I feel like this curly hair regimen was six years in the making. I’ve always wanted my hair regimen to be simple, inexpensive, 100% chemical-free, and not need a full day each week devoted to detangling and washing it. With time and after all of the experimenting that I’ve done over the years, I’ve discovered exactly what my hair loves, and how to care for it on a daily basis that provides consistent results.
My Hair Type
In terms of the hair typing system, I have 3c/4a, fractal/zigzag curls which means tiny s-shaped and spiral curls the size of a pencil. My individual strands are fine/medium in thickness and I have a lot of them, so I have high density hair. My hair is chemical-free from relaxers, texturizers, hair dyes, etc. and is very rarely straightened with heat. My hair is also low porosity, yet it has tested as normal porosity in the past, so it is possible that I have both porosity levels in different areas of my hair.
Before I settled on this regimen, I did end up trying some of my previous techniques and products just to ensure this was the best method for me. At the end of last year I even purchased a bottle of “natural” conditioner that I had used in the past from the beauty supply store. I needed to know for sure after two years of predominately water only hair washing which hair care method worked for me. I gave the remainder of the conditioner to my mother after I reached my findings.
I don’t like using store bought products because they coat my hair with unnecessary chemicals to provide a false sense of softness. I detoxed my hair after using the conditioner with bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar. By following the regimen below, my hair actually feels even softer now. I believe curl definition and hair softness has a lot to do with what you don’t use in your hair.
My Zero Waste Curly Hair Regimen
I place my hair into five sections, two in the front, two in the back, and one at the crown of my head. I rinse each section of my hair in the shower daily although I do miss a day here and there. I scritch (a light scratching of the scalp) and massage my scalp, then preen (to move down) the natural oils my scalp produces under running water while I gently finger detangle my hair.
Outside of the shower I apply a small amount of shea butter to the ends of each section and work the remainder into the strands. My hair dries in an hour. Once dry I place my hair in my favorite tension-free topknot bun. At night I use a silk scarf to wrap around my bun and that’s it. I sometimes wear my hair loose, but most of the time it’s in a bun.
I wash my hair in the same five sections described above with a simple olive oil soap bar. It has only three ingredients and no fragrance. I honestly thought I was insane to try this, but my hair loves it. I tried a few different shampoo bars and my hair wasn’t crazy about them.
Instead of giving up on finding a zero waste option, I decided to try a basic olive oil soap bar. After washing my hair, I follow up with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse. I then apply shea butter to my hair. My hair dries within an hour, and I put it in my tension-free topknot bun.
Every other month I do a henna, amla, and coconut milk deep conditioning treatment for my hair. This keeps my hair strong, shiny, and adds a beautiful reddish brown tint. Although I thought about adding a tablespoon of henna to a weekly DIY conditioning treatment, I decided against it to keep my regimen simple.
Why Daily Rinses?
I rinse my hair daily as my version of combing my curly hair. My hair reacts best with finger detangling under running water in terms of minimizing damage and for curl definition. This daily process described above takes me 15 minutes or so. Rinsing daily also allows my natural oils to move down the strands of my hair since using a comb and brush is not the best method for me for distributing sebum evenly or for detangling my hair. Because I am gently finger detangling my hair daily, I do not have shed hairs tangling and forming knots on the ends of my hair anymore.
You Use Plain Soap as Shampoo?
I could not find any clays or dried herbs that I’ve used in the past for hair care in the bulk section of my local grocery store. Finding a package-free or paper only wrapped soap bar which doesn’t not irritate my skin or scalp that my hair responded well to seemed impossible. To my surprise I found one.
Why Shea Butter?
Shea butter is the perfect styler for my hair. It clumps my curls which means fewer knots. I use shea butter in small amounts and only a bit more when I shampoo. Although it is a great moisture sealer, it works well for me with daily rinses. I also purchase the largest order of unrefined organic fair trade shea butter in bulk that I can afford which will possibly last me well over a year and be used in other recipes.
Isn’t This Water Only Hair Washing?
Yes and no. By rinsing my hair daily I take advantage of the benefits of water only hair washing, but by adding a bi-monthly shampoo, it is no longer water only. Sebum conditioning honestly is a better term because my natural oils condition my hair much better than store bought conditioners.
Using a shampoo bar, or in this case olive oil soap, allows me to remove excess sebum from my strands without completely stripping my hair before it builds up causing a grey cast on the hair, an itchy scalp, and ridiculous tangling. My hair breaks when using a boar bristle brush, horn comb, or wooden comb on damp or dry curls. These tools are best at removing excess sebum from hair. Since I don’t wear my hair straight, finger detangling along with this regimen is my perfect balance. I may stretch out my shampoos more in the future, but for now I’m good.
Simple & Chemical-Free
So there you have it, my updated curly hair regimen using only four inexpensive “products”… an olive oil soap bar, diluted apple cider vinegar, shea butter, and my henna/amla/coconut milk hair treatment. I do have this shower water filter because we have hard water in Los Angeles which helps tremendously. You can read why having a shower water filter helps so much here.
UPDATE… My Inexpensive Zero Waste Curly Hair “Products” in detail including brands, where I purchase everything, and the monthly/yearly cost of this regimen.
See my current beauty routine in My MB (Minimalist Beauty).
(Images by Briony Albert)