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Be Green

Great hair starts in the kitchen!

Everyone wants great hair. I get it. Heck, I want great hair! But there are some of us who'd prefer that the good looks didn't come at such a high cost to our health and that of the planet. Not to mention our pocketbooks!
Did you know that in 2007, the average Quebecker spent $1,089 on personal care products?
Source: Statistics Canada

Waste and Toxicity:
* Most beauty products are packaged up the wazoo! Most of that ends up in the landfill or costs thousands of dollars and loads of resources to recycle.
* Most commercial products contain harmful, synthetic chemicals (some of which are known irritants and carcinogens)
* Often, a product we use to treat one malaise (dandruff, for example) will lead to another problem for which we'd need yet another specialized product. The cycle is vicious and frustrating.
* Many products are now "greenwashed". This means they come in attractive packaging with the words "natural" and "organic" plastered all over them. Know this: Just because a product has a few organic ingredients in it doesn't make it safe or eco-friendly. Many companies add a small amount of organic this or that and then booster it all with chemical cr** to give it a long shelf life.

In fact, you should do an experiment.
Log on to the Cosmetics Database. It's run by the Environmental Working Group, a non profit that pores over safety data, government studies and conducts its own research to help consumers like you and me decide what's really safe.
So, log on and enter the names of your favourite cosmetics. If they're in the database, you'll find out just how safe they really are (and yes, there's a full explanation for the score that your product receives).

Scared yet? I sure was!

So I got some help finding alternatives that are skin and planet-friendly and don't use a lot of packaging. The idea is to save you money and give you a better shot at real beauty--the kind that doesn't come at a cost to your health or the environment. I spoke to Rita Czippel from Beaute Business on St Denis. Rita's been a hair specialist for 15 years and really knows her products and people's expectations around them. She did a whole bunch of research into natural, home-made alternatives and found some that just might wean you off your bottle of toxic hair goo.


Before we go ANY FURTHER, here's a disclaimer. It's important:
Just because a product is natural and comes from the earth and is recommended by all your hippie friends DOESN'T MEAN IT'S RIGHT FOR YOU! You could be allergic or sensitive to just about anything! So do a patch test before you use anything on this website (unless you use the ingredients on a regular basis with no side effects).

No really! I'm serious! I know folks who are allergic to chamomile flowers! And someone who breaks out in hives while using lavendar oil. Odd as fish, but true!

Okay, now that you've been warned, let's try some fun home remedies.
My absolute favourite is the Indian Hair Oil trick. Do you know it?

Indian Hair Oil Trick

This is the secret behind Indian women's long glossy hair (and lack of scalp problems)

You need:
Warm (but not hot) olive or coconut or almond oil
Willing hands (this is the tough part)

The treatment:
Simply massage the oil into your scalp (not so much on the hair shaft itself). It's a wonderful ritual to share with a partner or kids. In India, all the women of the family oil each others' hair. The oil helps moisturize and balance the scalp. The massage is relaxing and helps promote blood supply to the roots.
Of course, you can massage your own scalp, but it's much more fun to have someone do it to you.
Once the oil is in, leave on for minimum one hour to allow your body to absorb it.
Ideally, leave on overnight (use a towel to prevent staining your pillow and wear an old T-shirt)
Wash as usual (you'll probably have to shampoo twice)

You'll notice your hair is shinier and less knotted even after one treatment. This treatment should be repeated at least once a month.

Chamomile Shampoo
(for limp, fine or damage-prone hair. Particularly good for hair prone to greasiness)
4 Bags of Chamomile Tea (or 2 heaped tbsp fresh Chamomile flowers)
1 ½ cups of boiling water
2 Tablespoons of Glycerin
5 Tablespoons of Pure Soap Flakes


* Steep the flowers or tea bags in the boiling water for 10-15 mins
* Strain out flowers or remove tea bags
* Add the soap flakes to the liquid and wait till the flakes dissolve
* Add the glycerin and stir

This is an excellent frequent use shampoo--particularly if you have light hair. The chamomile acts to balance the moisture on your scalp and cure mild skin irritations. The mildness of the shampoo will also prevent your skin from drying out. Experiment with the amount of soap flakes and glycerin till you find the consistency that best suits your scalp and hair.

Erm, where can you find soap flakes?

Just buy a bar of natural soap and shave it. Simple! Look for soaps that don't have a ton of perfume added. I love Soap Works bars for loads of reasons: they're made in Canada (Toronto), they're a small business (so you're supporting the little guy), they're widely available at health food stores and best of all, no packaging. Like none. The bar is all you get. And they're very reasonably priced (under 2 bucks).
Here are some stores that sell SoapWorks. (Please feel free to add to this list by leaving a comment!)
If you live on the Plateau, you can buy them at Dans Ta Bulle: 316 avenue du Mont-Royal Est (corner Drolet), (514) 842-3019.
In La Petite Patrie you can try Maison Ecolonet. They're at 925 rue Bélanger, (514) 279-1881
In NDG, Co-op La Maison Verte: 5785 rue Sherbrooke West. (514) 489-8000
In St Anne de Bellevue, there' s the Co-op du Grand Orme

(this is a light-hold gel suitable for everyday use)
2 tbsp whole, organic fax seeds
Few drops of essential oil
1 cup of water
Organic aloe vera gel (for dry hair)

* Bring water to a rolling boil.
* Stir in flax seeds in the water
* Reduce temperature and simmer for about 10 minutes while constantly stirring.
* Strain the viscous liquid using a strainer or cheesecloth
* Add the essential oils and store in a jar or bottle
* For dry hair, add the aloe vera gel
* STORE IN FRIDGE (this product has no preservatives, so it may go bad if not refrigerated).
This should last you at least two months.

Want the beauty, but not the bother?

