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How I cured my itchy scalp.

So.  I can’t say that my scalp never flakes, but I don’t really have dandruff.  However, I have had an itchy scalp, um, forever.  I have used dandruff shampoo since childhood, and assumed that it would be part of my routine forever.

I had discovered that salicylic acid-containing shampoos (like Neutrogena T-Sal) work better than… uh… whatever makes the blue dandruff shampoo blue.

Four or five months ago, though, I learned about the “no ‘poo” movement:  People “washing” their hair with baking soda, and using apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse.  I already buy my baking soda — which I use for everything — in 13.5 lb bags from Costco, and apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, unfiltered) in quarts.  So, I had the supplies on hand, and was already a fan of them.  Plus, I am always on the lookout for ways to make our household more natural.  I suspected that my normal regimen of Suave clarifying shampoo for the first wash, Selsun Blue Naturals for the second wash, and Herbal Essences None of Your Frizzness conditioner didn’t meet any benchmarks for “more natural”, and on my low-priority list at the back of my mind, I’d been wanting to figure out a replacement for them.  Win-win, all the way around, right?

So, I did no ‘poo for a few weeks and hated it.  It’s not so much that it didn’t work, exactly.  It’s because I have so much darn hair — it’s thick and reaches the small of my back — that the process took FOR-EV-ER.  Working enough baking soda into my hair to wash all of it required a LOT of baking soda and a LOT of time.  Then, it’s hard to rinse out.  The apple cider vinegar rinse helps with that because the acid neutralizes the soda.  However, I am already trying to minimize my water usage in the shower;  I could languish in a hot shower pretty much perpetually, but know that it is wasteful.  All that water draining as I’m trying to get enough soda into my hair to wash it, then enough water in my hair to rinse it…  I just could never get all of the soda out, even using up an entire water-heater full of hot water in the process.

As a consequence, my hair would feel heavy afterward, and I hated that.

I had read that there is an adjustment period where your hair needs to get “used” to not being stripped of its oils, etc., like normal shampoo does, and thought that, maybe, that’s what was happening to my hair.  But, I find myself suspicious of this because:

  1. Baking soda strips stuff of oil.  That’s one reason it’s an effective household cleaner.
  2. I deeply suspect that the “adjustment period” is not your hair balancing out, but you, as a person, finally getting used to how weird your hair feels after “no ‘poo”ing.

So, I shelved that idea.  Chalk me up as Not a Convert to No ‘Poo.

One thing I had noticed, though, was that my scalp was NOT itchy, at all, while doing “no ‘poo”.

I had already recognized that at least one of my children (Audrey) is “allergic” to Suave shampoo.  It makes her head peel.  I’ve know that for years.  Literally, about four years.  With a slowly-dawning “duh”, I thought, “Maybe my shampoo is what is making my head itch.  Maybe I need to switch shampoos.”  For nearly my whole life, I have used a clarifying shampoo as my first wash — I am not looking for frou-frou in my shampoo;  I just want my hair clean.  If I’m going to splurge, I save my $$ for conditioner.  Therefore, I use the cheapest clarifying shampoo I can find:  Suave.  Hmmm…  If it makes Audrey’s scalp peel, maybe I have the same problem, and that’s why my head itches.  <facepalm>

I shopped for various natural shampoos, to give it a go.

Lemme tell you, I hated that.  The cheapskate in me CRINGES over the per-ounce cost of natural and organic shampoos and conditioners.  And, I had a reasonable fear that I’d plunk down my $15-20 dollars for two bottles of stuff that

  1. wouldn’t clean my hair,
  2. would make my scalp still itch, and
  3. would totally waste my money.

Finally, I settled on Everyday Shea, mostly because I liked the info provided on the bottle, and it was 32 ounces, and about $10, which is a fair price for such a large bottle.  I’ve read some glowing reviews of it, but I’m here to tell you that stuff is CRAP.

  • It doesn’t clean worth a darn,
  • I had to use a good quarter to half-cup of both the shampoo and conditioner each time, to get a good lather on the shampoo, and to feel like the conditioner was being spread through my hair.

I had to stop using it, which made me groan at the waste.  I tried using it a few washes even after I knew it wasn’t working for me, just to try to get my money’s worth, but I just couldn’t continue.  Then, I tried — ahem — passing it to my children, because maybe their standards were lower than mine.  But everyone — husband and children included — uniformly reported, “This stuff is weird.  It’s so watery.  My hair doesn’t feel clean.  Do I have to use this?”  Now, the bottles — FOUR OF THEM, mind you, because I thought that if one variety of it didn’t work, maybe another did — are just sitting around my house (and yes, that’s $40 worth of crappy shampoo and conditioner), because I can’t bear to throw them away, but neither could I, in good conscience, give them to anyone.*

Nature’s Gate, which, while somewhat expensive on the outset (about $6-7), at least comes in healthy-sized 18 oz bottles, so the cost per ounce was lower than most of the other options.  It’s not organic, but it is sulfate-free, paraben-free, butylene glycol-free, and more.  I’m not sure — at all — which of those — if any — is what was making my scalp itch.  But, I thought it was likely to be at least one of those things.

