Monday, August 5, 2013

Herbal shampoo: Let's see if this is a good recipe

I stumbled upon a recipe for an herbal shampoo recommended by Craft magazine over at Sweet Living Magazine that I thought would be a good example of another installment of how can you tell if it's a good recipe?

HERBAL SHAMPOO (originally from Sweet Living Magazine)
2 cups spring water 
1/2 cup fresh herbs or 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) dried 
6 tablespoons coconut oil (a natural cleansing agent with low lathering properties) 
3 teaspoons almond oil 
1 tablespoon witch hazel (alcohol free) 
4 drops essential oil

Shelf life: About one month or longer in the fridge. 

First: Look at what the recipe claims to be. In this case, it's a shampoo. What does a shampoo do? It cleans your hair. What does it mean to clean hair? It means to remove dirt, sebum, grime, styling products, and other smelly things that can coat your hair strands and scalp. We generally think of a shampoo as something that bubbles and lathers, and I would also include something that has a pH lower than 7, in the acidic range.

I know we see things called dry shampoo, like baking soda or corn starch or other powders, but they aren't shampoos. They might absorb oils and make your hair seem less greasy, but they aren't shampoos. 

Related post:
How does shampoo work?
Back to Basics: Shampoo

Does this product fit the description of a shampoo? Does it lather or foam? Will oil and water clean your hair? Will these herbs wash your hair? 

Okay, so maybe it's not a shampoo. Maybe it's a cleanser? I think that's wrong, too. It will not cleanse your hair. If you doubt this, make it and see if your hair feels clean afterwards. I'm not a stickler for names if the product works - I hate in cooking shows when the judges proclaim something is great, but it really isn't an "x", so we'll have to dock you some points - but in this case, it is important that we define what we think a shampoo is to see if the recipe lives up to its promises.

So far this wouldn't be considered a shampoo or a cleanser by a very broad definition. 

Second: Look to see if the ingredients can do what they claim to do and see if there is enough of each ingredient to do what it wants to do.

What would 4 drops of any essential oil - about 1/5 tsp - do in 725 ml of liquid? (That's 0.0276%.) There are some ingredients we want to use at low levels like extracts, preservatives, and cosmeceuticals - to name a few - that are quite effective at 0.1 to 0.5%, but there are few, if any, that work at 0.03%.

Is coconut oil a "a natural cleansing agent with low lathering properties"? Will it remove dirt and grime and oil from your hair? What about almond oil? Do oils remove dirt, grime, oil, and other things we consider awful from our hair and scalp? Oils are great for moisturizing and creating occlusive barriers, amongst other things, but I can't say they would remove dirt, grime, oil, and smells from our hair and scalp. So they're not cleansers.

I know some people love the oil cleansing method for skin, but I cannot grasp how this might work for hair! If you have used this method and no other for your hair for a significant period of time, get in touch! (I say no other method because I'm really surprised at how many people claim to be using a method of hair washing - for instance, cleansing conditioners - but actually use shampoo on a weekly or bi-weekly basis!)

Witch hazel (15 ml in 725 ml works out to less than 2.1%)? It's an astringent, but will it remove sebum from our hair and scalp at 2.1%? No. I wouldn't use it at 10% or 20% to remove sebum from my hair or scalp. It's not a cleansing ingredient in that way.

A side question...Perhaps the ingredients will work together to create something? A lotion is made up of ingredients until we put them together with heat and mixing and everything else, so the ingredients could be not-so-great on their own until we combine them. I'm thinking here about soap - is that what we're creating? Nope, no lye here, so nothing to saponify the oils into a soap. 

Third: Check to see if they are following good manufacturing processes, like heat and hold or using preservatives, where applicable. In this case, the writer of the recipe encourages you to make a tea, but doesn't use a preservative.

Do you think a tea you make today will last a month without some kind of preservative? Any time we have a water based product or something that might be near water regularly, we need a preservative. If we are using botanical ingredients, we need a really good one used at maximum usage rates.

If you really think it's okay to use a tea in something that will not be preserved that claims to have a shelf life of a month, put your tea where your mouth is. Make a tea out of some herbs in some distilled water without any other ingredients, including preservatives and anti-oxidants. Take a picture of your infusion today with a copy of a newspaper or something similarly date confirming. Leave the infusion or tea on the counter for a month at room temperature. After 30 days, do the same thing with the date confirming item. Take a video or a bunch of pictures of how the tea appears then shots or video of you drinking it. Write to me with all this information and I will definitely consider it as anecdotal evidence. (Note: You do this at your own risk, and I take no responsibility for anything that happens to you if you conduct this experiment. Besides, you're doing it to prove to me that it's okay to use teas in our products, so if you are injured, doesn't that just prove me right?)

Related posts about infusions and teas:
Why can't we use tea in our products?
Infusions, teas, and using vinegar to preserve products

Related posts about good manufacturing processes:
Basic lotion making instructions
Why we heat and hold our ingredients
Why we heat and hold our ingredients separately

One of the signs that I might be reading a poorly written recipe is how the ingredients are measured. Are the measurements by weight or volume?

