hair stuff

The best of both worlds: Chocolate conditioner, from Faith in Nature (matching shampoo also available)

Mainly shampoo and conditioner.

The Gingerrama Hair: fine but lots of it, a.k.a. thick/dense, tangle-prone, slightly wavy, very wavy (with tendencies to frizz) underneath and at nape of neck; normal; can be slightly dry; scalp will go dry and flaky if upset by shampoo; can also go oily if it feels that way inclined… Long, currently between back bra-strap and elbow. Never coloured or otherwise chemically enhanced, and dried naturally using The Power Of Air. Washing hair every 2-3 days. Using quite mild products, as the scalp prefers that, and I don’t need that much deep cleaning as not using any styling etc. products.


1. Oil treatment before washing:
Warm between palms of hands. Massage into roots of dry hair, even just 20 min before washing makes a difference, folks with really dry hair do this the night before.

2. Use as gentle and moisturising shampoo as possible:
I’ve loved Phytojoba for this, or some of the (other) very coconutty ones (Alba Botanica, Desert Essence, Hugo, ulp even Suave–unless you’re avoiding Unilever products).

3. Technique:

Brush hair before washing, in the direction in which it will be washed: head upside down / head right way up.

Actual washing: I do all this with head tipped upside down; usually in shower, can also do in sink or over bathtub.

Usual method here, as instructed by assorted hairdressers over the years:

Wash twice. The first wash is an approximate one (to loosen dirt etc.).

The second wash more thorough–still being gentle though–with shampoo left on for a good 1-2 minutes. Pile hair up on top of head and meanwhile wash rest of self in shower. Hair should be slightly rough: the cuticles have “opened” (lifted up). Be very careful at this point, as hair will be fragile and easily torn.

Rinse out: run water through hair to remove shampoo, don’t use hands. Squeeze out moisture before applying conditioner, using a washcloth to do so (way easier than leaving the shower to get a towel etc…)

Apply conditioner, just using hands: start with a small blob to ends, then another to lengths, then more further up as needed. Don’t try to work it through hair while applying it: apply it approximately all over, then return to ends and move fingers gently through hair to distribute the conditioner more evenly. Do the same for the lengths, and so on, working section by section, being very gentle. No combs.

Leave in conditioner for 2-3 minutes, piled on top of head while you reassume the vertical. At this point, I apply oil to moisturise rest of self, and shave pits (and legs, if summer). As the conditioner does its job, hair will become more slippy and start to tumble down off top of head. At this point, try running hands through ends. If that works, tip head back and rinse conditioner out–as with shampoo, letting the water do most of the detangling, not hands.

Then the nasty painful bit: a final blast of cold water to seal cuticles. Over to you if you want to make this a cold blast all over the rest of you too, or pretend it’s an excuse for extra back and core stretches, tipping head back as far as possible so as just to make hair and head cold, and not rest of self.

Squeeze out water and wrap hair in towel. And no rubbing of damp hair, just blotting and leaving in a towel, then adding any anti-frizz stuff, and later combing through with wide-toothed comb.

If hair is very dry–in the winter, or if spending too long in heinous air-conditioning–I’ll apply some more conditioner afterwards as a leave-in, especially to the ends. I’ve used stuff that called itself leave-in, and stuff that didn’t; in my experience, pretty much any conditioner will work, as well as some (skin) moisturisers.

Chocolate mask


Currently (about once in a blue moon, if scalp is dry and itchy, or otherwise when I remember):

  • the multi-purpose oil: applied to (dry) scalp, massaged in; usually about 20-30 minutes before washing hair
  • borage seed oil: break open a capsule and apply as previously; if scalp has gone eczematic. I’ve also used plain mineral, sunflower, or safflower oil this way
  • jojoba: used neat on scalp; nice, but not noticeably different from any other constituent part of the blend
  • avocado & oil mask: not the oil, but mashed pulp; mixed with oil (usually sunflower) to a consistency adequate for applying to scalp. Same procedure as above.
  • Weleda Rosemary Hair Lotion – 2 to 3 drops massaged into scalp, left for only a couple of minutes, then rinsed out. Not used for ages now.
  • also: on drier hair suggest olive or coconut, some folks swear by argan.

