Monday, April 12, 2010

No More Shampoo :D

So my friend Allison has been blogging about her experimentation with not using shampoo. This inspired me to do a lot of reading on the topic and do some experimenting of my own. I used to have a roommate who would only wash her hair every few days. I was always amazed that her hair did not look all greasy and gross, since mine would look greasy and gross after just one day. For awhile in the fall I had managed to cut back to washing my hair every other day, but I had recently gotten back into the trend of shampooing (and conditioning) every day.

This is my new plan. I will start following Allison's routine and will adjust it according to my needs if necessary. This involves doing a saltwater rinse and an apple cider vinegar rinse every other day. First, sea salt is dissolved into a glass of hot water.

Pour that over your head and massage it into the scalp. The purpose is to cleanse the hair and remove dead skin cells from your scalp and whatnot. Then, rinse your hair with the acv, diluted with an equal part of water.

Massage this into your scalp, and be sure to rinse Really well, because smelling like vinegar all day is not part of the new plan. So far I have only tweaked this routine slightly, in that I once waited three days to do these rinses because I had rinsed with just water on the "off days" and I also dilute my acv slightly more so it is more like a quarter acv and three quarters water.

A short summary of why I am trying to be a "no shampoo" convert:

1. Shampoo is bad.* Basically, shampoo was invented in the 1930's(ish). Apparently as a result of houses having tap water with more minerals which made washing regular soap out of your hair quite difficult. Shampoo is the equivalent of laundry detergent.* Even super-expensive, all-natural shampoos will dry out your hair and scalp.

2. The more you shampoo, the more shampoo you "need". My understanding of it is this: you shampoo your head and it thinks, "aaahhh I am feeling so dried out and flakey! Help, Help! Quick, make more oil to put things back in balance!" So your head gets into this tread of over-producing oil, which makes you think shampooing every day is necessary. The unfortunate part about changing to a no-shampoo-routine is that it takes your scalp some time to adjust to not needing to over-produce oil. I guess this can take anywhere from weeks to months, but I'm not really too concerned (see point #5). I think your scalp was designed to produce oils that are good and healthy for your hair. Somehow we decided that it is best to dry out our hair by taking those oils off, but at the same time encouraging our scalp to produce more oil. My poor scalp has been getting mixed signals for my entire life.

3. Shampooing is unnecessarily costly and time-consuming. Shampooing your hair every day is not necessary. Shampooing your hair ever is not necessary. Don't waste the time and money doing so.

4. There is an alternative way. I am initially inclined to say it is a better way, but there are a lot of things I haven't quite figured out, so for now it is just an alternative way. It can be explained with Science. Basically, anything that has water in it is either an acid, a neutral, or a base. We are talking about pH folks. Water is neutral. On a scale from 0 to 14, 7 is neutral, 0 is the most acidic, and 14 is the most alkaline (strongest base).

Hair and skin have a natural pH of 5. Soaps are bases, which dry out your skin (think of your hands after doing a lot of cleaning with strong cleaning solutions). Vinegar has a pH of 3. So basically, using vinegar acts to keep the pH balance of your scalp where it wants to be. Sea salt has a pH of something like 7.5 to 8. It is very weakly alkaline, but still makes it necessary to use the vinegar to restore the pH of your scalp. I have read that a lot of people use baking soda (pH of 9) to wash their hair, which would be slightly more alkaline than the sea salt, but still quite mild. Here is the catch: I don't actually know the pH of the shampoo I was using, which is why I don't know if this routine is better based on a pH argument. At least it is better that I now actually know what I Am putting in my hair. Also, aside from being good to your scalp you also want to be good to your actual hair. I haven't done enough reading on this, but there is a Science to hair as well, and shampoo is essentially making your hair very unhappy.*

5. What do I have to lose? Seriously. The one negative side effect is that your hair Might get really greasy for awhile until your scalp adjusts to not over-producing oil. So far I have not used shampoo for 5 days, and I don't think my hair looks that bad. Even if it did look kind of bad, I doubt anyone in the physics building would even notice. This is a place where it is acceptable to wear the same outfit for a week, no problem. In fact, physicists are so into low-maintenance that I will probably start to feel an even greater sense of camaraderie with these people. Aside from that, I know a certain someone who will strongly encourage me to reconsider my new routine if my hair starts to get out of control. But honestly, I don't ever think it will.

Also, I don't really do anything with my hair as is. I don't even brush my hair. The only thing that I do care about is making my hair grow long enough to be able to chop it and donate it. One of the problems with hair donation is that you cannot donate split ends, so it often takes me a long time to grow 10 inches of good hair, because I need to keep trimming off the end. I am so sure that an avoidance of shampoo will make split ends much less of a reality for me.

Also, in preparation for a possible really-greasy-looking-early-stage-of-new-hair-routine, I bought a new scarf to wear on my head and also some cheap fabric from the remnant bin at Joann's so that I can make some sweet headbands. Now I have become a headband-wearer, which I am really enjoying. When people see me wearing a headband it totally distracts them from my hair, and (I am pretty sure) they don't even notice the state of greasiness of my hair.

Also, small sidenote: this research has been very enlightening. It makes me wonder about my face soap as well. The active ingredient is an acid, but it still dries out my face so much, which then makes a face moisturizer necessary. Are these "necessities" also not necessary?

Anyhow, now I am just waiting for the time when someone compliments my hair without even knowing I gave up shampoo.

*Please note that broad generalizations are a result of me taking everything I have read about this on the interwebs to be fact.


  1. I have heard about the "no poo" movement, but I've heard of it done by just using copious amounts of conditioner.

    Also - regarding face/body soap. My skin is so darn sensitive that my doctor told me to only use soap on dirty parts (ie armpits, etc). I haven't used anything on my face but water and moisturizer in years. It totally helped my acne calm down - the dry, 'tight' feeling from the face soap caused so much irritation and the dry skin cells clogged pores more than washing only with water.

  2. I was just about to ask if you found out anything about what to use on your skin - if shampoo (soap) is bad for your hair and scalp, it certainly must be bad for skin.

  3. Hey good to know about washing your face with only water. That is what I do in the evenings, but maybe I should make that the norm for my mornings too!