In this case, is the coconut oil measured before or after heating? (That'll make a big difference.) Are the herbs packed in tightly or loosely packed? The proper way to measure our ingredients is by weight because some are hard to measure by volume (like Polawax or beeswax), some change viscosity or volume when heated (like solid oils and butters), and still others are just too small to measure in a measuring cup or spoon (like our preservatives).

Weighing our ingredients means we can be more accurate, and more accuracy results in safe and effective products we can replicate in the future without wasting our supplies.

I'm not saying that using volume measurements means the recipe isn't good - I have some mineral make-up ones that really are just so much easier in volume measurements - but it's something to consider when you are deciding if you want to make a recipe or not! 

What's the verdict on this recipe? It's really clear that what I will have is a tea of herbs with some oils floating on top of it. This isn't a shampoo or cleanser in any sense of the word. It is a terrible recipe and, to paraphrase Marge Simpson, "no one would in their right mind would buy it, or accept it as a gift!" I debated making it to prove it didn't work, but I think it's blatantly obvious that it won't.

Fortunately, the recipe was taken off the magazine's site, although Make/Craft magazine is promoting it through their site with this description: "Keep your locks lustrous the natural way with this DIY herbal shampoo tutorial from Sweet Living!" I did write to them a few days ago to let them know the recipe was gone, but there's been no response.

As an aside, I wrote to Sweet Living and a very nice woman name Jane responded, assuring me the recipe writer "makes and uses it frequently". A short time later, she told someone who also wrote to her that this slipped through their "quality control" and that the person who wrote the recipe didn't have the qualifications necessary to write this recipe. They have sent the recipe to an herbalist for review. (An herbalist wouldn't inherently have the qualifications necessary to write a recipe like this.)

Anyone with even a basic understanding of making products or science knows that oil and water don't mix. And how long would it have taken someone to make this product to see if it was a good recipe? An hour, maybe? And that includes clean up!


I admit that I'm getting really annoyed at these popular craft sites promoting inexperienced kitchen beauty sites* instead of promoting hard working formulators who know their stuff! I've stopped going to many sites because I can't look at another blog post on making your hair grow faster or how to make Vaseline and crayon lipsticks. There are so many good sites - why do they promote the dreck?


The lip balm is from this recipeCheck out my SnapGuide on the topic of making coloured lip balms!


*Side note: I have no issue with the idea of using an egg white mask or an avocado hair conditioning thing or other kitchen remedies as there are some great ideas out there. I get annoyed when they aren't done safely, when I see suggestions that these products might last a month or that the writer sells it! There are lots of wonderful kitchen remedies we can use - cucumbers for puffy eyes, oatmeal for itchy skin, honey and lemon for sore throats, cut aloe vera plant for sunburn, and so on - but these aren't the ones getting the attention. 

I know some of you - including my mother - are thinking that I should just walk away and not care about these kinds of recipes, but they get me annoyed for a few reasons. The first is that if you tried this recipe and it failed - because it can't succeed - it might put you off making products forever. You'll be annoyed and frustrated that you spent money on supplies you wasted, and you've lost an opportunity to learn what I think is the best hobby/craft ever! Secondly, it minimizes the time and energy we who take it seriously put into our craft.  Craft magazine has some good things about it, but it seems to me it's about making things so you don't have to pay for things as opposed to learning a skill and honing it. 

A few additional thoughts on recipes...

When you see a recipe, consider the source. Who is writing this recipe and why? Are they sharing something they've made themselves or something they thought looked neat but haven't tried? If they suggest something that seems a bit iffy to you - making a lip balm from Vaseline, lime juice, and sugar - ask them some questions about how the recipe stands up over time, what preservation methods she suggests, and how she came up with the recipe, and so on. This isn't to say that someone needs a degree or a fancy title or a lot of credentials to create a recipe, but a little experience and the ability to explain why each ingredient is being used is a good start. A soap maker doesn't inherently know how to make a lotion, an herbalist doesn't necessarily know how to make a shampoo, and a chemistry obsessed monkey-loving Point of Interest blogger doesn't instinctively know how to make cold process soap!

And consider the ingredients. A lot of people tell me they trust common sense over science, so ask yourself some common sense questions. Can oil and water come together without an emulsifier? Can oil and water clean your hair? Could oil alone clean your hair? What does the addition of water do for the recipe? Can 4 drops of essential oil really make that big a difference? And so on...

Out of curiosity: What are your expectations when you see a recipe in a magazine? Are your expectations higher or lower than for a blog? When you see a picture, do you assume it's for the product in question? The picture above is apparently of chamomile essential oil and flowers, not the product. (I'm asking because this whole thing has altered the way I see magazines!)

So...what do you think? Any suggestions for other things we should consider when evaluating a recipe? Do you have a recipe you'd like analyzed? Comment below! 

27 comments:

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Susan. THANK YOU for posting this. I get equally disturbed by the myriad of made-to-fail recipes posted all over Pinterest, on blogs and other places on the net.

