Fragrant and glycerine-free hair care tips needed!
September 20, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

What are some fragrant, glycerin-free options for shampoo and conditioner?

I am asking on behalf of Mrs. Cuttle, who has recently discovered her perpetually itchy scalp may be due to a definite glycerin allergy. Almost every shampoo and conditioner has glycerine in it, so she will not use those.

So far, her best option has been a solution of baking soda and water applied in the shower every night for cleaning, with an occasional rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar to remove residue buildup on the hair. The only problem with this technique is that her hair doesn't exactly smell pretty--neutral at best--and on nights when she uses the vinegar, she can smell downright like a marinade.

Are there other options to either add pleasant scent to her existing routine, or try something else entirely.

Possibly pertinent data:
Her hair is thick straight and coarse.
She is a brunette with some silvered tinsel.
She is an excellent dancer.
posted by reverend cuttle to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She might try solid shampoo bars, which generally won't have glycerin. Here's one from Lush (note that Lush shampoos generally have sulfates, which many people prefer to avoid).
posted by judith at 2:12 PM on September 20, 2012

Trader Joe's Nourish shampoo has no glycerin. It's not an overwhelming scent.
posted by hooray at 2:31 PM on September 20, 2012

Once she finds a shampoo that works, she should also consider no longer washing her hair daily -- it will probably take 2 or 3 weeks of only washing a couple times a week for her hair to get used to it (until then it will probably be extra greasy -- washing hair every day creates the need to wash it every day), but almost nobody has hair that actually needs to be washed daily once it's gotten over it, and if she has sensitive scalp issues it seems like an obvious step.
posted by brainmouse at 2:40 PM on September 20, 2012

I just checked the ingredient list on my LUSH shampoo (I Love Juicy) and it doesn't include glycerine (unless it's hiding under a different name). I have used a couple of their shampoo bars too and those are nice, but I think you'll have to go to their website to look atthe ingredients.
posted by Mimzy at 3:05 PM on September 20, 2012

Another option for solid shampoo bars is Chagrin Valley - they have a bunch of awesome stuff, no glycerin, and generally pretty minimally processed ingredients. I haven't tried her hair rinses, but I've used similar blends in the past and rinsing with them after the vinegar rinse might also solve the smell issue for you.

Herb Garden, Lavender Spice, Rosemary and Mint, and the Summer Sunshine have particularly strong scents, but I actually really like the Honey, Beer, and Egg one, too. (And I'd assume the Citrus and Chamomile, but I'm allergic to chamomile, so haven't tried it.)

(LUSH's are also very yummy, but if she's sensitive to glycerin, she might also be sensitive to SLS, which is used as a lathering agent in a number of theirs.)
posted by modernhypatia at 3:05 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If she sticks with the baking soda, it's possible to add fragrance. Just pick a perfume she already has, or an essential oil she likes, and add a few drops to the baking soda paste.
posted by aimedwander at 3:10 PM on September 20, 2012

Seconding Trader Joe's Nourish line - I just checked the ingredients on the shampoo and conditioner, both are glycerin-free and SLS-free. I use/love both the shampoo and conditioner. They're very inexpensive too. I think they smell nice, but not very strong - but it would be easy to add a couple drops of essential oil to bump up the fragrance factor.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:07 PM on September 20, 2012

If she really has a glycerin allergy, most soaps and shampoos have it. Glycerin a byproduct of soap-making (i.e., it's in it, maybe not listed as an ingredient but it's there). The stuff that makes soap and shampoo lather is coconut oil. Glycerin by itself can be drying, as can saponified coconut oil (which is yer SLS, lauric acid comes from coconut, sodium tallowate from tallow, which is beef or sheep fat).

She could go the boric acid and water routine: get a little cardboard container of borax hand soap powder, mix it with water and "shampoo" with that. Then get some citric acid at the health food store and rinse with that instead of vinegar. Mix a tsp of citric acid in the rinse water (the folks at the health food store will know this routine).

For itchy scalp, the Argan or Moroccan oil is supposed to be really good overall for hair (they sell it at Sally Beauty Supply now, so avoid pricey websites). Or jojoba oil is great for being absorbed without being too greasy. If she can tolerate any sort of essential oil, mild ones like rose geranium or lavender, put a few drops into a little bottle and treat the hair with that a couple of times a week.

Other things that make "soap" are yucca plant and soapwort, however, I would be leery of buying shampoos made with these. Learn to read ingredients on shampoo. I had a great book about cosmetic ingredients when I was first getting into soap making and aromatherapy. For instance, Allantoin is a common ingredient, found in comfrey and also... urine of animals. But now it can also be produced synthetically. I've made some great salves by soaking dried comfrey in warm olive oil and blending it with beeswax and coconut oil.

So I'd say do a ton of research on all the ingredients that may be causing scalp irritation, because while glycerin allergy is not impossible, it's rare, and the most common cause of irritation would be using a drying shampoo or some additive like a fragrance or who knows? Most shampoos have tons of ingredients so it could be one of those, or perhaps she is prone to psoriasis, in which case there are medicated shampoos or things like tea tree oil. But in small amounts, glycerin is emollient, that's why they add it back into soaps and things where it's been removed via some process. If you've ever used Kiss My Face soap, it gets mushy, right? Glycerin.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:44 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers so far, lots of good stuff here. I just want to add that the glycerin allergy was diagnosed by an allergist via bloodwork, FWIW. Keep the knowledge coming!
posted by reverend cuttle at 5:22 PM on September 20, 2012

Nthing Lush products. Since a couple of their shampoos have been mentioned, I'll say that Jungle solid conditioner and American Cream conditioner are particular favorites of mine. Note that some of their hair products do contain glycerine, so definitely check the ingredients on the website. (Also, if you're anywhere near a Lush store, they will give you samples of any of the products, so your wife can try a few things to see what works for her.)
posted by SisterHavana at 11:26 PM on September 20, 2012

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