Paleo Beauty Secrets

Paleo Beauty Secrets

I remember reading “The Little House on the Prairie” series when I was a little girl and thinking that it was gross that the family only bathed once a week. “They must STINK!” I thought. Images of greasy scalps and visible stink waves emanating from society at large were what I associated with turn-of-the-century farm workers. Of course, if I had had to haul buckets of water from a well, heat it up on a stove, pour it into a large metal tub and bathe in my sister’s dirty bathwater in the middle of the kitchen in front of my parents, I probably wouldn’t have bathed more than once a month.

I have always showered regularly and washed my hair every time I stepped into the tub. I needed to wash it at least every other day or else it would be greasy, stringy and limp. For those of you that don’t know me personally, I naturally have stick-straight fine hair, which (when it’s long) has no natural volume. Think 1968-hippy.

This was after my hair was in hot rollers AND curled with a curling iron. May 2003.

I have tried every styling product and aid on the market to increase the volume and bounce in my hair, including subjecting myself to multiple body perms (which destroyed my hair every time without fail), layered cuts, hot rollers, velcro rollers, gels, sprays and mousses. I could not get my hair to hold a curl to save my life. I would spend hours with my freshly washed hair in rollers, only to have it be stick-straight and flat by 10 p.m. Besides my hair, I have also needed copious amounts of moisturizers for my skin and have been plagued by dry, itchy, flaky skin on my arms, legs and scalp.

I figure I have wasted over 22,000 hours on my hair since I hit puberty. And, to be honest, I have probably also spent at least half as much in styling products over the years. The industry is clever – they know you want “natural-looking” volume, shine and bounce and they will sell you the idea of it in a $20 bottle. It rarely works for people who have the type of hair that I do.

But don’t despair: I have discovered the secret to getting the hair you’ve always wanted – and guess what? It’s free. AND it takes less time to achieve. In the last year, I have had numerous people ask me how I do my hair. “What’s your secret? You have to teach me!” I have curl that lasts for days, my hair is shiny and at least twice as thick as it used to be. My curls bounce when I walk. That’s right. They bounce.

Bear with me. I’m going to tell you how I do it, but you need some background info first, or you’ll think I’m nuts.

When I turned to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, I found an unexpected benefit. I stopped smelling. Even after a workout. At first I thought my sense of smell was gone, but I could still smell everything else (in fact, I think my sense of smell actually became better, especially when I’m doing a fast.). So, I stopped showering as much. With one-year-old twins, I didn’t really have time to

Day 3 of not washing my hair. Jan 2011.

shower anyway. Then, I noticed a benefit of not showering as often: my skin became softer, stopped itching and I didn’t need moisturizer. The oil glands on my scalp didn’t seem to produce as much. When I did shower, my skin became dried out and took a couple days to recover. To combat this, I only showered twice a week and drastically dropped the water temperature. Sometimes I only rinsed off and didn’t even use soap.

I did some research and found out that no longer stinking is common in the Paleo/Primal world. There are a few theories as per the B.O or lack thereof. The one that seems most likely to me is that while your carb load is still high, your sweat seems to have enough sugar-type compounds in it to make certain bacteria thrive. When you cut your carbs, the bacteria don’t have as much food and thus, don’t breed. That might explain the lack of smell. A lot of Paleo people even stop using soap, shampoo and deodorant.

What I didn’t know was why my hair wasn’t greasy anymore after two or more days of not washing it. A random comment by my cousin explained it quite simply and all of a sudden it made sense to me. She said you need to train your hair. The longer you go with the natural oils in your hair, the less your scalp will produce. Then, you can go longer without washing it. This may mean a few days of wearing a cute hat while your scalp adjusts, but trust me, it’s worth it. I started out by washing every 3 days, then 4, then 5 and so on.

When you brush your hair, the natural oil is transferred to the ends, creating shine. And, believe it or not, I have found that what creates body and volume in your hair is, in fact, the oil that we keep washing away. So, the first part of the solution is to stop washing your hair so often. Currently, I wash my hair once a week. I am now on Day 7, sitting in a Starbucks, and just had a man come up to me and tell me I was beautiful. I am pretty sure that if my hair looked greasy, dull and dirty, he would not have told me that.

