Using shampoo is a totally normal thing for most people in the western world. We don’t even question it. The majority of people washes their hair on a daily basis or every other day and considers it a natural and hygienic thing to do. I was the same some years ago. I painted my hair and used to wash and condition it every day.
Or did they look all filthy? One thing I was always interested in, is how our habits changed over decades and centuries. Our grandparents and great-grandparents generation for instance had great hair (Look at pictures of Woodstock and see for yourself! Or check pictures of tribes, that never used shampoo). Over time and especially during the last decades people started to wash it more frequently. Still, the average doesn’t have healthier hair than a century ago.
Ordinary shampoos contain aggressive detergents like Sodium laureth sulfate. Those detergents serve their purpose as industrial cleaners and remove oil and stains very efficiently. They are usually made out of petroleum. Same goes for Sodium laureth sulfate, that is made out of coconut oil, since petroleum derivatives are used during production. Getting this information led to two thoughts:
a) I don’t wanna support the use of petroleum products to an even greater distinct.
b) Do I need an industrial detergent for my scalp? Is it that dirty every day? No.
There are several more reasons to quit shampoo: Plastic waste, costs, animal testing etc. My most important reason though was a different one. It was independence! I really don’t like to depend on products all the time. If I depend on fancy running shoes, my feet will be weak. If I rely on convenient food, I won’t learn how to cook. The list goes on and on. Same goes for cosmetics. Once I depend on a product, it hits me hard when it is gone. Instead of depending on things I like to go the minimalist way and make a life without certain items possible and even convenient.
My apologies for not posting before pictures. On my blog and instagram account I have a lot of pictures of how my hair looked like before. There are no portraits of any kind though, since I never focussed that much on my hair. Here is a very old picture, that shows my hair after dying it with henna and a chemical product.
Around six weeks ago I decided not to wash my hair with shampoo again. I use water though, to rinse it once per week. If I go swimming in the sea, I might rinse it more often (but since I got fresh piercings I don’t go swimming at the moment). I read a lot about the subject and found the so called no-poo movement on the internet. The idea is the following: The scalp produces an oil called sebum, that hydrates the skin and makes the hair look greasy. Since we are used to strip the oil off with aggressive cleaners, the scalp starts producing more sebum. The only way to break this cycle is simply quitting shampoo.
In my opinion conditioner is a necessity, that results out of the overuse of shampoo. Since we clean the hair with aggressive detergents, it starts to get very dry and is not easy to comb. In order to make it smooth again, we use conditioners, that cover the hair with silicone and make it easy to comb. The thought behind no-poo is, that the hair starts to soften up, when we give up shampoo. And to quote wikipedia on the silicone issue: “They are typically heat-resistant and either liquid or rubber-like, and are used in sealants, adhesives, lubricants, medicine, cooking utensils, and thermal and electrical insulation.” Do I want that kind of stuff in my hair? No.
My hair is naturally quite straight with some little waves. It is shiny but the ends are usually very dry and hard to brush. My scalp is quite average. Not too greasy and dandruff just appears from time to time.
The first four days were pretty normal. They were within my regular washing routine and my hair looked and smelled as always. It started to get worse on day five though. Looking back I think the time between the fifth and the seventh day was the worst. My hair was super oily, sticky and had a weird feel to it. It still smelled a little shampooed but looked really bad. Three friends of mine started the experiment at the same moment and two of theme didn’t make it over the first week.
During the second week my hair got less greasy. It looked like on the third day again and started to smell a little off. Nothing too bad but the shampoo smell was gone. My friends said, it smelled like I slept a lot and I think that describes it the best. I am still not sure if it was greasy and a little odd due to my hormones (period) or if this was just the natural way my scalp changed. During the second week I brushed my hair every day and rinsed it with water from time to time (pollen season, can not sleep with dust in my hair). After rinsing, it usually got worse. I would compare it with a dog on a rainy day.
Finally light in the end of the tunnel! My hair started to look, smell and feel really nice! It got more volume than before, some curls appeared and it had a really nice shine. Funny: literally nobody noticed, that I stopped washing my hair! I started to ask myself, why I washed it in the first place…
I washed my hair with sodium bicarbonate (the stuff you can take for an upset stomach or for baking) and rinsed it with apple cider vinegar. The result was amazing! My hair was super shiny, light and silky. It stayed exactly like that for around a week. After that it started to get slightly heavier and less shiny. I even like it, when it is not too shiny since it looks like beach curls, that have been in fashion for quite some time. Speaking off: not washing my hair, getting lighter with the sun and some curls creates a look, that is normally very expensive!
I did not see any major changes after the first month. My hair is shiny, has a lot of volume and smells like ME. My friends really like the smell but I guess that is highly subjective. Like most people who quit a certain habit, I really can not imagine returning to it. I like how my natural hair looks like and it was never as healthy as right now. Besides that my washing routine is good for the environment and costs me around two bucks per year!
Give it a try and stop washing your hair for some time (at least a month)! I understand, that you might feel uncomfortable at work or in social situations, but in my case literally nobody noticed it. I braided my hair or made a ponytail. A hat also works for the worst time. The secret is patience since the scalp needs some time to stop the production of sebum. After that, the hair looks and smells really great. Also itching, little pimples and dry ends are a problem of the past. By now my scalp feels as good as my arm or my back (areas that never caused me any problems).
Funny enough there were some really popular challenges about no-poo or quitting shampoo. One big challenge was run by radio host Richard Glover who convinced more than 500 of his listeners to quit shampoo for at least six weeks. The experiment took place in 2007 and a lot of the participants haven’t washed their hair since! Funny read here! There are even more famous people, who don’t wash their hair. One example is British writer Matthew Parris, who probably didn’t wash his hair in 25 years. Doing a little research I found a nice quote of hime, that described our crazy urge to wash and clean everything as a mild form of collective mental illness… Interesting though and worth to rethink!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.