My 'bane' is the DIY baking soda deodorants. I can hardly count the communications I've had from people who have had skin reactions after using a DIY baking soda deodorant. They can't understand why it isn't ok to apply an alkaline ingredient of pH 8.3 that is a known skin irritant to their armpits on a daily basis and not get a skin reaction.

A huge percentage of them have been told they just need to 'detox' or 'go through an adjustment period' while their body adjusts to the 'all natural' deodorant. It's not the product that is at fault – it's the user (?!)

It is disheartening and a little frightening to see what people are willing to make and slather on their bodies in an effort to escape 'chemicals' in their personal care products. The general consensus seems to be 'if it's in your kitchen cupboard then it's safe to put on your skin or hair, because then it isn't really a chemical'.

Preservatives are either rarely mentioned, or mentioned as an optional ingredient in many of these recipes. Many point to vinegar, vodka or grapefruit seed extract as acceptable preservatives (?!).

I don't think I need to continue... I think we are on the same page in this respect. Thanks for letting me rant a bit.

Leann said...

You know, Susan, you should edit this a bit and submit it as an article to a few Craft/DIY type magazines. it's the kind of information that might help people understand and be perhaps a little more wary. It might help to inform a lot of people that you wouldnt otherwise reach.

Lorraine said...

Hi Susan,

Let me caveat what I'm about to write by saying that I also think this is a rubbish recipe and that I also don't understand why anyone would recommend keeping a water-based recipe for a month without a preservative.

However, I think you're being a bit harsh on fun DIY crafty beauty recipes. I think there is a fundamental difference between the type of cosmetic science you blog about and whipping up a quick crafty beauty recipe for fun at home. I can completely understand why you would get annoyed by some of those websites when what you do is so far removed from these pins, blogs, recipes, etc. that you mention. But let's be fair - your site is pretty unique on the internet so I'm not surprised you don't find many other sites out there that promote similar approaches. :)

Some people enjoy rummaging through their kitchen to find ingredients to make fresh fun recipes with. Certain fruits, vegetables, herbs, yoghurt, store cupboard staples - honey, desiccated coconut, ground almonds, etc. can make fun fresh beauty products like facial scrubs and masks that people can play around with. As long as they are used immediately and they use sensible ingredients, there's nothing wrong with a bit of DIY skincare crafting in the name of fun.

Lots of people can't or don't want to go to the effort of learning how to emulsify or preserve (to name but a few techniques involved with the type of recipes you write about) and they don't want to invest in the typical type of ingredients you write about, which let's be fair are much closer to professional skincare manufacturing than whipping up a quick banana & strawberry face mask in your kitchen which you apply immediately.

I agree that there are plenty of stupid recipes out there using stupid ingredients, but there are also lots of fun fresh recipes out there that people enjoy playing around with in the comfort of their home. If they're not doing themselves any harm and they're enjoying what they're doing, I think we should let them be. :)

p said...

Great post. I went over to Craft Magazine and read the Craft magazine person's response in the comments... quite an enlightening look into the extent to which posts aren't vetted! If I read what seems to be a credible magazine or blog, I expect the recipes/how-to's to be credible and actually work! And I expect the photos to be of the thing I'll be making. And if those things don't happen, the mag is no longer credible, in my book. What's the point of DIYs that are patently useless like this one? How is this DIY good for the craft community or for Sweet Living Magazine's brand? None of it makes any sense!

p said...

Hoo, my comment ended up really rant-y -- sorry about that! Too much coffee this morning, I think! :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Lise! I love your commentary on baking soda deodorants! The part about detoxing - all those symptoms are the ones I have had in the past when I use just a deodorant, and believe me, they didn't go away.

Hi Leann. That's not a bad idea!

Hi Lorraine. I completely agree with you! I have no problems with the idea of using an egg white face mask or an avocado on your hair or using other kitchen remedies as there are some great ideas out there. (I honestly thought I had written this in the post...) I have an issue with the idea of taking that same egg yolk and avocado hair thing and encouraging people to keep it for a month (something I saw recently on a SnapGuide), or saying that you can sell it!

My mom has a magazine from the 1960s that she still refers to for her kitchen remedies, and they are written safely, reminding readers these are one time only things. I agree that someone doesn't have to learn how to emulsify or preserve something, but they also shouldn't be telling others not to preserve things or writing terrible recipes.

I think my greater issue is that these terrible recipes are being given the breath of life by outlets like Craft magazine putting them on their sites. You can see they have linked to a few more shampoo recipes, CP soap recipes. I give up.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p! Your comment was posted as I was posting mine...We love rants around here! If it weren't for rants, I think I'd have maybe 8 posts on the blog! I want to hear the passion and enthusiasm in the comments! So not a rant - a passionate commentary on something that bothers us both!

Lorraine said...

Hi Susan, I must have misread your blog post. :) I'm 100% with you on preserving recipes properly!

I think ultimately you've got to go with your mum (mothers know best! at least that's what I keep trying to convince my children of) and ignore these recipes. Your blog is in a different league. :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lorraine! You didn't misread the blog post - I updated it after you commented. Your comment inspired an edit it was just that good a point!

