How To Remedy A Lifetime Of Self-Inflicted Abuse: Haircare Edition

My hair loss is actually getting a lot better as I get my act together around my food plan. The problem is that the hair left over is so limp that it practically sticks to my head and I feel like an old man with a combover.
Publish date:
September 6, 2012
eating disorders, sobriety, sulphate-free shampoo, haircare

I logically know that what my consultant says to me to do around my food, I should do. That just because I cram all the nutrients my body needs into a calorie-restricted diet some days doesn’t mean that I am living healthily. That eating kale all day and then sobbing whilst I "treat" myself to a Mars bar and covering my fingers in nail polish so that I don’t puke it up is not a particularly successful day, but nor is it the epitome of failure. It is what it is, and I am making progress, it is just gradual.

This recovery business is fucking hard. Some days, I don’t want to be in recovery around my food at all because not taking drugs is hard enough and I resent having to live my a set of suggestions that aren’t my own -- even if I rationally know that my rules make me miserable. I know that I am doing a lot better than I was, but sometimes when I fuck up, I feel like my world is ending and I might as well just give up. I know that isn’t true, but it feels true in the same way that following the suggestions I am given sometimes feels like a big waste of time, that I am broken, that nothing will ever change.

One of the things that I find incredibly painful about being in recovery from an eating disorder is that it doesn’t happen all at once. There’s no dramatic detox. There aren’t the same abstinence milestones. It has been over a year since I technically came into this whole malarkey and about six months since I actually committed to try to get "well" around food as well as drugs. There are some life-changing developments -- I don’t have to plan my days around convenient bathroom locations, I don’t have to lie to everyone I know, my throat isn’t bleeding, I’m not spending all of my money on biscuits.

I don’t have to think about food every second of every day (although it feels like I do some days). However, there are some developments that feel more tangible to me which, although they might appear superficial, feel more real because I can see them. I can cling onto these when my health doesn’t feel like it matters, when I feel disconnected from the reality of my recovery. My hands aren’t covered with scars. My skin isn’t flaking off. And my hair has stopped falling out.

I am, however, left with the legacy of the thin, wispy hair of a drug-addled bulimic. But I can use the money that I am not spending on biscuits and drugs on products that make me feel a bit better about that, and I am going to share my new haircare routine with you. Like I've written about before, these things make a huge difference to me -- it isn’t even so much about my appearance (although it is more about it than I’d like to admit) but it’s about learning how to address the residual physical manifestations of my addictions. So here is how I get some volume in my hair every day AKA how to remedy a lifetime of self-inflicted abuse: haircare edition.

In spite of my love of beauty products, I have never spent money on shampoo -- it felt like a waste of time because you don’t immediately see results and HELLO my name is Olivia and I’m an addict and I want results NOW. But my mother bought me Aveda Pure Abundance Volumising Shampoo and Clay Conditioner on my birthday and I have been using it for exactly 41 days and omigod.

Aveda Pure Abundance Volumising Shampoo and Clay Conditioner $36 for the two

Aveda make a haircare series specifically to reduce hair loss, but as I mentioned, my hair loss is actually getting a lot better as I get my act together around my food plan. The problem is that the hair left over is so limp that it practically sticks to my head and I feel like an old man with a combover.

Anyway, I don’t really know how to explain quite how good this stuff is, because it is amazing. The shampoo uses Acacia gum which lifts up and fills out the hair strands, and the Volumising Clay conditioner uses kaolin clay which sounds like it would be really weighty but isn’t. It smells vaguely pepperminty but most importantly, it makes my hair feel clean and I’m not getting buildup, which I think is to do with the fact it is Sulfate free.

Sulfate-free shampoos don’t lather up like Fairy Liquid like advertising would have you want because they don’t bubble up around air, they are busy bubbling up around dirt and grease. I don’t look like the lady in the Head and Shoulders commercials in the shower anymore, but I didn’t look much like her when I was crying about how thin my hair was anyway. God, I’m such a crier these days. The products don’t coat the hair to make it feel thicker, they actually condition the strands -- basically, it is a much better long term solution and I’m all about the long term now. Instant high, you are dead to me.

I blow-dry my hair straight because I hate my Jewish curls, much as people try to convince me otherwise. I’m probably going to have to address this in therapy but in the meanwhile, it means that my limp hair is also charred to a crisp. My hairdresser told me off for not using a protector spray and so I have started using GHD’s Heat Protect Spray which is apparently useful, but actually the most helpful thing I have learnt is not to use a metal hairbrush.

Mason Pearson hairbrush - could be yours for the bargain price of $88

It is really tempting to use the metal or ceramic plated brushes because they speed up the tedious process of blow-drying, but they also simultaneously burn the shit out of my kaolin-clayed hair and then it just breaks and drops off. I am saving up for a boar-bristle wooden brush from Mason Pearson but in the meanwhile, I am using a synthetic one which is doing the job just great (albeit a little slowly). I am using a vent brush all over to keep volume, but I still revert to a round brush for bits like my fringe where I really need the result to be dead straight. Is talking about hairbrushes the most boring thing in the world? I think it might be. So I will just say this: Tangle Teezers work; get one.

Flowerpot Tangle Teezer -- as if a hairbrush is this cute. $13.80

In spite of the fact that I am clearly the least carefree person on the planet, I like to pretend that I am pretty happy-go-lucky. So the idea of using hairspray grosses me out because it makes me think of women in the 50s getting their hair set and it turning out all crispy. I have been converted, however, by Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray which I apply liberally before blow-drying.

Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray = magic spray, $9-$27

It doesn’t work much like a hairspray, more like a thickening and uplifting agent, which is exactly what I want it to do. My hair doesn’t feel or look like it has product in, it just allows it to sustain lift at the roots and prevents it from looking too "done" -- my biggest fear. Only you at XOJane can know how much I think about my haircare. Don’t judge me.

The final thing I use every day is Bumble and Bumble re-texturising cream. Whilst my hair is still a little damp, I put a tiny amount of it through my hair, wait a few seconds for it to dry a bit and then sort of scrunch my hair up in my hands. This helps complete my goal of not looking too polished, and does what is says on the tin (okay, tube) -- gives me some texture.

Bumble and Bumble Texture Cream - I don't even know what hair texture is, but this certainly does something good, $27

Sometimes, when it is raining outside (which is always) I spray the classic L’Oreal Elnett at my hands and roughly scrunch that into my hair and fringe to prevent frizz -- it works as a moisture barrier but I find that the hands method stops the dreaded crunch that comes from spraying it straight at my head. Also, it means I’m only using a tiny bit so I don’t counteract my super-cleaning shampoo by covering myself in super chemicals.

L’Oreal Elnett: because I'm worth it etc. $11.99

So, there we have it. On a day-by-day, those are the four things that I apply to my follicles to assuage my miserable self-obsession and turn it into bouncy hairpride. I am open to suggestion, though -- do you have any recommendations for me? I WILL try them. I will try anything. Also -- am I the only one who gets this distraught by their hair? Please say no. I’m not in group therapy anymore, so I need your input.