Hair Raising

HairGood hair is work. That’s especially true for the gluten free.

Before my celiac diagnosis, my hair and skin misbehaved. An said immune system and damaged gut from said autoimmune disease meant nutritional deficiencies and nutritional deficiencies meant deficient hair and skin. Hair color never looked the way either the box or the hair stylist predicted and it quickly would degrade to an awful harsh orange no matter how brown or red or blond it was supposed to be. The only time the color looked good was on Halloween, when orange was the hot, haute hue.

My face favored tomato tones rather than pumpkin or pinks. Instead of glowing with a healthy hint of blush, it burned rough red. Painful breakouts hopscotched over dry, itchy patches. No matter what I did or didn’t put on my skin, my face looked angry and sickly.

These days, my skin and hair look much better, thanks to some fabulous gluten free products.  (Disclosure: I don’t get paid by the brands mentioned in this post, nor do I get a discount or other promotional consideration. This post comes straight from my heart and my head).

I used to pay $200 to get poisoned, er, my hair cut, colored, and coiffed at salons that understood nothing about gluten and gluten free. I’d ask about ingredients and I’d explain about my need to avoid gluten for medical reasons. The responses ranged from confusion to defensiveness.

“There’s no gluten in our products,” a stylist said of the prominent hair and skin care concept brand the salon used. “It’s all natural, organic.”

“That’s awesome and I love that; however, my poor body doesn’t love certain plants, like wheat and barley.”

I asked to see the ingredients list on the bottles of products she proposed to use.  Wheat germ oil was one of the first eight ingredients. I ruefully pointed it out to the stylist. “Drat! That’s wheat, which has gluten and I can’t have that.”

“Oh, that’s good for your hair!” she exclaimed.

“Yes,” I replied, “But wheat contains gluten. Most people have no problem with it, but I can’t have anything with gluten in it. It makes me sick.”

“Oh, well, it can’t make you sick, it’s all natural.”

“So is arsenic and it’s lethal.”

“Why would you put that on your hair?”


Thank goodness for Facebook, or, more accurately, advertising on Facebook. It annoys lots of people and I know its cookie madness violates my privacy on an hourly basis, but I do appreciate it. Thanks to advertising on Facebook, I discovered both Juice Beauty and Madison Reed.

Madison Reed is a hair color company that works with chemists in Italy to formulate its hair color products, which contain no gluten, no phlalates, parabens, . To get started, I took the hair color analysis right on its website to help me identify the colors best suited to you. The most complicated part was deciding whether I was “cool” or “warm.” I’m not sure which I am so I tried the guide both ways. A list of colors, in descending order of darkness, resulted.

When one clicks on a color, a color profile appears. The profile starts with a verbal description of the color–a deep mahogany brown with hints of gold, for example. The profile also include photos of four different women with that color hair. The women are of different ethnicities with different complexions and each has a different different hair style. That’s especially helpful for figuring out if the color is right for you.

It’s taken three color tries but I think I’ve finally found my favorite color: Firenze Brown. Fiery brown. I like how that sounds, what it implies: organic sensibility plus highlights of passion. Works with my now clear but still pale skin and my green eyes. I applied it over Milano Brown, which had dulled a bit after seven weeks. You can see the results in the picture above.

Madison Reed offers tutorials on their website and blog so I learned how to apply the color without looking like a bad paint striping project. I love that I didn’t have to wear a mask to protect me from the fumes because Madison Reed doesn’t use ammonia, or pthalates or petro chemicals. I also don’t have to douse myself in cortisone cream to tame the rash that other hair color products, even the expensive salon brands, inevitably produce. Joy!

I even love Madison Reed’s shampoo and conditioner, both of which are gluten free and woodsy smelling. I just tossed a different brand of hair conditioner because it caused painful welts down my back when I rinsed the conditioner from my hair in the shower. Those welts still are healing. Thank God swimsuit season is over or else someone would think I spent the weekend in a flogging chamber. Madison Reed’s shampoo lathers well, rinses cleanly, and leaves my hair soft and gently scented. I alternate between Madison Reed’s Color Enhancing Conditioner and Juice Beauty’s Brightening Conditioner so I don’t get build up…or more welts.

I just got a haircut at Velvet Salon in Chamblee and I love it. Velvet is small, funky and friendly. Dianne is upbeat, efficient and skilled. She doesn’t try to load my hair with products that might be glutenous or just plain too much. Does anyone really need deep conditioner plus volumizing gel plus texturizer plus shine booster plus hair spray? She also doesn’t style my hair in some crazy way. I have a long face that’s much too thin for long, straight hair: it just makes me look old and gaunt.

I know beauty is only skin deep, but for those of us who are chemically sensitive, highly allergic, and autoimmune prone, trying to look even presentable can get under our skin and can be hairy, scary sickening if we aren’t careful. Hair’s to a healthier, prettier New Year for everyone!