Crunchity Crunch-ville

I’m kind of a finals widow this week, since the Ogre is giving finals, keeping late hours at the writing center, and coming home in the wee sma’s with gazillions of blue books to grade. Obviously, I’m super sick of 12-15 hour work days, but this week his nightly absence has given me a chance to try out some new facial tricks from ye olde crunchtacular interwebs.

In case you missed it, we still live in southwest Florida, which is the absolute most hellishly hellish place in the developed world to live. I realize some of you may think I’m overstating things, but some of you don’t have asthma and debilitating seasonal allergies, hair that went effing nuts after childbirth, and the oiliest skin.

The cool thing about Florida is that there are four distinct seasons: Summer, Still Summer, Summerish, and Summer. When the temp dips below 70 I throw open the windows and weep with gratitude. Unfortunately, that only happens for about 2 weeks out of the entire year.

Seasonal allergies take on a whole new life when everything blooms all the time. My allergies and asthma, which virtually disappeared in Vegas (ah, how I miss that desert land bereft of mosquitos and morals!), are pretty bad year-round. About as bad as they were during ragweed season when I was a kid in Texas. Then the orange blossoms start blooming, and I seriously want to chop my own head off just to stop the itching and misery. After about three months of all the medication the docs can prescribe, things go back to being merely pretty bad, and I am grateful.

I’m grudgingly learning to live in allergy/asthma hell, but I cannot reconcile myself to the state of my skin and hair.

My hair has been a trial since we moved. If you really want to read about the first-world problems that keep me up at night, you can check out this post and this much-regretted update full of humiliating selfies. I finally chopped about 8 inches off in desperation, only to find out that everything is so much worse now that I can’t resort to a braid. So I’ve totally given up, and I just let my hair air-dry and be frizzy and half-curly and unkempt-shaggy-poodle-looking.

My vanity can withstand the loss of my good head of hair. My vanity can withstand the spit-up-stains, wildly fluctuating waistline, stretch marks, and dowdy nursing bras that accompany childbearing. My vanity is having an extremely hard time withstanding the shifting and snaggle-toothing of my once beloved smile, of which was said, “really, you’re only pretty at all because of your smile. When you don’t smile you’re kind of fugly.” But couple the hair, the weight, and the teeth with such oily skin that my kids constantly if I just worked out “because you face yooks shweaty, ewww!,” plus the accompanying adolescent-esque breakouts, and I just. can’t. handle. it.

So out of sheer desperation I went spelunking through the wilds of the Google, asking it questions like, “can I make a face mask that gets rid of acne with stuff I have in my kitchen?” (It always freaks me out a little when Google answers questions like that in the affirmative, but not enough to stop Googling.) It was a little click-and-miss at first, but I finally found this, this and this.

And guess what? This post used to be about six paragraphs longer, and those paragraphs wordily detailed my experiences with those links (thumbs-up), my experiences with crunchy methods of hair-cleaning (thumbs-down) and my experiences with homemade household cleaners (all the thumbs in Chez Alexander pointed down). I ended by asking you, with some clever quip about hemp and whether we eat or wear it now, to share your all-natural wisdom with me, thou paragons of crunchy wisdom (because I know you’re out there, and I know some of you read this blog). But the stupid internet ate half of my post and I don’t have time to rewrite it. So I’ll just ask you: is it actually possible to clean and condition hair naturally (even children’s hair), specifically without parabens, without looking like you just dumped a bucket of fried chicken over your head 3 days out of 5? Important follow-up: how do you deal with sweaty gross hair from daily work-outs if you’re only supposed to be washing your hair with baking soda/ACV every 3 days?

And grrrrrr, I am so irritated right now. That’s like, valuable time, just eaten up by the unpredictability of this rural internet connection. Oh, *&*@$#.

  • Dwija Borobia

    I’ve had no luck with the natural hair care, either. Mine turned into a mass of brillo after baby, too. Well, some of it is brillo. Some of it is straight. So it is neither curly NOR straight. Just evil.

    • Calah Michelle Alexander

      Dweej, dude, me too! Half curly. Half straight. All frizzy. None attractive. Between this, my teeth, and my gums, I feel like I’m being unfairly punished and am considering filing a complaint with The One In Charge.

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  • Allison Grace

    I keep a spray bottle with ACV in the shower. Gets rid of styling buildup, makes my hair really soft, and keeps nursing thrush at bay so I don’t have purple you-know-whats.