Madeaj said...

Excellent post, Susan. When I first started to learn how to make lotions and potions one of the things that turned me off at first was the lack of preservatives. I didn't know ABOUT the types of preservatives yet, I just knew that nothing water based lasts for very long without something. I also got frustrated with sites that promoted recipes they did not test themselves. If I saw a phrase that said "We saw this recipe on XYZ and thought it was good one. If you make it, tell us about it". How can a site promote a recipe they haven't tested for safety? Especially a professional magazine site.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of recipes for Hair Growth and all I can do is shake my head in amazement. One technique involves rubbing Monistat mixed with oils on your scalp everyday. Another involves inverting yourself to let blood rush to your head for one week out of the month. It's disturbing to say the least.

I had to click on the crayon lipstick link. OMGoodness, that is just wrong. You can buy a nice safe lipstick kit from a reputable site for probably the same cost as that mess of crayon lipstick recipe. I posted a comment telling them about it, but my experience with sites like this is my post will never make it.

SzilviSzigete said...

Excellent, excellent post!!!

Crayon-vaseline lipstick??? OMG... And what's the point in that? You can get a cheaper, more time-effective, expertly formulated alternative in a million shades at any drugstore/supermarket/wherever, even using natural ingredients... God... Common sense is not common...

Thank you for this post!!!!

Hito said...

Dear Point of Interest,
This article has been bothering me for some reason.
I am not trying to be confrontational, nor am I defending the recipe really, I just don't think the article was very tact nor did it seem to look at the recipe from any other points of view. Sorry if I sound a bit mean.

First of all, it does not say what herbs are used and does not have the original recipe available either, so I don't know exactly what herbs are in the rinse. Chickweed and scarlet pimpernels contain small amounts of saponins that are capable of gently washing hair. Or maybe they put soapwort in, which is even stronger than the former. If the recipe is to be bashed, at least tell us the whole recipe.

It takes weeks for your scalp to adjust to no shampoo at first. Not just one conditioner wash. A lot of people don't get that. But when your scalp adjusts it stops producing so much sebum and become far more manageable. When avoiding silicones and quaterniums (Among the myriads of other things that build up) in your hair, you really won't have that much to clean off anymore, other than the dust and what-not that gathers in your hair.
My routine would sound like a horror to some, but it works for me. My hair goes down to my waist, never get's greasy within two days and doesn't break off or get bad split ends.
For all I know certain people might find rinsing with coconut oil to be be similar.

Anyway, no, I would not drink month old tea. Not even three day old tea. But I would not drink any of my hair products either, preservatives or not. Would you? I don't know why, but I think that was a blatant way to get the point about preservatives across. I don't mean to be rude, but I just think so.

Anyway, now that my rant is over, has anyone heard of jojoba oil for cleansing? I never tried it myself yet, but I heard it cleans the sebum off your scalp by mixing with the sebum. It's not truly an oil, but still, it goes along the lines of oil cleansing. You should take a look into it if you found the coconut oil interesting. ^-^

Best regards~ Hito

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hito. Disagreeing doesn't have to result in a confrontation if all parties are respectful and engage in a civil discussion. This means no accusations, no name calling, and no personal attacks.

I can't look at the recipe from other points of view because it is a faulty recipe, and everyone, including the magazine, agrees that it is not, by definition, a shampoo. There really isn't room for debate because it is not a shampoo by any definition of the word. A watered down cold process soap, baking soda, or conditioner aren't considered shampoos either. This recipe creates a layer of oils floating on top of the water, and no teas or herbs will change that. I can't see how there is any room for debate here. A shampoo has a definition, and this doesn't fit the definition.

The herbs in question weren't the ones you mention - they were things like mint. I have shared the recipe as it was on the site. (I might still have a picture of the web site around somewhere, and I'm happy to post that.) It sounds like you think I'm leaving information out to make this recipe look bad. I don't need to work at making it look bad - it really is a terrible recipe, and everyone agrees it doesn't work.

I completely disagree that if you avoid certain ingredients, there'd be nothing to clean from your hair. If your system works for you, that's wonderful, but you can't make a blanket statement about other hair types in other climates without providing some evidence that it will work. (My references are all over the blog, but I can provide you with links and citations for the sources I use.) Check out my posts in the hair care section of the blog to see what else can end up in your hair, if you're interested.

As for the tea, I don't think it's an unfair question...but would you put month old, out of the fridge tea on your hair? (I used that example because it's something everyone can understand.) Would I drink my hair care products? No, I wouldn't, because I don't use tea or other foodstuffs as a hair care product.

I don't think an oil only cleansing system could work for anything other than the driest hair, and even then, I think your scalp would be really oily. And in time, that oil would start to smell rancid. (It doesn't matter what type of oil. No oil seems likely to clean one's hair and scalp.) I have asked people to submit their experiences, and in 4.5 years, no one has told me the only way they clean their hair is with oil. I am extremely open and even enthusiastic about hearing from someone who has only used this method for a reasonable period of time - six months or more - and seeing their well documented experiences, but alas, no one has come forward.

