Yup, you read that right. I washed my hair with flour. Rye flour, to be exact. Why, I hear you ask? Remember my 'No Poo' adventure? Well I'm still riding that crazy wave. It is now four month since I washed my hair with shampoo, although I do have a slight confession - I did let the hairdresser use a gentle shampoo when I had my long locks chopped (although they were totally prepared to work around my green faddy ways), and once in a very sleep-deprived state I accidentally poured shower gel onto my head - but other than these two minor missteps I've stuck to my new-found no poo ethos with surprising dedication.
Instead of shampoo I've been washing my hair every three or four days with a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water, which at first was fine. Ok, the texture of my hair was markedly different, but it had a shine and volume I'd never managed to achieve with commercial shampoo. Recently though, I've found my hair quite tricky to tame. I've moved house and have definitely noticed the change in water - my hair gets greasier quicker and has lost a lot of its bounce. It's also become much drier, and for the first time ever I've got dandruff (nice). I was, it's fair to say, perturbed. And then I stumbled across this post by green blogger Kanelstrand, and I had my answer. Basically, the bicarb was wrecking my hair. Hair and skin are naturally slightly acidic, with a pH of 4.5-5.0. To maintain healthy and happy hair, it's important to wash your hair with something which has a similar pH. Unfortunately what hasn't been mentioned in any of the many many blogs on going 'no poo' (including mine) is that Bicarbonate of Soda is extremely alkali with a pH of 9.5, and it takes a serious amount of water (think 20+ cups) to reduce this to something which is in anyway beneficial to your hair. Basically, chemists we are not. (Kanelstrand has a lot more detail on the actual science, presented in a way which is far far beyond my capabilities).
So yes, washing your hair in a solution of bicarb and water will clean it, without striping it of essential oils, and yes, it's a lot greener than commercial shampoo, but it won't do your hair any favours in the long run. (Apple Cider Vinegar conditioner is absolutely fine, despite being marginally more acidic than your hair). So what are the alternatives? I looked around at other natural, homemade shampoos, and found myself drawn to this recipe for Rye Flour shampoo, mainly because I knew we had some in the cupboard. I must admit I was skeptical - I mean, it's basically like washing your hair with porridge - but I thought I'd give it a whirl. Readers, I say this without exaggeration, Rye Flour shampoo is the bees knees. Rye flour contains a ton of vitamins and minerals to nourish your hair, including pantothenic acid - which is added in its synthetic form to many commercial shampoos to make your hair extra shiny, and also Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and other nutrients which help encourage hair regrowth and strength. It also has a pH of 5.5, so is complementary to your hair in a way bicarb is most definitely not. After just one wash my hair is clean, soft, very shiny, and has a bounce which was lacking recently with the bicarb shampoo. I also used apple cider vinegar conditioner on the ends, which also works as a natural detangler.
To make Rye Flour shampoo simply add three heaped tablespoons of flour (use finely milled flour or, if you can't find that, a sieve) to water and mix together until the solution forms a watery paste. Apply to wet hair, massage well into your scalp, and leave for a few minutes, before rinsing thoroughly. When dry, brush vigorously with a decent natural fibre brush, and you are good to go.
Here's to bouncy shiny hair!