I Need...Beautiful Hair

>> Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm going to admit from the get-go that my vanity was a major factor in this category. I don't have gorgeous commercial-worthy hair, but I still like my hair. A lot. So where I might be willing to make some sacrifices for the environment in other categories, when it came to my hair, I just wasn't willing to compromise. In the end, I found something that worked for me, but boy, it was a long month of ugly hair to get there.

But you have to consider that there is a wide range of hair types. So just because something failed on my hair, doesn't mean it won't work for you. Experiment until you find the right shampoo for your hair type. The bad hair doesn't last forever!

Here are the ingredients to watch out for when shopping for shampoo and conditioner:

  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: These are foaming agents in shampoos and can cause skin and eye irritation and allergic reactions.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA): These ingredients help your shampoo to lather, but they can react with other ingredients in the shampoo (particularly preservatives) to form carcinogenic substances.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the developing male reproductive tract.
  • Parabens: Widely used preservatives, parabens mimic estrogen in the body and may increase the risk for certain types of cancer.
Besides the health concerns, another reason to change your shampoo is the packaging: most shampoos come in a plastic bottle.

The first three Baby Steps here are tips I've picked up over the years from my hairstylist, who is also my sister. She has gorgeous hair. It really is commercial-worthy.


  • Be stingy with the amount of shampoo and conditioner you use. Average length hair only needs a nickel-sized drop of each product. Plus, salon-style shampoos are generally more concentrated than your run-of-the-mill grocery store shampoo, so you don't need much. The less you use, the longer that bottle of super-expensive shampoo will last.
  • When shampooing, focus on the roots. When conditioning, focus on the ends. Using this method, you can get away with using less.
  • Don't wash your hair every day. My sister washes her hair every other day, sometimes every third day. And I'm telling you, she has terrific hair.
  • Supersize your shampoo. Pick products that you can get in bulk containers. The bigger, the better.
  • Check Skin Deep for less toxic shampoo and conditioners. Beth over at Smart Family tips has created an awesome list of products that rate low on Skin Deep and can be found at most drugstores, Target, or Kroger.
  • Try a shampoo bar, and bypass the container completely. Look for a local soap maker at your farmer's market - they often carry shampoo bars. Or try the Burt's Bees Rosemary and Mint Shampoo Bar or a Lush product.
  • Use a concentrated liquid castile soap like Dr. Bronners. You can get Dr. Bronners in giant containers, and since it's concentrated, you only need to use a little bit. Or you can mix it with an herbal water like in this recipe.
  • Go no 'poo. Despite the weird name, all this really means is that you use baking soda to wash your hair, and you don't wash your hair very often, supposedly letting your hair return to its natural state. But first you have to go through a nasty detox phase, where your hair looks and feels awful. If you're interested, you can find out more information about "no poo" all over the Internets, such as here.
  • Use apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse instead of conditioner. Commonly paired with "no poo," apple cider vinegar returns hair to its naturally acidic pH. But you have to tolerate smelling like a salad.

Tips for the Budget Conscious
Baking soda and vinegar are super cheap, but if you want something more mainstream, pick a product that you can get concentrated or in a bulk size. And as always, use less.

Where I'm At
A couple years ago, I experimented with some different "all natural" shampoos and was not impressed. They were too watery, which meant I was going through a bottle of shampoo twice as fast as I was used to. And these were not cheap products. For awhile, I used the Whole Foods brand (but it has sodium lauryl sulfate in it), but mostly I used some nice, but definitely not non-toxic, products my sister would get for me from her salon.

At the start of this month, I picked up a bar of the Burt's Bees Rosemary and Mint Shampoo. I liked it the first day - it made my hair slightly filmy, as if I had put some kind of styling product in it. The second day, the filminess was weighing my hair down, and by the third day, my hair was a greasy mess.

Next, I tried the Dr. Bronner's soap mixed with herbal water. Same thing. I think I might have hard water, which would mean the soap is not rinsing out properly.

During both of these weeks (and the week prior with my regular shampoo), I tried using apple cider vinegar as a rinse. It worked fine and the smell went away by the time my hair was dry, but there were a couple times when I started sweating and the vinegary smell would come back. Overall, I just didn't like it.

Desperate not to have ugly hair, I picked up bottles of Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit and Sugar Beet shampoo and conditioner from Target. It works great and only scores a 2 on Skin Deep, but it comes in a small plastic bottle with a hefty price tag.

Finally, following a tip from JessTrev, I headed to the Lush store. The great thing about going with Lush is that they have a variety of shampoo bars, so logically there would be one to meet every hair type. And they have sales clerks that can help you pick out what you need. The downside is that Lush is very expensive. And smelly. If you have an allergic reaction to fragrances, this is not the shampoo for you. But the shampoo bar I got is working great, and supposedly it will last as long as three bottles of shampoo, so the price tag isn't as scary as it sounds. If you don't have a Lush store in your area, you can order online.

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Jami March 4, 2009 at 8:49 PM  

On a side note, if you dye your hair, the sulfates tend to wipe out dye faster. A lot of the hair salon products have less sulfates in them for that reason.

- Jami Leckie

Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 9, 2009 at 9:00 PM  

Jami - Thanks for the tip! I do dye my hair, and sadly, that is one thing I will probably not be making greener anytime soon. :)

needsofabeautiful March 14, 2009 at 6:45 PM  

rYour very beautiful and there are wonderful ideas
Greetings to

Billie May 5, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

Interestingly enough, I used LUSH for exactly one bar. It did last forever. I think I got 6 or 7 months out of a single bar. By the end of it, I couldn't wait to get rid of it. I ended up with dandruff, itchy scalp and soap scum in my hair. LUSH also has SLS in most of their products which I didn't want.

I ended up using a product from Chagrin Vally Soap that I am pleased with. I started out using their Nettle Shampoo bar to get rid of the dandruff and have since switched over to their Olive Oil bar. So far... so good.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper May 5, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

Billie - Shampoo is definitely one of those things that varies from person to person. Glad you found something that works for you!

I'm still enjoying my Lush bar. I really liked that they had so many varieties, so I could say to the salesperson, "My hair is naturally greasy," and she could say, "Then you should use this shampoo bar." They took the SLS out of many of their products - I think that was a fairly recent change and due to consumer demand.

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