But I gave up shampoo a year and a half ago, and I don’t think I’ll ever turn back. Here’s my story.
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Lots of other bloggers have already explored the reasons to avoid shampoo and have given tutorials on how they manage their hair. The reasons offered usually include:
- Shampoo is an unnecessary cost, and switching to a baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse (or other similar regimen) is a very frugal and effective alternative
- Most conventional shampoos contain all kinds of harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. (And look out for toxic baby shampoo!)
- Because it strips your hair of sebum (the natural oily lubricant in your hair follicles that protects against infection), shampoo increases your scalp’s exposure to toxic chemicals
- Because it strips your hair of sebum, shampoo perpetuates a cycle that demands more and more products (including conditioner and more shampoo)
- Shampoo is bad for the environment
I personally switched to the “no poo method” when I got pregnant. I had contemplated it before then — for all the reasons listed above — but didn’t take it too seriously until I discovered there was a teeny tiny little person growing inside my body. I didn’t want to expose that person to scary chemicals while she was doing complicated things like building a brand new liver from scratch. So I quit. I never put another drop of conventional shampoo on my head.
The most important thing I’ve learned about shampoo since then is that it’s absolutely, completely unnecessary.
We just don’t need it. Period. It might as well not even exist.
(There might be some exceptions, I’ll concede. But we definitely don’t all need it like we’ve come to believe).
Which brought me to an important ethical reason to avoid shampoo:
Because we don’t need it, every part of its production, packaging, shipping, and selling are a waste of the earth’s limited resources and our money. Moreover:
- The non-reusable plastic bottles used for conventional shampoo are wasteful and harmful to our planet. (I’ve been learning recently about the problems with plastic in general).
- The money spent into advertising it to consumers is a horrible waste.
- If the chemicals in shampoo are harmful to our bodies, I can only imagine that the process whereby we extract them from the earth is harmful to our environment.
So what’s the alternative?
I’ve come across several alternatives, but here’s my personal experience.
My Journey into No ‘Poo Land
I will be honest right up front: it took me over a year before I got consistently satisfactory results going the no ‘poo route.
Yes, you read that right: I endured sub-par hair for over twelve months before it started to look pretty again. That’s a lotta ugliness for a fairly vain woman.
I did that for you, my friends. Well, you and my baby.
But it doesn’t have to be like that for you!!
The problem was that I didn’t have enough faith in baking soda alone to clean my hair. I’ve always been a bit of a greasy girl. I’d read in my early research that you could mix castile soap with the baking soda, and that sounded more reliable to me (it’s an actual soap, made for cleaning), so that’s how I started out.
It worked OK most of the time, but sometimes it left my hair kinda waxy-looking. I thought it was a ratio problem, so for months I tinkered with the baking soda/castile soap/water ratios, and then the vinegar/water ratios. I tried pouring the mixture onto my head versus spraying it on. I tried heavier application versus lighter application. I tried applying the vinegar just to the tips of my hair and just to the roots. Finally, I tried Crunchy Betty’s castile soap and coconut milk shampoo which she claims is miraculous.
Same problem: waxy hair.
I was stumped. I was ready to give up the whole dang thing.
FINALLY, 14 months after I first started experimenting with going shampoo-free, I decided to ditch the castile soap altogether. I bought myself a bottle of expensive natural shampoo.
I shampooed normally a few times, and then tried just plain old baking soda and water.
It was the best move for my hair I’d ever made. I really, really wish I’d tried that earlier.
Like a year earlier.
(I think the problem might be our water. Castile soap makes all of our hair look kinda waxy).
There is another way for you, my friend.
All the ones I’ve seen so far suggest that you go cold turkey. Chuck the ‘poo and start rinsing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, they say.
They all warn about a transition period, though, in which your hair adjusts to not being stripped of its natural, protective oils.
I imagine that it’s this very “transition period” that scares a lot of people off. They might be willing to forgo shampoo, but, Um, I have a job (or school), and I’m not about to show up all greasy-haired every day for three weeks while my follicles ‘transition,’ thankyouverymuch.
So I have another suggestion: slowly wean yourself off of shampoo. (This is sort of what I did when I finally switched to baking-soda-only).
Start by replacing one shampoo/conditioner a week with the baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse (details below). In my experience, a single baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse isn’t even noticeable. I’m very confident that you will come out of the shower looking totally normal and clean. You might even remark, “Wow, this no ‘poo thing works great! Who needs to wean?”
In my experience, it’s only after a few consecutive showers like this that you generally start noticing some funkiness (i.e. persistent greasiness).
So once your hair has adjusted to just one less shampoo a week, try two a week. Keep increasing the number of shampoos that are replaced with baking soda/apple cider vinegar until – TA-DA! – you aren’t using shampoo anymore!
Kathleen’s No ‘Poo Method
Mine is just a variation of the popular baking-soda-and-vinegar method, tailored to suit my needs. (Why these ingredients? See Simple Mom’s post – she explains in the last part). You might need to tweak it, depending on your hair’s texture and the type of water you have. As for me, I have naturally thin, straight, dark hair which has a tendency towards oiliness, and our water is on the harder side, if that helps you at all.
1. I add one Tablespoon baking soda per one cup hot water (I double this), funneled into a spray bottle that has lost its nozzle. I shake this up leave it in my shower. Come shower time, I pour this mixture onto my scalp — just enough to wetten it – and massage it in. Then I rinse it out.
2. I mix 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water (Other recipes call for 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar for every cup water). Again, I double this. I funnel this mixture into a spray bottle with the nozzle. After I’ve rinsed out the baking soda, I spray this heavily all over my scalp and hair. I have to be very thorough to get all the baking soda out, otherwise I find I get an icky residue on my hair. Rinse.
I make both of these rinses about once a week, and Ben and I both use it. He showers daily; I shower two or three times a week. That means we’re each using about half a Tbsp of baking soda and 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar weekly. If you compare that to how much shampoo and conditioner you would normally use, I’d say that’s not bad.
Here are some photos of me just after having washed my hair in this manner. I have absolutely no product in my hair. All I’ve done is blow-dry it, and quickly run a hot iron over the ends. (This is my usual styling method when I have my hair down).
You be the judge.
Oh, and my hair doesn’t smell vinegary at all, in case you were wondering. It doesn’t smell like anything. Just hair.
Some Observations and Tips
- Since switching to the no ‘poo method, I’ve found that it needs washing much less often. As a teenager, I often washed my hair twice a day; as an adult, I always washed my hair every day, because it got greasy after 24 hours. With the no ‘poo method, I’m down to two or three times a week.
- Another benefit of the no ‘poo method? Baking soda and apple cider vinegar don’t leave any soap scum in your shower like conventional shampoo does. I clean my shower every week with a light spritz of diluted white vinegar and a damp cloth, just to make it sparkly.
- I’ve recently discovered another awesome method for when I don’t have time to shower: for a quick de-grease, I use this homemade dry shampoo from Petit Elefant (made from corn starch, baking soda, cornmeal and oat flour) on my bangs and put my hair up in a sock bun. (The dry shampoo works on my whole head but is so much work with my long hair that I might as well just shower).
- A lot of people worry that their hair will be super-tangly if they don’t use conditioner. They don’t realize that their shampoo is what’s likely creating the tangles. Apple cider vinegar is a natural detangler and I haven’t had a problem, even with hair past my shoulders.
So there you have it. What do you think? Still too scary? Any questions? Or, if you already go shampoo-free, what has your experience been? Any tips?
And of course, this post will need a “confessions of a hypocrite” follow-up, where I confess that I still use makeup.
NOTE: I have some additional no-poo tips in a follow-up post.