Hair do's – natural style

Our locks have got a reputation for holding all our power. Just consider the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel; or the secret to Samson’s mighty strength in the biblical story that was turned into an opera and more recently as a Simpson’s spoof.

Of course, the power of hair is all just urban myth, isn’t it? Jen Marsden gazes back into history and unlocks nature’s wisdom in promoting healthy hair.

Natural Haircare
Photo credit: allyaubry

Traditional secrets

Emerging over 5,000 years ago, traditional Chinese medicine believes that visible hair issues such as hair loss or greying can in fact be a sign of deficiency in key nutrients within the bloodstream, or indicate problems with the liver or kidneys.

So hair could be the oracle to our organs, one of the reasons why Chinese medicine focuses on looking after it. A number of herbals methods are employed, including acupuncture and acupressure, various tinctures of birch leaves (known for its detoxifying effects) Echinacea root, rosemary and lavender. Even eating roasted black sesame seeds is said to do the trick.

One particular potent herb, known as “Shou Wu Chih” - or Knotweed - is now a patented hair tonic that improves scalp condition, transforms grey hair back to its darker self and prevents hair loss.

The sheen effect

Over the years all sorts of remedies have been experimented with in order to achieve that shiny, glossy look we’re used to seeing in the adverts.

The majority of today’s hair product, despite their floral appearances and whimsical, pure names that suggest they get their power from nature do anything but. Various chemicals that have suspected tendencies to irritate and encourage scalp allergies are regularly splodged into conventional hair products.

Beer has been said to be a great, more natural, hair rinse with a celebrity following including Catherine Zeta Jones. The superior approach to beer is champagne, allegedly a favourite of Nicole Kidman. Do take heed though that too much alcohol can dry your hair – and conventional products normally contain it.

Synthetic parabens are used as preservatives while petroleum derived mineral oil (‘Propylene Glycol’, ‘Polyethene Glycol’ are just a few examples) used to keep shampoos solvent and provide the “sheen effect” that we know so well. Essentially, we are buying into plastic-coated locks. Then there’s that enigmatic ingredient labelled as “parfum” that we’ve mentioned previously in our Symbol savvy article.

So while short-term the effects may appear miraculous, long-term we could be creating a cocktail effect that is bad for both hair and health.

Natural Haircare
Photo credit: allyaubry

Healthy hair tips

You don’t always need to scour or second guess the ingredients in your hair products. Some of the best hair care tips are the easiest and cheapest to do.

First, let’s ask the question, why do bad hair days exist? I’m not talking about having straight hair when you want curly or any other inherited genetic traits. These traits we just have to cope with. But scalp conditions such as dandruff, brittle, limp or lacklustre hair occurs often due to not looking after yourself, whether that is not getting enough sleep, feeling stressed out, not washing hair products out properly (or using too much of the leave-in stuff) and poor hygiene. The biggest thing though is your diet: yes indeed, you are what you eat!

Nature also has a role to play in certain head covering days, with hormone imbalance (particularly at certain times of the month), cold or overly hot weather as well as dry environments all bringing about bad hair.

For happy, manageable hair, it’s best to get to know and work to your hair type – be it normal, oily (which is prone to dandruff), dry (and likely to result in split ends) or combination (a mixture of dry and greasy hair).  Also, you hair strength needs to be treated differently. If your hair is fine then you might want to use a gentler shampoo such as Lavera's Mild Shampoo. Natural shampoos in general tend to be more gentle on hair. If you have thick hair it will have a tendency to be drier and will probably need a more moisturising conditioner.

When washing your hair, aim to keep the temperature warm rather than hot and aim to end with a final colder rinse to keep your scalp protected and cuticles strong. Pat towel dry instead of blow dry and de-tangle knots delicately with your fingers instead of with your hair brush.

Your choice of brush also has an impact on your hair’s health. Use wide-toothed combs and brushes with soft tips, and avoid plastic brushes as these have the hair-raising ability of generating static. Make sure your brush is regularly washed with shampoo and water and cleaned, particularly towards the depths of your hairbrush where dust, fluff and grease can comfortably settle.

Natural locks

Hair has been experimented on for centuries, making most of what was easily available, which, was normally ingredients from the kitchen larder. Our style-conscious ancestors even used onion skins and henna to saffron and lemon juice to colour their hair!

My favourite recent concoction is the traditional combination of one beaten organic egg, olive oil and vinegar approach, which I call DIY hollandaise shampoo! This did quite the job in removing a white residue from my hair that was leftover from an unsuccessful natural hair product that I had been trialling. It also gave the desired picture perfect effect! The reason this blend works so brilliantly is the compounds of each ingredient:

  • Vinegar neturalises the hair’s pH balance, ridding your locks of microscopic fungus that causes dandruff and other scalp conditions.
  • Egg is a fabulous protein that acts as a conditioning agent. In fact, pure mayonnaise spread throughout damp hair and left in for 20minutes makes a fabulous simple deep hair conditioner. 
  • Olive oil moistens the scalp and prevents your hair cuticles, which protect the inner structure of your hair, from drying out. Natural cold-pressed oils – in particular coconut and almond oils – have been used for centuries within Asian countries! Almond is full of protein and can be the basis of good naturally moisturising shampoos.

After receiving many positive comments I now make this shampoo every couple of weeks in between using my usual natural shampoo and conditioner. It’s so quick to mix up fresh in the morning.

If you would like to create your own homemade styling gel, this can easily be done using pure aloe vera gel, from one of the most intelligent plants of the natural world.

What (for which) knot?

We don’t all have the time or the inclination to make our own hair products. Choosing natural hair products (many of which include certified organic ingredients) is the perfect solution as these are both kinder to your tresses and scalp and use nature’s own wisdom.

Take citrus ingredients for example, such as lemon, lime or grapefruit – these have purifying, cleansing ingredients due to their acidic properties. Try Weleda Lemon Balm & Orange Blossom Shampoo and Avalon Organic Lemon Conditioner or for hair smoothing needs, Jason Salon Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner

Tea tree is a fab option for its anti-fungal properties, as is rosemary, so try Avalon Organics Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Conditioner, and Weleda’s Rosemary Hair Lotion, particularly if you are prone to dandruff. Lavender is another soothing treatment.

Seaweed offers an invigorating shampoo, with naturally high silicon content that keeps hair moisturised, so consider Jason Sea Kelp Shampoo and Conditioner, great for those with coarse hair.

Switching your hair products not only gives you the option of enjoying the wonderful natural scents of these many options, but it also prevents your hair falling susceptible to the old adage of too much of a good thing. Just like our minds, our hair loves variety, so enjoy browsing the many options available today!

Disclaimer: Hair type and effects vary depending on the individual, and you should contact your GP or a professional hairdresser for expert advice.