I’m taking the plunge! I’ve decided to forgo all commercial hair care products and make my own. Yes, I know there are a host of “natural” hair care products on the market, but I’ve decided not to use them. I’ve decided to use the experimentation and trial and error method for caring for my hair.
Pioneers Before Me
Just a few quick Google searches bring up a host of links to the 4C hair care pioneers that have blazed a natural hair care trail before me (for those of you unfamiliar with 4C categorization of hair, check out my earlier post where I touch upon this charting system). I’m thankful for their open and honest reviews and stories of trials and errors. As I read their blogs and watched their videos, I found one common thread. Somewhere along the line, they use commercial products to maintain their tresses. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m opting for a slightly different route.
In my health journey, I find the closer to nature I get, the fewer commercial products I need. It may take a little more time in prepping my concoctions, but it’s worth it. It’s sort of like preparing a good home cooked meal. The option to pick up a pre-packaged, previously prepared meal from the grocery store makes for quick and easy munchings, but there’s nothing like a meal from scratch prepared by someone who knows how to cook.
Basic Hair Needs
When thinking of making my own hair care products there are 3 main items that I need to create:
- Conditioner (I’ll write a separate post on that)
- Hair oils that are required frequently with 4C hair (This deserves its own post too)
So far I’ve managed items 2 and 3, but item 1, the shampoo, was a bit of a challenge. At least it was a challenge until I did some research and realized the shampoos I’ve become so accustomed to purchasing really weren’t made with my hair in mind. They’re too alkaline!
A Brief Explanation of pH
For those of you unfamiliar with pH, it’s a measure of acidity (or lack thereof). The range runs from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). A pH of 7 is neutral, neither acid or alkaline. The pH of the human scalp and hair range between 4 and 5.5 which is slightly acidic. Many of the shampoos on the market have a pH range between 6.0 and 9 which is alkaline.
Because the pH of shampoos is so high, it’s recommended to follow the shampoo with a conditioner. Conditioners have a lower pH and thus attempts to balance out the hair/scalp environment to neutralize the potential damage that alkalized shampoos may cause. Conditioners also moisturize and do a host of other things, but for my purposes here, I’ll concentrate on pH properties only.
Alkalized Shampoos and 4C Hair
If you have naturally kinky, coily hair such as mine, you know how difficult it is to keep it moisturized. Washing hair with a harsh alkalized shampoo strips the hair of whatever natural oils it has and leaves the hair dry and brittle. The purpose of shampooing hair is to clean it, not strip it. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing a billowing lather of suds on our hair when we shampoo and anything less is considered unacceptable. Think about it. If you wash your hair when it is very dirty and you don’t get many suds with the first lathering, you then continue to rinse and lather until you get the acceptable amount of suds.
Since learning more about pH, hair and shampoos I’ve altered my “must have lather” philosophy. Now when I see a lather of suds on kinky hair I think, “OMG! It’s stripping the precious few oils out of that beautiful kinky hair.”
Finding a Low pH Shampoo
Resolving the alkaline shampoo problem is simple. All I had to do was find a shampoo with a much lower pH, somewhere between 4.0 and 5.5. Unfortunately, as hard as I searched, I was unable to find one. I even tried lowering the pH of my alkaline Dr. Bronner’s castile soap by using apple cider vinegar (ACV has a pH of 2.6).
I did manage to lower the pH, but I also “broke” the soap. What I ended up with was a gloopy mess. I used it anyway to wash my hair. I figured the ACV would at least clarify (remove dirt or any buildup) my hair, if nothing else. Also, the pH was properly balanced.
Later research taught me that the vinegar “unsaponified” the soap. In essence, it returned it back to its original ingredients. For more information on that go to Lisa Bronner’s site where she cautions about mixing vinegar with Dr. Bronner’s soap. Oh well, back to the drawing board!
Homemade pH Balanced Shampoo
I later came across a recipe for homemade pH balanced shampoo. I found it on the Black Girl Long Hair website. Here’s the link to her honey shampoo review. However, before whipping up a batch of honey shampoo, I decided to do a little more research. I went to Google Scholar to see what the scholars had to say about honey as it related to the hair and scalp. I found a research paper discussing the successful use of honey for clearing up dandruff and chronic seborrheic dermatitis (http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11485891) and another paper explaining how honey is successful in healing scalp wounds (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4457256/ ). Granted, these articles don’t talk about hair, but a healthy scalp leads to healthy hair.
There are also a host of papers detailing how honey is good for treating infected wounds and how it has exfoliating and moisturizing qualities. It goes without saying that it has antibacterial, antimicrobial properties otherwise it wouldn’t be used to heal infected wounds.
My research provided enough information for me to go ahead and make my honey shampoo. The recipe is real simple. Here it is:
- 1 tablespoon of raw organic honey
- 3 tablespoons of filtered water
Because I didn’t think 4 tablespoons of shampoo was enough, I doubled the recipe. I didn’t really need it but I’m still weaning myself off the “more is better” mentality that I’ve adopted while using commercial shampoos. The beauty of this shampoo is not only is it good for my hair, but it made my face feel clean smooth and moisturized. Also, if it accidentally got in my eyes or mouth, it was okay. My 4C hair responded positively to the honey shampoo. I’ll continue to use it until my hair or scalp tells me otherwise.
Next, I’ll share my trials and errors in the field of deep conditioning. Stay tuned.