As for looking into jojoba oil, I have researched a number of oils for quite some time and I can't see anything jojoba oil could offer that would make it a cleansing oil for hair or scalps. (Check out the emollients section of the blog to see all the information I've amassed about oils, butters, exotic oils, and esters!) Coconut oil isn't a "natural cleanser with low foaming properties", and it will not clean your hair. (This sentence in the recipe makes no sense. I think the recipe writer was thinking about a surfactant or soap derived from coconuts, and extrapolated this to being about coconut oil. I can't prove this; it's just a thought.)

As a question - it sounds like you are conditioner washing? (If so, then you're using surfactants, which will remove some oil and grease from your hair with the emulsifier.) Why aren't you using the oil method? What hair type did you have when you started co-washing? Just curious!

Hito said...

Dear Susan,
Thank you very much for personally replying to my comment. I feel special! ^-^
I looked in the hair care section of your blog, and I didn't see what posts you speak of that explain what else ends up in your hair. I honestly don't see what else could possibly end up in your hair other than dust and pollution from the air, which I do not believe builds up in a long term way like silicones and the like can. Unless your hair somehow fell into some nasty thing, you have hard water or that maybe there was an impurity in an ingredient you used, which is beside the point. Let's imagine that we have nice water with no minerals and that our ingredients don't have stuff that it shouldn't have.
I don't see how this would be different in other climates and in different hair. If one is careful to not let their hair touch anything I just don't see what could build up.
Nor am I really trying to make a point about build up, and I especially don't feel like finding proof of what does and does not cause build up. Do you have proof that things in the air do build up to a point where they cannot be washed off with water? If so, I would like to see it, it would be interesting, and perhaps change my entire view of the topic.

I am not arguing about preservatives, I think preservatives should always be put into a product that is going to be kept around for a while. I just found the idea of daring someone to drink month old tea upsetting. Especially if someone did it and got sick, knowing that there are children out there who don't know any better. I wouldn't wish for anyone to drink something that was bad.

Many people seem to see shampoo as a broad definition, it's annoying. Whether or not it is truly a shampoo you speak as if nobody's hair would possibly benefit from this type of routine at all without their hair being greasy and oily. Do you have proof that this is so?
My theory is that the oil wouldn't really cleanse your hair in itself, hot water from the shower is what cleans your hair, which works not only to lift the scales of your hair and help let the oil penetrate, but to rinse it off too. Have you ever rinsed butter from a plate before? When you use hot water, it all starts to melt away and the force of the water helps push off the oil. If you rinse it long enough it will all be gone.
I am loosely applying this idea to the coconut oil. (I know, butter on a smooth surface isn't the best example.) If rinsed long enough with warmth, (and with the help of a good shampoo brush) it will probably wash off.
From what I heard of jojoba oil, it is a liquid wax much like sebum. It works by mixing with the sebum and when washed away with water rids your hair of it. I don't know much about it, so I can't say.
It's a crazy theory, yes, but maybe using oil on your hair in place of anything else might be able to be sustained. I never tried it, but I suppose I'm open to it. To tell you the truth, I never thought about it.
It's true, maybe the author was thinking of saponified coconut oil, which is a very different story.
Despite this, there are people out there who have been washing their hair with just water for years with happy results. I can give you links to pages by those people, but I don't have any solid proof about it other than accounts.

Hito said...

Anyway, for my routine: I use a product made of water (If I am distilling floral oils that day, I will use a floral water), cetyl alcohol, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, olive oil, and rosemary oil on my hair. I can't tell you exact amounts because I don't measure it. I judge whether or not it's right by if the amount looks right.... Seeing your blog, I realize I really should measure my ingredients out. I am a very lazy person it seems. And I use it quickly, not a month later.
Before I wash my hair, I drench it in coconut oil to prevent the shafts from swelling. Hair, (well, I think anyway) is like nails and shouldn't be soaked in water for too long, so I use the coconut oil to lighten the impact. Once I am done with my shower I put a few drops of oil to seal it, I put oil directly on my scalp too. I don't use any other products. If I want it to be straight, I wrap it.
After washing, I wait for it to dry, then put it in a style or leave it down.
My hair is curly, like corkscrew/springy kinds of curls. I believe it is categorized as "3B" hair, but I could be wrong on that. I find all of the hair typing and such to be baffling, since I'm never really sure if I'm right. The curls have not changed after beginning co-washing.
Before co-washing my hair it used to get matted very easily, and was a nightmare to deal with. Not to mention my scalp was incredibly greasy, to the point where it always looked like I put way too much oil on my scalp down to my ears. The sebum problem got worse when I started co-washing, but after a while it got a lot better, as well as the tangled hair.

Best regards~ Hito

p said...

