It’s a bit unsettling to think about, but shampoo has a lot more in common with dish washing detergent than that oh-so-gentle cleanser idea advertising agencies like to sell you. I don’t know about you, but my hair has very little in common with the pan I made pasta sauce in the other night.

Nope, definitely not a pan.

Modern shampoo popped into wide-spread use out of nowhere close to a century ago, when most everyone switched from well water to tap water. The pH/hard-soft changes necessitated something that would lather under any circumstances, and chemistry was more than happy to oblige. Over time, shampoo drifted further from it’s soap roots, twisting and changing to meet a wide array of requirements: lots of bubbles, easy on the eyes, pleasing scent, luxurious texture, ease of use, and more. If you go read the ingredients on whatever shampoo happens to be hanging out in your shower, I doubt it will simply be made of water and a selection of saponified oils. It’s going to be… long. Suspicious. Mostly unpronounceable.

In addition to the long list of iffy ingredients in shampoo, I’m also not a fan of how strong commercial shampoo is. It trains your scalp into producing oils like a BP oil spill (too soon?). When I used commercial shampoo, I had to wash my hair every second or third day. No avoiding it, or I wasn’t leaving the house.

When I started making my own soap, I started making my own shampoo bars as well. Shampoo bars are pretty similar to straight up soap, and can easily be used for both—the shampoo bars just tend to have a bit more lather and a higher superfat percentage for extra moisturizing properties. More about those in a future entry. When using shampoo bars, you don’t need conditioner. I just finish off with a quick apple cider vinegar rinse (about 1/4 cup of vinegar in a cup or two of water). You do, however, need to be a bit more thorough. You get used to it pretty quickly, but when you have as much hair as I do (past waist length), you have to learn to pay attention to the entire length of it. This stuff isn’t strong enough to clean your hair by just drifting past it, which I see as a good thing.

Since I’ve started using shampoo bars, I’ve also started stretching my washes out, adding a day at a time. Over the last three months I’ve gone from washing my hair every third day to every sixth day, and I’m about ready to move up to every seventh day. You might have read about the no-shampoo movement. It certainly has a lot of supporters, but there’s an unfortunate month or so where you look pretty darn… slick. And I like washing my hair. So I’m weaning myself. We’ll see what happens.

Your hair will love a good boar bristle brush and some hair balm.

Something else I’ve started doing is using exclusively wooden combs and boar bristle brushes. The wood is supposed to be better in terms of tangling and snagging. Not sure I’ve noticed a huge difference, but it’s certainly much more romantic than some flimsy nylon comb. Boar bristle brushes are great for smoothing and re-distributing oils in your hair, as they’re made of natural bristle. They do need to be washed, but a good, long boar brushing can really help with stretching out your washes.

My results? I love that I don’t have to wash my hair so frequently. It’s shinier, and smells nicely of, well, nothing. I think the coffee shampoo bars I made enhance the colour. And it’s nice knowing what I’m rubbing on my head.

So, any stories with natural hair care? Tried it? Liked it? Hated it? Planning on it? Hey, your comment just might win you a bar of my all-natural handmade shampoo in this month’s draw!