Things Not To Do, Hair Care Edition

Do not wash your hair with coffee grounds.

I don’t care if you read on the Internet that doing this will give your brunette hair beautiful softness and luster, in addition to making use of something that otherwise would be garbage.  This is not a good idea. Here’s why:

  1. The process of applying coffee grounds to your wet hair is annoying, uncomfortable, and time-consuming.  They’re all crumbly and gritty and hard to spread around.
  2. They get under your fingernails and are very difficult to remove.  If you persist in scrubbing your scalp with your fingertips despite having coffee grounds under your nails, you will force some of them into the pink part of the nail, causing pain and (I know from past experience getting things stuck in there) possible infection.
  3. The coffee grounds you drop and the ones you rinse out of your hair will get all over the rest of your body.  While they may be useful as an exfoliant, there are body parts that should not be exfoliated . . . and those are the parts that will attract the most coffee grounds and the parts where they will adhere most stubbornly.  You will be itching and finding specks of coffee on the insides of your garments all day long.
  4. The exact trajectory of water flowing off your hair as you rinse will be made visible by the coffee grounds clinging to every surface of your shower.  While this may be scientifically interesting, it also will add 10 minutes of cleaning to your busy morning, and that’s just before you give up and grudgingly accept black specks all over your bathroom.  (We’re getting our bathroom renovated in a few weeks anyway.  Totally gutting the room and removing all the fixtures ought to get rid of those coffee grounds!  I hope.)
  5. Your hair will still feel icky afterward.  You know that bitter, oily stuff that clings to the filter section and sometimes other parts of the coffee-maker?  You just rubbed that all through your hair.  Great.  And while your family members will assure you that you only smell a little bit like a dirty coffee-maker, this still is not a desirable thing.
  6. Your hair won’t look any better.  In fact, when inspecting yourself for luster under the harsh lighting of the office restroom, you will find at least a dozen coffee specks still clinging to your scalp, which make you look dirty and careless rather than lustrous.
  7. You will have wasted your coffee grounds down the drain instead of putting them on your garden or using them to scrub cast-iron pans.

Oh well.  I was happy washing my hair with vinegar already, and many of the other environmental tips I’ve tried have turned out to be great ideas that made my life much happier and easier and saved a lot of money!

These aren’t exactly quick takes, but I did happen to come up with a 7-item list, so I hope Jennifer won’t mind if I link up to 7 Quick Takes Friday!  Readers, if you have ideas for a 3-year-old’s lunchbox, want to petition the governor of Texas to appoint Jennifer as Complainer About the Heat Laureate, want to read an entertaining discussion between early birds and night owls, or want to see what 7 things other people are thinking about today, stop in there.

About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

17 Responses to Things Not To Do, Hair Care Edition

  1. Kassie says:

    Many a time have I pondered doing this…and now I see it is evidence of Grace that kept me from doing just that! I read Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey probably six years ago, and jumped frenetically on the no-shampoo bandwagon – for like six weeks. I laughed at your list, thanks for sharing.

  2. Marissa says:

    I’ve never had any of these issues with using coffee grounds in my hair, but perhaps that’s because I’ve never used it as a WASHING method. Your troubles with it as a washing method sound like mine with using baking soda – it just doesn’t work for me.
    But, for a vain person like me (I have tried to give up shampoo. I really have. My hair just does NOT cooperate :oP) who uses conventional shampoo + conditioner afterwards, it works fine as an occasional exfoliater (exfoliant? is there even a noun for that?) and highlighter. Plus, my hair is of the sort that won’t show any remaining coffee grounds.
    I’m sorry it doesn’t work for you, though! Glad you’ve found other methods 🙂

  3. I love the way coffee grounds make my hair feel! I think it’s worth the extra trouble ~ and extra time to rinse them out well. I add about a rounded tablespoon of coffee grounds to a little of my natural liquid shampoo, lather up, and rinse, rinse, rinse. My dark brown hair (with a few gray ones sprinkled in) shines like never before and I can go 2-3 days before it needs washing again, instead of having to wash it daily. I wash my hair in the sink with a sprayer instead of in the shower, so I don’t have the other issues you mentioned. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed your point of view!

