Shampoo free.

December marks a year of alternate hair care. It started, as many good things do, with yoga class. Rachel, who was very far from a greasy-haired patchouli-scented hippy, mentioned that her hairdresser told her to stop washing her hair. Apparently her curly, curly locks would do better if they were washed less frequently say, once a month or so. She couldn’t imagine going that long, but had cut back to only washing every two weeks. Upon hearing this, another woman with wavy hair chimed in that she rarely washed her hair and thought it was better for it. I protested that with my straight hair, I had to wash it every day or it would become too greasy. We left it at that, but it did get me thinking.

One of the benefits of working in a school is the many regular long stretches of vacation. During vacations, projects can be started and finished and different ways of doing things can be tried. With the above conversation in mind, and with the encouragement of the recess helper at school who also had abandoned the daily ritual of shampooing his head, I decided to experiment over winter break, 2007.

Since puberty, I have washed and conditioned my hair every day. Though I fast figured out that the “lather rise repeat” method was invented to sell more shampoo, I could not go a day without washing. The days I did skip my shower and lather routine, my hair felt gross, very thick and oily. To begin this experiment, I decided to only condition my hair, and skip the shampooing. Here’s what happened the first three days of my experiment.
Day one: “My hair feels incredibly gross.
Day two: I can’t believe this, it is incredibly disgusting.
Day three: This is horrible, how will I last the week?
Day four: Fine.
Note that no shampooing happened between days three and four, my head just adjusted.

From then on it was smooth sailing. Six days of the week I would condition my hair, and only on Sunday would I shampoo first. For awhile I studied my hair to see if it was greasy and even asked a few opinions, but everything seemed fine. I was pretty happy. My shower routine was shorter and now I bought much less shampoo.

Fast forward to June. I attended Monique Dupree’s Sustainable Living on a Budget workshop and learned about the “No Poo” method. I hate the name that has attached itself to this phenomenon, but it really changed my hair care world. No Poo is short for “No Shampoo” and it is a movement of women–and men I would imagine too–who have stopped using shampoo and conditioner entirely. Completely. People’s methods differ, but they have given up their former rituals of daily shampoo and conditioner. I did some research online and was amazed at the different methods. I decided to try not washing my hair during my two week trip to Hungary and Romania.

That was an interesting experiment. I came home from the trip with rather thick hair. It sort of became an entity in its own right. I think that the three different swimming venues contributed greatly to its size, but I knew that I couldn’t just quit washing my hair all together.

My next attempt was the baking soda and cider vinegar method and I’m happy to report that it works well for me. Here’s what I do. On Saturdays, I put a tablespoon of baking soda in an empty 8-oz yogurt cup and bring it and a bottle of cider vinegar with me to the shower. After I wet down my hair, I fill the cup with the baking soda part way and swish it around with my finger to mix it, then add a bit more water. This water/baking soda mixture is then poured over my head and I rub it into the scalp. I let this set for a bit (it feels very nice on the psoriasis) and rinse. Then add a bit of cider vinegar (say 1 teaspoon) to the yogurt cup and fill that with water. That gets poured on my hair and worked into my scalp.

The first time I did this, I could tell that the baking soda worked to clean my hair. I was sure nothing happened when I put the cider vinegar on. “This is not working!” I thought and almost grabbed for the conditioner. But I carried through so I could see the results. My hair seemed so tangled and not smooth. But when I combed through it, it was tangle free.

So that is what I have been doing since July. I haven’t touched my shampoo or conditioner. On Saturdays, I wash my hair and, aside from brushing, that is the sum total of my hair care for the week. I love it. My showers are shorter, my hair is thick and shiny (but not greasy), I don’t have to worry about clogged drains, I save money, and I rarely have to go outside with wet hair.

I feel it is also necessary to point out that I jog a few times per week and bike commute to work three days per week. You would think the sweaty head would contribute to disgusting, oily hair, but it doesn’t. Things dry and everything is fine. I also don’t use any “product” in my hair. I’m not sure what effect that would have with this method. But I do know from my research that many people who stop shampooing daily have lovely, non-frizzy waves and curls appear.

Below is a picture of my hair after nine days of not washing. During this winter break I was testing to see if I could go two weeks between washings. I decided to stick with once per week, mostly so I could avoid the whole, “do I wash my hair this week or next?” conundrum.

2 thoughts on “Shampoo free.”

  1. Hmm…

    My stylist has told me to hold off the shampooing myself 9brings the drying frizzy look to my waves/curls). I started washing it every other day and just rinsing it on the other day. I was so proud of myself and then I went in and he said you should try to go once a week. So I find this post very interesting. Now I am trying to wash on a day, not even wet it on the second day and see how the third day goes. This only works when I straighten. I am still exploring options – so…I am pondering this post! -S

    Oh yes, and I use a decent amount of product (mousse and straightening wax) to keep my curls/waves doing the right thing.

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