Giving up Shampoo

It has now been 7 months since I last used a commercial shampoo to wash my hair.

My experimental journey towards “no poo” as they call it, started off fairly easily.  I decided to try living without commercial shampoo shortly after I had applied a colour to my hair, which handily means I know that where the colour ends is also pretty much where the shampooed hair ends.  I had read a few blogs about it, including washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar either long term or as a transition to using water only,  and washing with honey (at blog High Heels and Training Wheels ), and as the honey method seemed to be popular with curly hair and suitable for use with hard water (ours is really, really hard) I decided to start with this method, with the ultimate aim of getting to water only washing. I also liked the fact that I know exactly what the honey is and where it comes from (within my small town), unlike many of the shampoo ingredients.

It started off really well.  I began by spacing out my conventional washes from approx 3 times a week to once a week, washing with just water once or twice in between.  I did this for a few weeks until I had used up a bottle of Bodyshop Rainforest shampoo that had been hanging around for a while (this shampoo contains no sulfates, silicones or parabens).  Then  I switched to a dilute mix of honey and boiled water to wash my hair (approx 1tbsp local honey dissolved in about 3 times the amount of warm water and left to cool) once a week.  And it seemed to work pretty well.  Initially I continued with a water only wash once in between.

I joined an international Facebook group of people living without shampoo and learnt so much more. They have a whole host of files with more information and shampoo recipes here , where you can find out more about most of the methods I mention.  I learnt to expect that my hair might feel waxy to start with as the silicones are gradually removed (although I was using a natural shampoo my curl serum did contain silicones), and that apple sauce could be used as a treatment.  I learnt that hard water can be a challenge, and can also cause waxiness.  I also learnt that tea or coffee can be used as a rinse between washes so gave both of these a try, along with rosehip tea, and lemon and ginger tea as I had these already.

I began my no poo journey towards the end of October.  By Christmas I was still washing with honey and water once a week but was finding the waxiness beginning to build up (which unexpectedly gave my hair loads of volume so didn’t look at all bad but felt pretty yucky).  So I tried an apple sauce hair mask.  Basically I chopped up a cooking apple and microwaved it until soft enough to mash up really well with a fork (generally advised to use a blender although I didn’t bother) .  Once it had cooled enough to not burn me but was still warm I spread it all over my hair and covered with a shower cap.  I rinsed it out thoroughly after about half an hour and hey presto, clean hair (if much flatter than with the wax).  Around this time (can’t recall if before or after) I also tried an egg wash which was also pretty effective – an egg mixed with an equal amount of cold water (hot water will cook the egg!), and applied to the hair (in the shower or over a sink as it will drip everywhere) then rinsed off after about 10 mins, again with cool water to avoid cooking the egg.   Due to the protein content this is generally not recommended more than once a month but it depends on your particular hair needs.  After new year I also tried a beer rinse as we had an open can left over – my hair loved this!

After another month I used the apple sauce and egg again.  A few months into the new year I was starting to find the honey was not as effective – I think this may be  because the new hair growth was not as dry as the coloured hair – and that my hair was becoming much greasier.  At this point I tried  using  a wash of chick pea flour – 1tbsp of chick pea flour dissolved in warm water.  I added some lemon juice which my hair seems to like ( in moderation).  This was the cleanest my hair had felt yet.  Sadly the next week it didn’t work so well  – this is because it has similar protein issues to the egg.  So I went back to the honey wash, but adding lemon juice, and at one point also tried using the olive oil bar soap I use for washing (not best in hard water and needs to be followed by an acidic rinse such as diluted vinegar) when I didn’t have anything else to hand.

Anyway, 7 months and a fair bit of trial and error later, I have found a different routine which is working really well  for me.  I am now using a wash of soapnuts with added honey and lemon juice alternating with a wash of tea (currently teapigs liquorice and peppermint bags I rescued from being thrown out at work) with a capful of distilled white vinegar.   At the moment I use one of these every 6 days and in between avoid wetting my hair by wearing a shower cap when I shower (to minimise the chance of hard water build up).  Towards the end of the 6 days I might wear my hair up, and brush with a bamboo brush or boar bristle brush at bedtime.  I mainly use soapnuts I have already used for laundry to make up the soapnut shampoo but find adding a couple of new soapnuts does help to make it lather sufficiently.  I make enough around once a month to fill an old small shampoo bottle – then  I use half and then pop the bottle in the freezer to keep the rest fresh for the next wash.  Since the soapnuts contain saponins which produce a lather and also work well in hard water this method seems to work much more like a regular shampoo than some of the other methods did for me and I am quite happy my hair is getting a good clean.  I have been using soapnuts for my laundry since last September and find they clean well so perhaps it should be no surprise that they also work well on my hair.  The effectiveness of the liquorice root and peppermint tea and a little vinegar is perhaps more surprising but smells great too (mint sauce!).

