Shampoo Wishes And Conditioner Dreams

5884058333_4009fe0d4a_zWhen my holy grail fragrance free shampoo and conditioner was phased out in a rebranding, I was super bummed.  It can be a challenge to find gluten free, vegan products, especially in fragrance free forms that cater to dry skin and curly hair.  And I lost more than a shampoo and conditioner – my basic bath products must be multi-functional.

I guess I’m pretty demanding.  I need my conditioner to function as a rinse-out, leave-in, styling product, and shave cream.  It has to work for a good, soothing scalp scrub on no-poo days.  I like my shampoo to double as a body wash.  And, in case it’s not obvious, the ingredients must be very clean.  Pony and cupcake optional.

3711NDEDesert Essence Organics Fragrance Free Shampoo:  This works well for my once or twice a week shampoo habit, and as my daily body wash.  Desert Essence actually makes a separate body wash, which is fine, but the ingredients are nearly identical, and I prefer the extra moisture that comes with a shampoo.  This product could lean more toward moisturizing than it does, but since I don’t shampoo often I’m happy with it.  It lathers more than many natural shampoos.  It’s a solid performer, and, I think, would please those with normal or oily hair as well.

3712NDEDesert Essence Fragrance Free Conditioner:  The shampoo meets my basic needs, but the conditioner is definitely a holy grail product!  I’m not sure why the company doesn’t have it in the organic line packaging, as it does have several organic ingredients.  It’s very thick and moisturizing – the perfect curly girl conditioner.  It’s awesome for a scalp scrub, and makes me feel clean and fresh without the need for a daily shampoo.  It leaves my hair very soft, and makes  a great shave cream.  It’s perfect on days I use henna, to rinse out the last bit of graininess.  On its own it’s a nice moisturizing leave-in and a great styling product.  I also love to mix it with other styling products to get the consistency and performance I want on any given day.  A pump of this makes my Rahua Hair Wax and John Masters Shine On even more versatile.  A great trick to add extra moisture (and scent if you like) is to mix it with a few drops of your favorite oil.  A bit of May Lindstrom’s The Good Stuff makes this heavenly on days I want scent.

It makes me so happy to find these basic products in a fragrance free version.  An extra bonus is that they are quite inexpensive.  At $8.99/8oz, and add on that it’s not hard to find them on sale, it’s a good bulk purchase.  The upside down squeeze bottle packaging is utilitarian, so I bought glass pump bottles to dispense the products.  Much more convenient, and prettier.

What are your fragrance free favorites?

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There’s kind of an unspoken theme among clean beauty enthusiasts: wash your hair as infrequently as possible. It’s almost like it’s a goal we aspire to, something that earns you bragging rights if you can actually manage to get your hair and scalp to a happy place while only washing every few days. Of course, I speak from the perspective of a woman with fine hair that gets oily if you look at it the wrong way. Some of you, like Alexandra, have the kind of hair that begs not to be washed. (You lucky things!)

When we wash and how we wash ultimately depends on two factors: your hair type and the products you use. One of those is completely out of your control; the other is all about trial and error. This can be a slow, frustrating, and expensive process. That’s why we cherish this community and your comments on the subject! Help a sister out, right? We got an email from Leticia, a “confused reader” who has been following the blog, reading through all the advice on cleaning up your hair routine, and has a very valid question for us all: but why? Take a look at what she has to say:

I have been following your blog for a little while now… really wanting to move all of my products to “clean” ones but do it slowly and not break the bank! So I thought I’d look through your site and see what others are using. After reading through several routines, I started noticing that people aren’t shampooing very often; or they only shampoo their scalp and condition their ends; or they only condition every couple days; and what’s with the oils I’m seeing people putting in their hair and leaving overnight?? I love reading through the routines, but I guess I am just wishing they would say WHY they do what they do, you know?

I generally shampoo and condition every other day with dirty products… does this mean it will change as I use clean ones? How will I know? Why would you only shampoo your scalp and not the rest of your hair? And why not condition all of your hair? Doesn’t the conditioner replace what you stripped out with the shampoo? Or does the “stripping” not occur with clean products? Do you have a good resource that may talk about some of the why’s behind our products, not just products themselves?

