No Poo for This Curly Girl

My no poo journey has been rather haphazard at times, but I’ve finally fallen into a routine that works for me and with some surprising results. I’ve gone from I’d like healthy hair to it’s all about the curl pattern!

For those of you not used to the terminology, “no poo” means no shampoo – let’s get this straight, this does not mean I don’t wash my hair. If anything, I spend more time cleansing & preening than when I was full soapsuds. It’s just that I’ve changed what I stick in my hair to match what it needs to stay healthy.

Just like eating well, my hair requires a balanced diet & sone gentle encouragement to bounce into it’s natural curl pattern. That diet means not stripping out the natural oils with shampoo leaving it dry & frizzy. Instead I cleanse my hair with conditioner, called “co-washing”. Just like ditching the washing machine, this requires extra effort on my part to scrub & massage my scalp until the conditioner grabs anything that needs to be washed away (having Mr Geek on hand helps avoid dislocated digits). And now for some chemistry! Another big no-no for curlies are non-water soluble silicones as they don’t wash away without sulfate shampoos (did I mention that I don’t do the poo thing?). This means following a strict set of ingredients & squealing with delight when they’re sold in a local supermarket – there’s lists of “curly girl approved” products that range from 79p to +£20 and just because they’re expensive doesn’t mean your hair will love them more. Lots of it is trial & error and as my hair recovers from the torture I put it through my needs change.

Transition to healthy hair takes a long time (like 8 months +), but even after a few short months my curls are happier than I’ve ever seen them. And yes, curls! Not just frizz & waves, but big 2C/3A curls 😌

Er… 2whatnow? Well, curl patterns come in all shapes & sizes from 1a (straight as a ruler), to 4c (kinky ziggly). Prior to using the Curly Girl Method, I had 1c – 2b on a good day.

I’m really lucky to have such an easy transition – lots of people find their hair rebels for a good few weeks, but mine has only objected when I tried a gelatin treatment (that’s another post!). So, for now I’m co-washing with silicone free conditioner once or twice per week, deep conditioning once per week with this lot:

(For reference, the skin active is for my face!!)

A combo of olive oil massaged in with the (un)done and left in a showercap for an hour whilst I bathe – rinse – then 2Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar in warm water tipped over & left for a few minutes to remove any build up – rinse – cowash – rinse – squish in a 10p splodge of conditioner (don’t rinse) – squish in Cantu Curl Activator Creme – squish in gel (preferably flaxseed, but usually V05 hard set because my homemade flaxseed invariably goes off) – plop for 30 minutes – diffuse until crunchy – finally Scrunch Out The Crunch! Et Voila! And….. Sleep. In a buff.

Seems like hard work eh? It’s only once a week & a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do (or a guy if you’re Luke Arnold, because we all know he’s secretly plopping those curls).

Whilst he may have my #hairgoals I’m still pleased with my progress. So much so that I even gave myself a DIY deva cut before our holiday! (Again, for those of you not following CG, a deva cut is a haircut where you cut the hair dry by cutting one curl at a time to form a shape that encourages your curls to form well – usually by adding lots of layers).

For the lowdown on the nopoo / Curly Girl terminology, I wrote this post post a while back.

Are you no poo, low poo, or a curly girl? What are your tips for making your hair happy?

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The Cult of Curls

A million years ago when I first started trying no poo it was all about being a bit of a hippy and frankly it all failed. But I never really let go of the idea that shampoo was turning me into a fraggle.

I’ve always had incredibly thick & wavy hair and equally not wholly known what to do with it. Even my good hair days were an example of why curling tongs are probably best left for professionals  (also, I’ve been honing the unhinged academic look for some time)

Curling iron & frizz. But, I was celebrating my brain not my hair that day

Most days, my style was best described as “shut up, I can either keep the kids alive & expand my brain OR look like a princess. Not both”.

I love how this photo hides the fact I had just set light to the microwave!

Even so, my long & generally colourful hair was my trade mark. I spent my 20s with it flying free and frizzy or woven into coloured dreadlocks (welcome to early 2000’s punk / nu metal culture).

At their tamest, my dreads were brown & red. My favourites were the black & blue set.

Then I met with dysautonomia and my hair & I parted ways. Literally. No amount of bleach, or braiding, or spiking ever made it thinner, but 6 months of being unable to digest solid food and it came out in clumps. I was never brave enough to rock the skinhead look so I turned to the orthodox Jewish community groups who taught me how to wrap my head in a Tichel and I acquired a whole host of beautiful scarves to adorn my now tufty head.

Two years down the line and solid food is back, albeit not all the time, alongside a constant massive dose of vitamin D and what once was thick & wavy has grown back thicker & curly!