I am hoping this method will continue to work for the moment, at least until I finish the large bag of soapnuts I am using for the laundry.  At that point I intend to experiment with the more local alternative of soapwort, or ideally attempt to go water only.

Along the way my son also gave up shampoo – at the same time as going from long to short hair – he just uses water and had no transition issues (he’s 9 so was ecstatic at me allowing him to not use shampoo); and I found out that my dad had already switched to water only washing a few years ago.  My husband has just decided he’s going to give it a try too so we might well soon be a shampoo free household.

Have you ever tried giving up shampoo?  How did you get on and what method did you try?

If you enjoyed this post please let me know by commenting or liking.  You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

I have also started putting together a Pinterest Board on Natural Haircare .

 

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Low Salt Cajun Spice Mix

Cajun Spice Mix
Cajun Spice Mix

When we switched to making chips with unpackaged sweet potatoes from the market  instead of buying bags of ready made potato fries ( the sweet potato cooks much quicker and produces no waste – only wish we could manage to grow them successfully here) we also discovered the child loves them covered in cajun spices.  As we got through the second jar hubby was sprinkling on liberally I read the label – do you know how much salt is in this?  ( A lot).  And actually, do you know we also have all these other spices already in the cupboard.  So now I make our own.  It’s dead simple, means one less spice jar to buy and dispose of, is cheaper, and, yes it’s also so much healthier without them realising.

So, start by finding yourself a lovely empty jar to reuse.  Then depending how large it is, fill it with the appropriate multiple of these lovely spices ( please feel free to vary the proportions to taste – we like it spicy so usually add extra chilli and smoked paprika).

  • 5tbsp ground cumin or cumin seeds
  • 5tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2tbsp oregano
  • 2tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1tbsp ground ginger
  • And if you wish a little salt – I usually just add a sprinking of Lo-Salt to taste.
  • If you happen to have dried garlic I dare say a little of that would be jolly good too.

Then give it all a good shake.

 

To use on sweet potatoes, cut them into chips, then roll in a little olive oil and in some of the spice mix.   Then roast for approx 20 mins ( 200 degrees C)

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Lo Salt

 

 

 

 

A Spring Foraging Adventure with Hedgewitch Kat

Kat starting off our walk with some borage
Kat starting off our walk with some borage

On a lovely hot and sunny Saturday morning I walked across the water meadows and along the canal to meet Kat and a small group of fellow foragers keen to learn from her experience.

She began by showing us some borage, which she told us is used to flavour Pimms.  This was one I know for adding to a drink- you can freeze the pretty purple blue flowers in ice cubes or just pop into your drink as a garnish.  We all took a taste of the stalk which is slightly cucumbery.  The leaves are slightly furry.

We then took a look at ground elder, growing close to the ground as the name suggests.  As leaves look similar to those of the elder tree it is important to check that the plant is not actually a young elder tree sapling (in which case it would have a more woody stalk and likely be under or close to an existing elder tree), as the tree leaves are not edible.  The young ground elder leaves had a lovely tangy taste.  This plant was brought in by the Romans as it is apparently good for gout.

We then had a look at a young burdock plant – the root is used to flavour dandelion and burdock and can also be used as a vegetable, but remember you should not dig up a plant without the landowner’s permission.  You can also eat the young leaf stems, first stripping off the hard outer peel.

Everybody’s favourite of the day was Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge – there was a plentiful supply of this along the canal and the river and it tastes just as the name suggests.  It’s best to take just the top few leaves from any individual plant  – these can be eaten raw and can also be used to make a great pesto. I later spotted these a little closer to home so will definitely be out for some more of these in the next week.

The leaves of ground ivy, a low growing creeping perennial with small purple/blue flowers can be used to make a herbal tea and were used to flavour beer before the use of hops became widespread.

Nettles are the wild edible most people will be familiar with but I didn’t know that stinging nettles are actually unrelated to the white and purple flowering deadnettles ( which don’t sting) although all are edible. The young shoots and leaves of deadnettles can be added to salads or stir fries.  Stinging nettles are popularly used for soup but can also be used in a variety of other dishes such as risotto, or to make a syrup.  They are very high in iron and a range  of other vitamins. It is best to use young plants in their first year, and remember to bring gloves for picking them.

