When I decided to chronicle my journey of greening my daily routine, I knew some parts of the journey would prove far easier than others. Switching from chemical body wash to a more natural beauty bar: simple. Switching my children from neon-colored “kid” toothpaste to a more natural formula: simple. Greening my multiple-product, chemically-infused hair care process: about as frightening as my first viewing of The Blair Witch Project.
Now anyone who knows me will tell you my hair is far from enviable. Flecks of silver are gradually infiltrating my dark tresses, my curls often feel like straw, and their temperamental waves never manage to repeat a good hair day two days in a row. I’ve used a chemical hodge-podge of curl-generating mousses, Moroccan oil treatments, leave-in conditioners, frizz-control gels, straightening creams, and shampoo/conditioner combinations in an effort to strike a balance between the perpetually wet-looking curls of “Weird Al” Yankovic and the unfettered, poofed-out frizz of Roseanne Rosannadanna. It’s not an easy line to walk. My hair care products serve as my crutch.
And yet I knew I’d have to change my routine as part of this project. And it scared the tar out of me.
Why is hair such a touchy topic? People get quite sensitive about it, allowing only certain stylists to touch it, using only salon-quality products to clean and style it, and trying any chemical compound on the market promising to make it more shiny, colorful, and abundant. So why all the fuss? Probably because hair is our #1 accessory. It’s generally the first thing we notice about one another, second only to body type. We care about hair. I care about my hair, even if it isn’t always as lovely as I’d like. So switching up my hair routine scared me. But I knew it had to be done.
I briefly pondered going whole-hog and doing the “No Poo” method, which involves scrubbing your scalp with baking soda and rising with diluted apple cider vinegar; however, I chickened out after trying the rinse for a few days and smelling perpetually like a salad. So I decided to go “low-poo” instead, using a sulfate-free, ewg.org-approved shampoo/conditioner combo. I chose an herbal infused combo that smells lovely and lathers only slightly, but makes my hair feel clean and smell fresh. It costs more than my old brand, but not by much. And since I only shampoo a few times a week, the expense is manageable, even for a frugal mom like me. Mission accomplished there.
The bigger challenge for me comes with styling. Curls are not easy critters to manage, as any curly girl will tell you. I resolved to go au naturale and completely eliminate all the chemical junk I’d been plastering on for years. I’d heard that coconut oil works well as a leave-in conditioner, so I picked up a tub of it and put some in a small bottle under my bathroom sink. I’d squirt a bit into my hand each morning (about a dime-sized drop) and work it into my hair, trying to focus mostly on the ends. This seemed like a good idea in theory. Coconut oil already appears in many body products and smells simply lovely. In practice, however, it proved less than lovely. My hair often looked oily, and that sweet, nutty smell soon morphed into just an “oily” smell.
So I have to admit a temporary failure on this one for now. I’ve gone back to my name-brand fizz-control mousse (a can I’d already started before beginning my mission, so I don’t feel too terrible about this). I’ll use up this crutch as I continue to seek out effective greener alternatives. Care to share any? I’m open to any and all suggestions!
Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer and editor, and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.