Girl, we totally understand! You’re not the first reader to seek similar advice, but the whole question about why we do the things we do could be incredibly valuable in helping someone understand which advice might be best suited to their hair type and personal needs. And who better to explain than YOU, dear readers. So let’s hash it out in the comments, shall we?

What’s your hair routine? Do you shampoo? Condition? Apply oils? Let us know WHY your routine works for you!

Sometimes having curly hair can feel like having a pet (that you never asked your parents for). It needs constant love and attention, petting, fluffing and calming, and you can’t just leave it out in the rain and expect it to behave.

Then one day you discover that, in fact, it’s not as needy as you thought. It actually wants to be independent, and if you just let it do it’s thing and don’t coddle it like a crazy person, it might actually be able to survive in the wild.

K, this is a weird metaphor. But it sort of sums up what happened to me and my curls and I went clean. The constant monitoring, treatments, and loads of leave-ins proved to be a bit moot once I just learned to let it be, not wash it much (or ever), and use a good, thick, natural conditioner. Suddenly: Nice curls, responsive to heat if I wanted to style it, and I could even sleep on them and not look like a total animal in the morning.

For a while there, I flat-out lost my taste for hair products, because it was such a revelation not to need them. But these days, I’m working my way back to the middle because—as I almost forgot—the right products can do a lot for a curl. It can make it springy and tight, or loose and lovely. And this line does it all.

Who is Jessicurl? Some quick reading on their website says it’s a brand started by a woman (Jess) who grew up fighting her curls until one day she discovered a natural and DIY approach to haircare and learned to love them. Sound familiar? Cut to: Ten years later she has her very own line with very nice people working with her. These folks were kind enough to send me their entire Rich and Radiant Collection, which I’ve now thoroughly tested.

Note: There are a few ingredients in the line that aren’t perfect. The last two ingredients in the conditioners and leave-ins get a question mark on SkinDeep (4-6), though I’ve never heard of them (have you?) and the cleansing cream contains a PEG. While that gets a low hazard score, if memory serves PEGs run the risk of being contaminated with 1,4-dioxane—which is really bad stuff. I have not emailed the folks at Jessicurl about any of this yet (feel free to post in the comments, guys), but given how clean the rest of the line I’m feeling a bit forgiving about it. Especially on the products that I’m obsessed with. :)

OK, let’s go through it!

Hair Cleansing Cream ($16.95 / 8oz): Touted as an alternative to shampoo this product foams just a little, featuring gentler surfactants. As promised in the description, your curly hair will actually look great on the same day as washing (on the rare occasions I wash, I’ve found this to be true with most good natch, and non-stripping, shampoos). Remember when your curls were absolutely destroyed by hair-washing and you had to wait several days for them to get back into their groove? Man, those days sucked.

Next up!

Too Shea! Conditioner ($16.95 / 8oz): This is a really nice hydrating conditioner that leans more towards the sticky than the greasy side in consistency. I’ve been using this most days as my conditioning cleanser and it’s absolutely great. The whole lines smells good too, in a natural good way, and the presence of peppermint in this conditioner makes it perfect for waking up in the morning shower. This conditioner gets my solid stamp of approval, and I think it would work especially great for women who don’t want their curls weighed down. I, on the other hand, also happen to enjoy a really heavy conditioner too… Which is why I use it in tandem with…

Deep Conditioning Treatment ($16.95 / 8oz): This conditioner is the bomb. It’s so thick that it’s almost tough to squeeze it out of the bottle. Heavy and rich, it literally seems to detangle curls on contact. Funnily, it has almost the exact same ingredients as the previous conditioner, but the proportions must be totally different. According to the description, I’m not the only curly girl obsessed. While it was once marketed as a weekly treatment, so many women started using it daily. That’s what I’ve been doing, and the results are GREAT.