We also had a look at the hawthorn – a familar sight in British hedgerows.  The leaves can be dried in summer and used to make a tea.  The leaves contain a chemical which helps you to feel full and are known as “bread and cheese”.  The small fruits which appear later in the year are edible but fairly bland ( when I have tried them before I found them to be like a very small floury bland apple).  They can be used to make hawthorn jelly or added to other fruits and dried to make a fruit leather.

Still alongside the canal, we took a look at the large leaved comfrey plant.  The leaves can be boiled and used like spinach but it is also known for its medicinal properties ( for healing bones).  You can also cook the leaves tempura style in a little batter.

As we moved away from the canal and onto the watermeadows Kat showed us the important difference between hemlock (which is extremely poisonous) and cow parsley.

She then showed us broadleaved plantains growing in the meadow grass.  We have a smaller version of these growing in our back garden lawn.  And cleavers/goosegrass/stickyweed which can be gently steamed in a little butter when young (before the seeds appear)

Dandelions are another one everyone will easily recognise.  All parts of the plant are edible apart from the seeds.    I remember spending a whole day collecting the flowers as a child for my dad to make dandelion wine. Another of the foragers told us of a recipe for dandelion marmalade.  The young leaves can be used in salads.

We had a look at some young himalayan balsam plants emerging near the river.  These are an invasisve species so are being removed in many places.  You can help stop them spreading by collecting the seeds in late summer (shaking into a plastic bag as the seed pods explode) .  Adele Nozedar’s book mentioned at the end has recipes for Himalayan Seed Curry and Himalayan Balsam Seed Rissoles .  You can also just eat the seeds as they are, and can also eat the leaves and stems.  The stems are apparently a little like rhubarb although as we always have a surfeit of actual rhubarb in the garden I have never felt the need to try.

Kat also showed us tansy which is antibacterial ( and tasted so) and common hogweed.  The young unfurled leaves and flower heads  of the common hogweed can be cooked gently like asparagus. This plant should not be eaten raw. It is important to be sure you have correctly identified common hogweed as the larger giant hogweed is poisonous.

We finished up our walk with a taste from a large thistle – Kat cut and trimmed pieces of the stalk for us to sample.  And it was surprisingly tasty – I would say a little like celery.

We then made our way back to the pub for a quiz on what we had learnt that morning – with the prize of a lovely pot of jack-by the hedge pesto made by Kat – which I am looking forward to using this week .

This walk really helped me, giving me the confidence to try some plants I knew were edible but was not so confident about identifying and also showing me some I was unfamiliar with.  A top tip for me was the fact that pesticides cannot be sprayed close to waterways which makes the river and canal edges a great place for foraging ( although as they are also popular places for dog walkers, try to avoid the spots dogs are likely to wee or be sure to well wash/cook  your finds).

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Disclaimer and additional references:

This is a brief overview so please do not rely on my images for identification purposes, or rely on this information for the appropriate use of each plant – be sure to check with someone who knows or if using books and online images use several sources to be sure you have a clear image of any unfamiliar plants and sufficient information on which parts of the plant are edible and how to prepare them.  If in doubt don’t eat it.

Information from Kat’s fascinating walk has been supplemented, and my memory refreshed as necessary, by reference to  Richard Mabey’s Food for Free.  Other useful foraging reference books are Alys Fowler’s the Thrifty Forager and Adele Nozedar’s The Hedgerow Handbook – recipes, remedies and rituals.

A link to Kat’s blog is below.  Eat the weeds is also a useful reference site for more information on individual plants

Kat’s blog: Hedgewitch Adventures

Hedgewitch Adventures Facebook Group

Eat the Weeds

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No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more.

Full wardrobe
Full wardrobe ( and I don’t just have the one)

I have always been a bit of a shopaholic and a bargain hunter when it comes to clothes.

A few years ago I spent a year not buying new clothes – there’s a little about it on my separate (now discontinued)   blog https://prelovefashionandrecycling.wordpress.com/

That time my challenge was to only buy second hand clothing for a year.  Excluded from this were shoes and underwear, and things bought with birthday gift vouchers.  As I went through the year I found I couldn’t get leggings second hand so allowed these new (loosely under the underwear category since I tend to layer them under dresses).