Any of the above require a bit more washing afterwards–i.e. one more shampoo than usual.


Avoiding sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for reasons of eczema; fine with SLES; most of my recent shampoos have been cocamidopropyl betaine-based. No silicones (keeping them for leave-in anti-frizz products). Currently: 

  • Avalon Organics olive & grapeseed fragrance-free
  • Beauty Without Cruelty moisturizing: one of the only scented ones I can use, and by a happy coincidence, one of the most moisturising

Previously, more or less recently, also used (depending on how skin and nose were dealing with fragrance):

  • Alba Botanica coconut
  • Aveda Brilliant. Off and on for years: brilliant by name and brilliant by nature
  • Aveda Smooth Infusion and Damage Remedy shampoos; did NOT like Dry Remedy, the replacement for the gorgeous and discontinued Sap Moss.
  • Desert Essence fragrance-free and coconut
  • Earth Science fragrance-free
  • Faith in Nature. I’ve used and liked their Rosemary (but not moist enough), Jojoba (lovely! and mild orange/ylang ylang scent), and Hemp & Meadowfoam (gingerry!). Created a Frankenpoo by mixing all three together, along with some rosemary oil, and decanting into an old Aveda liter bottle. Needs a slight shake before application, but so far this is a fabulous shampoo, and it makes me feel all po-mo glowy in the morn­ing, my Unfaithful Supernatural Creature in sham-Shampure clothing.
    Also used sample of their chocolate shampoo which was gorgeous.
  • Green People: the unscented and rosemary ones
  • Hugo coconut
  • Jason Unscented, Aloe Vera, kids’, and Hemp Super Moisturising: decent
  • Lavera Basis Mild. Nearly as good as the Aveda, back when I was using the Brilliant, and half the price; but I used more than twice as much on each wash, so not that cheap in the end (and, indeed, maybe more expensive).
  • Lavera Almond milk
  • Lavera Rose 
  • Marks & Spencer Rosemary cheap-as-chips range is nice, plain and simple, smells great. Little scrubbing, so easy to use, hair and scalp delighted.
  • Nature’s Gate: moistest ones I found were the herb and the hemp
  • Paula’s Choice all-over hair & body shampoo (unscented)
  • Phyto Phytojoba: on the fence about the scent, pina colada at that time of day feels improper, but then again, performing one’s ablutions after the cocktail hour is surely even more Not Done.
  • Phyto Phytoprogénium “intelligent” shampoo: the mildest of Phyto’s, decent, but no better or worse than other mild shampoos; probably not worth the price
  • Whole Foods 365 own-brand fragrance-free shampoo: decent, a bit drying. (The matching conditioner may be OK on some, I disliked–too light.)


Again, no silicones (keeping them for leave-in anti-frizz products). Currently:

  • Avalon Organics olive & grapeseed fragrance-free
  • John Masters Organics “Bare” unscented; sometimes adding rose, sandalwood, and neroli essential oils–these being some of the few that are OK with both my skin and my nose.