Now on to the second part of the equation. You can’t just not wash your hair or you’ll hate the results. You need to “set” it somehow. I am enamored with the pin-up girl look and started looking into how to recreate that style. All the way up to the late 60s, women generally only washed their hair once a week. (Remember the expression, “Sorry I’m washing my hair that day?” That’s where that came from.) The elaborate styles – victory rolls, even the bouffant beehives of the 60s – required “dirty” hair. The texture really does change and allows you to do things you never thought possible. After months of serious trial and error, this is what works best for my hair:

Day 1: Wash hair and condition if necessary. Let it air dry. Use no products except for a drop of Moroccan Oil on the ends. That night, I tie my hair up into a bun to keep it from getting dirty. You can do a wet set today if needed (see below) but I have found that it doesn’t work terrifically well on clean hair.

Day 2: Do a wet set. For those of you that don’t know what this is, it’s when you wet your hair and put it in some sort of “set.” This could be finger waves, pin curls, rag curls, foam rollers – whatever you can sleep in. I use old-fashioned setting lotion mixed with water to wet my hair. Then, leave it in until it’s dry. For some people, this will be overnight but at least 8 hours. For me, ideally, it’s 18 hours. Tie a bandana around your head, like ‘I Love Lucy,’ to protect your hair and keep the rollers in. Note: If you want less curl, use more hair in bigger rollers and then gently brush the curls out when it’s dry. There are tons of tutorials online for how to do pin curls etc.

Day 3, 4, 5, 6: In the morning, take out the pins/rollers and style. You’ll get it. You’ve been doing your hair for years, you know what to do now. That evening, roll your hair up again after brushing it (I brush it 100 strokes before bed to get the oil to the ends. Remember that old adage?!?!). I use maybe 4 or 5 rollers total the second time around, just enough to keep the curl in. No need to use any extra setting lotion. Don’t forget the bandana. I will use some more Moroccan Oil every now and then if my hair needs it. You can also use shine spray or coconut oil. But you may find you don’t need anything at all. You may want to wear a hat on day 5/6 – the hair close to your scalp may be oily, but the ends will still look divine.

Day 7: start all over again. You may find that you need to wash your hair earlier than this, or may even be able to go longer. You’ll know – it will start to feel dirty and tangly. Some Paleo folks don’t use shampoo or conditioner – they use eggs, vinegar to rinse, coconut oil or just plain water – I’m not there. Using shampoo once a week is a modern luxury I would like to retain.

It seems like a lot of work, and while you’re getting the hang of getting the rollers in, it will be. But think of it this way: the time and money you save not showering, washing your hair, blow drying it, applying products, curling it, styling it for HOURS in the morning is worth the 10 minutes you spend at night putting it up in rollers. Once the rollers come out in the morning, it’s literally a 3 minute job before I’m ready to walk out the door.

I know this is nothing new. It’s what our Grandmothers used to do. Tons of women still do it today, but the knowledge seems to have been lost in the general North American public at large. The beauty industry wants us to buy their products and this style is about using hardly any products at all. Did Grokette have access to foam rollers? No, but I bet she used some sort of tree branch or teasel to comb the tangles out of her hair and I guarantee you she didn’t use BedHead Superstar Conditioner for Thick Massive Hair. If the Paleo world can boast any sort of beauty secret, I feel comfortable saying that this is it.

Day 5. I didn't curl it the night before.

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27 Comments

  1. Well…you know I always think you look fabulous! But I’m wondering how this will work for me. Maybe you might have some insight. But you know, hair that is thick and curly, the mix girl type of hair!

    Reply
  2. I am so glad to hear that you are no longer washing your hair everyday. I only wash my hair once a week, sometimes twice a week if I need it but not usually. I’ve been doing this for probably about 15 years now and I KNOW my hair and scalp are the better for it. It’s a hard thing to convince someone that the reason they think they need to wash their hair every day is BECAUSE they wash their hair everyday. Having worked in a salon for so many years and telling ALL my clients that they shouldn’t wash their hair every day, you would be amazed at how many of them would say to me “Oh, there’s no way I could go without washing my hair” right after I fully explained to them about the more you wash the more oil your scalp will produce because you keep washing it away. Very few would believe me, but they would tell me how great my hair always looked. It would frustrate the hell out of me. As for the lack of smell and not needing to use soap as much, that’s a new one for me. I don’t shower every day because it will dry my skin out too much but I hadn’t thought about what cutting out all the extra carbs would do. It makes perfect sense though. While I do eat whole wheat bread and other grains (I don’t have any gluten issues so it’s fine for me) I don’t eat a ton of them and I eat VERY little other sugars. I don’t use sugar in my coffee or tea and I rarely eat sweets. For the last 4 1/2 years or so I’ve been using agave nectar to sweeten things and for pancake syrup. Maybe this is the reason I can work out and get dripping with sweat and never smell–even if I don’t shower right away. My gym clothes don’t ever smell either. Hmmm, something to definitely think about.

