Thursday, March 31, 2011

To Shampoo or Not Shampoo?

This is the time of year when I always get itchy to cut my hair: It was April 2001 when I cut off a foot of hair to go short for the first time in my life, then April 2006 when I went pixie for the first time. (My current long hair is actually an accident--when I lost my job in 2008 I decided to remove haircuts from my budget, and two years of updos later I realized I was a bona fide longhair again. But I digress.)

This time around, the question isn't: Should I cut my hair? It's: Should I wash it?

Erm, to clarify, this is meant to illustrate "bedhead." But you can also see how clean/not clean it looks.

I've been evangelical about the no-shampoo thing (for those new to my experiment: I haven't shampooed since September, just rinsing and conditioning my hair once a week and using a hair powder in between), and while I've tried to be honest about the drawbacks, part of evangelism is sort of glossing over the downside. So, to be clear:

1) My hair is incredibly healthy. No split ends, thick, strong, resilient.
2) I have more time in the mornings.
3) I have more volume, and a fetching bedhead look. (Amiright amiright?)
4) My hair holds styling easier (I am still a big fan of the updos)
5) The longer I go, the more normal it looks.
6) Cred.

1) Let's be real: It can get greasy.
2) As shampoo-free Alexandra Spunt writes in No More Dirty Looks: "It's not that it stank.... But it smelled like hair, and I wanted it to smell like girl hair."
3) When I'm self-conscious, it goes onto the list of Things People Might Be Looking At, right below my extraordinarily sharp incisors but before my worry lines.
4) Getting my hair wet now seems like an enormous ordeal. I'm now understanding where the "I'm washing my hair" turn-down line came from.
5) I just don't feel clean.

As Christa d'Souza wrote in W, "I can’t help feeling like a piece of vintage clothing that hasn’t been properly dry-cleaned." It's not that I feel dirty; it's that since September, I haven't felt that super-clean, super-breezy feeling you get when every inch of you has been properly scrubbed and rubbed and cleansed and patted dry. And I miss that feeling, particularly after a great session at the gym where my body feels all stretched and fantastic...and that feelings ends at my scalp.

But, dammit! At this point I've reached the pinnacle of We Great Unwashed: My natural hair oils have coated the entire length of my strands, my hair is in great shape, and it's almost summer (humor me here), which means updos, which will take care of problems 1-4 above (I don't bother to blow-dry my hair when it's going immediately into an updo, so getting it wet isn't a problem). I'm not sure whether to consider my time investment a sunk cost or to charge forward.

Hmm. I ask the Washed and the Unwashed alike: What to do? Giddily shampoo? Try baking soda and apple cider vinegar? Be a hair warrior and stay unwashed? Another option altogether? Be candid now, please. And vote in the poll on the sidebar!

PS: Still haven't washed my face. That, for whatever reason, feels totally fine.


  1. I've already suggested this to you personally, but don't know if I've said it publicly to you. Before I even read about your experiment, I was thinking of trying to do something different as far as washing my hair. I have a friend who used to be a hair stylist, and now makes all natural goats milk soap. I asked her if she made shampoo, and she said she uses her bars of soap on her hair also. I love the way the soap felt on my skin and with all the different scents she had, I was in heaven thinking my hair would smell like that too. Before I would have to buy expensive shampoos that have tea tree oil in them, and after a day of shampooing with them, I felt that my hair was oily. Since I've been using the goat's milk soap on my hair, I can get away with washing my hair about every third day. My hair is healthy and the natural curl comes out more. And it smells great :-) :-)

  2. Girl, I wash/bleach/color/blow dry/ my hair all the time and other hairdresser friends are mad at how shiny and healthy it is. My strands are just indestructible. And you too, are just blessed with good hair! Shampooing it every once in awhile is not going to damage or kill it, you're fine.
    If you feel gross, wash it. Principles shmipnicples, if you feel self conscious about the grease or you miss the feeling of shampooing it, do it!

  3. Ardie, if I do wash my hair I'm totally trying it! That and baking soda/ACV. Love it! Interesting that your friend was a hairstylist too...

    Eden, you know, that's a good point. My hair IS healthy and while I certainly have many fewer split ends as a result of not shampooing, it's not going to suddenly fall to shreds or anything. Hmmm...