Alternatively, use pure organic (and fair trade) shea butter. You can buy Kariderm brand butter at most health food stores. Druide also sells an organic, fair trade shea butter.

Shea butter hair gel
How to use:
Simply take a teeny quantity (really, less is more!) on fingertips and use like normal gel. This is a firm hold gel that's good for short, spiky styles. You might have to adjust quantities once it starts getting warmer. The good news is that shea butter is a natural moisturizer and so will keep your hair in great condition. Good bye chemical nasties!

Cornstarch Dry Shampoo

You need:
Hair brush
Makeup brush

To use:
* Simply dust some cornstarch onto greasy hair using the makeup brush (or fingers, in a pinch). The trick is to avoid getting too much on your hair and to avoid getting much on your scalp.
* Leave the powder on for about 10 minutes (perhaps while you attend to makeup or make tea)
* Brush your hair vigorously. It helps to bend over and flip your hair upside down.
* Make sure you protect your clothing--especially if it's dark (yes, yes, bitter experience talking)

The starch will absorb most of the excess oil and the brushing will take off the oily powder. What you're left with is refreshed, bouncy hair. I find that brushing your hair while flipped over adds body as well. It won't feel as fresh as if you'd just washed it, but no one will be able to tell the difference.
This treatment is excellent for those times when you have a big meeting or photoshoot and no time to wash your hair. It's also good for folks who are bedridden or otherwise unable to wash their hair.
What it's not good for: It's not recommended as a replacement for regular washing. You'll see why. You scalp will feel a little dry at the end of the day (which goes away in the shower). This is purely an emergency solution.

Have dry, damaged, colour-treated hair?
Try this Avocado, egg and honey treatment.

You need:
* 1- 1 tsp olive Oil
* 1/2 ripe Avocado (if you have very long hair, you might need a whole fruit)
* 2 tsps honey
* 1 fresh, organic egg

* Mash the avocado till you have a smooth paste
* Add the egg
* Stir in the olive oil and honey and mix well.

To apply:
* Comb your hair till it's free of knots
* Glop on the hair pack in the same way you would hair colour.
* Use a shower cap or hot towel to cover your hair.
* Leave on for 30-40 minutes.
* Rinse
* Use a mild shampoo (you might have to shampoo twice)

By the way, the above recipes are based on ones from the Beauty Tips Hub website. Check out some of their other natural cures and let me know what you think!

So there you go. I'd love to hear stories of your experience with these (or other) home treatments for common hair needs. And let me ask you this: do you read the ingredients list on the products you buy? What do you base your decisions on? Leave me a comment or call our Talkback Line: (514) 597-5626

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Comments (6)

A Proteau


I am SO trying the avocado hair masque tonight! Oh wait...maybe in a couple days.. (wink wink).

Posted February 8, 2009 07:53 PM

S Fleury


Funny that the first comment is from Terrebonne! I'm from Terrebonne too! Hi there! On an other topic, the shea butter hair gel trick is wonderful. It's a natural look; not sticky at all! I love it! I got very good comments from female coworkers that don't like sticky hair gels! I'm now trying to find glycerine to do my own chamomile shampoo. Does anyone know where I can find some glycerine??
Stevie Wondering

Geeta writes:
Hi Steve, you should be able to find glycerine at your local health food store. Many pharmacies also stock it. Glad the shea butter gel worked so well for you. The best part is it's actually benefiting your body instead of just making a cosmetic change. This stuff is GOOD for your hair! Hurrah for natural beauty. And thanks for sharing your experience.

Posted February 21, 2009 11:46 AM

erika n white


Thanks for making green alternatives look so hip and sexy. At our house, we all love you. Keep it up, and in another few years we won't even be weirdo fringe freaks anymore! Our pledge to eradicate plastic from our kitchen involves supporting local potters, parchment paper, and recycling jars. Thanks for all the great tips.

Geeta says: Ha ha! I think I might miss being a weirdo fringe freak, but I agree. It's really fun to see that this way of being is finally catching on with the mainstream. All that nagging finally paying off?

Posted March 4, 2009 09:12 AM

Elena Kozlova


Is there any natural treatments for dandruff? I have a really bad problem for which even my dandruff shampoo can't keep up sometimes.

Actually, I addressed this here:
I LOVE that Druide stuff. Looking at your diet might be a good idea too. I found I needed to do both to solve my own issue.

Posted April 21, 2009 05:12 PM

Kristina Drake


I love love love your segments!

Just wanted to chime in that I have been unsuccessfully trying to go "no poo" on and off for months. I've resigned myself to the fact that the baking soda/ACV thing other "no-pooers" use just isn't working, so I've started looking for alternatives. I have used Druide products, which I like except for the citronella smell, and this morning, I used Dr. Bronner's castile soap with orange and lemon. I think that one's a keeper, especially since it really only takes a tiny amount mixed with water. I also use Dr. Bronner's to scrub my tub, sink and toilet. (Yes, I'm serious.)

One result is I definitely read the labels these days, especially of anything claiming to be "natural" or "organic". A lot of the time that's just marketing hype, and I find myself getting disappointed with the selection at the local "natural" store.

I also wanted to mention that coconut oil makes the absolute best body lotion. I keep a jar in the kitchen for cooking with, and I keep another next to the bed for slathering on before I get dressed. I will never buy another commercial lotion again. I also use shea butter as a heavy duty/hand moisturizer and as an eye makeup remover (although I don't use makeup often).

Geeta says: Thanks so much for sharing your tips with us, Kristina. Have you checked out the lotion recipe on the blog?
You can find it here:
It uses some of your (and my) favourite ingredients, smells INCREDIBLE and makes for great gifts!

Posted May 5, 2009 01:53 PM



i think i will try this ive been trying to grow out my hair

Posted June 14, 2009 11:57 AM

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