couple of inches from my scalp. In the front where you can't see, the sides have a very strong (they will not straighten, even with a flat iron) spiral pattern. If they started higher, they would be actual curls instead of waves! There isn't much frizz, either!
This is my styled hair about a month after starting CG. The waves are still a little uneven. No frizz, nice and defined. But they are 2 dimensional S waves, with the curl pattern somewhere around 2B.

My styled hair from yesterday! Much more curl, a little frizz from scrunching too much, but not bad. Defined, spiral-y waves that have gone from 2B waves a year and a half ago, to a definite 2C today.

What is the CG (Curl Girl) or no-poo method?
Quite simply, you avoid sulfates and silicones in hair products. I have talked about how sulfates strip oils and moisture from your hair and scalp. This leads to dried out ends and an overproduction of oil from the scalp as it tries to compensate for being stripped. Or, if you are like me, who has chronically dry skin all over anyway, just dryness from root to tip!
Why is it important to avoid silicones?
Silicones aren't ALL bad. Some super strict CGers may want to rip up my CG card for saying that, but honestly, I believe it's true. Silicones can provide slip (detangling power) in shampoos and conditioners. They can act as an anti humectant in styling products. Which can help lock humidity out in the humid summer months, and help keep moisture from escaping in the dry winter months. The trick is, understanding which silicones are water soluble and which aren't. You have to understand that if you choose to use non-water soluble silicones that co-washing (washing with conditioner) won't be enough to remove them. And understanding what ingredients in your cleanser will remove them.
Silicones form a film over the hair shaft. If this isn't cleansed away on a regular basis, it can continue to build up and start to cause problems. The build up will make it impossible to properly condition your hair, because it can't get in the hair. It may start to look frizzy, undefined, or dry. Build up can weigh hair down. It may feel dirty or waxy. Here is a link to a silicone solubility chart. I recommend bookmarking this for easy reference. In general, anything ending in -cone, -conol, or -xane is a silicone. If the silicone is preceded by the letters PEG or PPG, it has been modified to be water soluble. There are some exceptions. As cyclomethicone does not build up and evaporates as it dries. Any sulfate shampoo will get silicones off your hair. But a gentler solution is choosing a low sulfate shampoo that contains cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine.
However, I highly recommend avoiding all silicones until you, and your hair and scalp, have adjusted to sulfate free life. It's just much simpler. There is just so much to learn at first that adding the complexity of silicones just isn't worth it. If, after you have a handle on sulfate free life, you want to experiment with silicones, I won't judge you! But, don't start adding a bunch of new products at once.This doesn't just apply to silicone containing products, it's pretty much a good rule of thumb in general. That way, if something goes right, you know what caused it. The same goes for if something goes wrong.
There are of course other ingredients that may cause build up, or that you may find difficult to co-wash out. Polyquats can be a problem for some. Some oils or butters may wash out fine for some, and others may find it nearly impossible. Going to a sulfate free method is a journey! You must learn about your hair. It's properties (for instance fine hair reacts differently than course hair, as does low porosity hair vs. porous hair, etc), what ingredients your hair likes and which it doesn't. Styling techniques that work for 90% of wavies or curlies may not work for you.
However, if you are tired of struggling with frizz, limp hair, hair that is too fluffy, or undefined waves or curls, then it is all definitely worth it.
If you have decided to give a no or low-poo method a try, stay tuned for my next post! I will explain how to get started!