The Road to Hair Nirvana

This is what my hair looked like when I woke up this morning. Not the greatest quality picture and the lighting's bad (makes my hair look way darker on top than it actually is, but it gives you an idea anyway...

Those of you who don't know me personally or who don't generally see me roll out of bed in the morning have no idea how impressive this is, but trust me, I usually wake up with my hair sweaty, slightly greasy and plastered to my head on at least one side. I may be able to wear my hair down the day after washing it, but trust me, I won't be loving it, and more often then not it goes straight into a braid, ponytail or bun. This morning however, I was beyond impressed with my hair. I may possibly have actually made a few extra trips to the bathroom just to check out my hair in the mirror.

So, how did I reach this amazing second-day hair nirvana? It's been quite the journey, let me tell you.

Step 1: Spent most of my life washing my hair every other night, going to bed with wet hair (sometimes blow drying the roots a bit), and being perfectly fine with how it looked the next morning (I wasn't too picky). Sometimes stretched it to a third day in between washing if I was feeling lazy, although you could definitely tell it needed to be washed by then.

Step 2: Had a baby who grew into a toddler. Felt like I needed a change and got sick of having my hair pulled. Chopped most of my hair off. Realized if I slept on my hair wet it looked crazy so started washing and blow drying my hair every day.

Step 3: Went through a major crisis in my marriage, decided to grow my hair out again partly because my husband likes it long and partly because I missed having long hair and thought if it was longer I could go back to washing it less frequently. Realized I was used to how my hair looked after I blow dried it and kept washing and drying every day even after it grew past my shoulders.

Step 4: Realized I was too busy to wash and dry my hair every day and that my hair was getting really fine, flat but frizzy and dry. Started using volumizing shampoo and conditioner and trying to only wash my hair 2 or 3 times a week. Attempted to air dry my hair but hated the feeling of wet hair on my neck and shoulders for hours, didn't like the weird bumps that showed up when I tried to put it up, gave up and  went back to using my blow dryer.

Step 5: Still felt frustrated with my alternately frizzy/dry and limp/oily hair. After years of contemplating going no-poo (i.e. washing your hair with something other than a sulfate-containing shampoo that strips all the oils off your hair and scalp) decided to give the water-only method of hair washing a try. FYI there is more to this than just rinsing your hair in the shower and calling it a day. It involves quite a bit of scalp massage, boar bristle brushing, something called preening and lots of scrubbing in the shower.

Step 6: Started liking how healthy the ends of my hair looked but was frustrated by the feeling that I could never quite get the roots of my hair all the way clean. The water-only washing process also involves stretching out the time in between washing your hair as long as you possibly can. After a almost a month I forcing myself to wait 4-5 days in between washing my hair but it didn't feel like my hair was adjusting at all. (It's supposed to respond to no longer having all the oil stripped out by gradually producing less oil until it almost never really looks or feels oily. This can be a weeks or months long process and I am not a patient person.)

Step 7: Couldn't take it anymore and washed my hair with a little bit of castile soap followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse a few times. Was not impressed with how much build up was left on my scalp and how tangly my ends were getting, even though I was applying a little bit of coconut oil to the ends just before blow drying.

Step 8: Spent a couple hours one morning researching what might be causing my problems with water-only washing and looking into various no-poo alternatives. Decided water-only might work for me eventually but I needed to be  more committed to the process and might need to find another no-poo method to use to ease the transition. All the no-poo options I was considering involved the effort and inconvenience of having to either make something slightly complicated fairly frequently and/or order and wait for something to be shipped to me. Finally came across a mention of washing your hair with.............wait for it...........rye flour, of all things! According to My Healthy Green Family among other sources, rye flour is loaded with vitamins, proteins and minerals which are great for hair and skin including pantothenic acid (which Pantene adds to their shampoo in synthetic form to increase strength, shine and overall health).  Rye flour is also naturally perfectly pH balanced so it won't dry your hair out or strip it of its natural oils.

Step 9: Decided I didn't have much to lose and mixed up 3 tablespoons of rye flour with enough water to make a runny paste. Took it in the shower, globbed in onto my hair and scalp and let it sit for a few minutes. Realized I was making  the most tremendous mess (globs of rye flour paste were everywhere) and decided I would probably never try this again. Scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed trying to get all the bits of flour out of my hair (I used stone ground flour instead of the recommended finely ground flour because that's what I had on hand). Rinsed the shower repeatedly to get rid of the residual rye flour globs. Got out of the shower, combed my hair (pretty easily), noticed there were still bits of rye husk all over my hair and clumps of rye flour paste in my ears. Cleaned my ears, rubbed a little coconut oil in to the ends of my hair and blow dried as normal.

Step 10: Stood in front of the mirror, deeply impressed. All the rye husk bits had come out of my hair easily while blow drying. My hair was soft, shiny and smooth with good volume. It looked, and more importantly, felt clean. Swept up all the flour bits off the bathroom  floor and double checked the shower for flour clumps. Enjoyed pretty, clean, non-staticy hair all day. Went to bed hoping for the best but prepared to put my hair up today. And, you know the rest - my day 2 hair is still pretty, clean, non-staticy and actually still looks great after being bundled up in a shower cap, suffering through an intense Pilates workout and a being shoved under a ski cap while I walked the dog.

So, we'll see how long this great hair stuff lasts. I'm still going to try to stretch out how long I go in between hair washings and maybe eventually try the transition to water-only washing again. For now though I'm happy to brave the gloppy flaky mess I make when washing my hair with rye flour (and presumably I'll learn to do it a little bit more neatly with practice).