    You look absolutely amazing by the way (you always did but you are totally glowing now). It makes me happy to see you so happy!!

    xoxo,
    Rhonda

    Reply
  3. You know what, I’ve tried the no-shampoo thing twice now (after washing it daily from age 14 to 26) and my hair was unbearably gross the entire time. Even washing it once after a week and letting it go another week or two didn’t work, and I’m just not willing to walk around with hair that greasy. But it never occurred to me to actually DO something with it!

    What setting lotion do you use? Your hair looks incredible.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! I use “Lotta Body” setting lotion that i get from Sally’s. It’s professional strength so it gets diluted 1 part to 3 parts water. It has some very non-paleo sounding ingredients, but it works so well that I don’t care. I really hope this works out for you! I had to work my way up to a week – and that process took several months.

      Reply
  4. Love it! My husband hasn’t washed his hair in two years. I tried it and it was horrible. But I may give it a go, again, thanks to you. The photos are stunning. I have long, dark brown hair and I wash it nearly everyday and curl it with no products so this would be right up my alley. Though I must ask, if I do this will my hair bloom a beautiful flower like yours? Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • LOL, the flower is only able to root once it has a foundation of dirt to grow in. ;)
      I’m so glad you’re going to try this, please let me know how it works out for you. This was a process I went through over several months, so be patient and give it time. Then check back and let me know!!!

      Reply
  5. I remember when I was younger I would only wash it once a week because I was too lazy to do it more often. lol. But I would get compliments on it all.the.time.

    Then as I got older I started washing it more and more and now I wash it every day. I would love to get back to washing once a week or so.

    My question for you is, what kind of brush do you use? I want to get one that is going to work nicely for brushing the oils down.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi! Thanks for asking. I was thinking about addressing this last night when I was brushing my hair. :) I use a boar’s bristle brush. They’re old school but you can still get them at places like Sally’s or most beauty supply stores. They’re actually designed to brush the oils down to the ends of your hair. If you do use a plastic brush, make sure it doesn’t have the little balls on the ends of the bristles. I keep one around for getting the initial tangles out of my hair and then use the boar’s bristle brush to distribute the oils.

      Reply
  6. Thanks so much for this. I have fine, wavy hair that’s in the process of growing out; I have to use a ton of product on it to get it do anything right now, and I have to wash it to start fresh every day. There is nothing I would love more than to not have to wash it and style it every freaking day–going from a pixie cut to shoulder length (not even halfway there) is an absolute nightmare, especially for someone who hates to fuss with her hair every freaking day… What kind of shampoo and conditioner do you use?

    Reply
    • Right now I’m using shampoo and conditioner for color treated hair, but I’m not sure it really matters which kind you use. The more natural the better, I think. The different brands are really all the same when you get right down to the ingredients, it’s just the fragrances that differ. I actually wash my hair twice and then use conditioner. Some people stop using shampoo altogether, but apparently you have to “wean” your hair off of it over a period of time to have results you can live with. I would just use up whatever you have left in the house, and when you need to replace it, splurge on something natural since you won’t be using it as often. :)

      Reply
  7. Hi! I got really inspired by this post, since my hair is flat and gets oily very quick, and since I want to become more primal in all ways :)

    I actually found a natural bristle brush yesterday.. Guess where? At the local pet store! My boyfriend had a good laugh when I explained that the dog brush was for myself!

    Anyways, the brush is quite soft, so I can’t really get it to go “into” my hair. Is that the point, is it mainly for “surface” brushing? Or is it just that I am so accustomed to plastic brush with balls on the bristles? Or should I try get one that is less soft?

    Reply
    • LOL, that’s awesome. :) The first brush I got didn’t penetrate my hair either, so I had to get one with longer bristles, which made all the difference. The bristles on your brush are probably quite short – it probably wouldn’t work on a long-haired dog, either. Give the brush you already have to someone with very short hair and it will work for them. The point is to penetrate your hair to the scalp, and to pull the scalp oils from your scalp down to the ends of your hair. Brush very slowly and gently. You may want to hold the ends of your hair in your hand and brush against your hand to avoid breakage, snarls or tangles. Once the oil is transferred down the length of your hair instead of sitting on your scalp, it should feel thicker and fuller.
      Let me know if you still have any problems. It can be hard to visualize, so maybe I could make a video and post it.