Within recent history, also used:

  • Alba Botanica coconut
  • Aubrey Organics GPB: one of the best super-squeaky-green ones I’d used; did dry hair out a little–possibly protein overload, who knows–and got some (mild) irritation on back from this; and the scent won’t be for everyone. Not using currently, as have gone fragrance-free.
  • Avalon Organics Rosemary range: lovely smell, little cleansing, conditioner wayyyyy too siliconey
  • Aveda Brilliant
  • Aveda Damage Remedy (Conditioner and Intensive Treatment), Smooth Infusion (used up samples for all these, and would consider buying / wouldn’t throw out of the bathroom); did NOT like Dry Remedy, the replacement for the gorgeous and discontinued Sap Moss.
  • Burt’s Bees Green Tea & Fennel Seed (Color Keeper) (marvellous scent).  My first move away from siliconey conditioners, and in yet another attempt to overcome a debilitating addiction to the Brilliant. The problem with Aveda is that their scents ruin one’s nose for ever. One can never return to a hair product ever again that doesn’t smell delectable, and most hair products, in comparison, smell like artificially flavoured fruity (flowery if you’re lucky) bubblegum targeted at little girls who like pink (or have been persuaded they do by market forces, the media, etc. and thus put the feminist revolution back a generation. I digress.) In previous attempts to escape the evil clutches of expensive hair-care, I’d been using conditioners that tended to have the heavy and non-water-soluble silicones up near the top of ingredients, which left my (thick/many-stranded) hair detangled, smooth, shiny, and fast-air-drying. But I’m hypothesizing this is also what was weighing down my (fine-stranded) hair, so it had to be washed daily, and was flat and greasy. Still, super shiny shiny shiny.
  • Desert Essence fragrance-free and coconut
  • Earth Science fragrance-free 
  • Faith in Nature: used, liked, and would use again (if in UK) the Aloe Vera, Chocolate, and/or Hemp & Meadowfoam. The Chocolate range is intended for people with dark brunette to black hair, but my hair remained red (and yes, the stuff smells of chocolate–the best chocolate hair stuff I’ve ever used!)
  • Giovanni Direct Leave-in Conditioner. The nearest I’d found in years to “for normal hair, to keep it that way.” Glorious, gorgeous – for the first couple of months, then increasingly drying. Had been using mainly as a rinse-out conditioner, with a little added to the ends of the hair afterwards; occasionally as a leave-in, if running out of hot water or saving it at a friend’s house or other virtuous reason … Worked well for a while, then hair went dry and scalp went scaly.
  • Green People Vitamin and Aloe Vera: my favourite of theirs. Worth looking into–them and Faith in Nature both–if you’re in the UK or Ireland: seriously good, cheap, honest, modest, under-rated stuff.
  • Hugo coconut
  • Jason Unscented, Rose, Jojoba, Aloe, kids’, and their Hemp Super Moisturising (the replacement for ther old EFA one): fair.
  • John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Conditioner/Detangler: gorgeous and delectably-fragranced citrus; the “bare” unscented one is the same stuff minus EOs.
  • Lavera Basis (did what it said – “for shine and volume” – for some months, then hair dried out: dry, frizzly, tangled. Weep.
  • Lavera Rose: the expensive treatment in the smaller tube is wondrous stuff; the matching cheaper conditioner, in the larger tube, is OK
  • L’Occitane Olive Daily Conditioner (too heavy for everyday use); their other conditioners are worth a look-sniff-try, too scented for me, alas (as are all the shampoos). The Aromachology one for fine/greasy hair is completely silicone-free and smells gorgeous. The Olive range has also been reformulated, silicone-free again, now renamed Rameau d’or / The Golden Branch, with olive tree extracts. Feel and finish very like the old version.
  • Marks & Spencer Rosemary cheap-as-chips range is nice, plain and simple, smells great. Little scrubbing, so easy to use, hair and scalp delighted.
  • Phyto Phytobaume: some protein, but less drying than previous more proteiny ones used like Giovanni, and smells much nicer. Price aside, I liked this enough to have reviewed it and stick with it. Used at first every wash, then every week or two. Would rebuy for the summer; not moisturising enough for winter/drier hair.
  • Phyto Phytojoba mask  – super-moisturising, leaves hair full and soft, neither greasifiying nor drying, absolutely fantastic stuff. Even though, yes, it contains dimethicone (and amodimethicone, but balanced out so rinsable-outable). Beats Kérastase any day; I used their stuff a lot a couple of decades ago, stopped buying for animal testing reasons. Felt like my biggest sacrifice, till I discovered all these other lovely hair things around…
  • Phyto 7. Applied on the length and ends afterwards, once hair towel-dried and combed out, as a full-on leave-in conditioner:  In hotter weather, added to ends and underside daily or as needed – it does seem to help sweaty tangles and general dryness.
  • Urtekram Unscented: light, simple
  • Urtekram Camomile: similarly…
  • Urtekram Rose


