My lockdown diary of the transition from super-synthetic to natural hair using the all natural Cosy Cottage Lemongrass Shampoo Bar and some other natural haircare products and routines. I thought I'd document the transition as it's something that we get asked about a lot.
First of all, here’s a little bit about me and I’ll explain the reason behind why I’m telling you this, in a few seconds...
Diet: 60% vegan, 40% vegetarian
Stress Level: 7/10
Ability To Deal With Stress: 5/10
Water Intake: About 50% what it should be
Exercise: Moderate and low impact; swimming, yoga and body weight routines
Location: Countryside suburbs of Manchester
Water Hardness: Slightly hard
Hair Styling: Wash twice a week. Minimal heat styling, drying with a hairdryer once a week
Current Hair Condition: Not great. Dry hair from repeated colouring, no real hair care and stressful lifestyle
Hair Colour: Dark brown, which is my natural colour but I’ve lightened it in the past and dyed it dark again recently, which has really dried it out.
Hair Length: Long
Usual Shampoo: Supermarket own brands (because they are usually cruelty free)
Usual Hair Products: An expensive leave-in conditioner styling spray on wet hair before drying
The reason I’m telling you all of the above is because it’s important to point out that everybody is different, and all of the factors above will likely have an impact on the condition of your hair and/or the transition to a natural, detergent free shampoo and natural hair care routine. All in all, I’m pretty healthy, normal and don’t do anything out of the ordinary to most people.
Everybody is likely to have a different experience as they trial, error and research their way through weaning themselves off detergents and chemical laden products and I am no exception. So here is my own, unique account, including what I used in addition to the shampoo bar, to get me on the right journey for my hair.
SPOILER ALERT: A month later, I now have really nice hair and I'm on the way to improving my hair overall!
Why the change to a shampoo bar?
I’ve worked part time for Cosy Cottage Soap for a few years now. Many of the social posts you’ll see are written and posted by me and I LOVE working here, because I’m right behind every detail of the business and our ethos. I use and adore all of the products EXCEPT the shampoo and conditioner bars because… I tried the shampoo bar a few years ago but after two washes, I gave up! I had another job at that time where my hair needed to be swishing around my waist, so when my hair became waxy, I didn’t have the courage to continue use.
When lockdown happened, I welcomed the chance to have another go, and with the new shampoo fragrances launched recently and plenty of time on my hands, I thought there was no better time to try the transition (again).
When I Googled ‘shampoo bar transition’, there was a plethora of articles, the vast majority by women, citing different experiences. All of them said that a 'transition period' was common, with the hair feeling waxy, but that perseverance pays off. This could be because women tend to colour their hair and use lots of different styling products and I make this assumption because, from feedback we have received, men and children rarely have any transition period at all.
My hair began this journey, after wash 1, as a very waxy pile of straw! It stood on end when I turned it upside down, felt really stiff and both dry and greasy at the same time! I was lathering the shampoo on my hands and working through with plenty of water but I wasn’t getting anywhere near the lather I was used to or that I felt would clean my hair properly. I rinsed thoroughly in the shower. I did try rinsing once in the bath water but that was a big mistake!.
I used a little of the Cosy Cottage Conditioner Roundel at first but for the purposes of this blog, I thought it best to just allow the hair to get used to one product at a time plus, I wanted to give a fair review of just the shampoo bar journey. I also stopped using my leave-in conditioner styling spray. I tried drying my hair both with a hair dryer and allowing it to air dry naturally. There was no difference in experience with the shampoo bars, between the two drying methods.
When I combed my hair after these early washes, there was a grey residue on the comb. I’m unsure whether this was the shampoo bar sticking to the horrid build up on my hair, the shampoo itself or just the build up making its way off but whatever it was, I hated it. I felt really unattractive, like my hair hadn’t been washed properly.At the roots, I had dandruff and my hair was incredibly static and was attracting specks of dust and fibres from my clothes.
A couple of interesting things to mention. Everyone I spoke to said my hair looked fine and I wore it down on purpose as I was making this diary of the journey. My hair dye was not affected.
Wash four saw a significant improvement in the lather of the product, which led me to believe the build up was coming off and my hair was getting used to the shampoo bar. When I dried it, it was a lot softer and the dandruff had gone. Again, my hair dye was not affected.