      Reply
  8. Thanks for the tips, I’ll try to find a brush with longer bristles. The dog brush was really cheap and just for fun, really :) Oh, and this weekend I’ll get a jumpstart becauae I’m at a cabin with no running water..

    Reply
  9. I think you might want to reread The Little House books. OK, they bathed once a week, but used fresh water for each person’s bath (check Framer Boy for details on how they even scrubbed out the bath each time); and they washed every day – face, neck, etc. There’s no need to be snooty just because you have all the mod cons and can have a bath every day if you want to.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the history lesson. I have read the Little House on the Prairie books (all of them) probably 30 times. I was not being snooty, I was simply discussing my misconceptions as a youth, based on what the modern beauty industry and media told me was acceptable at the time. If you actually read the article I wrote, you will notice that I no longer think this way. Please read the whole post before you comment and refrain from name-calling.
      Oh, and in the dead of winter, when you are having to melt ice and snow for each and every bath, do you REALLY think that all the kids got fresh water? I seriously doubt it. Put yourself in their shoes.

      Reply
  10. I haven’t used shampoo since January – I have allergies to all the chemicals in it – and my hair is actually more manageable. Once a week I will use some baking soda on my scalp to get any excess oils up, but it doesn’t strip my hair of all the oil like shampoo does. I found that even washing my hair once a week with shampoo destroys the balance. I haven’t had problems with flakes since I stopped using shampoo and my hair holds it’s natural curl so much better – I used to have to tame the heck out of the puffy mess with all sorts of chemicals. The other benefit of not using shampoo? All the money I save.

    Reply
  11. Looks amazing! We spend too much time stripping –our skin, our hair, our souls..u name it. U are definitely your best beauty product, beauty!

    Reply
  12. I’ve done this (my grandma taught me) and you’re absolutely right. A tip for when you’re adjusting in the beginning: use a little flour on your fingers to work through your hair. It soaks up the excess oil, and then you can brush it out. It adds some volume as well. If you overdo it or have to wash your hair, a little jojoba oil (which is apparently very similar to natural skin oils) worked into your scalp keep dryness away.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this! I’ve been using coconut oil instead of jojoba but I imagine that would be better. Never thought of flour. I would be afraid to use it since I am allergic to wheat. I’ve found if I use any products with wheat protein in them, I get weird little rashes. But great for someone who doesn’t have an intolerance! :)

      Reply
      • What about arrowroot starch? Like corn starch, it absorbs oils.

        Reply
        • That would totally work. The other day I used baby powder, which is mostly cornstarch. I don’t use it on the kids and had some left over. So, onto my hair it went. I don’t have a reaction to corn, and the baby powder worked great! Got two more days out of my hair. I’m up to a week without washing now! But that’s as long as I want to go. Seriously, I want to eat like a caveman, not look like one, ha ha ha.

          Reply
  13. I was wondering if your method would work on my hair. Don’t know if you are familiar with this way of classifying curls, but I have “2c” to “3a” hair. I was wondering if a boar bristle brush ruins natural curls, and if the rollers are neccesary for naturally curly hair.
    I’ve tried the baking soda/ apple cider vinegar method and recently the water-only method. Severe dryness and dandruff with both. I want to be as natural as I can, but as you said, I don’t want to look like a caveman either.
    When do you use your boar bristle brush… do you have certain rules about using only combs, or brushing only right before the shower…?

    Reply
    • I’m going to do another post on this subject and include some video so you guys can see what I’m doing. i’ve had a few questions about curly hair. Check back next week for the new post, I’ve got it priority #1. Cheers!

      Reply
  14. Awesome post, love it!!! I’ll have to try your approach to styling your hair. I, like you, adore the pin-up look (just coloured my hair uber-black an hour ago once again), and always get so disenchanted with styling. However, I have never tried your approach, so I will definitely experiment! I think it would work for me splendidly!

    As for not washing your hair often, I couldn’t agree more. I wash mine on average every 4-5 days, and find my scalp and hair are much better for it. As well, I don’t shower every day, and when I do, only rinse with water and use a loofah (with nothing on it). I use oil on my body every day, use oil to cleanse my skin, use oil to moisturize my skin, use oil on the ends of my hair…seriously, it’s magical stuff! Coconut is wonderful but I’m privy to grape seed.

    Thanks so much for the awesome post!

    Reply
    • I’ll have to try the grapeseed oil, although to be honest, I haven’t needed any oil at all in my hair over the last 6 months. Let me know how this works for you. :)

      Reply
  15. I went to every 3 days. I’m over 50 so my hair is so dry it is NEVER oily. I might go on to 4 days!

    Reply

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