The Tough Transition to Natural Shampoo

The Tough Transition to Natural Shampoo

It is not always quick and easy to make healthy life-changing transitions.

For me, switching to natural shampoo was a rough journey. People see me everyday and I do not want to look like a dirty hippy (well, maybe I do wink). I was at the point where I had to do something though. My scalp was constantly itchy, dry, flaky, and my hair was falling out! Of course, I wanted to stop using toxic shampoo to wash my hair BUT I have a lot of hair and I did not want to risk it looking or smelling funny. Throughout my adventure to improve food and other body care habits, I had already tried the no poo method (baking soda and ACV only) on two different occasions and had given up both times after about a week.

Third time’s a charm and I was determined this round. I decided to start keeping a diary so I could track progress and see what was actually working. I know our bodies work differently, but I thought it would be nice for you to have someone else’s experiences to read through and maybe give you some hope while you’re transitioning. I spent some time on the internet looking for other stories hoping for some insightful ideas and inspiration for getting through but found very little. Below is my ACTUAL shampoo transition diary. I went through and added notes in places to explain specific entries.

I want to go over a couple of the typical everyday shampoo ingredients I was trying to avoid in transitioning to an all-natural alternative. Many commercial shampoos contain chemicals such as triclosan (an antimicrobial agent that can be absorbed through the skin and has been detected in human urine, serum, and breast milk), sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (which penetrate the skin and can cause skin irritation), synthetic fragrances (which are poorly regulated and are a common cause of contact dermatitis), and petroleum by-products such as propylene glycol. [1]

I make the honey shampoo that I now use. It is a coconut oil liquid soap combined with local raw wildflower honey and beneficial essential oils. You can find a DIY Natural Shampoo in a previous blog post or, to make things super easy, you can find what I make in the online shop.

I hope you enjoy the diary. And when you embark on your natural hair routine journey, I wish you the very best luck! As always, feel free to comment below or drop me specific questions on Facebook.

Here we go!

A little background before we get started. I was washing daily with Head & Shoulders and conditioning with Pantene Pro V, and they definitely weren’t doing the trick. My goal was to banish dry, itchy, flaky scalp and transition to a healthy all-natural hair routine.

If you’re not interested in the diary, feel free to skip to the end for what I do now.

Hair in a rough bun
This picture was taken mid-January 2015 when my hair was greasy and unmanageable, often put up in a rough bun.

2015-01-14:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Slowly poured baking soda mixture over head and let sit for about 1 minute, rinsed well.
  • Hair was difficult to comb, felt rough when both wet and dry. Pulled into a ponytail, looked fine.
  • Note: When I say that my hair was rough, I mean that I could not slide my fingers through it easily when wet. Also after I combed it, it was sort of crunchy. When my hair was dry, it felt weighed down, looked greasy, and wasn’t flowy.

2015-01-15:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Slowly poured over head, let sit for about 10 minutes, rinsed (some got on forehead & burned). Hair difficult to comb, felt rough when both wet and dry. Pulled into a ponytail, looked fine. Noticed that hair tips felt split/damaged/rough when hair was dry.

2015-01-16:

  • To help with scalp itch and dryness: coconut oil hair mask (1/2 tablespoon melted coconut oil, 4 drops tea tree, 1 drop peppermint, 2 drops lavender essential oil). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends and let sit for 1 hour. Washed hair with homemade lavender & honey body soap bar (Note: had to use what was available, don’t judge).
  • Hair was difficult to comb, felt rough when wet & dry. Braided until dry. Greasy, put in a bun.

2015-01-17:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar (Note: still working with what I had on hand).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water). Much easier to comb.
  • When dry: pretty good, little limp, not greasy.

2015-01-18:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender oil essential).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water). Easy to comb.
  • When dry: soft, less static in hair. Itchy scalp and flakes seem to be reduced.

2015-01-19:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).
  • Combed ok but seems a little more tangled than yesterday. When dry: hair is light and flowy. Scalp a little itchy in the evening.

2015-01-20:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).
  • Slightly tangled when combed. When dry: maybe split at ends, scalp a little itchy.

2015-01-21:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).
  • Slightly tangled when combed. Scalp a little itchy in the evening.

2015-01-22:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).
  • When dry: maybe split at ends, scalp a little itchy.

2015-01-23:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).
  • When dry: in the evening hair looked greasier than usual and dull (no shine).

2015-01-24:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Little tangled when wet, but combed fairly easily.

2015-01-25:

  • lazy Sunday

2015-01-26:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Little tangled when wet, but combed fairly easily. When dry: looks good, less static, not real flowy (heavy/dull).

2015-01-27:

  • snow day, little itchy

2015-01-28:

  • Very itchy in the morning before shower.
  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/2 cup raw ACV and 1/2 cup warm water).

2015-01-29:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • When dry: hair feels light, scalp not itchy.

2015-01-30:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).

