Honey My . . . Hair?
My cousin makes sweet and pretty accessories for her own "Honey My Heart" brand. If my blog were more aware of visual beauty, this post would be about her merchandise, but right now I'm just going to link to her Etsy store.
What this post is about is the latest alternative "no poo" regimen I've stumbled across. But before I talk about that, I really should discuss the "poo" first.
No, not Pooh. I mean, shampoo. One is a tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff. The other is the bane of my existence. And the point is that I haven't been using shampoo for over a month.
How does that strike you? If you're not horrified, you're probably also not Filipino. But this cultural bias toward shampoo is more due to savvy marketing than to folk traditions.
While it's true that in the Philippines everyone who can bathe daily, will bathe daily, we did not always have bath stuff from stores. Our ancestors soaked gugo bark in water until it was soft, then squeezed a sort of gel out of it that they used to clean their hair. And gugo was very easy to get, so there was no excuse not to have clean hair.
These days, you'd have to visit one of the local "exotic" markets to find gugo bark, and it's simply easier to buy some mass produced commercial shampoo from the nearby grocery store. Plus, every brand which intentionally targets the Philippine market is available in "single use" sachets, cheap enough for anyone who can't afford to buy them in bottles but for whom clean hair remains a non-negotiable. Gugo didn't stand a chance.
Of course, the trade off is that sudsy commercial shampoo dries out hair by stripping it of its natural oils. Wash your hair with it often enough and then you'll also need to buy conditioner to oil it up again. How is this not some sort of hustle? And is Manila's air so freaking polluted that it is better to have dried out hair that is also clean than healthy hair that is dirty? Luckily, these extremes are not our only choices--but so strong is cultural bias that when I started my "no poo" experiments, I didn't tell anyone, for fear that even slum dwellers would find me too stinky. Dealing with my own worries that I was too stinky was bad enough.
* * * * *
So how does shampoo work to unstink us?
I remember reading a science book (Yes, Bat, a real science book!) which explained that detergents work by making water wetter. That is, they make everything more slippery, so that it's easier for water to pull it off whatever it's stuck to. They're particularly effective with oily stuff, which make them a real game changer in chemistry, because oil and water, which normally don't get along, are more congenial, even cuddly with each other, when detergents are around. (No, this paragraph was not peer reviewed before it was published.)
And this is how "poo" totally strips hair of its natural oils. This became a special concern for me since my hair got extra dry--heck, outright damaged--at the start of the year. You see, I got a perm which wasn't as curly as the style I had specifically asked for . . .
. . . and when I went back to the salon about a week later to let them know, they first told me that it was my fault for not scrunching my hair up properly after my showers, then offered to do the perm over for free.
Hair-savvy readers are already horrified, because you are not supposed to do that. Perm treatments should be at least six months apart, because otherwise they burn up your hair. Well, I didn't know it at the time--but you'd think the hair professionals would have, aye?
Since then, I've been coaxing my hair into forgiving me by splurging on an occasional keratin treatment at my new salon. But these are expensive. I've only been able to afford two since February. So I figured that if I couldn't give my hair something that would help it, I could at least take away everything that was making things worse. Starting with the dinosaur that pooped my hair.
My first foray into the "no poo" world was a baking soda wash and white vinegar rinse. (I know that most recipes calls for apple cider vinegar, but I wasn't able to get some before I started my experiment, so I went with what was already in my kitchen.) I immediately found myself with the worst case of dandruff ever . . . but I assumed it was one of those "transition" things.
Then I read a "field report" by someone who had tried the same thing: she had given it more of a chance, with different ratios of baking soda and water, only to have her stylist tell her six months later that he couldn't believe how damaged her hair was. And I had a sudden intuition--because that's my special scientific gift--that the same thing would happen to my hair if I continued down the same path.
But I didn't want to go back to commercial shampoo.
Luckily, I immediately came across another alternative to "poo"--one that is making it difficult not to write puns that would make A.A. Milne spin in his grave. (What? Too late?) As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I now wash my hair with honey.
* * * * *
Three weeks later, my hair was the softest and silkiest it had been since the start of the year. Probably even softer and silkier than it was before the first perm! But--and this is what every fellow Filipina has asked since I finally fessed up--was it also clean?
Well, I guess so. I mean, it wasn't greasy or stinky. And it started making me think that shampooed hair is too clean. Where did I ever get the idea that dust particles stick to a strand of hair like bubblegum to the underside of a desk and need to be chemically scraped off? Honey is definitely not a scraper. Nor is it--and this time I did look up the word--a surfactant. So I know that my hair and scalp were clean for three whole weeks without shampoo, but I didn't know how they were clean.
Then there was the issue of smells. Until I manage to stumble across the chemical term for "odor eliminator," I will never be able to explain how they work; but I'm sure that honey is not one of them, either. And I haven't had the chance to see how my honey wash stands up against an evening of hanging out with smokers. (The last time I did that, I had to shampoo twice to get the smell out.)
And while we're on the subject, scents are a big deal in the marketing of shampoos in the Philippines. Marketing researches have found that Filipinas, in particular, don't feel that hair products are effective unless they can smell them all day. In contrast, honey has a very subtle scent that fades very soon after the rinse. During those first few days of my experiment, whenever I was drying my hair and could smell the honey on some locks but not on others, I worried that my hair was only half clean.
Adding a few drops of scented oil to the honey wash helped. I didn't have the recommended essential oils, but I made do with a perfumed blend of avocado oil and grape seed oil (Can you guess the commercial brand with that information alone?) that is supposed to be good for dry and damaged hair. Yes, it was still commercial, but it didn't seem to hurt my hair, which was the important thing.
So far, so good . . . right? Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Image Sources: a) Honey My Heart logo, b) Winnie-the-Pooh, c) The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, d) Brave poster