Pure + Simple Hair Care

You know all those bad hair days when your locks are totally flat and lifeless–or worse, frizzy and out of control? You weren’t born that way, lovely. Mainstream hair care products are rather tough on our heads! Heat styling and coloring dry out and damage the hair follicles, making us even more prone to frizz because the hair shaft is constantly roughed up and trying to suck up whatever little bit of moisture it can find in the air. Plus most of the products we use at home contain harsh detergents and more dehydrating ingredients like alcohol or silicones and gels that just weigh you down.

It’s important to give your hair a chance to detox at least once a week: no heat styling, just a gentle shampoo and a deep conditioner or a leave-in one. Sure, we’d all love blowout-perfect hair all the time, but these recovery days are so good for bad hair dayour heads–plus, the beachy, free-flowing, air-dried look (especially in the summer) is a great look. And remember: Your next blowout will be even more awesome because you’ve given your hair this opportunity to bounce back.


How often you  need to shampoo depends on your hair and scalp. I try really hard not to overwash my hair because I subject it to so much heat styling and hair sprays. I try to let it breathe when I can–but my hair is too fine to for very long between shampoos (it just falls flat-gross). I like to stick with a pretty basic plant based formula for gentle cleansing. If you’re good hair daydealing with dandruff or buildup, try to avoid conventional dandruff shampoos–they’re very harsh. Rinsing your scalp weekly with apple cider vinegar (recipe below) will help keep flakes at bay naturally. But do rinse well with water and follow up with a conditioner or you’ll end up smelling like salad! For oily scalps, adding a bit of tea tree oil to your shampoo and only conditioning the ends will work best even if you have to shampoo daily.


Conditioner is so important for keeping your hair soft and shiny. But remember that less if often more here. If you use gobs of a product you’ll run out faster (which can get expensive!), and it can also weigh your hair down so it looks flat and dull anyway. I like to comb conditioner through my ends in the shower but keep it off my scalp to prevent buildup. As usual, avoid added fragrances and opt for plant-based moisturizing ingredients when you can.

Styling Curls

As much as I enjoy a sleep blowout, I also love that curls (and embracing your natural wave!) are big again. This is especially helpful if you live in a humid climate; it’s like, why fight it? Let your hair be free. So what’s the key to happy (not frizzy) curls? Making sure your hair is properly hydrated. A good, hydrating curl cream can combat the frizz-attack. Look for a lightweight, water-based formula and steer clear of gels hot tools haircontaining alcohol, which can be super drying

Styling Straight/No Frizz

After the Brazilian blowout made headlines a few years ago because it was found to release formaldehyde, I got a lot more careful about the kinds of products I use when I want sleek, straight hair. When it’s not too humid, I find that a little dab of argan oil or another natural leave-in on my ends is enough to keep everything shiny and smooth. When you need something more hard core, you might want to steer clear of keratin containing products–we’re still trying to figure out which brands are safe and which are problematic. You’re better off using a lightweight silicone gel (although, I know, the results won’t last as long–such a bummer!). Divide damp hair into sections and blow it out a piece at a time using a big round brush. Then smooth everything over with a flat iron. All this heat can be tough on your hair, so I’d advise against making this your everyday style…but it will give you that sleek look without the toxicity.

Sketchy Ingredients to Avoid:

Found in: Baby shampoo, kids’ bubble bath, regular shampoo, soap, and shower gel

What is it? Sodium lauryl or sodium laureth sulfate and “PEG” are sudsing agents, which make things foamy. (Beware of any ingredients that include the terms “xynol,” “ceteareath,” and “oleth.”)

Why is it sketchy? When these chemicals are manufactured, they release a toxic by-product called 1,4-dioxane. This chemical easily penetrates our skin and may cause cancer and birth defects. It may also be toxic to our kidneys, neurological system, and respiratory system.


*Includes formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, imidazolindinyl urea, and quaternium-15.

Found in: Shampoos, body washes, nail polishes, polish removers, keratin hair straighteners, hair gels, and eyelash glue.

What is it? A preservative (or sometimes, a by-product released by other preservatives) that prevents bacteria growth and (weirdly) makes your hair silky smooth.

Why is it sketchy? Formaldehyde can cause cancer after chronic, long-term exposure, plus it can trigger allergic reactions, rashes, nosebleeds, asthma, and other respiratory issues.


Found in: Water-based products, like shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, shower gel, lotion–you name it.

What is it? A preservative

Why is it sketchy? We can absorb parabens through our skin, blood, and digestive system, and they’ve even been found inside breast tumors (and, thus, linked to cancer). They may also be toxic to our reproductive, immune, and neurological systems and can cause skin rashes.

Recipe: Clarifying Apple Cider Rinse

Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of apple cider into a cup of water, then pour it over your head in the shower. Comb through and rinse out. Experiment with adding a couple drops of essential oil–or follow up with a conditioner to avoid the salad dressing smell!

Sources: The Honest Life by Jessica Alba, Oregon OSHA "Keratin-Based Hair Smoothing Products and the Presence of Formaldehyde," Final Report 2010. www.osha.org/pdf/Final_Hair_Smoothing_Report.pdf, Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database www.cosmeticsdatabase.com, Environmental Working Group: Shopper's Guide to Safe Cosmetics http://static.ewg.org/skindeep/pdf/EWG_cosmeticsguide.pdf, International Agency for Research on Cancer "IARC classifies formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans," press release, June 15, 2004. www.iarc.fr/enMedia-Centre/IARC-Press-Release/Archives2006-2004/2004/IARC-classifies-formaldehyde-as-carcinogenic-to-humans.

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