Get ready, you guys, because we’re about to announce our third (third!!) annual Summer Hair Challenge, in which we ask you to forgo leave-ins and heat for a day and then send us a snap from your phone.
You can take a look at our two previous galleries of product-free, air-dried hair here and here to see what we’re talking about. Last year we got well over 100 photos sent to us, and we were over the moon. This year we want even more, so consider this your early mental-preparation warning.
First, we’re not against using leave-ins as long as they’re clean (and if they’re not clean, we’re not against that either—do your thing!) but we have a dorky maxim about cosmetics in general that goes like this: “More products, more problems.”
What we mean by that is, most conventional products—and especially ones for hair—create problems even as they try to “fix” others, which then necessitates more products. Think of silicone-based leave-ins that coat the hair, then need to be stripped off with harsh shampoo, which then requires a fistful of conditioner, a defrizzer, and maybe a finishing gloss, too.
Second, we’re not against heat styling, either. When it’s cold out, I use heat almost every single day. Whenever I can get away with it, though, I leave my hair alone, and here’s why: When I first started doing this regularly, I didn’t even recognize my own hair. Here’s what I said at the time:
I used to wake up, hop in the shower, use Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine shampoo and conditioner, or if I was feeling rich I’d use Rene Furterer’s stuff. Then I’d load Phytodefrisant onto my wet hair, and once blow-dried (and sometimes also ironed), I would use one or two finishing serums that probably had silicone or some other garbage in it.
My hair looked how I wanted it to look, but do the math: That’s expensive, and a pain. I was also unwittingly exposing myself to 11 of the 20 ingredients on the Black List in our book—daily. (For more on what’s in shampoo, check this out.)
Anyway, eventually I realized the unmanageable nature of my hair was squarely the fault of the products I was using, and when I made the switch, my hair chilled out.
So that was neat.
But this challenge isn’t really about all that. It isn’t about what’s bad or what’s good. The reason we like the Summer Hair Challenge so much is in part seeing pictures of all of you, but also hearing your stories. Some people had gone years without knowing what their hair looked like air-dried. How cool is it that they tried? And for those of you who do this every day, God bless! We’re going to want your pictures, too.
So in preparation, we want to know: Do you use leave-ins every day? What about heat? And how excited (or pissed) will you be when we ask you to stop both for a day? Have at it.
As some of you know, every Wednesday we feature new favorite products on Open Sky. Today we’ve added a shampoo and conditioner set from Acure Organics. Siobhan reviewed this line back in November, so we thought we’d repost. Have you tried it?
I’m going to do a Q&A with myself about this new shampoo and conditioner from Acure Organics, because that seems, in this moment, to be a funny and easy break from form, since I’ve reviewed a bunch of shampoos and conditioners lately. Also, easy to read for you guys, right? Heh.
Does the shampoo get your hair clean?
LOL! What? Yes! Obviously.
Is there residue left over?
No, actually. The shampoo has a nice lather—hard to get in naturals—and rinses out pretty easily. Ditto the conditioner, which I typically leave on my hair for a couple of minutes as I shave my legs or sing or something.
Does it smell nice?
I’ve only smelled the argan oil shampoo and conditioner—there are three different kinds, with three different smells and oils, by hair type—and I love the smell so much! Spirit Demerson sent me the duo to sample to try and review (she sells them on her site), and I BBMed her after I first tried it freaking out about how nice is smells. Like almonds, kind of, with a citrusy smell that cuts the sweetness of the almond extract. I love how the smell lingers on my hair too. It makes me feel good about hugging people. (Does everyone think about how their hair smells during hugs?)
Does the conditioner weight down your hair?
Only if it’s opposite day. Which is to say, no, not at all. My hair has a nice bounce to it, no residue (see above) and it’s SHINY, probably thanks to all the oils in there.
Do you like it enough to use it—and only it—every day?
Which means it’s probably prohibitively expensive right? Like all the other stuff you like?
Hey! That’s not true! OK, it’s sometimes true, but no, this one’s totally affordable! 12 oz. for $10.99.
I’m new to Acure. Do you like the rest of the line?
We’re new to it too! I haven’t tried anything else from them, but their price points are amazing, and the ingredients are clean, so I’m thinking this might be the beginning of a love affair.
Finally, is it…clean?
