Six Months of No Shampoo

Yes, really. No shampoo. And no hair product.  How gross, right? And what would possess a person to do such a nutty thing? For the most part I’ve really enjoyed not using shampoo, but that’s not to say that it has been without its challenges. Or that I’m always pleased with the way that my hair looks.
It ain’t glamorous, no sir, but quitting shampoo had a lot to do with not wanting to have to use my asthma inhaler as frequently. I noticed that dry shampoo, in particular, even though I LOVE it, made me very wheezy and gave me sore spots on my head. Oh, dear, this makes me sound a bit like that creepy, flaky-skinned guy in There’s Something About Mary. I’m not, honest. I’m just a bit on the allergic side.

I’d also been been reading about the effects of excessive oestrogen on the reproductive system. One of the main culprits (other than weight) that people pointed to in relation to excess oestrogen production, and hormone disruption, was parabens. Parabens are very effective preservatives widely used in all kinds of cosmetics. And while I wasn’t sure how accurate the stuff I was reading on the internet was, I thought that it should be fairly painless to try to eliminate them from my daily routine.

My Internet research uncovered a whole world of “no ‘pooers” – a really horrible moniker for the no shampoo movement.  Some made grand claims about the ill effects of Sodium Laurel Sulphates (SLS) – a strong surfactant used in most shampoos – ( like causing cancers and allergies ), others about parabens (endocrine disruption, high levels discovered in cancerous breast tissue).  But it’s difficult as a non-expert to decipher the validity of the claims made by other non-experts.  I remain healthily sceptical. But I can only imagine that cutting down on the cocktail of chemicals that we use daily on ourselves and our homes must be a good thing.

So, I didn’t think it would hurt to switch from my Kerastase shampoo and conditioner (very £££) to a paraben, and SLS free shampoo. From my own observation, this wasn’t a great move. Mostly because I kept on using silicone-heavy products like hair oils, shine spray and sea-salt spray.   So I was effectively coating my hair in plastics every day, but wasn’t using a strong enough shampoo (this is where the SLS comes in handy) to wash out the build up. So my poor hair was getting very frazzled because no moisture could get to it. And the worse it got, the more product I piled on in the hope of improving the situation. Humph! My hair was pretty terrible – dry, limp and dull.  Not a good look.

So I started a little experiment with cutting out shampoo and hair product.  And I kept it going for months.  Now I just use un-fragranced liquid vegetable soap, diluted lemon juice, oils (coconut, pure argan & avocado), and aloe vera gel on my hair. It looks ok. It doesn’t look perfect, but it looks better.  And it feels really good. If you Google “no ‘poo”, you’ll find a lot of cod justifications. Maybe there’s some truth to them, I don’t know. It does seem like not stripping away all the natural oil in my hair with harsh shampoo has made it thicker and happier (yes, happy hair – it’s an actual thing!).

The huge benefit for me is being able to ditch the inhalers (I have been wheeze free for months), and minimise my use of anti-histamines. I don’t think I’ll go back to ordinary shampoo.

My hair routine

Wash Mix a ¼ cup of Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap with 4 drops of essential oils (I like peppermint and grapefruit because they are nice and fresh smelling) with one pump of pure Argan oil (not more or an oil slick situation ensues). Add a small amount of water (probably about an equal quantity). Wash and repeat if necessary.

shampoo

Note: This stuff doesn’t lather much. But lather isn’t necessary for cleanliness. Condition A teaspoon(ish) of concentrated lemon juice mixed with a cup of warm water poured over the whole length of the hair. Rinse off.

lemon juice

Note: Again, I’m not sure if this is accurate, but people claim that you use the lemon juice to counter the alkalinity of the soap. This is necessary, they say, because the PH of the scalp is more acid than alkaline. It might seem counter intuitive to put something acidic on your hair, but that’s what PH balancing shampoos do too. Bottom line – it really does work to make hair shiny, soft and manageable, and it doesn’t weigh hair down like a conditioner can. Some people use a dilution of apple cider vinegar, but it doesn’t work for me and makes my hair greasy.

Shine and Moisturise

Rub a small amount of pure aloe vera gel through the ends of your hair while damp for maximum shine and just enough moisture. Or, if you need a bit more moisture, massage a few drops of an oil of your choice through your ends. I have thirsty hair, so avocado works best for me because it’s very nourishing. But it smells disgusting! I can’t really describe it – it’s a sort of mix of farmyard smell and vegetation smell.  Yuck! So try virgin coconut oil if you’d prefer, which smells really delicious (but q’uel surprise, it irritates my skin) and leaves hair very lustrous – provided you don’t apply too much.  Argan oil is very good, and has a dry-oil texture, but it also costs an arm and a leg.

Clarifying

If you can’t live without silicone products, you can clarify your hair and remove build up by dissolving 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda (I use the kind used for cooking because it’s very fine) with warm water and massaging it into your hair and scalp, before rinsing thoroughly and finishing with lemon juice. I don’t do this very often and certainly not more than once a week because I’ve read that excessive use weakens hair. But it seems to be effective to do this once in a while – especially if you’ve caved and gone mad with the shine spray.

The verdict on no shampoo

Since starting this process I’ve been able to leave my hair a lot longer between washes, and it looks much glossier and more fulsome than before. Be warned that if you are going to try this, the first month (and more for some) is pretty gross. Especially if like me, you previously washed your hair every day. I relied on my homemade dry shampoo having developed a taste for low-tech alchemy. But I now wash my hair every 3-4 days, and I sometimes manage to go a full week. Water washing in the interim can be really helpful (just massage your scalp under the shower) – especially if you’ve worked up a sweat with exercise. And dry shampoo can be a godsend. I’ll write a homemade dry shampoo post soon.

Pros: No artificial fragrance; no silicones; fewer potentially harmful chemicals; thicker, faster growing, more lustrous hair; money saving; better for the environment.

Cons: The initial ick stage – greasy, waxy, smelly – urgh; the hit and miss nature of trying out your own solutions;  it’s marginally less easy than using conventional shampoo; trying to make sense of the pseudo-science.

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