What am I meant to do with this?! (2 months into CG, but unaware silicone had snuck into my conditioner – chemistry lessons kids : pay attention)

So, at a loss of what to do with hair that seemed to be growing out instead of down I rediscovered the no poo thing, this time through the Curly Girl Method. I’ve gone full circle & now jumped down the rabbit hole of curly hair…

This time, instead of baking soda & ACV (apple cider vinegar), I’m opting for “low poo” which means no products containing silicone, washing once per week max, leave in conditioners, and alcohol free gel “casts”. With this method I don’t smell like a chip & my hair is in amazing condition. I’ve also learnt a whole new vocabulary:

Squish to Condish 

The act of conditioning once, then scrunching the ends of your curls with a second conditioner application that you may or may not rinse out. I do, but those with really porous hair may not.

Plopping

I know it’s no poo, but ew! Actually, this is the theory that drying curly hair with a normal towel damages the curl & encourages frizz. Instead, plop your head onto tshirt material or similar to allow the curls to dry whilst coiled close of the head. Some people plop for 20 minutes, whilst others (including me) plop all night.

This is where having worn tichels for months has come in handy as I’m a dab hand at a secure turban! 

Just remember that post-plop the curls won’t be bone dry so you need to give them time to reach full crunch before scrunching.

Curl Activator 

I use Cantu Cream activator, or ahem… ummm… personal lubricant. (That’s a whole other blog post, but trust me it works wonders). It’s basically an extra moisturiser for your curls that encourages them to coil into their natural pattern and stops frizz. Stick it on your newly washed hair before any gel.

Praying Hands

A technique for applying curl cream or gel with flat hands instead of scrunching or raking it through. You also rub hands together first to spread out the goop & put it on more evenly.

Scrunch Out The Crunch #SOTC

So, after you’ve low poo washed your hair, added curl activator, added gel with praying hands, then plopped and diffused / air dried, it’s time to scrunch out the crunch.

Remember in the 80s & 90s when we all had spiral perms and wet look gel? Well as much as we thought we looked the dogs dangley bits, we didn’t. To get rid of that late 80s Minogue look, you need to SOTC.

Kylie wasn’t scrunching out the crunch …

Once your curls have dried to crispy perfection (not a trace of damp left), the gel will have created a “cast”. Now is the time to use your hands, or preferably a tshirt to scrunch each section and break down the gel cast to reveal soft & defined curls.

So, 7 months into low poo and 4 months into using the Curly Girl Method what does my natural hair look like?

When I say natural, the colour isn't included! Although I'm a redhead in my soul.

It looks like I have curls! And “bad” hair days aren’t really a thing anymore.

This works so well with my general health because I have no more fighting with hairbrushes, only need the energy to wash it once each week, and I don’t have to be physically that functional I’m. The morning. Getting ready consists of: take off my scarf, spray a bit of water/conditioner mix into my hair, scrunch it, bobby clip the front & off I go.

You can read more about the official Curly Girl Method here. (Not an advert, but as it’s not my method, you should hear from the originator!).

No Poo Attempt Two

A few years ago I tried going “No Poo” (shampoo, not poo) in some weird experiment where I gave up shampoo for lent. I used baking soda to wash & vinegar to condition my hair.

I smelt like a chip.

My 2nd attempt is a bit different. I’m following the curly girl method which is based on a book by Lorraine Massey and I’m actually 4 weeks into my new experiment. It’s based on actually conditioning curly hair over washing it to destruction and getting rid of all silicone & alcohols.

Since my hair decided to fall out & grow back, the wave has turned into a curl & fierce frizz, so I decided to tame it and whoa nelly! This is actually working.

Ok, I’m sporting the knackered look here, but I’m so good at that recently. However, this was my pre-curlygirl hair using just a spray gel.

Now, my 11pm messy hair after 4 weeks. (Someone needs to remember to take a photo during the day!)

The fear of returning to feeling like a chip is widely over as I have a set routine of detangling & co-washing once or twice a week with Tresemme Botanique conditioner and a 1p size of the shampoo if we’ve been swimming. It’s really hard to find a silicone free shampoo in the UK, but I’ve lucked out with these. After washing, and each morning after dampening with water from a spray bottle, my curls are spritzed up with Tresemme Make Waves spray gel, scrunched and left alone to go crispy. Just before I head off for work, I SOTC (scrunch out the crunch) – essentially, the curls have set now, so squishing the gel makes the curls softer now they’ve set. Note the lack of brushing; with set curls, nothing gets tangled so I only detangle before I wash. The longer I leave it, the more corkscrew my curls get!

So, here I am, growing back my locks but this time in delicious spirals that make looking after it a million times easier.