A non-toxic beauty blog focusing on botanical ingredients, honest reviews, affordable options, lifestyle musings, and more than a touch of humor.
"I now look back fondly at those being the most constructive years for preparing me for life in the real world...You have to have pretty thick skin and you have to have big shoulders." - Tom Curley

Friday, June 7, 2013

Adventures in Hair, Part II: Or, How to Survive Life When You Have Severus Snape Hair

Hey, remember that time we had an extensive talk about my hair? Yeah, let's revisit that. But first, a story.

I love Harry Potter. Pretty much anyone who's ever met me knows this to be true. I was one of those people who waited in line for hours to get the new book, who saw the midnight premiere of all of the movies, who obsessively read and re-read the books in preparation for a Harry Potter trivia night, who spent (and still spends, I have to admit) hours online scavenging for undiscovered information and, yes, that bane of fandom... fanfiction. I'm the adult woman who spent a small fortune traveling to and buying souvenirs at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. And I'm not ashamed. You know why? Because Harry Potter is awesome.

I will also happily jabber on to anyone who has the misfortune of listening about my favorite character, a certain slippery Slytherin named Severus Snape. To be honest, I'm not sure why I latched on to him as a character. I guess I've always been fascinated with the outcasts and the anti-heroes, and Snape is the ultimate anti-hero. In later years, I also happened to notice some certain... shall we say, shared qualities between myself and the somewhat sinister potions master. Namely descriptions like these:
"Snape-the-teenager had a stringy, pallid look about him, like a plant kept in the dark. His hair was lank and greasy and was flopping onto the table, his hooked nose barely half an inch from the surface of the parchment as he scribbled." (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling)
"...a professor with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin." (Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling)
Wow. I would never have admitted it back then, but back in high school I pretty much had Snape's hair in brown rather than black.

My hair has always been something of a struggle for me, as I mentioned in Adventures in Hair, Part I. To recap, it's always been lank, greasy, thin, fine, and some weird combination of stick-straight and wavy. It doesn't do what it's told. After only a few hours of being unwashed, it turns into an oily mess. It doesn't curl or straighten or have volume or really much of anything.

Happily, that's all changed recently. It's been soft, shiny, fluffy, and full of life. Switching to all-natural products has caused an amazing improvement in my hair, but it doesn't change the fundamental features of it, which are:
  • oily
  • lank
  • fine
  • whatever the opposite of voluminous is
And that's okay. At least, that's what I tell myself in the morning. My hair may be naturally greasy and totally devoid of that bouncy volume everyone longs for, but there are a few simple things I've figured out to make life easier when you have hair like Severus Snape:
  1. If I haven't said it enough already, switch to a clean shampoo! This is easiest, most positive change you can make, especially if you have unmanageable hair. I always recommend A Wild Soap Bar's Yucca Root Shampoo & Body Bar, but I've also had great results with J.R. Ligett's shampoo bars, Morrocco Method (review to come!), and Andalou Naturals. I really enjoy the convenience and affordability of a shampoo bar, but there are also lots of great liquid shampoos and conditioners out there. You just need to look at the ingredients! Conventional shampoos use detergents and sulfates to clean and lather your hair, stripping it of its natural oils. Doing this only makes your hair produce MORE oil to compensate, so don't do it! It's as simple as that!
  2. Speaking of shampoo, be very careful about how you condition as well. If you're using a high-quality shampoo and not stripping your hair, you shouldn't need much (if any) conditioner. I often use an apple cider vinegar rinse to detangle my hair and boost its shine. I also love Andalou Naturals' Full Volume Conditioner with Lavender & Biotin. If you have to use conditioner, use it sparingly, and avoid your scalp! I know there's a lot of info out there about how nourishing your scalp is essential to healthy hair blah blah blah, but I still don't put conditioner on my scalp. I tried it for a while and it did not turn out well. I can't make you do what I say, but I can tell you that in my experience, if you really have oily hair, only use conditioner on the very ends of your hair. Unless you're doing some kind of deep conditioning treatment, then all bets are off. I use this trick: grab your hair and pull it up into a high ponytail on top of your head with your hand and make a fist. Any hair sticking out of that fist can have conditioner. Leave the rest alone.
  3. Try -- I mean, really, really, try -- to wash your hair less often. For us oily folks, this is difficult. It is not a skill I have yet mastered. I still wash my hair almost every day, which causes your hair to overproduce oil, much like harsh shampoos. I've definitely noticed that when I consistently manage to skip a day between washes, my hair starts to look and feel less greasy. But believe me, I know this is very difficult, which brings me to my next tip.
  4. Dry shampoo. This is so in vogue right now, it's not even funny. But look here, dry shampoo really works! I mean, not in the same way that real shampoo works, but it does help. There are a myriad of different products you can try, like this one from Captain Blankenship that I've had my eye on. You can also be lazy and just use corn starch or arrowroot powder, like I do. Your mineral makeup powder will even work in a pinch, especially around the hair line. It's pretty simple. I just dump about a teaspoon of arrowroot powder into my hands, rub it around a bit, and then carefully massage the stuff into my hair, focusing on the roots, bangs, and hair line. Less is more here, but you may find that you have to add a bit more powder to absorb all of the oil. I like to let it sit for a minute while I brush my teeth or whatever else I may be doing, then vigorously muss up my hair to get it really distributed. Finally, I thoroughly brush it all out. This is a very important part, especially if you're a brunette using a white powder. Be sure to get it all out or you will look funny, I promise you that. This method is definitely quicker than showering, but it does take a few minutes. Alternatively, you can just shampoo your bangs in the sink real quick. Or both! Experiment!
  5. Brush your hair thoroughly at least once a day to evenly distribute the oils (and dry shampoo, if you use it). This is where a natural bristle brush can really come in handy. It's not quite as helpful when you're trying to remove tangles, but it gives your hair a nice smooth luster with minimal effort. I use a boar bristle brush like this one that I found at Whole Foods.
With practice, patience, and maybe a little bit of self-acceptance, you can make your oily hair shiny, bouncy, and full of life -- not greasy, limp, and depressing. Give it a try!

Please don't use L'Oreal

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