2015-01-31:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • Rinse: NEW RATIO raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).
  • When dry: little flaky throughout hair, not bad.

2015-02-01:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • When dry: little flaky throughout hair, not bad. To help with itch and dryness: Coconut oil hair mask (1/2 tablespoon melted coconut oil only). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, slept with it in.

2015-02-02:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).
  • Felt resistant after wash and then silky/smooth after ACV rinse. Hair was not tangled and was easy to comb. When dry: light/flowy.

2015-02-03:

  • forgot to note

2015-02-04:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).

2015-02-05:

  • Scalp was itchy in the morning before shower.
  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, NO essential oils added).
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).
  • When dry: a lot of flakes visible.
  • Note: I was near tears! I was constantly concerned that the flakes would be noticed by others and I felt like I had been seeing improvements and then it all went down the drain (no pun intended). I decided then that I needed to try something new. But whatever I did, I did not want to give up on the natural routine (I had gone so long already!) and I was determined to keep it healthy. So, over the next couple of days, I did a little research on what ingredients would make a good shampoo. As you’ll read in my entries, I continued to battle dry scalp for a couple months BUT it definitely improved by the end.

2015-02-06:

  • Wash: Gentle and Moisturizing soap bar.
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).

2015-02-07:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination)

2015-02-08:

  • lazy Sunday

2015-02-09:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • Note: Honey is a natural humectant so it attracts and retains moisture, is full of antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are great for the hair, and is antibacterial so it can improve scalp health. Coconut oil shampoo is high in lauric acid so it has a high affinity for hair and can penetrate deeply into our hair strands, has great moisture retention so it helps to prevent hair from drying out, and the fatty acids are good for combating dry and flaky scalps. Seemed like a great combination to help with my itchy, dry, flaky scalp!

2015-02-10:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, NO oil essential oils added).
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).
  • When dry: a lot of flakes visible.

2015-02-11:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-12:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-13:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-14:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • Note: Since the honey shampoo does not contain surfactants (define), it does not lather like commercial shampoos. I typically take about half a tablespoon of shampoo and massage it into the top of my head and then run it through to the tips with my fingers. I do the same with the underside of my hair before rinsing well.

2015-02-15:

  • lazy Sunday

2015-02-16 to 2015-02-18:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • When dry: a little flaky & itchy.

2015-02-19:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water and 5 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil).
  • When dry: little flaky, especially around forehead hairline.

2015-02-20:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • When dry: little itchy (evening).

2015-02-21:

  • To help with flakes and itchy scalp: honey treatment (3 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 3 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 3 hours.
  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-22:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-23:

  • To help with flakes and itchy scalp: honey treatment (2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 2 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1.5 hours.
  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-24:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-26:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-26:

  • Honey treatment (2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 2 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Rinsed honey out, no wash.

2015-02-27:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-02-28:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-03-01:

  • Honey treatment (2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 2 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  • Rinsed honey out, no wash.

2015-03-02:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo

2015-03-03:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo (morning).
  • Honey treatment (evening, 2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 2 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  • Rinsed honey out, no wash.

2015-03-04:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • When dry: noticed some flakes (reminder, scrub shampoo in and rinse out well).

2015-03-05:

  • Honey treatment (evening, 2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey and 2 tablespoons water). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  • Rinsed honey out, no wash.

2015-03-02 to 2015-03-12:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo, scrubbed well.

2015-03-13:

  • Honey treatment (evening, 2 tablespoons raw wildflower honey, 2 tablespoons water, 4 drops 1:1 lavender tea tree oil). Massaged into scalp and worked through hair to the ends, wrapped hair with a towel and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-03-14:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-03-15:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water).
  • Combed well. When dry: light/flowy - good! (might want to start a weekly baking soda wash and ACV rinse?).

2015-03-16 to 2015-03-24:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.

2015-03-25:

  • Wash: Baking soda mix (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup warm water, 5 drops 1:1 lavender and tea tree oil essential oil combination).
  • Rinse: raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) mix (1/4 cup raw ACV and 3/4 cup warm water).
  • Combed well. When dry: light/flowy.

2015-03-26 to 28:

  • Wash: homemade coconut and honey shampoo.
  • Light/flowy. Still good.
Hair down Hair up
Pictures taken October 2015 thanks to a chemical-free hair routine.

I now wash my hair every other day with homemade honey shampoo and do a weekly baking soda wash and ACV rinse. Unlike before, I do not need to wash daily to keep it looking clean. Before, I would notice my hair becoming extremely greasy by late morning if I had skipped washing.

I really enjoy the ACV rinse because it seems to wash out any build-up and reset the pH of my scalp. I have also switched to a wide-tooth comb (this helped a lot!). Now, after washing with the honey shampoo and doing a weekly baking soda wash and ACV rinse, I have finally gotten my hair to a state that I enjoy.

My hair is now soft, flake-free, clean-looking, and does not fall out by the handful when I comb it.

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