  • Aveda Sap Moss, Unscented ranges; Curessence and Elixir leave-in conditioners, Detoxifier shampoo: why do they discontinue their best products?
  • L’Oréal Elsève Jojoba (ditto)
  • Loved Nexxus Phyto-organics: Hydress, Nectaress, Luxxtress, the late-1990s incarnation
  • Revlon Flex Balsam (a very long time ago): loved the smell, am ecstatic–yes, ecstatic! that doesn’t happen very often–to find a replacement in its smell-twin, Aubrey Organics GPB Conditioner.
  • The Body Shop jojoba old range. Alas, to my nose TBS’s new hair ranges – ex. the Olive or Honey – smell *wrong* or too fake-marzipan-and-banana.
  • Weleda Calendula: the old one. Lovely stuff; discontinued and the new Calendula & Chamomile one smells absolutely disgusting. The matching shampoo would be OK on fine, thin hair, but leaves the Gingerrama fine, thick hair in an appalling tangled mess when rinsed out. 


STYLING etc: usually none. Heck, my hair has plenty style of its own without having someone else’s misconceived idea of style imposed on it–mine or anyone else’s. I will run some stuff through hair, helps keep down the frizzies and turn them, rather, into waves. Will and do use some silicones: hair of a texture that handles them well, and they do seem to protect well against breakage, roughness, dryness. Success with dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone, ; irritation with cyclopentasiloxane. If I feel a need to go out in a rush, hair is wet, and it’s cold and damp outside, I’ll put a silk scarf over head on the way out.

Current stuff:

  • Aveda Smooth Infusion style-prep smoother
  • extra conditioner on ends, as needed–whatever the current conditioner is

Recent stuff:

  • Aubrey Organics B-5 gel
  • Phyto Phytodéfrisant
  • and their Phyto 7 as a cross between a leave-in conditioner and a defrizzing treatment. Lovely stuff, and unscented.


  • Aveda Brilliant Damage Control Spray 
  • Aveda Light Elements Smoothing Fluid
  • Aveda Phomollient: used to use for occasional blow-drying some several years ago
  • Weleda Rosemary Hair Lotion: used on hair ends as well as for a pre-wash treatment

SWIMMING: Before swimming, I dampen hair and apply something to protect it, before plaiting it, donning the beauteous swim-cap, and hitting the pool. Current protectant of choice: the beloved multi-tasking genius that is  Allergenics Emollient Cream. Also tried:

  • Boots Swim stuff (didn’t like);
  • a sample (off a kind friend) of Philip Kingsley Swim Cap (quite nice);
  • samples of Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Treatment.
  • cheap-as-chips and unscented (being kind to my fellow-swimmers) Boots Expert Sensitive Unfragranced Intensive Conditioning Treatment was so slippy you have to readjust your swimcap twice a length. I accidentally used my usual post-swim conditioner, and found it worked just as well as those proper leave-ins, deep treatments, and masks. And the cap stayed on.

After the pool, regular shampoo +  conditioner (taken to pool decanted into 50 ml bottles). Used to use Aveda Detoxifier (why oh why must they always discontinue any hair stuff I like? it’s uncanny–and the replacement isn’t as good) – and have also used and liked the Aubrey Organics swimming stuff.

c/o The Beauty Brains: "Does Cocoa Butter in LUSH Cosmetics Jungle Hair Really Work?"

Image at top: Faith In Nature