Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Splitting Hairs

There’s no denying it.  Once I began replacing household and personal care products with simple, homemade substitutes, an irresistible energy took hold of me.  Now, no product is safe from experimentation.  The latest in my repertoire of homemade fabrications is shampoo.

The reason I chose this product is, in part, due to the local water, which is extremely hard, high in minerals like calcium and lime.  These minerals form crusts on everything water touches, and my scalp was no exemption.   It itched constantly – unusual for me – and felt hardened and scaly.  The shampoos I tried, which were only a few familiar brands, rather than remove or prevent the buildup, seemed to add to it.  It was time to try something different.

Researching other methods of hair care, throughout time, I discovered many of the wealthy used light oils, made from seeds or nuts, for hair care.  The oils were believed to cleanse hair without stripping its natural luster.   For the poorer folk, the closest thing to shampoo was an herbal rinse.  Many of those natural ingredients and herbs are still used today in commercial formulations.

With this in mind, I went shopping for shampoo recipes.  I found several web-sites, offering a wide variety of recipes, ingredients, and processes, some of which were easily found and made.  Others, not so much.  My choices boiled down to availability of ingredients, ease of preparation, and the purported effects.  For instance, I’ve recently let my grey grow out.  Though I’m happy to have finally out-lasted the lengthy growing-out period, and am delighted with the results, I do have some areas still stubbornly tan.  It dulls the grey, making it look muddy, so I chose a formula for its abilities to enhance shine and, with the addition of lemon, lighten locks.

The first formula I made is called “Shine” and the results, so far, are interesting.  I like the feel and control-ability of my hair.  At first, it didn’t lather well, but I found that, by shaking the liquid in its bottle until completely foamy (no liquid still sloshing about,) it lathers nicely.   Its fragrance is subtle, but I added this “according to preference.”  The formulation leaves my wet hair feeling silky smooth, if a tad oily.  Yet, when dry, my hair has no oily feeling at all.  But then, my naturally dry hair appreciates a light oil treatment to help keep it soft.  I tried using homemade rinse agents and conditioners, but found I really didn’t need them with this new shampoo.  Single-handedly, it leaves my hair perfectly manageable.  Better, in fact, than any shampoo+conditioner+styling product combination I’ve ever used, and also resulting in fewer split ends.  As someone who suffers from bed-head – OH the horror! – manageability is of prime importance.  Now, I’m not claiming that “the bed-head is dead” but, since I began using “Shine,” my hair is so much tamer morning brush-outs actually SUCCEED!  I don’t need to saturate my hair each day just to restore some semblance of order.  Amazing!

What impresses me is that the first mixture is still in use.  I made a half recipe, back on December 23rd, thinking it would provide a good “sampling” and then I’d try another formula for comparison.  As you can see (in the photo on the left,) that first mixture is still in use after providing… least 16-20 applications, with yet a couple more to go!  Quite literally, it has cost pennies per use.

Perhaps the most unexpected result has been a reduction of allergy symptoms.  True, unusually damp weather is no doubt affecting the situation but a recent hair cut revealed another contributing factor.  As usual, the stylist washed, conditioned, and styled my hair with various products, all of which, I haven’t used in nearly two months.  Within a couple hours, I had developed a persistent headache but thought it was stressed induced – being in the midst of resolving computer “issues.”  However, the headache stayed for days.  From experience, I know an allergy headache, and treated myself with a few neti-pot rinses.  But each day I’d suffer that same pounding headache.  Then, I shampooed with the homemade formulation and my headache went away…until I slept again.  It occurred to me that the pillow case still smelled like the hair products and decided to wash them, too.  Presto!  That was the end of the headaches.  I still get the occasional sinus problem, when weather conditions are right, but this salon experience made me realize some products and scents cause me significant irritation and discomfort.

I’ll definitely try other formulations.  I’ve already got the “Soothe” formula concocted and waiting.  While I like the first shampoo, I’m interested in trying this one for its lightening properties...for those still stubborn browns.  ; }