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.

Almost Cut My Hair… Then I Did

Ever since I decided to write this blog I’ve been humming the Crosby, Steel, Nash, & Young song that my Dad used to play me as a kid… 


Actually, I did this a few weeks ago before we went away on holiday, but I wanted some time to get used to it before I blogged. 
As some of you know, I’ve spent a great deal of this year wearing headscarves (officially a tichel) to make light of my hair coming out in clumps at the start of the year. I kept it long despite the daily winding up of balls of hair & needing Mr Geek to wash it for me because 1. I couldn’t get my arms up to shampoo & 2. The weight of my wet hair needed me to support my head with my hands. I did this because, well, I gave long red hair. That’s who I am. Until I snapped.

My GP has now put me on an extraordinarily high dose of vitamin D, which I just don’t process and my hair has recovered in as much as my scalp is covered once more. It’s also had an impact on my energy levels & I’ve stopped falling asleep mid conversation for the most part (now, it really is because you bore me).

But I wanted to look “better”. No matter how funky I made my headscarves, being in a wheelchair, they just added to the “sick” look. So I marched my family into the hairdressers & whilst the kids were having their Pre-holiday trim, I asked them to lip off 1ft of hair from my head. I had a vague style in mind & handed her these two photos announcing that I wished to have a midlife crisis & hang about playing the ukulele.

She looked at me & asked if I was completely sure I wanted to cut such long hair & if my husband minded me having so much hair cut off. I opted for even shorter. In my mind, the end result would be the catalyst of me dropping the uptight image & Boho my way through the summer with potential ukulele based nudity.

The reality was close to my mental image even if it took a while to work out how to style it (I have natural ringlets- who knew!?)

From a practical point of view washing, brushing & styling is all infinitely easier with shorter hair and the front is long enough to still be clipped up out of my face.

From a deep down emotional point of view, this is another thing that EDS took away. I can’t manage with long hair anymore & gave in. I loved my hair & to a point also loved my scarves which I will continue to wear when I feel the need to cover  (I didn’t when we went out in Germany & surrounded by women in hijab, I rather wished I had covered some days as a safety blanket). I need to set about working on the new ‘short hair’ identity. It’s still red, but not as red (or pink, or green) as I’d like it to be, but give me time…
When I get back to work, I’ve set myself the mission to tame it into looking more like this:

For those of you who haven’t come across Fleabag, search it out on Amazon (or BBC3 if you’re in the UK). Her hair is amazing. Oh, and the show is tremendous too.

So there you have it – good hair news in that it’s healthy & returning thanks to hearty vit D doses, and other hair news in that my midlife / chronic illness crisis has left me shedding any high flying career ideas that may have once been top of my Maslow triangle,  instead, with holes appearing at the bottom of the hierarchy, I’m reverting back to by teens with a life goal of obtaining that dishevelled & slightly unwell, but still oddly sexy look a la Courteney Love, and a Palmer etc. and playing the ukulele naked somewhere. Now after 2 cesareans, emergency surgeries, & a penchant for Milka, no-one needs to see that!

Just for reference, I was prattling on about where I sit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – like the foundations of how to be a happy & fulfilled person – without the lower tiers, the higher tiers fail. Based upon this, where are we do you think?

Reduced mobility & Boho clothes are really very suited. There’s another blog right there. But for now, what was your biggest thing you “gave into” because of disability?

How to be a woman

For as many years as I can remember I have used my hair as a defining feature of my, well ‘me’.

In my early teens it was the blonde thing. Pant style, just without the giant breasts. I was a waif.

Later teens came the long black gothy phase. Still a bit waify, but the lack of daylight and nutrition added to the look…

Next entered a dubious frumpy phase that is best left back in the 90s from whence it came. Weight was gained.

After this, an interesting crop off the waist length hair to a spikes boy cut and wear many sensible shoes phase started. Around age 20 I started to grow a pair and became more self assured. There was still some way to go, but bottoms were kicked where appropriate.

By early 20s spiked hair became purple, numerous piercings were acquired and I saw the return of the goth/punk as I met LSH who was having an equally punky second rebellion with a giant Mohawk. We were made for each other with the same taste in massively baggy trousers and shouty music. The hair went black once more, but this time with bright red underneath.

BeanPole made an arrival and our lives got flipped upside down. Cue major identity crisis for both of us. By the time we’d sorted ourselves out, the hair was longer and fully black, Tinypants was cooking and we were married.

