As with all health issues, the internal affects the external. Eating well, managing inflammation, stress and hormones all can make a difference in your hair. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect hair quality, quantity and color, especially zinc, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamins A,D, E and C, and selenium (naturally low in Pacific Northwest soils). I prescribe high-Omega-3 fish oil to most of my patients, who commonly report positive changes in their hair as a result.
Personally, I used the hippie stuff available in bulk at the coop for many years and all was well. If I wanted to splurge, there were other options. But I realize now that I had was lucky with my “smooth hair privilege” — really, almost anything would work if it wasn’t too heavy.
My hair is changing now, becoming more frizzy — which turns out to mean it’s actually curly. Huge amounts of book space and internet space is devoted to managing curly har, which can range from whispy waves to kinky coils. I’ve lost many hours to the internet and YouTube learning about all the things to do, and all the products to try.
Curly hair management recommendations always talk about layering lots of products, specific things you need to do (Pineappling! Plopping! Scrunching!) Dos and don’ts forever! It was totally overwhelming — and then they still say you’ll need to find your own way.
I was used to just washing, conditioning, combing and air drying. Adding anything was a big and kind of overwhelming deal.
When I started this process, I found a company whose philosophy and support seemed excellent, working to simplify haircare. LUS (Love Ur Self) has a line with three basic moving parts: shampoo, conditioner and a single styling product. They also have great instructional videos and a very responsive support staff, which was great for getting going.
But LUS products do have chemicals that I’m uncertain about, including the dreaded undifferentiated “fragrance.” I wanted to get back to natural.
I am still working through this process, and still rely on LUS for days when I need my hair to be as predictable as possible.
Product recommendations for hair are tougher than for soap and skincare, since people have such widely varying needs. But here are the other things I’ve found that may also be useful for you.
Hair rinse: Good old apple-cider vinegar is a great way to clear hair of built up oil, grime or haircare products. You can increase its efficacy by infusing the vinegar with herbs, in the same way you’d throw herbs into salad dressing. Rosemary, lavender and nettles are traditional.
Hair oils: I’ve not had great success with these on my hair, but these are change making for many people with frizz. The good news is many are available in bulk so you can play around with things on your own. Typical oils used are argan, tamanu, jojoba, avocado, castor and moringa. Some folks also have success with rosemary or lavender essential oils. To use, put 2-4 drops on your palms and smooth through the hair. Clean, premixed versions are available through Alaffia, Alpenglow, Innersence, LUS and Lovejoy Botanicals’ Luscious Locks Hair + Beard Oil.
Shea Moisture is where I started my curly-hair journey. They are clean, responsible, give back to the community, and have a great story. They’re also relatively inexpensive and accessible through pharmacies rather than specialty shops. The toughest part is that their line is so big, it’s hard to know where to begin. I loved their Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. The shampoo and conditioner I tried are no longer available. They were pretty intensely and persistently scented, although they used natural, named essential oils rather than unidentified “fragrance.”
Alaffia is a great company in Western Washington offering fair-trade, traditionally crafted products in cooperation with a cooperative in Togo. I first tried them for the shea-coconut skin butter. But then my best friend from med school, who has fully coily hair, told me she used their haircare products. A few years ago they also bought out the Beautiful Curls line, so they offer options for a variety of hair types. I’ve used their Everyday Shea shampoo and conditioner, and it felt like coming home to the simplicity of my past. The scented versions are strong smelling, but the essential-oil fragrance isn’t persistent. Unscented options are available. The two styling products I tried to tame my frizz were too heavy for my hair. The shampoo and conditioner are wins for me, but I’m still working on the best styler combination. These products are available locally and online.
Innersense Organic Beauty offers a comprehensive line of healthy hair-care products. The presentation is fairly New Agey, but the products are clean and effective. The company was started by stylists caring for a special-needs child with curly hair, and now has many initiatives supporting health and the environment. Their website offers a chat-with-a-stylist feature that’s very helpful for navigating their extensive product line. For the past several months I’ve been using their Color Awakening Hairbath (shampoo) and Color Radiance Daily Conditioner — recommended for my hair even though I don’t color it — along with the Quiet Calm Curl Control as a leave-in conditioner/styler. The Sweet Spirit Leave-In Conditioner works well with some water to refresh messy curls between washes. The Hydrating Hair Mask is delicious, but I only rarely need it. The Shea Moisture masque and LUS deep conditioner work better for me to hydrate and promote curl (as opposed to frizz.) All of these products are naturally scented, but not obtrusively so. These products are available in salons or online.
Alpenglow Skin Care is an Alaska-based company offering natural skin and haircare products made with great ingredients and locally harvested herbs. These are not fragrance free, but all the scents are natural — either from herbs infused in the product or essential oils. I’ve used their shampoo and hair rinse, and liked them a lot. They clean without stripping and drying the hair. The friend who introduced me to these products didn’t use their leave-in conditioner, but I think it is necessary for hair that tends to frizz. If you like the products, Alpenglow offers them in bulk — to reduce packaging waste and save you money. These products are available locally in Homer, Alaska and online.
Got more clean hair-care products you love? I’d love to hear about them. Please get in touch!
Next in series: Best clean body soaps.