I must say that, initially, I didn’t want to buy Nature’s Gate because I bought some, years ago, and the stuff smelled exactly like Old Spice, and it was a SSTROOOONGGGG scent.  So, I’d smell distinctly like a man whenever I used it.  That’s a no-go, even though I liked how it worked.  But, in the store, I noticed that there were several new varieties of their shampoo, and it had that chipper “New Improved!” graphic, and I hesitantly picked it up.  I opened the cap to smell.  Wow!  It smelled GREAT.  I plunked two bottles in my cart.

I’m happy to report that, a few months later, after using both the Aloe Vera and the Jojoba versions of Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners that

  • It cleans my hair, on ONE wash, even if it’s been several days since I last washed my hair.
  • I don’t have to use a ton of the shampoo, just a normal amount.
  • The conditioner conditions well, and even with my long, thick hair, I don’t have to use a gallon of it, either.  It’s thick and rich.
  • It doesn’t make my scalp itch.  I am itch-free, and no longer need to use dandruff shampoo.
  • And it smells great.  Not like a man at all.  But, my hubby likes it, so it doesn’t smell girly, either.

Overall, I’m very happy with Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner.  It’s still pricier than my penny-pinching self likes to pay.  BUT, it’s cheaper than dandruff shampoo.  And, I have been pretty successful buying it on sale.  Locally, to the Phoenix area, the everyday price at Bashas’, of all places, is LESS than at Sprouts, $6 vs. $7-something.  But, from the 25th of April (today) through the 2nd of May, all of Sprouts’ vitamin and bodycare goods are 25% off, so if you’re interested, it might be a good time to buy…  (And, NO, I’m not paid by Sprouts to say this;  I just like shopping there.)


*Although, if anyone I know IRL is reading this, and wants to try it, even after my thumbs-down review, you’re welcome to.  I’ll give you my bottles.

Easy fruit fly trap (plus thoughts on poisons and alarmism)

I’m eating my lunch as I type this, sopping up the last of my homemade caesar dressing with some raw broccoli.  Mmmm…

Yesterday, I was (semi-unwillingly) in a Walmart, picking up some 9-volt batteries for my hubby.  And some Larabars for him.  For the record, Walmart Neighborhood Market carries TWO flavors of Larabars.  Two.  I’m not surprised.  They are only $1.15, though.

On my way out, I passed a clearance rack, and saw a fruit fly trap.  It caught my eye because, well, we have fruit flies.  This is due to poor compost management (my fault) + gloriously beautiful weather (God’s fault) + children who are prone to leave doors open in fine weather.  Ugh.  I’ve been swatting those suckers for a couple of weeks now.  So, I stopped in my tracks, and picked up the trap.  It was $5.48.  For one trap.  On clearance.  I’m a tighter wad than that.

Now, the trap was a fake plastic apple with a small plastic container of red liquid.  I turned the package over to see what the ingredients are.  The active ingredient?  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.  Chances are high that you have the poison (truly!) in your shampoo as a main ingredient.  The second ingredient?  Acetic acid.  This is the acid in vinegar.

A couple of days ago, I read a truly alarmist post about the dangers of Simple Green.  Now, perhaps I took offense, since I have some in my home.  I use a concoction of mostly white vinegar to clean nearly everything in our home, but sometimes, one just needs a degreaser.  It does appear that Simple Green is not quite as “natural” as I had previously thought, so perhaps that bears some consideration.  HOWEVER, the article (not on the Livestrong link in the sentence previous) went on for quite a while on the dangers of butoxyethanol, an alcohol found in Simple Green.  It quoted extensively from the Material Data Safety Sheet for the alcohol, highlighting its more alarming properties.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Simple Green is The Best Ever and you should go out and buy a gallon.  There are better cleaning alternatives.  Here’s what bothered me, though.  ALMOST EVERYTHING, in pure form, is dangerous if taken into our bodies.  Even water.  You can overdose from water.  Or salt.  OR ACETIC ACID!!  In fact, according to their respective MSDSsssses (or however one should spell that), acetic acid is MORE DANGEROUS than butoxyethanol!!  And why is this so ironic??  Because on the post about how dangerous Simple Green is, virtually everyone chimed in to say that they cleaned with vinegar.  You know, that liquid that is nearly entirely water and acetic acid?!??


The reason that neither Simple Green nor vinegar are harmful is because of the concentrations of the chemicals within.  Simple Green contains less than 4% butoxyethanol.  Vinegar is diluted, as a standard, to 5% acetic acid.


