By Charli Ferrand
I get it. Making the switch to natural shampoo can be daunting. If you're anything like me, your hair is a big part of your identity and changing how you care for is kind of a big deal.
Your hair can be an asset, a part of your body you use to express yourself, much like how you use makeup, or the clothes and jewellery you choose to wear.
My hair obsession started when I was five years old and I wanted to look like Disney's Snow White. It didn't occur to me that my hair is blond, not black. And I'm not a cartoon character. But at the time, I truly believed this magical person called a hairdresser was going to turn me into my favourite fairytale character. You can imagine my horror when I walked out with a dark blond bob and a fringe! Scarred for life, I've been fairly precious about my hair since then...
The problem is, as much as my hair is so much part of who I am, even more so is my desire to tread a little lighter on this earth. Using plastic-packaged, toxin-heavy mainstream shampoo and conditioner products was something I didn't want to be part of my identity any more. I wanted my bathroom to be minimalist - as little plastic packaging as possible - and I wanted what I was washing down the drain, into our waterways and eco systems to be truly natural (not 'greenwashed natural').
So... I took the leap and switched to natural bar shampoo. Packaged only in paper or cardboard. No plastic. No toxins. No nasties. No worries.
What I Wish I'd Known Before I Made The Switch
I quickly learned that not all natural shampoo bars are made the same and there are some nifty tricks you can use to make the switch as smooth as possible.
How To Transition To Natural Shampoo Bars
1. Be prepared for an actual 'transition period'.
Conventional shampoos and conditioners contain nasty toxins like SLS, synthetic fragrance and ethanolamines (MEA, DEA, TEA), which leave a build up of residue on your hair. This will leave the hair feeling smooth and slippery instantly, but these toxins are absorbed into your skin through your scalp and research has shown, can have some nasty effects on your health and on our waterways when they go down the drain. Because of this build up of residue, it can take a week or two for your hair to settle into its groove again, while it gets used to the change from synthetic chemicals to the natural cleansers in your bar. How long this period will last is determined by things like how damaged your hair is, how much built-up residue is on your hair, your hair type, historic over-styling and the like.
2. The secret to getting through the 'transition period' is apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a ruddy miracle, isn't it?! Is there anything it can't help with?! Here's how it can help you transition to natural bar shampoo:
- Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of ACV to 1 cup of warm water and pouring it over your hair after shampooing.
- Make sure to massage it through your hair and scalp.
- Leave it in for a few minutes, which will help smooth out the hair follicles, remove soap deposits, prevent tangles in long hair and help balance out the pH of the scalp.
3. Become best friends with your hairbrush
Remember to brush your hair from the roots all the way down to the ends at least twice a day, to pull the natural oils all the way to the tips of your hair, keeping it nourished and healthy. I have long hair, so I also pull my brush through my hair before I wash it. Wet hair is more prone to tangling, so brushing first helps to prevent shower-induced knots. I use the Eco Max natural beechwood timber hairbrush, which is anti static with no plastic!
4. Rinse, and repeat
When it comes to shampooing your hair, remember that natural shampoo bars do not contain nasty SLS, which is the synthetic chemical that creates the lather and bubbles in products like shampoos, bubble baths and washing up liquid.
For a successful wash:
- Wet your hair through thoroughly.
- Wet the shampoo bar.
- Depending on the brand you might find one of these three methods of lathering works best:
- Rub the wet bar between your palms to lather it up as much as you can, then work it into your hair with your hands and fingertips;
- Break off a small piece (about the size of a pea) from the bar and work it into a lather between your palms, then work into your hair with your fingertips; or
- Run the wet bar over your hair from the scalp to the ends.
- Massage through to work up a thick, creamy lather.
- Rinse thoroughly, and repeat - you'll probably find the shampoo lathers more easily on the second wash.
- Use your ACV method (as above) if needed.
- Dry or style as usual.
Because natural shampoo won't dry out your hair like conventional shampoo, you may find you don't need to use conditioner at all. However, if no conditioner is one step too far for you right now, we love Shampoo With A Purpose Shampoo & Conditioner Bars. Use them in exactly the same way as a straight-shampoo bar and make sure you wash and rinse twice.
If you choose to use a separate natural conditioner bar, only use it on the ends of your hair, and if you have fine hair, try 'reverse washing' - which means conditioning your hair first, before shampooing it.
5. It's not one size fits all
Just like conventional shampoos, natural bar shampoos also offer different formulas for different hair types, so look for the one that best suits yours.
6. Safe storage
Store your natural shampoo bar away from water when not in use to prolong its life. I can make one shampoo bar last for three months - that's a helluva lot of plastic bottles and toxins ... and money! ... saved.
7. Persist for at least two weeks, but do try a different product (or three) before you give up
Give it time, but if one bar really isn't working for you, try another one before you give up. Just like with natural deodorant, sometimes you have to trial a few different varieties before you find the one that suits you best. But the best thing about shampoo bars is you can use them as ordinary soap bars as well, so even if it's not right for your hair, the delicious smells and creamy texture of shampoo bars work perfectly for your body. Zero wastage = winning!
Once you find a bar that works for you, you'll use it for the rest of your life. And that's good for your hair, your body, your bank balance AND the planet.
Browse the range of natural shampoo products available at The Clean Collective here.