When Tinypants was 5 months old I started a full time degree in Computer Science and had the space to feed my outward personality. So began the endless hours spent with Mrs GypsyTree plaiting coloured dreadlocks into our growing hair while our tiny children played around us. Over the course of several years I maintained waist length dreadlocks of red, pink, purple, green and electric blue which came out every few months to be washed! This was by far one of the happiest times of my life.

Finally came the time for me to actually do some proper work, so the dreads were packed away (I still get them out sometimes to sigh and wish I was a bit younger). But the hair wasn’t done yet! I was a creative programmer employed for her skill, not her looks and sported a two tone hot pink / turquoise dyed look for a long time.

Teaching finally put an end to the wild colours and I tried a variety of blondes & browns until three years ago I went bright pillar box red and became ME.

But I’m ready for another change. After finally getting comfortable in my 33 year old body – which sometimes moves of its own accord, aches at inappropriate times and curves in ways it never used to, I’m also coming to terms with the idea that whilst I know my natural colour is brown, actually a fair bit is now rather white. I’m in no way ready to be a proper grown up, but I’m about to dye it all back to my natural brown then let the white arrive.

Don’t expect frumpy to make a comeback. Think more Betty Page locks (now there was a brunette to emulate!). I just don’t feel the need to make a wild statement on my head anymore, because actually what’s IN my head is far more interesting.

It’s my hair and I’ll dye it weird ass colours if I want to

I’m on Easter break from school (I ought to mention that I’m the teacher!) and with three weeks to play with, I’ve decided to use that time to have a full blown mid-life crisis.

In my twenties, I was cool. Or odd. I’m not sure which. But I did have the most amazing hair. On google street view, I was caught on camera in my driveway with bright green and pink hair. Its been long (mostly), short, spikey, braided and in a short moment of madness, shaved. Previously I had been seen regularly with pink, green or blue waist length dreadlocks (plaited in). But whatever I’ve done, it’s generally reflected how I’ve felt at the time. My hair is an extension of my personality.

Since becoming a teacher, I’ve stuck with plain old red hair, and even that is a bit bright for some. And the more boring I look, the more boring I feel. And I’m not. I’m bright and loud and happy, and as I’m on leave my hair must reflect this! So today’s bleach-fest has resulted in bright pillar box red hair with purple dip dyed ends.

I am in full swing with the mid-life crisis mode. I may even reactivate my WoW account. Or drink pink wine with my lovely friend who also refuses to accept the aging process but chooses to quite literally run away from it by doing marathons (mental).

So now, without makeup, and with some rubbish lighting the first sneaky peak of my midlife crisis hair…

20130325-211644.jpg

What my manic brain failed to remember is that I’m actually 33 now, and I have to go into work for a workshop tomorrow.

Bugger.

Still, at least the frog looks like herself again. Even if I am more toad than tadpole these days.

No Poo Means an Up Do

It’s week three and this week has been quite interesting in the no poo experiment. (No shampoo, rather than no poo for weeks – that would be a whole new wrong)

Last weekend I gave in and dyed my hair as my roots were driving me crackers and I’d faded to a lovely shade of bright orange. That had been the first time a chemical had touched my hair in a fortnight. So in went the dye and out it washed and I have to confess to using the conditioner… And it felt clean, although still a little waxy. And it smelt lovely.

Since then I’ve been WO (water only) and its hardly been oily at all. Today, after a whole six days it’s finally decided that it could probably do with a wash soon. We had family day today which meant swimming followed by a roller disco after lunch with one of beanpole’s friends, so I have fallen onto the trusty ‘up do’. I have a thing about the 50s look and with just a bun donut, a hair band and a million hair pins this maintains my mild stalkery obsession with Betty Page. Frankly, it’s all about the bangs.

This has got to be one of my favorite ways of keeping my hair in check and after 10 hours of abuse with swimming, and generally goofing about I don’t look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards for a change!

20130302-192248.jpg (ignore the foot – husband is in one of “those” moods!)

I’m now contemplating whether I want to go back to BS and vinegar as I don’t want to fade my colour, but the tea didn’t work well last time. Maybe I’ll try again and see if its any better without the coconut oil. I could of course just go for another egg wash.

My confession – I miss shampoo. I have until Easter to become a convert, but week three is when the willpower is waning.