  4. I think it might be fun for you to wash it, specifically because it has been this long. Maybe you would get into a thing of washing it ever few months, and you would love the joy of doing it just that often.

  5. My sister-in-law has been a pro hair stylist for 19 years, and she always does a fantastic job on my hair. The reason I bring her up is because she doesn't wash her hair, either. She gets it wet and conditions it daily, and her hair ALWAYS looks fabulous! She told me if I wanted to wash my hair, I should only do it once a week. So maybe you could compromise (gasp!) and wash it once a week, or less, or whenever you really feel like it needs washing.

  6. But Ali, then I wouldn't be a true HAIR WARRIOR. I'd be, like, a hair diplomat. A hair ambassador. My god, a hair mediator! That aside, I like the idea of that--I feel like my scalp has really slowed down on the oil production, so I really wouldn't have to wash it every day like I used to. Thanks for passing on her tip!

  7. Hmm. I'm admiring your bedhead...and wondering if I ought to try this.

  8. What's the deal on baking soda/vinegar?

  9. Thanks! I do love the bedhead look. Someone once told me, "You look better when you're not trying to look perfect," and though I felt a little insulted at the time, I also see how it may have been a compliment--and in any case, it's certainly true. Pristine locks just aren't me...

    Fonda LaShay at Mint & Chili wrote about baking soda & ACV here:

    There's also a rundown of it in "No More Dirty Looks," but it's just in the book, not online. I haven't tried it yet--it seems you make a paste out of baking soda and water, and then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar--the pH balance of both is supposed to be that of shampoo/conditioner, and I haven't yet heard any downside of it except the occasional lingering aroma of the vinegar. (I sort of want hair perfume to make a comeback...)

  10. Do you like having long hair? How did you like your pixie cut? I have very short hair but I don't pay for hairdressers- I've been cutting it myself, and last time my boyfriend shaved it (though on the longest setting)
    Which makes not washing it totally a non-issue, I love it!! It's really low maintenance.
    He actually has hair as long as yours, but he doesn't wash it either, except with water. I think that it works for him because he shaved it all off and then didn't wash it while it was growing back so now it is super healthy and natural.
    But I can understand that you possibly or probably don't want to cut it short at the moment. I think you should definitely start with the hippy solution, and if that doesn't work for you... well I think you'd still be a hair warrior if you shampooed sometimes!!
    Also, I like the smell of hair! But then, I have also given up body wash recently and don't care about not smelling like all those lovely, floral, ah, chemicals.

  11. Cervixosaurus, I LOVED having a pixie cut. In fact, if I cut it again it'll be to that (or a shaggy bob). I had long hair until I was 24 and cut it off in a rage, and found that I loved having short hair. The long hair was an accident, sort of--I lost my job and quit getting haircuts and just wore my hair up all the time, and suddenly I had long hair, ha!

    I've wondered what it would be like to start with "virgin" hair as your boyfriend did, all pure and natural--nice! Still haven't decided what to do with my hair...

  12. You wrote about 2 choices for your hair, shampooing or not shampooing. Have you considered the 3rd possible option? I have to admit that I am biased against commercial shampoos. I don't like anything that contains chemicals that I find difficult to pronounce plus I abhor any product that contains any type of silicone which according to the government of Canada is potentially harmful by “entering the environment in a quantity or
    concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.”

    About 12 years ago after having major surgery I started shedding huge amounts of hair and what hair remained seemed to lose its elasticity and shine. A friend suggested I try a shampoo bar which I did, but I didn't like it. I finally ended up making my own and loaded it with infused Marshmallow Root, Chickweed, Nettle Leaf, Horsetail and Chamomile. I also found that rinsing with an herbal vinegar rinse infused with these same herbs combined with the shampoo bar gave me back the kind of healthy hair I had in my teens; thick, shiny and full of bounce. Even my husband of 41 years tells me this.

    Autumn, when or if you decide to try the all natural way to healthy hair send me an email and I will send you a shampoo bar and Herbal Vinegar rinse to attempt to convert you.

  13. Hi BJ--thanks for reading! You know, I am indeed thinking that if I go back to shampooing, that I'll seek out natural options. I was thinking of doing baking soda apple cider vinegar, but would be happy to give a shampoo bar and herbal rinse a try--it sounds like a much more pleasant, ladylike version of plain old cider vinegar! I will alert you when it's time to wash my hair again--looking forward to it already!

