Natural Hair Care by Marie Wheelwright


Nature’s bounty of shampoo alternatives and how Indian Head Massage can help.

To shampoo or not to shampoo, is the question more of us are asking as we become increasingly health conscious and ecologically aware. Many of us are questioning the use of harmful chemicals in our beauty products and seeking sustainable alternatives for both us and our planet.

No shampoo isn’t strictly a trend, having, by sheer necessity, been around for more years than any of us have hairs on our heads. It was about all anyone could do before the invention of shampoo. At around the start of the twentieth century shampooing became widespread, after some boffin or other had the brilliant idea of using sulphates like sodium laurate sulphate to strip the hair of its natural oils, and eureka, a multibillion-dollar industry was born.

Recently, many of us have looked at our limp, frazzled locks in dismay, wondering if, in fact, this was ever such a great idea. Is shampooing really the way to go? The Curly Girl Method has become a global phenomenon as women step into their power, embracing glorious, natural locks, refusing once and for all to be something they’re not. The era of being frowned upon at work for not having iron straight hair, the stereotype of curls equalling ditsy or disorganised is thankfully long gone.

Many hairdressers are now advising clients to wash less in order to preserve the hair’s natural oils, prevent breakage and hair fall. Nothing screams health and vitality like luscious hair in optimal condition. And of course, with all the shampooing, comes a bucket load of other hair care tasks. Conditioning, applying masks, serums, styling and blow drying to perfection, mouses, sprays and other styling products, the works. Chemical overload for ourselves and the earth. Surely, life is too short.

The word shampoo, comes from the Indian Champu. It refers not to any specific product, but the shampooing action. This highly beneficial technique is truly magical and one of the main techniques used in Indian Head massage, or champissage, a 2000-year-old Ayurvedic therapy. Indian Head Massage cleanses the scalp, stimulates the follicles, distributes oils, and may prevent hair loss and premature greying. It can reduce headaches and tension and improve mental wellbeing. To experience this blissful and highly effective technique for yourself, book a Zone Face Lift combined with Indian Head massage, or to sample at home for free, simply put your dry head upside down to allow for blood flow to the scalp. and use a firm but gentle pressure to perform a shampooing action all over. Repeat without rinsing!

Obviously, this shampooing action won’t be enough for most. There are those lucky souls who do find that after a six-week hair detox, refraining from shampooing, they need only ever need use good old-fashioned water to cleanse the hair and step outside looking fabulous. I am not one of these mythical beasts. Chances are, you won’t be either. I’ve tried the no shampoo method on and off, mostly on, as I am absolutely useless with a styling product, a hair dryer or a tong, for about twenty years, using natural shampoo alternatives. Sometimes it’s worked fabulously, other times I’ve left the house a greasy mess, but I’ve learned a lot and had fun with mud.

So here is a whistle stop tour of my favourite tried and tested shampoo alternatives. The supplier I trust most is Suvarna. There are sellers on Ebay but please read the reviews to make an informed decision as to whether to purchase from them.

First, the history. Whatever did we do way back? Did we all look like this…

Or is it possible to look like this?

It is. But to get there, involves this.

Mother earth has provided us with bountiful muds, clays and powders, used since antiquity to support luscious locks.

These are just a few of my favourites.

Shikakai Powder

The name means Fruit of the Hair. This is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal hair care treatment with a low PH. Shikakai, mixed into a paste and applied to the hair, leaves it silky soft and nourished. I personally use Shikakai when my hair is already quite clean and just needs a little pick me up.

Simply mix a couple of teaspoons into a jar. Slowly add tea spoons of luke warm water to make a paste and apply to damp hair from root to tip. I prefer to do this in the shower as it can be a bit messy. Make sure you don’t get any of these powders in your eyes. Trust me, it stings worse than shampoo. That’s the inconvenient thing about all these methods. Admittedly, shampoo fits in well with our hectic pace of life, being so user friendly and all. It’s worth persevering with no shampoo though, as you get better with practise and the benefits are tremendous, so maybe start your experiment on a weekend when there’s a little more time.

After applying you could rinse straight away, or go make a brew, brush your teeth, do whatever else you do in morning for ten minutes, then step back into the shower, and rinse using a vigorous shampooing action.

Soapnut, or Reetha

This is my go-to when my hair needs a deeper clean. My hair feels AMAZING after using this. Super soft, clean and shiny. It’s been used for centuries and is chock full of vitamins A D E and K. It’s great for promoting hair growth.

This is what it looks like before it’s ground into a powder. You can buy it already ground into powder form.

Just follow the same steps as for Shikakai. It does remove more of the natural oils from the hair than Shikakai however. So sometimes, if my hair is feeling dry after use, I might follow up with an organic conditioner after the massage and rinsing.

Rassoul Clay

A beautiful, rich, mineral clay from Morocco. It’s use in hair care dates back to the 8th century at least. It provides an amazing deep clean, leaving hair soft, detangled and moisturised. It can be applied and left on as a mask if you’re at the start of your no shampoo journey and need to remove a build-up of products from limp, lanky locks. Just don’t let it dry out too much, as this can cause breakage.

There are many, many other clays and powders out there to experiment with, including neem powder, bentonite clay and green clay. In Aveda, Bhringray clay is recommended for hair loss, Alma for curls. You can experiment with which is best for your hair, build up a collection and use in rotation. They are all fairly inexpensive.

Essential oils can also be added to hair masks and washes.

Rosemary is a particular favourite of mine. It improves thickness and is especially good for dark hair. Natural blondes benefit from chamomile. Ylang Ylang smells divine, and is great for dry, brittle hair. Lavender is a great antibacterial choice for the scalp.

Another tip is to soak the hair in your detoxifying Epsom salt bath as it adjusts to no shampoo, a seriously soothing, super nourishing pick me up for the hair.

Phew. That’s a lot of information.

Perhaps no shampoo is a step too far for you. Even though these powders do make the transition less painful, perhaps you’re a something involving interaction with people on a daily basis and making a decent impression, and so unless there’s another lockdown and we all get to stay home, you cannot realistically go about your business in the oily, limp, six week in between phase as you transition from shampoo. If that’s the case, there is a middle way. You could try a gentle, low shampoo sulphate and paraben free shampoo instead and experiment with extending time between washes. I recommend Green People’s Organic Daily use shampoo with Aloe Vera. A little pricey, but a little goes a long way. Neal’s Yard do a range of beautiful, gentle hair care products, which can be ordered at the Wellness Space. The Wellness Space also stock Weleda’s Revitalsing Hair Tonic containing stonecrop, horseradish and rosemary oil. One of Weleda’s oldest products - Proven stronger, healthier hair and reduced hair loss.

You might mix and match a little, doing powder washes when there’s more time, and using a gentle shampoo on days there isn’t. Whenever steps you take in this direction, will be enormously beneficial to you and your environment, compared to continuing to use a harsh, conventional shampoo everyday. So I invite you to experiment.

Happy No Shampooing.

Marie x

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