Bouncin' and Behavin'

Since I know all of you are waiting with bated breath for instructions on all-natural, shampoo-free hair care -- or perhaps none of you -- I have this enlightening post for you today.

This information is made possible by a contribution from my dear friend Burnsy. She and I worked together about a decade ago, not realizing then that we were at the precipice of a lifelong friendship. We are usually separated by quite a lot of miles, seeing each other only a handful of times over these years. But the physical distance in no way parallels my affinity and outright love for her.

She's increbibly talented and a consummate professional in her field. Her career requires some atypical things of her hair, so when I found out she had sought out and found a natural, user-friendly, and economical hair care regimen that still left her hair looking good, I was all on it like white on rice.

Here's what she has to say:

Ok, I promised this info to Jessi weeks ago, but better late than never!! This is my current routine, devised from the "Curly Girl" hair care advice and adjusted for my now straight hair (thanks to pregnancy...). **NOTE: This note is not for the faint of heart. Read only if you have a serious bent towards the natural and hippie-esque.**

The thing to know before changing your routine is the cycle of "wash, condition, repeat" that shampoo companies have gotten us into. Simply put:

1. The main ingredient in standard shampoos is Sodium Laureth Sulfate. This is a harsh cleansing agent that essentially strips your hair and scalp not only of dirt and excess oil, but of ALL oils. This disrupts the natural balance of your scalp. (Note: SLS is also the main ingredient of dish soap. Squeaky clean is good for dishes, bad for hair and skin!)
2. In order to restore moisture to squeaky clean hair, you need to condition. Standard conditioners usually include ingredients like Dimethicone, which coats the hair with "moisture" but can only be removed with - you guessed it - Sodium Laureth Sulfate. If you condition with a "-cone" conditioner and don't use a Sulfate shampoo, you get build-up and your hair looks limp and lifeless.
3. A good Sulfate wash strips away the bad -cones, and the cycle starts all over again. No matter how expensive a product is, if it contains sulfates or -cones, you'll get stuck in this cycle.

So, how to break the cycle?? And what in the world can you use to wash your hair??

Let's start with the 2nd question. Basically, here's the rule: Make sure everything you put on your hair is water-soluble.


Level 1: The most important thing needed for a clean scalp is a good scrub. Use your fingertips under running water to give your scalp a good massage, making sure to cover your whole head and really get under your hair. Rinse with warm water. Most days, that will be enough!

Level 2: If you've been camping, working outside, exercising, etc., you may need a bit more help. Use a pea- to dime-sized dollop of CONDITIONER (see below for which kind) and use that while scrubbing as you would for a "water wash." Rinse well.

Level 3: Every couple of weeks you may need to clarify your hair to give it a boost. For this we turn to our old friends, baking soda and apple cider vinegar!
- Add 1 tsp (ish) of baking soda to your dollop of conditioner and scrub as you would for a Level 2 wash. Rinse completely.
- Rinse your hair again using a mixture of 1 Tbsp ACV per Cup of cool water. This will close the hair folicle and restore the pH. Follow with conditioner.


Get used to reading labels. A good place to start is the Suave Naturals line of conditioners. A big bottle is usually less than $2, and it's totally water-soluble. I prefer the Aloe & Waterlilly or Tropical Coconut. Organic conditioners are also water-soluble, but more expensive, i.e., Burt's Bees, Alba.

To condition: Take a good palm-full of conditioner and work through your hair, including your scalp. Rinse with COLD water if you can stand it. (I do this but turning my head upside down in the shower; water gets my hair but not my body... mostly.)

That's it!! Cheap, mostly natural hair care.

So, how to get started? The first couple weeks might be serious ponytail or hat time as your natural oils come back, but it will be worth it in the long run to tough it out.

1. First step: one final SLS shampoo to get rid of all the build-up.
2. Then give you hair a good dousing with a non-"cone" conditioner (see above).
3. Rinse with cold water.
4. Carry on your merry way!

