Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Better Living Through Chemicals

My hair smells like mulch.

Grays are increasingly creeping into my hair. I am but a youthful 33 (almost 34, actually-- June birthday) but my hair is really starting to show some wiry silver strands. The last time I got my hair cut, my stylist said I was about 5% gray right now. I am very ambivalent about covering my gray hair; I vacillate regularly between wanting to embrace the gray and being a silver-haired Emmylou-Harris-type by age 40 or so and wanting to color it. I've done many various things with the color of my hair since I left home for college (highlights! red! blue! pink! really red!) so the idea of swearing off color forever seems challenging/depressing to me. On the other hand, I have never really maintained any one coloring plan for any length of time (I tend to flit from one hair color to another with the attention span of a chicken, with periods of ignoring my hair color between) so the prospect of being forced into regular color maintenance because of encroaching gray roots is also unappealing. Then there are the issues of cost, time, and the horrible horrible chemicals. I don't know what I'm going to do.

In the interest of perhaps avoiding at least the horrible horrible chemicals, I picked up a box of henna at Whole Foods recently and tried it out Sunday night. The particular kind I bought is just ground up henna leaves (the leaves? I think so?), along with gloves and directions and whatnot. You mix the henna with boiling water and let it sit for a long time, then apply it to your hair. I had a hard time getting the consistency right. For most of the time I was trying to use it, it was the consistency and color of poop. It did not smell like poop, fortunately, but it did not have what one would call a pleasant smell-- grassy/earthy, but in a bad way, like composting mulch or something. Applying this poop-like substance to my hair did not go particularly well; I had trouble getting good coverage and saturation. Then it started to dry out before I really had it on my hair, into tiny crumbly brown bits. I ended up with all this stinky organic sludge matted into my hair, crumbling around me in the bathroom. Several days out from the giant mess in my bathroom, I do have a pleasant reddish tone to my hair and the grays are blended away but the application troubles were just too much. Also, it is fading VERY fast so one would have to use the henna quite often to keep the grays blended in. ALSO also, my hair still smells bad, especially when it's wet.

So now I have learned the valuable lesson that if one would like to change the color of one's hair, it's really better to use horrible chemicals. I'm being a bit facetious, of course, and I know there are varying levels of horribleness when it comes to hair dyes. I think I've decided that the MOST natural/safe option does not really work for me. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

All my adventures into natural/green/healthy living have shown me that most of those things do really work, often better than the conventional counterparts. AHEM-- cloth diapers, cloth wipes, ditching paper towels in favor of microfiber cleaning cloths, quitting shampoo, cloth menstrual pads (TMI! TMI FOR EVERYONE!), vinegar for cleaning glass, oil-cleansing method for my face, and so on and so forth... There are some horrible chemical habits I haven't quite been able to kick, though. For starters, toilet bowl cleaner with bleach. Yeah, not so good for the environment. Sometimes I read about other people's options and think about trying them. But then I don't.

Another one for me is conventional deodorant. This is one I've really wanted to work and have tried all kinds of options for. I've made my own with coconut oil and baking soda and cornstarch, I've bought stuff on Etsy, I've tried the kinds at Whole Foods... I find that either a) they don't work well for me odor-wise or b) they irritate my underarm skin in a bad way. I think it's the baking soda; it totally works for odor but my skin cannot handle it. I think I'm going back to horrible-chemical-filled deodorant for a while.

Speaking of the word "chemical", Rob and I like to laugh and laugh and laugh when I buy something that claims to not have any chemicals in it. WHAT IS IT THEN? Some kind of existential nothingness? I understand what they are getting at with that as a marketing phrase, but anything made of matter is a chemical. If it is a solid, liquid, or gas, then it is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Baking soda is a chemical. Too many physics and chemistry classes for us, I guess!


Eva said...

My mother has spent decades coloring her gray-hair. Lately she went for an option where the color doesn't totally cover gray hair, it is kind of transparent, so it just darkens it. Sure, it has horrible chemicals, but at least not peroxide. I like how it doesn't hide gray hair, but it makes it "friendlier"... and it requires less maintenance too.

Well, the label "organic" cracks me up as well. Hormones and pesticides might make food as terrible as one wants, but those tomatoes and poultry are certainly still organic.

MontyG3..4! said...

The chemistry teacher in me loves the last paragraph!!!!

Emily said...

I loved the last paragraph too. I have thought the same thing many, many times!

My mom tried the henna hair color and found the experience much like your own and she has since gone back to Clariol.

I've thought about the cloth menstrual pads...that will be a big step for me. Good for you!

Sharon said...

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my hair colour. I wanted deep dark blue, but the stylist said there's too much red in my hair and it would likely go green. I can do many things, but not green hair. The horrid chemicals do such a number on curly hair, don't they? And as you said, there's the time and expense. I did like having grey streaks: if you can't beat them, join them!