    • 'Becca says:

      Aha! Here I see some of the ways to make it work: Mix with shampoo (or use before shampoo as Marissa said) and wash in the sink.

      Since I already have a hairwashing method I can use in the shower and need to do just once a week, and I am happy with what it does to my hair, I don’t think I will try coffee grounds again–but thanks for the advice to those who are NOT happy with their hair!

  4. Bekah says:

    What about RINSING your hair with strongly brewed coffee? Same results? I’m wondering because I’m thinking of trying that instead. For the record, I’ve NOT used coffee grounds in my hair, but I was considering it until I read this post…

  5. Cherry says:

    I started using coffee grounds as an exfoliant in December and also to wash my scalp (I use a silicone-free shampoo to cleanse the particles away). It’s not at all as terrible or difficult an experience as this article makes it out to be! My hair has become thicker and shinier as a result, and my skin looks fantastic. I’m a natural brunette with olive skin, so the coffee grounds give me what looks like a mild winter tan. I use organic coffee and grind it very fine for my brew as I like my coffee strong. The scrub is exhilarating. Really, it’s no harder to rinse away than any other finely-ground exfoliating cleanser. I feel cleaner than when I used soap, and my skin is no longer winter-flaky. Husband says it feels amazingly soft. As for the environment: I use less than 1/4 cup grounds and turn off the water while I scrub. It’s better than flushing chemicals down the drain! Bottom line, I love it!

    • 'Becca says:

      Thanks for commenting! You are supplying more valuable details on how to do this right.

      We use a percolator, so our coffee is ground more coarsely. I am sure that was part of my problem!

    • Thank you! I’ve been using coffee grounds on my hair and on my body for about 7 years now and if the clean up is the problem, then there are other problems. I love using coffee grounds! As for a facial cleaner, I use honey and brown sugar on a daily basis. I learned these tricks and tips when I was unemployed and because they work so great, I have continued to use them to this day, and I don’t ever plan on going back to store bought!

  6. Dayna says:

    Don’t put coffee grounds in your garden. Coffee grounds have compounds that act as growth inhibitors to plants. This will result in smaller less vigorous plants with fewer blooms.

    Instead put the grounds in your compost pile. The growth inhibiting compounds will break down and the nitrogen in the grounds will feed the micro-organisms that drive the composting process.

    • 'Becca says:

      Do you have a reference about the growth inhibitors? My understanding is that coffee grounds placed directly on/in the soil are good for acid-loving plants. Here’s an article that mentions possible inhibition of root growth but also says coffee grounds are good for growing lettuce.

      In my personal experience, I have put coffee grounds directly on the soil around my hydrangea and lilac bushes, which seem to be thriving, and in the pots of my spider plants. Spider plants are extremely tolerant–I also “feed” them the shavings from the pencil sharpener–so I don’t know whether they LIKE coffee or just aren’t complaining.

      Most of our coffee grounds do go into the compost, though.

      • Raven Half-Moon says:

        Spent coffee grounds are WONDERFUL FOR ACID-LOVING & FAR TOO OFTEN – ACID-DEPLETED SOIL, WHICH LEADS TO POOR GROWTH OF ALL ACID-LOVING SOIL PLANTS & SHRUBS!

        Each spring, more & more people show up in our subdivision in a drive-by, then slowing down considerably by the time they reach our home. I have beautiful azaleas that are planted around the front of the house & both sides as well as others that are in the various landscaping islands edged out with these beautiful large stones. Over the past 20+yrs, I have even had people pull into the drive or park by the road in order to ask what it is I am doing to my azaleas b/c they blossom earlier than most as well as having deeper colors that hold said color for longer periods than those who come to see them each year.