I enjoy hearing your experience, Hito! I've been washing my hair with a clay-based product that I make (no added surfactants) for a few years now, and my hair totally loves it. Occasionally I try using a regular shampoo and conditioner (good quality stuff by John Masters), or one that I've made myself using info from Susan's wonderful blog, and to be honest, it just sends me running back to the clay stuff! My scalp is happier and my hair is shinier, cleaner-feeling, and more voluminous yet less frizzy when I use my clay cleanser. Different strokes for different folks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hito. I've been thinking about your comments, and I'm really not sure why you're working so hard to make arguments for this recipe. Everyone involved agrees this was a terrible recipe. We could spend hours thinking about what the recipe writer intended by calling coconut oil low lathering cleanser - did she mean saponified? did she mean something like sodium laureth sulfate? did she mean to include lye to make it a soap? - but the reality is that she didn't mean any of those things because she didn't know how to make a shampoo. Besides, if you spent your time, money, and energy making this recipe for it to turn out to be oil floating on top of the water, would it matter to you that she intended for it to be a good recipe or would you just care that you wasted your time, energy, and supplies?

You say, "Many people seem to see shampoo as a broad definition, it's annoying." I'm afraid I don't understand that as I'm the one arguing that there isn't a broad definition for "shampoo". Definitions are important. If you wanted a lotion and I gave you a body wash, you'd think me a bit odd. We need certain words to mean certain things so we can define what we are making and what should be in it. Just like a lotion is defined as an oil-in-water emulsion, a shampoo is defined a specific way. There is no way to consider this recipe a shampoo by any definition.

One of many references: Page 288, Poucher's Perfumes (10th edition), on the purpose of shampoo: 1. To remove sebum (the secretion of the sebaceous glands) and atmospheric pollutants from the hair and scalp…3. To deliver an optimum level of foam to satisfy the expectation of the user.

I'm sorry you found my challenge to drink month old tea distressing. I don't think anyone reading that post would have come away with the idea that this was a good idea. (Please don't make an appeal to think of the children.) I think the fact that I've made this challenge twice in the last year and no one has undertaken it shows what a ridiculous proposal it was in the first place (which was my point...)

And all products made with water must be preserved regardless of how long you intend to keep it. Contamination can happen while you make products, and it only takes a day or two for some really nasty stuff to happen.

This post on how shampoo works goes into some detail about what can get into your hair. You say you can't see environmental pollutants building up in our hair. You only have to get around someone who hasn't washed their hair or scalp in a while to notice the rancid smell or see the white flakes that represent scaling to see that things can build up on hair and scalp. And sebum on our scalps can trap in things like dirt (live in a farming community when they are tilling the soil to see how dirty you get!), smoke particles, ash, and everything else floating around in the air.

Different climates have different humidities and temperatures, and hair will behave differently in those situations. I'm not sure how to prove this statement because it's one of those "this is known…" kind of things. For instance, when you're sweating in a humid climate experiencing forest fires, you will notice your hair getting greasier faster and smelling of smoke as well as getting frizzier. In a drier climate, you might notice your hair isn't getting greasy as fast, but you might notice your hair feels less frizzy and a little dry. Our environment plays a big role in how our hair and skin feel.

One reference for different climates: Page 268, Poucher's Perfumes: The water content of hair varies according to the relative humidity of the surrounding atmosphere.

To be continued...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

From the previous comment...

Do I have proof that things from the air get on our scalp and hair, and that those things can't be eliminated with water alone? Yes, there is a lot of proof for both statements. Remember the good old days when people used to smoke indoors? How many people used to complain that their clothes, hair, skin, etc. smelled of that second hand smoke all the time? Or how your hair smells when you've been around a camp fire? Water alone can't remove oil. (Oil and water don't mix.) This is one of the reasons we use soap on our body, our clothing, our dishes, and our homes: It removes dirt.

A reference: Level and Relationship of Elements in Scalp Hair…. Read the second paragraph for the sentence, "exogenous (from ambient air, soil, dust, shampoo, etc.)" referring to how metals might get into hair or scalp.

Hot water doesn't clean your hair. Water alone, regardless of temperature, doesn't clean our bodies or hair. (See this post on how shampoo works for more information on how shampoo cleans our hair.) If you really think hot water is the only thing that cleans our plates, clothes, hair, or skin, try doing a few loads of laundry without detergent and see how clean the clothes smell and appear, or shower for a few weeks using only water. Again, the reason you don't do this is because it's one of those thing we all know - water alone isn't going to clean your body or your stuff. The reason we use a surfactant is to reduce the surface tension of the water so the grossness can be washed away.

One of many references: Page 291, Poucher's Perfume (10th edition): These are oily soil or sebum, soluble soils, and insoluble particulate soils. All three types of soil require to be wetted, thus the surface tension of the water is reduced by the shampoo surfactant allowing full contact with the soil's surface. Any soluble soil is then removed in the aqueous medium.

Can I be honest? The idea of only rinsing things off our plates with water alone is kinda gross. You know that butter isn't completely gone from the plate, right? You can rub your finger on the spot and feel the grease. This topic is making me a bit queasy...

I do speak as if no one's hair could benefit from using this product because I can't imagine that anyone's hair and scalp would benefit from it. If you think it would work, why don't you try it? I suspect it might be because the idea of putting oil and water into one's hair and expecting it not to be oily or greasy is preposterous. (I would love to see these links from people who have made it work because I haven't heard from anyone who only uses oil and water exclusively to wash his/her hair. Feel free to e-mail me or post the links here.)