OK, that’s a wrap for now. Tomorrow I will cover the three amazing styling products that came in the set. But tell us, curlies and wavies: What is your washing and conditioning curl ritual? Have you heard of JessiCurl?


Do You Deep Condition?

Among the strange and regrettable things that I did to my hair between the ages of, oh, 12 and 30, were semi-regular VO5 Hot Oil Treatments. Who among you remembers this deep-conditioning concoction? Just for laughs, I pulled up the ingredient list (which probably hasn’t changed in 30 years)—and Oof…

Water (Aqua), Cocotrimonium Chloride, Acetamide MEA, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEI 1750, Oleth 20, Propylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Polyquaternium 10, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Vegetable Amino Acids, Lysine Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Phytantriol, Polysorbate 20, Keratin Amino Acid, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, PG Propylsilanetriol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Panthenol, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Niacinamide, Biotin (Vitamin H), Fragrance (Parfum), Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate, Yellow 6 Aluminum Lake (CI 15985) (CI 15985)

I’m not sure what shocks me more 1) the fact that there’s not really any oil listed, or 2) that there’s actually aloe vera high up on this otherwise unpronounceable list.

Anyways, I used to love warming that little bendy plastic bottle (itself likely filled with BPA and phthalates) in scolding water, and then pour the stuff all over my sopping wet head. From there, on went a plastic bag for minutes (hours?) of sitting, as this stuff seeped into my young and vulnerable brain scalp. Le sigh. While I have no recollection as to whether this treatment had any effects beyond placebo, I did love the idea of deep conditioning my hair—a ritual I’ve lost sight of in my cleaner years.

Unfortunate really, since deep conditioning was made for my type of dry unruly hair. You’d think I’d be soaking up the argan and coconut oil on a nightly basis, and yet as much as I love natural oils everywhere on my face and body—I actually despise the feeling and results of oil in my hair. Note: I’m not talking about a little argan on the tips, which I do like, but a full oil soak like they give you during those otherwise amazing ayurvedic massages I rave about. Anyways, I’m getting to a point here I swear!

See, a little while back a reader asked—nay begged!—that we crowdsource on this very topic. Lindsey, you see, is trying to grow her hair long, and desperate for your tips on how to get beautiful shiny, conditioned hair sans the chems. Which got me thinking: I wouldn’t mind some recommendations myself.

What I do know, Lindsey, is that washing less—or almost not at all—can seriously improve hair luster for some. Though depending on the nature of your hair it can also turn it to a greasy mess for a period. Otherwise I’m a big believer in eating healthy fats for skin and hair.

What about you guys? Are we deep conditioning? Are we using oils, or just leaving in our favorite natural conditioner for a spell—maybe making our own mix with avocados?

When a brand says right on their website, “what goes onto your skin, goes into your body,” I’m going to take a closer look.

I did just that with Griffin Remedy and found some go-to products.  Though I typically look for unscented skin and hair products, sometimes I do appreciate a light, energizing scent in the shower.  This clean, vegan, gluten-free brand makes a variety of products, and I’m a regular user of their hair care.

Griffin Remedy Daily Shampoo and Daily Conditioner: Both have a pleasant, mild orange scent and are my very favorite scented hair products.  The shampoo lathers nicely, and cleans thoroughly but gently.  I shampoo every few days or so, and this one is the best for when my hair is really feeling dirty.  I often choose this shampoo after a coconut mask, and it gets out just enough oil but leaves what my hair needs.  The combination of the orange shampoo and the coconut oil smells sooooooo good.  The conditioner is fantastic for no-shampoo days, especially when I don’t need a huge amount of moisture, but I want to use a little something.  I also like it for post-shampoo, and it’s great for helping to rinse out the last bit of henna after I color.  They also make a Restorative line (lavender scent) that is more moisturizing, and have a Volumizing line too (lemon verbena scent).  The prices are quite reasonable, much less expensive than most clean brands I’ve tried ($8/8oz bottle).  I find them in various local stores, including Whole Foods, and you can order online.

I’ve also tried in-store testers of some of their lotions (lovely, especially the grapefruit).  Have you tried anything from this brand?