routine

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Years ago, my hair and scalp had been particularly dry and prone to frizzyness for quite some time, so I stopped using regular shampoos as a result of this. I tried water only washing for a time, about a month I lasted until I realized I had "hard sebum" that would stay at the roots, leaving my scalp feeling tight and seeming to be flaky, flakes of sebum in fact. I tried Conditioner Only washing from late September 2003 for about a year and at first I found it suited my hair much better than shampoo did but never cured my sebum problem. During this time I still searched for the perfect homemade shampoo, and found it through lots of research into Indian herbs such as Brahmi, Amla and Shikakai, as well as Aritha and other ingredients like Rose Petal Powder, Orange Peel Powder, etc.
I finally made a permanent switch on 19th February 2005 and within a few months I realized it had turned my sebum problems around, it normalized and ever since has distributed normally with no tightness of scalp, itching or flaking.

My hair is naturally wavy, and had not been chemically coloured or processed since long before I stopped cutting it very short but I hennaed it 3 times between December 2003 and April 2004, when I added some indigo in attempt to go back to my brunette shade. It gradually darkened with the Amla and Brahmi in my regular wash, until September 2010 when I started hennaing regularly and washing with Shikakai alone. I wash usually every Monday and Friday. If I need any special treatments like oiling my ends I do so when it is needed.

Since I wrote this page I have transitioned back to Shampoo and Conditioner! I wash about once a week and still do the soak before the cleansing phase, finishing with using my gentle conditioner on my scalp and rinsing well after a few minutes. If I have recently Hennaed I use conditioner to rinse out and on the third day I oil my scalp to aid in removing resins from my scalp before a good shampoo session :)

Here is an outline of my herbal washing routine, laid out for ease of reading. It sounds like I do a lot, but I don't do all of this every time and my washes generally take about 20 minutes max.

finger combing In the mornings I let my hair down and comb through with my fingers briefly first, I feel this is gentlest on the hair itself as I can sense any tangles and snarls before they get pulled on, thus preventing breakage (hopefully!) - takes a few seconds usually.
combing I use a wide toothed comb to style, from the parting or the hairline I use as few comb-strokes as possible. I use the same comb when I wash. Mine is a Madora comb from George Michael of Madison Avenue.
brushing I only brush before I wash my hair, this is to loosen any dirt and dust or dead skin particles on the scalp and to remove any loose hairs before I wash. I use a boar bristle brush and brush for the minimum strokes that I can. It also distributes any natural oils through the hair to benefit the lengths. It is possible to find BBB's that have been made using bristles harvested from living boars, but most vegans would still have trouble with this. I am not vegan, but this might be somewhere I would have to compromise if and when I become vegan. There are cactus bristle brushes out there too, I have one but didn't get on with it :/ There's a school of thought that you should brush upside down each day, but I don't think I could cope with that!
massage/oiling Massage boosts circulation to the hair follicles, as well as distributing natural sebum through massage (you can massage without oil too) through gentle but firm motions, not scrubbing at the scalp. This can be done prior to brushing or some people massage their scalp to pick up sebum and then apply their fingers to the lengths of their hair to distribute sebum manually. Brushing does this too, see above.
I tend do do the oiling overnight, massaging before bed and washing my hair in the morning.
I usually oil my scalp only, but sometimes it is helpful to oil the ends of the hair, they can get a bit dry and neglected.
soaking Having made sure there are no tangles (bent over, upside down and combed with wide toothed comb) I wet my hair and scalp with warm water from the shower head (I bend over the bath) and allow the scalp to soak for a minute or two before massaging it gently to lightly cleanse my scalp prior to adding the herb mixture. I usually comb it a little starting at the ends, to ensure I have not put any tangles into my lengths.
cleansing I apply my herbal slime to my scalp and lengths, as evenly as possible, and then use the fingertips of both hands to massage my scalp to cleanse it and squeeze it through the length to cleanse any oils or dirt from all the hair. If I have time, I will allow this to rest on my hair for a minute or so or rarely I will leave it for half an hour or more, covered with an old towel (but it can stain!).
rinsing I rinse with warm water, again from the shower head. I begin with the ends, which I comb through as I go with my wide toothed comb. I continue up to the scalp and use my fingers to agitate the water through and loosen the herbal mix, and I rinse until there are no traces of herbal mixture.
A 'rinse' can be applied at this stage, this is either a liquid such as water with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) added, or Essential Oils, or perhaps an herbal decoction or tea. Often these are to remove residue from products, or to add an extra conditioning oomph. Common ones include Rosemary decoction for brunettes, Chamomile for blondes or Catnip (my choice) for extra conditioning especially after cleansing with Indian Herbs. Often rinses such as these are then rinsed out with water after a few minutes or up to an hour.
conditioning For a long time I used conditioning Indian Herbs in my blend and didn't bother with this stage, then I used catnip tea as a conditioning rinse (see above) but lately if I have used regular shampoo I use a regular conditioner too. I leave it on for about a minute unless I am doing a conditioning treatment, in which case I leave it on for about an hour.
Leave-ins are used by some people, either a special product or a little of what they use as conditioner. Otherwise a light touch of oil can be left in, or aloe gel. Usually the key is to apply only a pea-sized amount, rubbed between the palms and patted gently over the ends and canopy of the hair. I tend not to, but might if I am going somewhere special. Leave-ins can provide some weight to control flyaway ends.
drying/airdry I tend to blot my hair when dripping wet in a turbie wrap or towel, since I wash upside down I do this before I comb my hair back into place before drying. Alternatively, if I have washed in the shower upright I have been known to let it just hang with a towel on my shoulders to protect from dripping. I will occasionally give the roots a bit of a lift using my fingers to enable air to circulate and dry the roots. Often though I allow it to dry bunned, while I go about my day. I will let it down to finish drying naturally when I get chance.
I do own a hairdryer though, rarely I will use it on a coolish setting to dry the roots mainly.
styling My idea of styling when damp is usually to comb back into a bun or braid and leave it! However I lose a lot of root lift this way, and my canopy forgets I am a wavy (although the ends get lovely bun waves or braid waves :p) I need to explore more ways of drying curly, I remember I used to do what curly girls call 'plopping' but I haven't done this in a long time!

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