It didn’t start out as a way to avoid chemicals or “toxins,” those nebulous little buggers that Southern Californian middle class white women in Lululemon deem the downfall of modern civilization. The only shampoo that didn’t seem to transform my straight hair into some sort of wig-mop hybrid cost $28 a bottle, and damned if I could drop that kind of cash on anything but car repairs anymore. So it didn’t start out as anything but another scheme to try to save a few dollars, to stretch them out until they squealed. I have tried a lot of those schemes in my adult life.
A jug of wholesale, unscented Castille soap arrived in the mail, and I measured the proper amount with the proper amount of coconut milk and a few drops of lavender essential oil. All told, this homemade shampoo was costing me about 50 cents to make. I was saving serious money, money I could finally save for the trip to Europe I’d been planning for the past nine years. My hopes high, I hopped in the shower, squeezed out enough to cover my palm, and went to work.
Almost the instant the kitchen brew touched my scalp, my hair clumped together as if I’d frightened it. I scrubbed harder, forcing the strands to separate and behave themselves, but they were having none of it. After rinsing with diluted apple cider vinegar, my hair became a bendable single unit, like Stretch Armstrong.
Thinking this might help, I blow dried it with my round brush. It looked like a brown football helmet; plasticine, unyielding. I didn’t need to wash it again for days, because it didn’t budge. My scalp felt raw and I was afraid to touch my hair, in case it would break off in a single brown shard.
I consulted my good friend, the Google, and discovered that Castille soap didn’t have the right ph for human scalp, blah blah science, blah blah I wasted 11 bucks on a jug of the harsh soap. But I wasn’t about to give up. I had dropped enough coin on the project to invoke the Gambler’s fallacy.
The next concoction, including aloe vera gel and more coconut milk, turned out smooth, healthy feeling hair…that was coated in wax, making it look wet long after it had dried. No amount of dry shampoo–whether baby powder or pulverized oatmeal–eliminated the shiny hanks that resembled an oil field.
Two days of sporting greasy looking locks was all it took for me to go running to the grocery store for a bottle of sulfate-free Aveeno. As the suds ran down my back, I felt the familiar heaviness that came with the knowledge that I’d been a sucker, like I’d been taken in by a pyramid scheme. It turned out to cost more than it would have had I left well enough alone. The shampoo burned, like my pride, but at least I could go out in public without a scarf over my hair.
Does anyone need a jug of Castille soap? I’m willing to sell it for a bargain.