  • Magdalen Dobson

    You can buy no-parabens shampoo in most stores for close to the same price as conventional. I get Tresseme Naturals and Garnier, and they work exactly like conventional shampoo without so many nasty chemicals.

  • Lady Harriet

    You look fantastic every time I see you, so you must be doing something right. :)

    I use a paste of baking soda and water to wash my hair instead of shampoo. Most times I only use conditioner on my hair, but a every few weeks I scrub my scalp with the baking soda. It totally degreases my hair (a bit more than I’d like, actually, since it can leave me kind of frizzy). It’s also the only thing that helps my dandruff (gross, I know). Best of all, it’s cheap!

    I use V05 conditioner, which is also cheap (less than a dollar a bottle at Publix), and, as best as I can tell from the label, has no parabens. It also has no silicone, which is important if you’re not going to use regular shampoo, because silicone will coat your hair and make it greasy without the sulfates in most shampoos to remove it.

    I just use cheap hair gel when I get out of the shower, but I’m not thrilled with it. I’ve thought about using argan oil, but it’s so expensive that I’m hesitant to take the plunge and buy some.

    I also use baby powder as dry shampoo sometimes if my hair looks greasy and I’m too lazy to wash it. My hair does better the more frequently I wash it, but I’m never organized to do it more than two or three times a week at best, so baby powder it is!

  • Becky

    I don’t know if you have a Whole Foods anywhere near you, but their store brand shampoo works very well and is actually quite cheap — a huge bottle is around $5. I don’t find that their conditioner is moisturizing enough and use garnier fructis, which probably has tons of scary chemicals but *plugs ears* *lalalalala*. I live in Florida and also have oily skin, so I can totally relate. I have a crazy oily scalp, too, and as per Lady Harriet, one thing that can help with that is lightly sprinkling baby powder in the roots of one’s hair and patting it down/combing it through so as not to look like Casper.

    I don’t have any great tips for the face — I just tend to reapply loose powder fairly often and live with the shine.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    I don’t live in Florida (And don’t envy those who do), so I can’t speak to how the climate affects people/hair/skin. I switched to Burt’s Bee’s products, which have no parabens. They aren’t cheap, but after a few adjustment weeks, I also found that my thick, curly hair only needs washing once every 3-4 days. My mom washes with a baking soda mix and conditions with apple cider vinegar. It works for her, but her hair is short and straight. My complexion (and body odor) cleared up after eliminating sugar, processed foods, and most grains from my diet and adding natural fats and oils. You might find more answers at . She’s in Florida too.

  • Pat

    Did you read the lovely detailed description about the ditching of shampoo at Becoming Peculiar?

  • Lydia Cubbedge

    I’ve given up on the shampoo free lifestyle. It made my wavy in spots, thick hair disgusting. I do still use an apple cider vinegar rinse once a month or so. Otherwise I use a paraben free henna shampoo and conditioner from Nature’s Gate. They’re not expensive (I think I only paid $7.95 for each) and you can get it at Whole Foods or in most crunchy stores. I only have to shampoo my hair every three days, which is a feat since I live in coastal Georgia. It’s not quite as bad as Florida, but very nearly. Also, apple cider vinegar works for me for breakouts. Smelly, but if you just use a little bit it as a spot treatment it’s good. Otherwise I use rosewater witchhazel as a toner. Good stuff and very cheap. I want to spend all my money on Philosophy products, but alas, $35 for a tiny thing of moisturizer is just not happening right now.

  • Cordelia

    Oh, gosh. I spent my teen years in Gainesville, Florida – and two decades later I’m still emotionally scarred from the grease-face and acne… No advice, only sympathy. And I love your summation of the Florida seasons! On the subject of shampoo and conditioner: a sister and I are both extremely happy with a “natural” brand called Jason that we get here in Canada at places like Wal-Mart. It’s fairly cheap, and my sister has done trials with it and salon name-brands – and likes Jason much better. Their unscented line is my favourite. To tame frizz for styling, I use a tiny amount of coconut oil (two-grains-of-popcorn amount for layered shoulder-length hair)) worked through after each wash-and-condition. My hair goes nuts if it’s blown dry or fiddled with while drying, so I wet it each morning, brush into shape and “crunch” up the ends to encourage the curls, then pop in a headband to hold it back so I don’t touch it. Three-minute routine, two hours to thoroughly dry…which is a pain…but it looks great the rest of the day. Have you tried getting a haircut designed to bring out the curls? Might work, might not… Good luck!