The most significant thing I noticed is that my hair, well, still mostly just looks like my hair. I interpret this as a positive and it makes me ponder all the shampoo and conditioner (and the bottles they came in) that have been manufactured and shipped and purchased and recycled in the pursuit of cleaning my hair, when it turns out my hair looks pretty much the same without it. Not entirely the same, though, and the differences are positive. My hair is softer, shinier, and has lost that straw-like feeling. It also has more volume, and I think this whole baking soda/apple cider vinegar thing might make the biggest difference for people who feel like their hair is flat and limp. I am really happy, and I have been having way more good hair days since I kicked the shampoo habit. These differences are pretty subtle, though, I admit. Rob, for instance, says he cannot see any difference at all. (Men!) I had only the barest hint of a transition period (when some people feel really oily while their hair adjusts to not having its natural oils stripped away) that lasted maybe two weeks, but it was really not noticeable at all. Of course, curly hair pretty much never looks greasy or oily, even when it is, so I had that going for me.
So here's my routine: I put about 2 tablespoons into a squeeze bottle (like one of these) and fill the container up with warm water, then shake to mix it up. This amount will last me about 5-6 uses and I keep it in my shower. I also keep a plastic cup in my shower and pour about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into the cup right before my shower. During my shower, I get my hair wet, then use the squeeze bottle to apply the solution to my scalp and roots (I don't work on the rest of my hair much), massaging it in. I rinse it out, then take my cup containing apple cider vinegar and fill it up with warm water from the shower. I pour this diluted vinegar on to my hair from the cup, concentrating on my ends, then rinse this out. It does smell like vinegar while I'm doing this, but only until it's all rinsed out. That's it! Then it's on to whatever concoction of styling products I have decided to try that day. This routine has had no problem getting product out, in case you're wondering.
A few aspects of the new hair routine have taken some getting used to. My very first impression was, "Gosh, this feels different." When you have been accustomed to the bubbly soap-y lather of washing your hair with shampoo every single day of your whole entire life, it does feel kind of weird to forego it. Washing your hair with baking soda feels not at all lather-y but instead just slightly slippery; it is a different sensory experience. The next thing is that the mixed-up water and baking soda mixture must have a significantly higher thermal conductivity than shampoo because it feels COLD going on my head on a cool morning. It is, of course, the same temperature as the shampoo since they have both just been sitting in our bathroom at thermal equilibrium with the everything around them but it feels a lot colder. I suppose I could get around this by mixing up new baking soda solution every morning right before my shower using warm water; maybe I will do this during the winter if it really bothers me.
And the last thing that has been not-quite-awesome is that I feel like more hair is coming out in the shower. I got a little concerned for a while there, actually, and I am still not quite sure why this has happened-- is my hair breaking more? is this just normal shedding of hair at the end of its growth cycle (that somehow I wasn't noticing before)? In all my googling, I have not come across anyone else having this particular problem with the baking soda/apple cider vinegar routine; in fact, people are always waxing eloquent about how gentle baking soda is. I started this whole experiment almost immediately after frying my hair with some home hair dye, so I originally thought that my hair was just brittle and damaged and breaking from that. I feel like that should have calmed down by now, though... I am not sure. I don't feel like I have more breakage and I certainly don't have more split ends (although curly hair pretty much hides any split ends); if anything, I think my hair looks better. I guess I will just monitor the situation and re-evaluate if it starts to seem like my hair is all breaking and falling off.
Delving into the natural hair care world made me curious about some of the styling product recipes that people have out there and those have been less than successful for me. I tried using coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner and styling product and although it made my hair look pretty good (and smell DELICIOUS) it made my face break out wherever my hair would come into contact with it. I tried making hair gel from flax seeds and this did not work for me. The gel did not have enough hold and it wasn't very shelf-stable; I would have to cook a new batch every few days because it went all runny and non-gel-like pretty fast.
This experimenting made me rediscover the online curly-hair community (yes! people have whole message boards about having curly hair!) and some of the routines and styling products that those people like have been great for my hair as well. The most common routine is based on this book and also involves eschewing shampoo, although in favor of a cheap conditioner that will clean your hair gently instead of baking soda. Right now, I am alternating days of using the baking soda and apple cider vinegar (any day that I work out and get sweaty) with days of just using conditioner (actual conditioner, not the apple cider vinegar) and this is working great for me.
And now I have written paragraphs and paragraphs about my hair. I should stop now.