See for yourself:
Shampoo ingredients: Organic Euterpe oleracea (Acai) Berry, Organic Rubus fruticosus (Blackberry), Organic Rosa canina (Rosehips), Organic Punica granatum (Pomegranate), Organic Fair Trade CertifiedTM Rooibos, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Vera Leaf Juice, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate (from Coconut), 100% Naturally-derived Betaine (from Sugar Beets), Vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate (from Coconut + Amino Acids), Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (from Coconut + Amino Acids), Cocoglucosides Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Sugar Conditioner), Sodium Levulinate (from Corn), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Guar gum conditioner), Potassium Sorbate (food grade preservative), Organic Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Organic Fair- Trade CertifiedTM Olea Europea (Olive) Oil, D-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (vitamin E), Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) seed oil, Organic Curcubita pepo (Pumpkin) seed oil, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Argania spinosa (Argan) Stem Cells, glycerophosphoinositol lysine (from sunflower), Almond Extract, Cinnamomum aromaticum (Cassia Bark) Oil
Conditioner ingredients: Organic Euterpe oleracea (Acai) Berry, Organic Rubus fruticosus (Blackberry), Organic Rosa canina (Rosehips), Organic Punica granatum (Pomegranate), Organic Fair Trade Certified™ Rooibos, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Stearylkonium Chloride, Vegetable Glycerin, Glucono Delta Lactone (fermented sugar), Organic Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside (from corn and glucose), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (guar gum conditioner), Glyceryl Stearate (vegetable-derived), L-Arginine (amino acid), Organic Fair Trade Certified™ Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Sorbitan Olivate (from olives + sugar), Panthenol (Pro-vitamin B5), Cellulose (plant derived), D-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (vitamin. E), Lactic Acid (vegetable derived), Hippophae rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) seed oil, Organic Curcubita pepo (Pumpkin) seed oil, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Argania spinosa (Argan) Stem Cells, glycerophosphoinositol lysine (from sunflower), Prunus dulcis (Almond) Extract, Cinnamomum aromaticum (Cassia Bark) Oil
Have you guys tried this stuff? Or anything else from Acure?
Guess what’s the last thing in the world I want to think about? Correct: Whether or not my beauty products, which I am already very picky about, are gluten-free.
But I’ve been performing a somewhat irresponsible (and unscientific) study on myself in the shower, and the results are in: Shampoo and conditioner that contains gluten totally gives me a rash. Well, sometimes.
This should not surprise me. I am allergic—not intolerant—to gluten,* and have been strictly avoiding that pesky protein for about 6 years now.** This is not a big deal! I avoid wheat-substitute foods for the most part, but I love what I get to eat, I cook a lot, I make it work. You would think that, knowing what I know about transdermal absorption, it might have occurred to me at some point that I should eliminate it from my beauty products too. But it did not.
Problem: It’s everywhere. Another problem: Whether or not I react to it is unpredictable, and probably has to do with particle size, concentration, and how aware I am of my own symptoms. Sometimes I’m totally in tune with these things; sometimes I treat my body like a garbage can and notice nothing. (Rare! But true story, I do it.) Now, some gluten-containing beauty products cause a reaction—specifically, an itchy-rashy back of neck, which drives me bonkers and makes me very self-conscious—and some do not. Complicating things is the fact that other ingredients also cause a neck rash to flare up: Stress, hair dye, SLS and SLES, you name it.
It’s one of those things where I’m inclined to say I don’t really know what to do about it—except I do. I need to eliminate all beauty products that contain the stuff and then pray to the rash gods that the itch stays at bay.
And so, dear readers, I turn to you: What gluten-free shampoo and conditioner do you love? And have you ever noticed a similar reaction to gluten—or some other ingredient in your naturals?
* Gluten, as most of you almost certainly know, is the protein in many grains, including wheat. Wheat is very commonly used in hair products, often in the form of hydrolyzed wheat protein.
** When I eat it by accident—an extremely rare event—terrible, terrible things happen. Not gross, but like, indescribable pain. And then a black cloud of death comes over me, mood-wise, as well.
If you were to judge me by the current state of my shower caddy you might be inclined to call me a hoarder. Someone even said as much recently. “Aren’t you supposed to have less stuff now, not more?” he asked.
Totally. But I have an issue! I fell a little bit out of love with the shampoo and conditioner I’d been using for the better part of two years and have since been taking others for a whirl. Add to that the fact that sometimes people just send us stuff and you have a very crowded bathroom. You can tell which ones I like by seeing which ones are turned upside down. And the one that’s been turned upside down the longest is on the receiving end of a lot of shaking and slapping every morning as I try to get one more handful out of the bottle.
It’s Andalou Naturals’ Full Volume Conditioner with Lavender and Biotin.
Nothing fancy. A pretty simple ingredient list. Ten bucks at Whole Foods (but it’s on sale right now for $7.99—run!). And it’s totally and completely up my alley right now.
Regulars around here know I take my hair kind of seriously. I have moral crises (yes, plural) about the color thing, I experiment with gross non-naturals (and then freak out when things go awry), I burn it by accident then get heavily invested in my new hairdryer, and yes, I also Brazilianed it that one time.
For years now I’ve splurged on expensive shampoos and conditioners, usually from the same brand—which I’m not knocking; I still love you, John Masters! It’s not you, it’s me! I just needed a change. And of all the things crowding my shower, Andalou’s conditioner is the one I can’t get enough of.
My hair is pretty heavy so I tend to like anything volumizing. I wouldn’t say this is giving me Mad Men volume or anything, but it’s not flat to my head, and has some nice movement and body.
It’s also been very shiny, not at all greasy, and continues to look nice day in day out. In fact, I think my hair is getting nicer with repeated use. Finally, it doesn’t smell like grandma’s lavender. The scent doesn’t linger at all, actually.