You'll have to experiment to find the best balance that works for you! For me, I water wash and condition every other day, codish-wash once a week, and Clarify once a month. That may change when the baby's born, but for now, I've got good shiny hair - for CHEAP!!

As for products, I still use some to control frizz, but that is complete trial and error. Again, just make sure things are water-soluble so they rinse out when you do a water wash. I'm still spending $14/bottle on a good gel, but it now lasts me over a year. When it runs out, I'll explore the cheap drugstore products in this awesome list.
And there you have it. Pretty awesome, huh? You can see her curly hair at the top of the post and her straight hair here.

I have been using this regimen for my own hair for nearly two weeks and I LOVE it. Also, I can tend to struggle with dandruff, but I have had none since starting this. I mean, NONE. Here's my most recent pic since making the switch. It's certainly not one of my better days, but the hair is clean and shiny and not plastered to my head with oil as I was afraid it might be. I say give it a try. You most assuredly don't have anything to lose and may find out you have fabulous, luxurious hair naturally without having to strip out and then add back to it a sundry skunah. (What? Everybody doesn't say "skunah"?)

In parting, I leave you with some amazing photos of Burnsy doing what she does, opera. Yeah. She's kind of a big deal now. But then again, I've always known that.

P.S. ACB, easier to get forgiveness than permission for ganking your pictures? Please forgive me. I'm proud of you.

in the part of Yum-Yum, production of The Mikado, Arizona Opera 2008

far left, in the part of one of the The Nymphs, production of Ariadne auf Naxos, Metropolitan Opera 2010

production of Candide, Wolf Trap Opera Company 2008 (and yes, that is this fella)

production of Le Nozze di Figaro, Opera Grand Rapids 2008 (and that fine-looking gentleman with her, in the immortal words of Beyonce, "put a ring on it" and they were married one year later)

...and the lovely pair preparing for the role of their lifetimes...parenthood.


  1. My question: does it smell good? The thing I love about all the bad-for-hair expenseevo products is the fact that they make my hair smell like a flower! And without it? I'm afraid I'll smell like sweat.

    Any thoughts?

  2. I'm with Brandy on this....
    Sounds great, but will I smell great? I guess if you use Suave Naturals, you get the smell of whatever kind you use??

  3. You won't smell like sweat because you'll be scrubbing your scalp clean every day. An oily scalp collects dirt and sweat, which stinks, but a clean water-scrubbed scalp doesn't! The Suave naturals have a good scent, and there are tons to choose from. Check out the list; lots of good-smelling stuff there!

    Jessi, your hair looks GREAT!!

  4. Hi gals. ACB is Burnsy in case you didn't catch that, and she's right...no stinky hair.

    Bran and Jess, it is different than the throw-your-head-around-and-smell-the-sweetness-wafting kind of hair experience, but no stink. I even had Anthony smell my hair after I showered today to get a second opinion (it was a water only wash day). His consensus is that it smelled pretty neutral, but not dirty/sweaty/oily.

    I keep a small bowl of baking soda in the shower (in the farthest corner away from the shower head so it doesn't get wet). I also keep a sports bottle with a mixture of 1:1 water/apple cider vinegar, and then the Suave Naturals. I don't keep any major track of when to use the baking soda or the Suave. I pretty much base it on how my hair's looking and feeling. I'm sure ACB would say the same. You can keep it as simple as you want.

    P.S. Since last week I have been washing my face in the shower with nothing but the baking soda and just enough water to form a sort of liquidy paste. It feels SO good, really nice exfoliant effect. Then, I use the H2O/vinegar mixture as an astringent. LOVE IT! And my face looks and feels great. I also haven't needed a moisturizer since starting this. Give it a shot.

  5. I will admit that I have been scared to dive in and try this, but I have been making my own laundry detergent and cleaners so I am ready to experience the savings on my hair as well. My issue is that I have pretty long hair. It tangles so I am concerned that if I just water wash it will not be soft and it will tangle.

  6. Also I assume I will have to at least double the amounts since I have long hair? I am excited! I need all the money saving tips I can get!


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