So, really, the people who are campaigning against Simple Green may wanna do a little more homework first, before getting caught up in the frenzied tide.

Just sayin’.

Most things are at their best in moderation.  🙂  Some things warrant some passion and to jump in with both feet and start swinging punches.  However, before you do that, you may want to ensure your passion is well-placed.


Back to the fruitflies.

Mine looks like this, but I used a small plastic funnel. It works.

I figured I could take a small jar (a half-pint glass canning jelly jar), mix some apple cider vinegar and some sodium lauryl sulfate-containing dishwashing detergent (yes, even Seventh Generation has it!) in the bottom of the jar, take a funnel and turn it upside down in the jar, and wait for the fruit flies to be attracted to the smell of vinegar, wander into the funnel, and drown/be poisoned in the mixture within.


This morning, there were eight dead fruit flies in my trap.

Turns out I’m not as original as I had thought, though.  Seems like everyone and his brother have blogged a tutorial on this, and I’m behind the times.  I guess if I would have had the foresight to Google this, I could have had my problems solved weeks ago.

Oh, well.


Health stuff: Me, Fi, avocados, and candida.

  • After writing this, I thought, “How cliché!  I’m writing about a diet and it’s the new year, when everyone has made new commitments (again!) to some diet or another.”  But, for better or worse, that’s not what this post is about.
  • It appears my three-year-old, Fiala, has a crazy-bad body-wide yeast infection, and I was reading up on Candida overgrowth for Fi’s sake, when, to my particular interest, I read that Candida is frequently the source of hives in adults.  I’ve been getting intermittent hives for about the last two or three months, and the last two weeks have been AWFUL, with nightly hives (they’re always worse at night) and day-long burning and itching skin, especially on my hands, forearms, thighs, belly, and neck.  The whole world of Candida overgrowth is confusing and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  Trying to establish some sort of anti-Candida protocol is really hard for a three-year-old;  you just can’t make them quaff a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, no matter how you disguise it.  For me, though, it’s a little easier.  I am embarking on a week-long cleanse.  I don’t even know if I’m doing it “right”;  I’m just following what seems logical:  Eating a all-sugar-free-even-honey-and-fruit, super-low-carb diet, basically a Paleo diet.  I’m counting my carbs (minus dietary fiber), and maxing them at 30g/daily.  I’m also supplementing with probiotics (lots) and with apple cider vinegar (lots).  Part of me is concerned that I don’t know enough to start the diet knowledgeably, but the other part of me has decided that doing the best I can, and adding to my knowledge as I proceed, is what I need to do, otherwise, I’ll keep dragging my feet and eating toffee.  🙂  I figure that even if the hives are not from Candida, at least I’ll probably lose a few pounds this week.  At least, I hope I only have to do one week.  We’ll see.  Maybe it’ll be as easy as starting a gluten-free diet nine years ago, where I felt SO MUCH BETTER that how much “trouble” it was became a total non-issue, and I knew I could never go back.
  • The post from which this beautiful pic comes mentions the giant amount of "good" calories that come from avocados. For the record, I don't give a rip about calories, and my body doesn't, either. My body does, however, care about sugar. I can eat fat-laden meat and fruits and veggies and gallons of honey and never gain an ounce, but if I eat me some sugar, and too many grains, I *PACK* on the pounds. I think those Paleo folks are onto something.

    In news related to the above (and below), avocados, though they are technically a fruit, have NO sugar!  Well, not “no”:  An average-sized avocado has 0.4g sugar and 0.1g starch.  That’s pretty close to zero.  And they’re super high in fiber, avocados have a reasonable amount of protein (especially for a fruit!), and are crazy-high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and EFAs are also supposed to be good for Candida sufferers.  And, oddly enough, avocados are related to cinnamon!  I’ve long known that Fiala can handle cinnamon with no allergic reaction.  I wish I would have discovered the connection, long ago.  Fi’s been eating avocados like crazy the last week or so; a local grocer has them on sale for 4/$1.00 (Bashas’, for those readers in Arizona — the sale is good through Tuesday.)  I found this page very interesting;  it’s about different varieties of avocados.  I was trying to find what kind we have.  I’m still not sure.

  • Speaking of Fiala, you may have seen on OSC’s Facebook page that there was a chance she has Type I (juvenile) Diabetes.  I’m happy to announce that her urinalysis was clean — no glucose.  Part of me was kind of hoping that diabetes was at the heart of her life-long health struggles, because that would be a clear path, and it’s treatable.  But since she doesn’t… we’re back at square one.  I was really unhappy about that for a few days, and now I’m OK.  Better than OK, actually.  We see the naturopathic doctor again on Friday.  She’s planning on ordering up some blood tests based on what did or didn’t show on Fiala’s (very, very clean) urinalysis.  I’ll ask her about Candida then.
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