Actually the challenge was far easier than I expected and by the end of the year I had amassed loads of “new to me” clothing, along with far more new shoes and underwear than I possibly actually needed.  And I felt good because I had spent lots in charity shops. Although I went back to buying some new clothes, I continued to get well over 50% second hand.

Back in September last year I signed up for zero waste week and shortly after decided that perhaps it was time for a new clothes related challenge.  This time I was not just going to not buy new clothes, but not buy, or acquire, any additional clothes, shoes or underwear, whether new or pre-owned ( with one exception – see below).  Because this was a tougher challenge ( certainly one my husband thought I had 0% chance of sticking to), I set a more modest timescale – until Christmas, and set myself one exception which was a pair of specialist shoes needed for an arthritic toe as the old pair had started giving me blisters.

Actually I had only bought one item of clothing since July – a second hand dress which turned out not to fit and was donated back to charity.  So effectively my challenge began in July.

Allowing myself an exception for shoes in advance was perhaps not such a great idea as I quickly ordered a pair online (mistake to browse ebay after a glass of wine – I should know better) .  In the end I didn’t keep them – my old boots turned out to just need breaking in again for the winter and soon became comfortable again, and the new shoes didn’t really fit so after a few weeks I listed them back on ebay and sold them on.

Christmas came and went.  My only challenge really was a Christmas do at work which required a posh outfit.  I already had a gorgeous black satin fishtail wiggle skirt from Coast in the cupboard, picked up in a charity shop a few years earlier and never worn as I had struggled to find any shoes to go with it that I could actually walk in (I’m usually in either summer Birkenstocks or clumpy MBT boots).  A friend came up trumps with a pair of flat pointy court shoes she’d picked up in a charity shop which she lent me for the evening.  And my auntie lent me a lovely black lace top and a silver scarf (since we had a black/white/silver theme).  My auntie is a bit skinnier than me so the top was a bit on the tight side but altogether I was really happy with the outfit and I could even walk (and dance) in the shoes which friend now has on standby for me to borrow again should the need arise. And I had a lovely evening.

So, I made it until Christmas, and do you know what, I still couldn’t really think of anything I needed or even particularly wanted by way of clothing.  I unexpectedly received a gift voucher from work for long service and really struggled to spend it. After buying some things to help with my zero waste journey such as lush deodorant bars and storage tins, a loofah, a soap dish and replacing a really scratched wok with a hopefully longer lasting enamelled one,  I could only think of looking for clothes for the remainder  (I was limited to a specific shopping centre) but really wasn’t inspired by anything so aside from a nightdress ( as I had got rid of 2 just before starting zero waste – as my mending efforts had failed)  I bought some “functional” items – a thermal underdress, a pair of leggings and a couple of pairs of bamboo socks.  Aside from those I have still not acquired anything new, or even second hand.

At the start of this I shared my challenge with the folk over at the  Zero Waste Heroes Facebook Group to give me some motivation.  Someone commented that I would learn to really love the clothes I had.  I wasn’t sure, I thought I might get bored , but actually they were spot on.  I have culled quite a few things I wasn’t so keen on ( to charity shop) and most of my wardrobe is now things I really like (including the purple woollen dress in my post from a few years back).

So, my challenge has extended to cover 9 months, and I have to say that it has really changed my attitude towards buying new clothes.  I found that:

1)  I already owned way too many clothes

2)  I could donate some and still have more than enough

3)  Asking whether I need something really helps, and has extended way beyond clothing

4)  Because this attitude has extended beyond just clothing I have saved an average of £250 per month on my personal spending.  Considering I was mainly buying cheap second hand clothing to start with that is a phenomenal amount!

Going forward I will continue to ask myself how much clothing I really need and when I do need something be sure it is something I really love, and which fits me really well.  I like the recycling element of buying second hand so will continue to do this but where I do need new I am going to focus more on buying such new items from ethical companies – it may cost more, but I will be buying fewer items.

I have been invited to a charity clothes swap party next week (arranged by the good friend who kindly lent me her shoes).  So I am going to have a day off, at least, from not acquiring anything new to me.  But I am determined that I will bring home fewer items than I donate to the swap.  More about that in a future post.

I am still sorting out items to swap but so far have picked out 2 coats, a pair of velvet trousers (freshly dry cleaned and embarrassingly still unworn from the last clothes swap a couple of years ago) and a skirt to go:

Starting to gather items for the clothes swap
Starting to gather items for the clothes swap

What is your approach to buying new clothes and how often do you clothes shop?

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