I have a confession to make: I love my hair. Like really love it. It’s long, thick, and when it’s styled right, it makes me feel glamorous. Despite the fact that I am constantly complaining about it, fretting over it, and yes, even treating it with the disrespect that it does not deserve by giving up and tying it into a topknot, I would be devastated if I were to lose my locks.
I’m half Brazilian and half American, and my hairdresser used to joke that my mop was American on the top, but Brazilian on the bottom. He used to say I was lucky for having the best of both worlds, but it was tricky to style and impossible to find a product to please both sides at the same time. I could spend hours relentlessly working my long tresses with a hot iron to tame the thick curls hiding beneath the top layer of thin, straight hair. And it would shine until I emerged from my air-conditioned sanctuary into the wall of humidity just beyond my front door. No amount of hair oil can fend off nature, it seems.
Alternatively, I have tried caking my curls with products to get a luscious show of beautiful, bouncy waves, which worked great for the bottom half, but just made the top half heavy, greasy, and look weirdly flat compared to the party below. I have tried every shampoo and conditioner known to man from store brands to salon brands, ones I found online, to ones that were recommended to me by well-meaning stylists who think someone with a mane like mine must be made of money. Quick note: I am not.
But after a lifetime of living with my locks, I’ve learned to make do with what I have to keep my coif perfectly coiled, so to speak. I check the temperature and humidity levels outside before spending useless hours with heating tools, I have a trusted cocktail of various brands and products to treat the bi-polar sections, and I have certainly perfected the topknot.
So when stay-at-home orders came in and I could easily turn off that pesky little Zoom camera in meetings, it was as if I was being handed the perfect opportunity by the beauty gods to try something completely rash and step out of my comfort zone. And so I decided to take out all of the chemicals from my hair routine.
My mother is of the organic sort (she makes her own deodorant crystals and swears by it, but I have not gotten that brave yet), so I took a page from her book and looked for a product that was all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free, ethical, sustainable, biodegradable, recyclable, and could probably be safely eaten by my one-year-old if he got his hands on it.
I found one such shampoo/conditioner combo from my favorite online grocery store for a mere AED28 per bottle, and as a special bonus, it came in my favorite scent: Lavender and Geranium. “Great,” I thought, “If my experiment fails, I’m only out AED56 and a month of good hair days. Let’s do this.”
Let me be honest, the first ten days did not make me a big fan of natural haircare. There were several moments when I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel. My hair was Frizz Central, like I had never seen it before. I must have used half the bottle of conditioner just in the first week alone trying desperately to tame the mass of mess upon my head.
I had chosen a combination of oils that was supposed to be for normal to dry hair, with an emphasis on hydration. Even so, my hair felt rough, crinkly, frizzy, poofy, and thicker than my hair ties could handle. Mix all of this in with a trip to the beach, and the 30 minutes it took me to detangle what the salt water had tangled in three minutes, and I was rethinking my brash decision. Clearly, I thought, some people just need chemicals and sulfates. This is not working.
But I stuck with it. Honestly, I only stuck with it so that I could finish what I’d bought so as not to waste money. But then, something dramatic happened.
As if by magic, I went from worrying how I would get a brush through my hair before bed to waking up and running my fingers through silk. I was, of course, dumbfounded. I thought it was a one-off. Maybe I slept funny on my hair, or maybe it was because I had washed my hair the morning before instead of the evening before, so it had had time to defrizz.
I made sure to wash my hair that night, and braced myself for the onset of coarseness once my hair air-dried after my hot shower. As I combed through my hair, I realized it was not the tugging and pulling that I had become accustomed to. In fact, it brushed sleek pretty quickly.
Okay, I thought. That’s new. I went to bed and woke up with my hair once again air-dried and soft. Like really, really soft. I could run my fingers through it and it felt amazing to the touch. Even after I brushed it through to get those few pesky knots out, the ‘Brazilian below’ didn’t frizz up. I decided I didn’t need a hot iron to tame it that day, and optimistically left my house without doing anything to my hair.
And it went on like that. My hair was soft, shiny, and for once, manageable without a spot of product. No, I did not appear as having just stepped out of a salon or gotten a blow dry — it wasn’t that miraculous. But my natural hair with no product in it had apparently morphed into a luscious, beach-ready look without me using anything but shampoo, conditioner, and a comb.
I don’t have any scientific proof except for my own anecdotal experience when I switched over to an all-natural hair routine. Perhaps my hair needed to detox from all of the chemicals that I had been pouring into it daily for decades before it could be released into all of its natural glory. Perhaps my hair had been dehydrated all along and it just needed a solid dose of oils — although I will say I’ve tried that before, and it only left my hair greasy. But the point is, I love my hair even more now that I’ve gone all natural.
I told my mom I am a complete convert, and she gave me a knowing look. Looks like I might have to try that natural deodorant after all. As they say, Mother knows best.