To be continued...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Part 3...

Can I be honest? I'm not really sure why this discussion is happening and where it can go next. You're asking me to prove things that I've either written about on the blog - like how shampoo works or what can get into your hair or scalp - or asking me to prove things that seem obvious, like why oils won't clean your hair or why water alone won't remove grease, while you put forth theories that are unfounded or easily disproven at best. (You acknowledge this by calling that the idea of using oil to wash one's hair is a "crazy theory"...) I am genuinely dumbfounded by your eagerness to try make this recipe work and to make excuses for the recipe writer when neither the magazine nor the recipe writer are speaking up, which leads me to the question of why you are defending this recipe so vigorously. You're welcome to use whatever hair routine you want - that's the beauty of making our own products - but I really would encourage you to measure your ingredients and use preservatives if you want to make safer products.

Hito said...

Hello, P!

I'm really glad that your hair benefits from the clay! What kind of clay do you use? I've always been fascinated by the idea of using rhassoul, kaolin and all of the other clays out there.
I used to use the TIGI line of hair products for years, albeit it never worked too well for me. I then used Aussie products, because I love their scents. After a while I got fed up and decided to find something that worked for me, not the thing that smelled the best. So I looked into many different methods of hair care. Clay was one of them, but I regrettably never tried it yet!

Best regards~ Hito

Hito said...

Hi Susan,
The paper about metals collecting on hair doesn't mention what kind of routine washing is required to remove metals on the hair. They do not say whether or not the mechanical force of a brush could remove the particles, or whether or not enough washing with water could remove them. Did I misread it? If I did, please correct me. I don't want to unknowingly have metals in my hair if I try this method.
I live in a rural farming community in the heart of East Texas. There is an oil drill next door, there are neighbors who plant large fields of crops nearby, dirt roads, and not to mention all of the animals that live here. I till the soil in my yard to plant wheat, flax, millet, and barley. Of course dirt gets in my hair. There, however, is nothing to say that this dirt cannot be rinsed out with water. I know there are pollutants in the air and that things can make it dirty. But I still don't see how these things can't be washed out.

Anyway, you might find these pages interesting:

http://suite101.com/article/water-only-hair-washing-a61447

http://growingthingsandmakingthings.blogspot.com/2012/02/water-only-hair-washing-one-year-on.html
http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/showthread.php?t=3412

There are even people use no water at all:

http://suite101.com/article/sebum-only-hair-washing-method-a225303

http://www.network54.com/Forum/235232/thread/1276613049/NW-SO+success+%28with+pics%29
http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/showthread.php?t=144

If these people can manage with no shampoo, who's to say there's not someone that would manage with small oil rinses? Would you tell the people who claim to have used the water only method that they smelled bad? How do you know they smell bad? Have you ever smelled them? Not to mention, some of them recommend using oil to dissolve sebum. Nowhere did the recipe mention if a small or large amount was needed to cleanse hair, so please don't argue about that either.

I never once mentioned that water alone could clean our bodies, our clothing nor our dishes. You are putting words in my mouth, and making point about things I did not claim. We are not talking about our faces, our hands, nor of our clothing. Hair is different from our bodies, our clothes and our dishes. Maybe our scalps aren't completely different, but if one was going to wash their hair with water and oil, they would need to be careful to take care of it, making sure to keep it clean. Perhaps even taking the initiative to wear a scarf when they go outside.
Tell me, if all of a sudden you lived in a world where we had no more shampoos, conditioners, cleansers or soaps. If we lived, say, back in very ancient times. What would you do with your hair if it got
dirty? Would you try the theory of washing it with water, or would you let it sit, and get an infection in the pores of your scalp for not even trying to clean it? Think of people from the past who lived in areas without plants with cleansing properties and what they had to deal with.
When you wash butter off of a plate, it is visibly gone. Personally, if kept under the water long enough, I don't feel any grease, but I don't deny that it's probably not all gone. I used this as something you might relate to. I don't know about you, but using soap on the butter plate without rinsing it can get quite messy. Nor can it get all if it off without a couple of washes in my experience. I likened it to coconut oil, but did not say it was coconut oil. If the coconut oil left a residue, I want to know, would that necessarily be something to be seen as bad? Don't forget that coconut oil is able to pierce into the shafts of certain hair, and can seal in moisture.

Hito said...

