Ara the altar
earth-aware adornment for the everyday
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Letters of Ara

An online journal & e-mail newsletter in which to explore areas of interest and influence for Ara the altar.

Low-waste hair care


I crossed the no return road of solid shampoo around 3 years ago and have not looked back. Although I’m undoubtedly an advocate of solid shampoo, I won’t pretend that it’s been the simplest of journeys. The waxy build up rumours around weeks 2-4 are all true. And if you’re planning to use an apple cider vinegar rinse, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out the ratio thats right for your own locks. But - once you come out of the other side, you’ll be left with softer hair that requires less frequent washing, and ultimately less daily reliance on plastic. Winner.

What I’m working with

My hair is long(ish), wavy and fine. Before switching I had to wash my hair everyday, and I couldn’t leave it to dry naturally without a halo of frizz. Even when using products or straightening my hair, the frizz halo was always inevitable. Although (largely due to my genes) I’ll never have the perfect glossy, tumbling locks, I can now let my hair dry naturally with a gentle wave - something I could never do before.

My weapon(s) of choice

Over the years I’ve tried many a soap bar. There are lots of ‘shampoo’ bars on the market but a normal soap bar can still do the trick if it has the right properties. I look to avoid palm oil, parabens and also fragrance. Aa I have a skin contact allergy to the latter, many of the options on offer are not suitable for me. One shampoo bar in particular that I’ve returned to has been by Timmys who make a lovely cold pressed shampoo bar here in the UK. Another that I have been using for the last three months, and intend to continue using, is the nettle and rosemary shampoo bar from Honest Skincare, who use only organic ingredients. Of all the options I have tried, these two result in the least build up.

I also have a conditioner bar but in all honesty I find this too heavy for my fine hair. Instead, every so often, I’ll follow my shampoo with an apple cider vinegar rinse as the acidity of the solution resets the balance of my hair, following the alkaline of the soap.


My routine

I now wash my hair every 2-3 days.

The it comes to application, generally I’ve found with solid shampoo that it’s good to get out of the habit of thinking that more = cleaner. With some of the bars I had to lather the bar in my hands and then add the lather to my hair. Otherwise, if I applied the bar straight to my hair, it would become waxy once dry. But with Timmy's and Honest I’ve found that I can rub them straight over my hair and from there I’ll build up a lather as you usually would do. I make sure it gets a thorough rinse and that’s that.

I used to use an apple cider rinse every few days after shampooing. For whatever reason I’ve not felt it necessary to do this very often with the Honest bar. If you are in need of some conditioning, I highly recommend taking a little time to try out different ratios over a period of time. A lot of the recipes suggest 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. But I required so little vinegar comparatively - the recommended amount again left my hair waxy. What I have found works for me is to keep a glass tumbler in the bathroom, fill it up with water from the shower, top it up with about a teaspoon of vinegar, and then pour the mixture over my hair. I let it do it’s magic for the remainder of my shower and then rinse my hair clean at the end. If my friends and loved ones are to be believed (!) there is honestly no smell of vinegar once your barnet has dried. Rather than reaching for my hair dryer and straighteners, I now prefer to brush my hair through wet and let it dry naturally.

Over time, and only when the need for replacement arose, I’ve chosen more considered products for stying etc. Over the years I’ve picked up a few wooden brushes and a comb, I also use organic cotton & natural rubber hair ties from KOOSHOO and a linen scrunchie from Arkitaip.

Ara the altar - low waste hair accessories

I hope this was useful for anyone thinking of making the switch or still finding their way on the road to plastic free hair care.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve made the change or if you’re thinking of doing so, and let me know if you have any recommendations from your own experience.