Here are the ingredients:
Aloe Barbadensis Juice*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Stearylkonium Chloride, Hydrolyzed Barley Protein, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba), Linum Usitatissimum (Flax) and Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Oils*, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Extract*, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycine Soja (Soy) Protein, Camelina Sativa and Vitis Vinifera (Grapeseed) Oils, Vitamin B Complex (Biotin, Thiamine, Pyridoxine, Niacin, Riboflavin & Panthenol), Malus Domestica (Apple), Solar Vitis (Grape) and Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) and Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Extracts *†, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Oil*
If I’m being totally honest with myself (and with y’all) I’m not sure I buy that any of these ingredients are especially magical. There’s biotin in there so, in theory… Anyway, aloe works wonders on my hair, and that’s there at the top of the list, followed by oil and a chemical that sounds scary but isn’t. Next you have some more oils, some barley protein, and near the end we have our old nemesis ethylhexylglycerin, which I’m happy to make an exception about in this case.
Between the price, wide availability of the product and, yup, results, makes this totally worth it for me. I like the shampoo a lot, too.
Have you found another affordable conditioner you love? Because there’s still a little room left in my bathroom….
So how’s this for irony: The weekend I decide to do the Summer Hair Challenge for my picture is also the weekend I go upstate with friends and dutifully pack my toiletries, not forgetting my toothbrush for once and even remembering to bring my Hope Gillerman Muscle Relief and my Lotus Wei Infinite Love Elixir. What’s the one thing I forget, though? My clean shampoo and conditioner, naturally.
Especially ugh because before hopping in the car, I took a sweaty yoga class—which meant showering and hair washing was going to have to happen at some point. Another problem? We’d planned a scary-hard day hike and after that, indulgent massages at the lovely (and, I’m happy to report, ALL-CLEAN) Mohonk Mountain spa, which, incidentally, carries Lotus Wei—but not shampoo and conditioner. En tout cas, a massage meant someone was probably going to rub oil into my sweaty-from-hiking scalp, necessitating more hair washing.
Maybe you’re thinking, “What on earth is wrong with this chick—can’t she live with a little dirty hair for a weekend?” I mean… Greasy hair is bad enough, but when it’s greasy and sweaty and the air is damp but also hot, it’s a recipe for feeling completely revolting. Plus, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little curious about the Aveeno and the Pantene in the bathroom…
Would my hair be all silicone-sleek and easy to manage? Would I maybe even love the smell? Would it dry quicker with the blowdryer? Would I discover volume I hadn’t seen in ages?
Uhhhhh, ahhhhhhh! Here’s what happened.
Shampoo, day one. Yup, I totally used the Pantene. I read the ingredients while I lathered it into my scalp, trying not to remember what Dr. Mitchell Kline told me while we were writing the book (refresher: Sulfates go right into your scalp!) and banishing thoughts of the inevitable rash to come. I took a deep breath and holy fragrance, batman. Here’s the thing: Alexandra used to use fistfuls of this stuff and hugging her was always a delight because I adore her but also because her hair always smelled so delicious. We’ve talked about this before but it’s always surprising when it hits you again: When you abandon synthetic fragrance and then come upon it again (in an elevator, say, or at Sephora), it kind of makes you want to die. Anyway, I washed my hair with those gigantic Pantene bubbles, slicked on some silicone-filled conditioner, rinsed it and found that my hair felt very slimy even after a long hard rinse. Next up, the blow dry.
Once done, my hair looked, in a word, sick. It was super-shiny from the ‘cones, but not in a pretty way. The ends were going every which way, and it was limp at the top. The smell got to me, too. Better luck next time?
Shampoo, day two: This time I tried the Aveeno. Aveeno’s marketing always irks me (I find it to be greenwashy) and it’s not at all gluten-free, but I did notice it lathered a lot less than the Pantene (though still way more than, say, Rahua or C Tonics) and the fragrance was further down on the ingredient list, making the scent far less pungent. I used a tiny amount on my scalp to rinse the massage grease from me, and then decided to forgo conditioner altogether. There was still oil left over from the spa, and silicones don’t typically wash off in a day. Lo and behold, I could draw a comb through my hair no problem without conditioner. But…
Once dry, I was afflicted with the same gross-shiny mane. Only difference: Lots of volume at the roots, and a less lingering scent.
When I got home last night I decided to wash my hair with my clean stuff and air dry it, then I went to sleep. The resulting photo is my Summer Hair Challenge picture. I emailed it to Alexandra this morning with the subject line “Where’d my waves go?” and in the body of the email: “Let’s discuss.”
Consider this post that discussion. After a weekend of using gross products, my hair isn’t what it would have been otherwise. I’m not mad at how it looks today, but it isn’t exactly representative of how it normally looks when I airdry, and I think it might be a week or so before it’s back to normal.
Anyone else have a cheating-with-conventional-products horror story they want to share? Please?