I kept coming across articles about women who had ditched shampoo (gone ‘no poo’) and had the shiniest, loveliest hair of their lives. So I decided to stop shampooing my hair too. I waited for my hair to adjust so I could have gorgeous ‘no poo’ hair pictures to post too. And then after about 3 months, I gave up. Here’s my ‘no poo’ story.
I have been going more minimalist these days, and freeing myself of vanity-driven rituals, so the ‘no poo’ craze seemed to come at the right time for me.
I was also starting to resent the high cost of chemical-free hair and body care. I don’t want to put toxins on my body, so I buy the best quality products, which are not cheap. I would wash my hair with expensive shampoo, but that would dry it out, so then I would need some expensive conditioner to make it soft again. After washing my body with expensive soap, my dry skin would need to be slathered in expensive lotion. What a ridiculous cycle and so un-primal!
So it was decided that from the first day of winter I would stop using shampoo, soap and deodorant. Kaiya (4 y .o.) wanted to copy mummy, so she told everyone that she was ‘taking a break’ from shampoo and soap as well.
Trying shampoo alternatives
After heavily researching through all the ‘no poo’ articles, it seemed most men and many short-haired women just stopped washing their hair altogether. Cold turkey. But most long-haired bloggers were still using something on their hair – just not shampoo.
So I decided that I would try the bi-carb soda (baking soda) wash and apple cider vinegar conditioner. Two things I have in the house all the time (for cleaning and cooking) anyway and are much cheaper than organic shampoo. Especially because you only use a tiny bit diluted with plenty of water, and you only do it once or twice a week.
The bi-carb soda (baking soda) made my hair feel really coarse and gross, like there was tons of styling product in it. It did take away the oilyness a bit though, so I persisted. I thought it must need more time to adjust and gave it a good 6 weeks, but just couldn’t stand the feel after a bi-carb wash.
Apple cider vinegar, however, turned out to be a great conditioner. Diluted with water in a spray bottle and kept in the shower, just a few sprays on the bottom part of my long hair (not the scalp) every week or so really helped with the tangles.
Searching for an easy alternative to the bi-carb, I read about washing with honey. My hairdresser mum and a couple blogs talked about the PH of honey being much better than the bi-carb. So I tried that for 4 weeks, mostly while I was staying with family up in Cairns, Australia.
Raw honey dissolved in water (one tablespoon honey to 1-2 cups water) worked beautifully! It could have also been my hair finally adjusting it’s oil production a bit (now that the oils weren’t being stripped by shampoo) but even when the oil built up over a few days, the honey wash would make my hair lovely again. Raw honey isn’t as cheap as bi-carb, but I figured as the oils settled, I could do the honey wash less and less.
Water quality a factor?
But then I came back home to Sydney and my hair was terrible again! The honey wash didn’t do the trick anymore and my hair was coming out coarse and flaky again, like it was full of old hair gel or mousse.
I went back to the ‘no poo’ blogs and discovered many people saying that they found huge differences when wetting their hair with hard water versus soft water. I don’t even know what kind of water I have in Sydney versus Cairns, except that I have a water filter on my Sydney shower head, which means less chlorine, metals and chemicals. However, my gross hair was back, here in Sydney. Poo.
For a few more weeks I persisted with ‘no poo’, knowing that some people’s hair takes longer to normalise than the common 6-8 weeks that many bloggers wrote about.
It wasn’t until I saw an old Primal Health video interview of myself that I realised how bad my hair looked now.
We shampoo for vanity, not cleanliness
Brad (hubby) commented a few times about my hair not being clean. But I realised early on that my hair wasn’t dirty. It was just oily, frayed and unruly. It wasn’t shiny and polished from washing with products and styling.
My semi-wavy, slightly frizzy hair had taken on a new texture and style since ‘no poo’. The best part of this was that it was much curlier than usual. Most people didn’t notice the oilness, but they noticed the curliness and I got lots of compliments on my nice curls. So I wasn’t straightening my usual haphazard waves.
After a few weeks, though, the natural curls starting looking more like the beginnings of dreadlocks. And with the bi-carb soda and/or Sydney water, the texture around the scalp made it too hard to try and style into something that didn’t look ratty or oily.
I was doing my best to let go of the vanity aspect of my once lovely long locks, but Brad was getting grossed out. He finally asked me if I would please shampoo, and I stood firm to my ‘no poo’ commitment. But only for a couple more weeks.
The real secret to gorgeous hair
I was determined to wait out the ‘adjustment period’, but after almost 3 months, I started to realise that my hair wasn’t going to adjust. It was simply unhealthy.
We know that good skin and nails comes from good nutrition, water, sleep, etc. and hair is exactly the same. My unhealthy hair wasn’t suffering from a lack of good shampoo, conditioner and styling aids. It was suffering from a lack of nutrients.
You see, my ‘no poo’ experiment coincided with a time when I was suffering from unexplained weight loss and a rosacea rash due to a leaky gut and a parasite called Dientamoeba Fragilis . So my body wasn’t absorbing all the wonderful nutrients I was feeding it, and my hair was simply reflecting that. My hair was like a listless plant that needed water and good compost.
The real secret to gorgeous hair is health.
I gave up, but not completely
Knowing that it would be awhile before my rash cleared up and my gut started fully absorbing nutrients, I decided that the ratty looking hair was just another stress.
So I have gone back to shampooing my hair once or twice a week, and still use the apple cider vinegar as conditioner on the ends. I use my beloved hair straightener to tame the frizzy, unhealthy kinks and frays so I look a bit better and that makes me feel better.
However, I have never gone back to using soap or deodorant and I don’t think I ever will. Water alone cleans my body and face just fine, and doesn’t dry out my skin the way soap does. And so now I don’t need expensive body lotion either! If my skin gets a little dry, a little coconut oil does the job.
But no deodorant?! Well, Brad says I smell great, so I guess I don’t need it. 🙂 I don’t sweat a lot, but now when I do, there is no body odor! I think that often our B.O. from sweaty armpits is actually just our sweat reacting with the soap. Our bad smells can also come from our diet and health.
Kids do great with ‘no poo’ and no soap
Kaiya has also stayed off the soap, except on rare occasions of unbearable filth. And kids get much dirtier than we do everyday! But water does wonders for getting clean and I’ve learned that body care products are over-rated.
Kids also do much better with ‘no poo’ as they don’t have years of oil-stripping shampoo regiments behind them. Their hair doesn’t go through shampoo withdrawl or need to normalise its oil production.
Kaiya’s hair never got oily or dull. It did get ratty and a bit matted though for awhile, which was remedied with more brushing and some apple cider vinegar conditioning. Now I only shampoo her hair occasionally, on those unbearable filth days. Her 3-year-old friend has gorgeous ringlet curls that shine and bounce gloriously, even after one year of no shampoo.
I know the shampoo and styling just covers up my real hair, but I’m ok with that at the moment. I’ve given up lots of vanity but not completely, and as my gut health improves, so will my hair. And then maybe I will go ‘no poo’ forever.
Have you gone ‘no poo’? What was your experience?
‘No Poo’ Shampoo Free Didn’t Work For Me – December 2013