As you mentioned, you do not know why I am making this argument. I trying to not be confrontational. I am sorry if I angered you.
I am trying to prove to you that there may be someone who would like that product. Apparently it's hard for you to see it that way, you're not only refusing to look at the recipe with an open mind, but you speak of the people involved negatively too. I didn't want to bring up the tactfulness of your post, but I feel I have to now.
I want to become a traditional animator. I am going to art school very soon, and would like to make a career of it. I will probably fail horribly. But I practice every day, and have my own feeble dreams.
I could only imagine how it would feel if I told someone one of my methods to be published in their magazine. All just to find out that once they published it, someone took my ideas and made an example of them to everyone who reads their blog. Saying that my work was horrible and my methods should never be used. That nobody would buy my work, give it as a gift or otherwise want it.
Yes, the recipe may not be what would define as shampoo, but really, is everyone a beauty chemist? Does everyone think of shampoo the same way? Right or wrong, some people see it as a broad definition. I didn't make or approve of this, and I don't see why you're upset with me for it.
Either way, if you shared something that worked for you thinking that perhaps it could help others, would you like to find out you were wrong by reading your blog post?
True, I don't know who made the recipe, whether or not they regularly used it, or if there was a misprint. But would you write the things you did directly to the author of the recipe in question? If you met the author in person, would you want them to see that post?
What about the unqualified herbalist? Have you ever met the herbalist in question? Some people would say you were not qualified for having opinions about cosmetics, but we can see the contrary right now. You inherently have strong and feasible opinions of the topic. Do you think it would be fair for someone say you weren't qualified to have them? And what of herbalists in general? Do you have something against their methods of hair care?
My points are that:
Firstly, one should keep an open mind about unlikely things. I think that even a product made of coconut oil and a herbal tea could work for someone, nobody should say it's impossible. No one learns anything if they deny everything, always treating what they believe is wrong with blindness or a narrow vision. Everything deserves a worthy thought.
And secondly, one should always write tactfully, keeping others in mind. Nobody should speak of something behind one's back that they would not say to their face. Think about it for a minute, and if you would repeat what you said to the author of the recipe, then I suppose there is nothing else I can say about this.

I don't want to debate with you anymore, it seems you are set fast on your opinion. You're right, this isn't going anywhere. It's turning into a confrontation even though I told you that I didn't want it to be, I want to stop it here before it stops being civil.
Next time I wish you would write articles like this one with more repose and tact. To point out what's wrong with the recipe not only in a direct way that does not discriminate against any individuals, but in a way that does not candidly state impossibility too. That is my point, and now you know.
I just came here to see if there was a good recipe for conditioner bars, and it turned into this... :(

Best regards~ Hito

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Disagreeing doesn't mean we aren't civil. And I'm not upset. I would say everything I've said in this post to the recipe writer if that person wanted feedback, and I would want the same if I wrote a recipe that was so horrible. An herbalist isn't inherently qualified to review or formulate hair care recipes. It isn't part of his/her certification process. Nor is a pharmacist. And neither am I, for that matter. My issue is not with a specific herbalist but with the mind set that if an herbalist approves a shampoo, it must be good. The sake mind set is brought us the delusion that Vitamin C can cure colds. If a Nobel Prize winner believes it, it must be true!

I'm not sure how many times I can say this - the product you're defending is a terrible one. All the parties involved with the publishing of the recipe agree. I hope the recipe writer received feedback from the magazine and didn't read my review first, but I stand behind it. I work with students, and they are all open to feedback as they know this is the only way we grow and learn. People are going to love what you do while others are indifferent or hate it. We have to grow a thick skin and look at the criticism as a way to grow instead of being upset that someone isn't like something we've done. (You don't like what I've written, and I'm okay with that1)

As a note, come down to the poorest community in Canada, one in which I worked for a while, or to my agency ny time of the month to smell rancid hair and body smells. You'd know it when you smelled it.

I am steadfast in my opinion because I really don't understand your argument at this point. You want me to have an open mind, but I see little evidence that you have weighed anything I have presented. It's no fun debating with someone when they won't consider your view point.

I think this was all very civil. No name calling, no cruelty. We disagree. No reason for an unhappy face. What did you think the outcome of this discussion would be? I'd read it and agree with you? Or that we'd discuss it? We discussed it. We don't agree. I'm not sure how things could be different.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I will say, however, that I take insult at the insinuation that I have blindness or narrow vision or that I deny everything. I work extremely hard every single day to learn something new, to keep an open mind, and to listen to feedback so I can do better in life. I don't have to be open to ideas like washing hair with coconut oil floating in water because I can demonstrate that it doesn't work. Why is it I'm the one who has to be so open minded my brains fall out? Why can't the person challenging me have to have an open mind and be receptive to the evidence I'm offering?

MEL STEVENS said...

Best shampoo in my opinion is the one from pro naturals!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Mel Stevens: At $30 a bottle with no ingredient list in sight, it better be amazing. No shampoo is worth that much!

Anu said...

Hi,
I am new to DIY- lotions and creams. I do agree with you that there is a lot of mis leading information on the net. I have come across a lot of recipes which use water and oils and no emulsifier – (I just could not understand how oils and water can mix) ,different units of measurement used in a single recipe .
My first lotion making experience was a bad one – as no preservatives were suggested in the recipe I did not add one ,within a week the product had gone moldy ( even though I kept it in the fridge). I was disappointed – I wasted not only my time but also money.
Then I picked up a book by Karen Gilbert in my local library and came across your blog. I really appreciate the time and effort you have spent to give detailed scientific explanations. I have made lotions using your recipes .Your blog and ideas have been really helpful .Thanks a lot.