Herbal Rinses for Natural Hair Care

| 3/30/2009 11:55:12 AM


Sarah Powell, an herbalist, medical anthropologist and proprietor of the Natural Bath & Body Business, Lilith’s Apothecary, lives with her husband and 2 year old daughter in Philadelphia. http://lilithsapothecary.wordpress.com/

I’ve spent the last ten years educating myself about natural skincare ingredients, the detrimental chemicals found in many commercial brand-name products, and the safest herbal alternatives for a lifestyle much more ‘green’ and sustainable.  And yet there is one bastion that remained just out of reach: my hair. My hair is typical of many Americans who shower a lot, shampoo a lot, and don’t really know what to do about the oily scalp, dry hair problems that plague so many of us. Finding the perfect conditioner and the right shampoo to address various scalp issues is not an easy task! Finally, in my efforts to achieve balance for my hair and scalp, I realized that I needed to turn to the natural world around me.  It is time to call in the herbal allies!


Many of us have already turned to natural facial and body care products, opting for largely chemical-free alternatives that avoid the most toxic and irritating ingredients, including sulfates, parabens and even propylene glycol. We choose truly nourishing facial creams, cold processed vegetable oil soaps and talc-free body powders, and yet natural hair care remains somewhat mysterious and out of reach. We’ve become so used to the sudsy, high lather feel of detergent-based shampoos that even companies determined to bring safer, natural alternatives to the fore shy away from truly natural hair care lines. Fortunately, many companies are producing shampoos without sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) and other irritating chemicals, but in their efforts to mimic the feel of commercial shampoos, they aren’t able to get too far away from the original product. The truth is that for some reason we still associate ‘suds’ with clean, even if those bubbles are just coming from foaming agents like SLS.

Shampoos are still largely detergent based, which tends to strip the hair of its natural oils, drying it out at the ends and often disrupting oil production at the roots. The result is either an oily scalp or the development of dandruff and other dry scalp conditions. At the other end of the root, our hair follicles are stripped of their nutrients and dried out, often requiring the use of a cream conditioner to replenish the hair with vegetable-derived oils. To make matters worse, we also tend to wash our hair far too often, never allowing the hair to recover from all of these assaults with detergent. We often think that we are aiding our damaged tresses with protein-fortified shampoos, but those proteins merely coat the hair shaft, making it appear healthier, and yet these same proteins coat the scalp, choking the follicles and leaving the scalp scaly and flakey.

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