        My secret?
        Many years ago my husband surprised me with an espresso bar in the kitchen. (Before that, I used spent coffee grounds from the French Press since I don’t care for drip coffee & don’t get me started on the special needs of caring for roasted coffee beans… I will give this bit of advice: If you find yourself looking at the flavored beans that are dumped into those plastic holders that require you pull a chute to load beans into a bag with a simple wrap w/a metal wire through it – RUN AWAY FROM THOSE BEANS! They are stale before you buy them. Same is true of ground coffee beans. As soon as you open the lid, the grounds are stale. Coffee beans need to be in a container with NO AIR & stored in containers with a device to remove all air. Even beans that aren’t ground need to be stored in an air-free container. After 10 days to 2wks, they lose flavor & become stale. The sealed coffee bean backs have a valve in the package that expels air as the beans sit following the roasting & packaging process to prevent them from going stale in the bags before they’re opened. check out homebarista.com for more info on proper purchase & storage as well as use of coffee beans. They also have listings of the 1-3 drip pots that can actually heat the water hot enough for a decent brew as well as helping to find the right drop pot grind using a BURR GRINDER FOR COFFEE BEANS – NEVER USE A BLADE GRINDER (ie. Black & Decker styles) b/c all it does is SMASH BEANS – NOT GRIND THEM..

        Each time I make espresso or lattes or cappas or macchiato, or even an Americana in my espresso machine, the coffee pucks that remain in the group head’s portafilter are dumped in a ‘knock-box.’ It’s called this b/c you sort of ‘knock’ the portafilter handle near the head with the head facing down, against a wooden bar that causes the puck to drop into the box. It looks a lot like a hockey puck, hence the name. It is almost dry when knocked but this is because there is so much pressure of steam pulled through the espresso-grind beans.

        After the knock box is about half full, I place the pucks in a sealed gallon-size ziplock bag & keep adding more pucks to it until it’s almost full before starting on another bag. As the weather changes, I take these bags with me & separate out enough to blend directly into the soil under the mulch covering, the wrap over the azaleas to hold in nutrients & help prevent hurricane rains from washing away the soil that’s needed to keep my azaleas healthy. I go through each azalea bush around the house & each one in the landscaping islands until they all have fresh acidic nourishing coffee grinds vs some chemical mix sold in a store. After all, I have plenty of coffee pucks saved up. If I run short, I get some from my MIL who also uses them for some of her more acidic loving plants I began feeding with coffee grounds in addition to picking up a few ladybug boxes to entice the ones who are always around her landscaping plants will stay. I have almost half a dozen of the ladybug boxes in my yard. Ladybugs eat up a lot of the damaging insects, aphids, etc… that can & otherwise may attack your plants, shrubs, flowers, and trees!

        As for using coffee grounds to exfoliate skin & create shiny hair – GO FOR IT! Imagine the clean up from using a sugar scrub from Bath & Body Works. It contains the sugar scrub but also a heavy oil and heavy scent that covers every section of a tub, which requires an even greater cleaning because the oil makes the tub & shower area slick enough to cause a fall so it takes even longer to remove the oil from the s sugar scrubs & prevent a terrible fall that can cost a broken bone to a busted head!

        Btw, I normally treat & wash my hair by leaning under the tub faucet but if my sprayer in the kitchen sink is ever replaced (or more to my desire, the faucet set gets changed out to one with the sprayer built into the primary faucet). Also, I have a garbage disposal in one side of my kitchen sink too, which is part of why I miss using the sink for such things too but as someone mentioned above, if you have far too much clean up after, the problem isn’t the spent grounds of coffee, it’s something in your cleaning routine or grind use routine that’s the problem.

        • 'Becca says:

          Thanks for the verification that coffee is good for some plants, and thanks also for the warning about sugar scrubs–yikes! I never tried those, but I knew that bath oil can cause a dangerously slippery tub if you don’t clean thoroughly immediately after using it (which kind of negates the relaxing effect of the bath).

  7. Caryopteris says:

    Slugs are allergic to caffeine, so using it around your hostas is a great idea.

  8. Pingback: What Earthlings Want to Know | The Earthling's Handbook

  9. chlocoapuff says:

    Why I did was I mixed my coffee grounds with conditioner and slathered (YES SLATHERED) it on my hair in sections then I sat under the dryer for 15 minutes, if you don’t have a dryer just leave it in for 30-45. Then I washed each section twice, first wash I scrub my scalp to get rid of any coffee oil/residue and get the bulk of the grounds out, second wash I smooth the shampoo through the shaft of my hair and finger detangle (not hard considering the conditioning mix I left in), then I rinse and my curls are clumped and soft.

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