However, the static and a little of the grey residue remained on my comb, and my hair still didn’t feel quite right. I’m a natural and pragmatic researcher and will spend hours looking for information. So I went on a digital journey on natural hair care and what I could do to help the transition and repair my hair, which had been frazzled by the products I had been using for years. Paying so much attention to my hair made me realise how dry it was, underneath the silicone layer which had built up, so I added the mission of repairing my hair to the job of conquering the shampoo bar.
Bicarbonate of soda, apple cider vinegar and washes 7 and 8
You may have heard of the ‘no poo’ method, where people only use water, bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) to care for their hair. When doing my research, I read that in the same way as transition to solid, natural, detergent free shampoo, there is also a transition with the 'no poo' method, as the hair re-adjusts to balance the production of natural oils and gets rid of years of build up.
Bicarbonate of soda clarifies the hair and if used carefully (read on), can help to get rid of the old build up and press a kind of reset button on the hair. It’s important not to use too much because it can damage the hair by breaking down the keratin, which is the protein that gives hair its strength. ACV is acidic and can help to rinse out the shampoo in hard water areas and close the cuticle on the hair meaning less tangles and shinier hair.
So I thought I’d turbo charge the build-up blast-off and add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to 500ml of water. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED. I think I used a little too much!
I poured the bicarbonate of soda solution onto my hair and worked it through really well and rinsed thoroughly. I then washed with the shampoo bar (which lathered much better), rinsed really well with water and then applied an ACV mixture (2 tablespoons of ACV to 250ml of water), worked it through my hair and rinsed thoroughly.
I could literally hear the squeak of my hair as I drained out the excess water. It felt really clean but my hair didn’t feel great. The bicarbonate of soda wash really stripped my hair of all the buildup and when I dried it, I was left with my natural hair underneath which was extremely dry. I have to point out that the dryness of my hair isn’t the fault of the bicarbonate of soda, the ACV or the shampoo bar; it was my hair in need of healthy and natural moisture from a kind and gentle hair routine after being treated unfairly over the years.
Again, my hair dye was not affected but as my grey hair came through at the root, I noticed it a lot more as a) it’s the longest I’ve ever not dyed it for due to lockdown and b) the washes were allowing my natural hair to really shine through.
Moisturising my frazzled hair and washes 9 and 10
The research continued. A few good friends of mine have been doing the ‘no poo’ and natural hair care routine for decades and they assured me that natural products, safe use of diluted bicarbonate of soda washes and ACV used as a conditioner had left them with their best hair ever. However, I was convinced that my hair needed a little extra TLC so I read lots of articles about adding moisture naturally.
Moisture comes from water and your hair’s ability to hold onto it. There is tons of information on adding different oils to the hair but after lots of reading about the science behind improving the appearance of dry hair, I decided on the following combination of products and processes for now:
- 100% pure aloe vera gel (to add water-based moisture the night before washing)
- Castor oil (for vitamin E and sealing the moisture into my hair the night before washing)
- A boar bristle brush (to draw natural oils from the scalp to the ends of my hair)
- Only washing my hair once a week or every two weeks (to allow me to treat my hair with the above)
- The Lemongrass Shampoo Bar (to wash naturally)
- Bicarbonate of soda (as a mild clarifying hair wash every few months)
- ACV (to close the hair cuticle and detangle)
- A 100% natural hair conditioning mask (to help restore my frazzled hair – I haven’t found one I love yet)
- Cosy Cottage Conditioner Roundel (as a treat for the ends of my hair once a month)
- 100% pure argan oil (to tame the static after drying)
What can I say? My hair has started to transform! I’m washing my hair less than once a week at the moment. Once or twice a day, I brush my hair with the boar bristle brush to work my natural oil through my hair. The day before washing, I add a handful of aloe vera gel to the mid-length and ends of my hair and then half a teaspoon of castor oil over the top and I plait it. It isn’t an issue in terms of appearance. It looks totally fine plaited or tied up and I feel confident with it.
I was a little nervous when it was time to wash with the shampoo bar after the first two weeks of using the aloe vera and castor oil treatment as I wanted all my efforts to have made a difference…. It 100% has!! … I used the shampoo bar. It lathered up perfectly I then rinsed well and used the ACV mixture I used previously and rinsed well again. I dried it with my hair dryer and my hair styled really well and was really soft and shiny. The static did continue but with zero residue. A couple of drops of argan oil left it nice and shiny and took away the static.
So there you have it. My honest and open diary of my transition to not only a natural hair care routine but to improving the appearance of my hair, damaged over the previous couple of decades. I wish you well on your own journey and fully recommend a combination of the shampoo bar, your own research and most of all, a little perseverance!