Clean, Green, Affordable Hair Care

Clean hair shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, or dirty up the environment.

By Jean Nick


I rarely use conditioner, but the same advice goes for it as for shampoo: Dilute and use less. Condition just the ends of your hair, rather than the roots, and your hair will stay clean longer. Choose as natural a product as you can find to reduce your exposure to nasty chemicals. There are also lots of easy and economical conditioners you can make at home.

Basic Rinse

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups water

Mix, pour ½ cup of the rinse through wet hair, and rinse with cool water.

Egg Conditioner

  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup warm water

Right before you wash your hair, beat the egg yolk until it’s frothy, add oil and beat again, then add water slowly while beating. Pour the mix through wet hair, working it in with your fingers. Allow it to set for a few minutes then rinse it out with warm water.

Deep Conditioner
For dry or damaged hair, a weekly conditioning pack can make a huge difference. You can use any of the following in combination or alone: olive oil, coconut oil, beaten egg, yogurt, mayonnaise, mashed banana, or avocado (I’d rather eat mine, thanks). Mayonnaise is a superfast and very effective choice. Massage it into wet hair, wrap it all up turban-style in an old towel for 20 minutes, and rinse well (perhaps followed with a light shampoo or a Basic Rinse (above).

Herbal Color-Modifying Rinses
While none of these will turn blond hair black or black hair strawberry blond, using them on a regular basis can add highlights and even tone down some graying strands.

  • Strong chamomile tea, diluted lemon juice, or tea made with fresh rhubarb will lighten hair. For more pronounced results allow rinse to dry in hair—outside in the sunshine if possible.
  • Strong sage, lavender, or cinnamon tea will darken hair and mellow out graying strands over time.
  • Hibiscus flower tea will add reddish highlights to light hair.

Herbal Dyes
A number of natural materials can be used to change hair color more dramatically: Henna is the best known, but indigo, walnut hulls, and other natural materials are also used individually or in blends. Instructions are outside of the scope of today’s column, but if you decide to experiment, test on a lock of hair before committing your entire mane (green or orange hair is fine for tweens flexing their self-image muscles—mine sported those interesting shades and more at various times before they got it out of their systems—but your boss or employees may not be keen on it). Wear gloves, as these dyes can work on skin as well (my mom once had walnut-brown hands for weeks after she decided to hull some black walnuts without gloves).

Here are a few free bonus ideas for safe and inexpensive hair-care products:

Antistatic Treatment for Dry Hair
Put a small dab of natural hand lotion in one palm, rub hands together to coat both evenly, and run your fingers through your hair.

Natural Hair Gel

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup hot water

Dissolve gelatin in water, store in refrigerator between uses. Work into hair with finger tips, and style as desired.

Natural Hair Spray

  • ½ orange
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 cups water

Chop fruit finely, simmer the pieces in water until they are soft and the liquid is half gone. Strain liquid into a small spray bottle, and store in refrigerator between uses. Spray finished hair lightly; dilute with water if sprayed hair is stiffer than you desire.