  14. I tired this about a month ago now. I use baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. My hair is shorter that yours, I use an oz. of vinegar, and a couple tsp. of baking soda. But it FRIED my hair the first time, so I made it into a paste, and that worked really well. The paste ensures that the baking soda doesn't get on your ends and dry them too much.

    1. I like the paste idea! The ingenuity of "no-poo" adventurers never ceases to amaze me...

  15. I heard baking soda is very drying on the scalp and strips the oils in your hair. Same with vinegar. I want to try this with no washing at all but I'm afraid of how bad my greasy hair will get!

  16. your hair looks great I hope you didn't go back to shampoo!

  17. I use an egg yolk (actually, I use two as my hair is pretty thick) every three to four days and it comes up lovely and clean, and less tangly than with shampoo and conditioner. My son's hair loves eggs even more than mine. I use the leftover egg whites to make bubble bath for my kids ( they both have pretty sensitive skin so I don't like chemical laden bubbles but I need something to tempt them into the tub)

  18. Try bicarbonate of soda (1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water, mix well) as shampoo and white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (about the same dilution).
    The dilution is key to stop it drying out. Leave the bicarb mix on for about 1 minute and rub into scalp, then rinse out thoroughly. Then use the vinegar mix on the ends of your hair for 1 minute. The key to stop it drying out/becoming greasy is to rinse thoroughly.
    I have been using bicarb mix for a couple of months now and my hair is awesome! It was greasy for a couple of weeks at the start but it's balanced out now. I don't even use the vinegar mix (it's the coniditoner part of this process)

    For the record: Bicarb is nowhere near as stripping/drying as shampoo

  19. Hey, maybe try buying coconut oil or some natural oil to put at the ends of your hair, and that way you don't get the oily scalp but you get the lovely scent :) I use a morrocan oil cream, and only started my "no-poo" 4 days ago :) but have been using the cream for a few weeks now, I love the smell and moisture it brings to my ends :)

  20. I stopped using any product on my face a long time ago, I've sensitive skin and I blister/rash easily and as in your other article, my skin is just fine with any of that crap, and I get compliments about looking early to mid-thirties esp when I'm a decade older

    I tried the bicarb/vinegar before on my hair but it just felt icky but some of the tips above have reignited my spirit of adventure, and I've also reverted to my 'natural' colour which is now mostly white, which is also complimenting my skin tone.... so here's to all you 'no-poo's' adventurers, thanks for all the tips and hints and fingers crossed for my latest attempt.....

  21. Are you still not using shampoo? Quote by a hairstylist from Christa d'Souza's story: "I have had many people in my chair who haven’t washed their hair in ages, and the bottom line is, it smells." Do you agree with this? Does "no-poo" hair truly stink? Is it something that simply smells bad to some people?

  22. Vinegar kills oder causing bacteria. For the hair dilute it because using full strength will cause your scalp to itch. White vinegar is stronger than Apple vinegar. Both do a good job. Use it when your hair starts to stink.

    And about stink. I dare you to try to use vinegar as deodorant. After you shower let your arm pits dry out. Use full strength Apple/White vinegar and wet your arm pits before going to bed. Of course it will not stop perspiration. If you have an important appointment you will want Drysol. It's a question of balance and the situation at hand. I've lasted 4 days with out the stink. You can also use it on your feet and butt crack ;)

    Back to hair. Why no mention of washing your hair with honey?
    The goal is to remove the excess oil without stripping it all off like traditional shampoos do (which makes your scalp produce more oil). Water and oil don't mix. What you want to do is add an ingredient that bonds to oil and water, like honey. Add honey-poo to you hair, rub it in, then rince. Use a hair dying bottle. and mix 1 part honey 3 parts water. The honey can be pasteurized. I buy the cheapest I han find and eat the good stuff. Those that say it has to be unpasteurized are just speaking from there pie hole. and the same goes for apple cider vinegar. I will mention it again, eat the good stuff and use pasteurized on you body.

    1. First thing you do when you get in the shower is rince your fair then add the Honey-poo. rince at the end of your shower.
      If you hair stinks, use the vinegar first for one minute then rince well. proceed with the Honey-poo. IT will remove the possible vinegar sell your hair might have.

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