Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grand Conclusion: No-Shampoo

I've been getting a number of questions lately about the final results of my Hair Warrior experiment, which, for those of you not inclined to such grandiosity, consists of not washing your hair. As background: I went nine months without washing my hair, beginning with several weeks of not wetting it at all and eventually wetting it once every ten days or so, plus using rinse-out conditioner. The unfortunately named "no-poo" theory is that frequent shampooing strips your hair of its natural oils and that quitting altogether (at least for a while) restores your sebum production to a place of blissful balance. A scalp rebirth, if you will. And while I don't think my hair looked squeaky-clean during the experiment, neither did it look nasty (well, not after the first few weeks, anyway, when the scalp is still churning out large amounts of oils).

But after getting a STEALTH SHAMPOO during a body scrub, I had an opportunity to see if the whole "rebalancing" thing worked or if I was back at ground zero, scalpwise. Since June I've been washing my hair about once every 10 days or so, using either regular shampoo or baking soda. People sing the praises of baking soda as shampoo, and the best I can say for it is that it works just fine. It's not harsh, but neither does my hair look or feel any better after washing with a baking soda paste than it does after shampoo. The main advantage is that it's cheaper, but it's also more of a pain because you've got to mix the baking soda with water to create a paste, and I find it more difficult to distribute evenly when doing the washing part.

In any case, I'm officially declaring the no-shampoo experiment a success in the long term. My hair, left to its own devices, doesn't start to look oily until three days after shampooing; before, it would look dirty the very next morning. I use a dry shampoo when I need to and leave it alone the rest of the time. (Of course, I wear my hair up a lot, so if you always prefer it down you may have a different experience.) As for the dry shampoo, the Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder is the best I've found because it adds texture and body; plain old cornstarch works if I just want to absorb a little oil, but it doesn't add body. (Excepting the awesome ad above, I'm not a fan of Pssssst dry shampoo, as a bottle lasted just a couple of weeks and it leaves a bit of a residue, which cornstarch doesn't, even on my dark brown hair. Just rub it out and it's fine.) It's never given me less trouble; it's more predictable. Yes, I think you should try it.

The buried lede here is that I literally have not washed my face for more than a year and see no reason to do so ever again. I splash it with water at night, and sometimes in the morning if I feel particularly greasy, and that's the entirety of my face cleansing routine. I use a baking soda scrub on my face a couple of times a week, and occasionally use coconut oil to remove makeup if my face is feeling particularly dry. Facial skin is more temperamental than our scalp, I think, and the results are more noticeable if the no-wash thing doesn't work for you. All I'll say is that while I have normal skin, it does lean toward oily, and I've noticed utterly no change in how shiny I look between now and when I was washing every day. Do with this information what you will!


  1. Love this post. It's truly eye-opening, as we're trained from birth to believe that the treadmill of daily shampooing/face washing is an essential component of our lives.
    So comforting to know, through your experiment, that it's actually not. Thank you!

  2. Oh gosh! what a cool experiment!

    I personally love washing my hair, but try to go three days between washings. And when I do wash, I usually condition it. About half my hair is very damaged from the time I decided to play Carrie Bradshaw and bleach it blonde. Ugh. It is now brown, of course, but the damage is far from gone. In any case, this is a round about way of saying I NEED conditioner!

    I couldn't ever imagine not washing my face. I, however, don't have normal skin and never have. It's very break-out prone and quite dry in the winter. I used oil on it once and it did not go well.


  3. Great post! I started doing a variation of the no poo thing a couple of months ago, and so far, I really like it. I think making the baking soda paste can definitely be a pain, but recently I started just mixing it with water beforehand and putting it into an old squeeze bottle that used to have soap in it. Its a little easier for me to apply that way. I haven't tried not wetting my hair for days though, I wet it everyday, even if I don't wash it. Maybe I'll give that a shot next.

  4. oh no, apparently I don't have permission to post here (?), and i just wrote a long comment!

  5. oh, that seems to have worked now so i'll try again:

    I love hearing people's no shampoo stories and i am glad it worked for you. I tried a less hardcore version of it myself, going from washing daily to washing every third day, but even after 9 months I saw no difference in how quickly my hair got greasy. So I started washing more often again. I suppose the theory holds that you need to go for two weeks without washing before you start to self regulate, and I just don't care enough to get through those two weeks.

    I never use soap or body wash on my body though, and haven't for 8 years, which has made my leg skin slightly less dry and saved me loads of money.

  6. WHOOOOOOOO! I was hoping for this post!

    I've used neither shampoo nor conditioner for a month or two now. I do have to rinse my scalp every second or third day, but only because I have very short hair and it gets squashed while I sleep. Am curious to see how long I can get away with this.

    I found that a cornstarch + dark eyeshadow dry shampoo gave my hair mousse-like body, but you have FAR more hair than I do. Yes, I'm jealous.

    Tried Pssst! in my long-haired days; like you, I found it too white and too short-lived. Plus, shaking the can was noisy, which is a silly complaint but a complaint nonetheless.

    Ooh, I was curious about your face non-washing! I have considerable acne and blackheads galore, so I'm a little scared to go without using SOMEthing--- but I'm also forced to admit that using SOMEthing still leaves me with the acne and blackheads. Hmmm!

    As always, Autumn, thank you for sharing your life.

  7. Erin, I've been looking at old shampoo ads and it's funny to see how our attitudes have shifted over time. At one point they had to try to convince people it was okay to shampoo every day!

    Courtney, I totally need conditioner too--my hair is pretty healthy (never colored it or done any permanent treatment since seventh grade) but without conditioner it's just straw. But the shampoo, forget it!

    D, I love the squeeze bottle tip! Thank you! That would make it so much easier.

    Franca, I need to get up the guts to move over to Wordpress, because this keeps happening and it's so annoying! Anyway: Yeah, a lot of people are turned off even by the promises of the glory that happens after the transition period, but it is a nasty transition (which in my case was more like six weeks, not two...). And eight years soap-free! Whoo!

    Rebekah, from one Hair Warrior to another, I'm pleased to oblige. I've wondered how it would be to literally never have washed one's hair. You can be the alpha here. Still need to try the eyshadow trick... As for face-washing, it's tricky. Acne is its own consideration, but there are so many things that cause acne that it's difficult to say whether washing your face is helping or hurting it. It couldn't hurt to try it for a short period, maybe 10 days, and see what happens, since you're still getting acne and blackheads anyway. Sometimes leaving it alone is the best thing for it--but sometimes not. (My acne was hormonal, which sucked because it was worse in my early 20s than it was in my teens when everyone else had it, ugh. It cleared up, though, but STILL.)

  8. Anyone here tried apple cider vinegar in lieu of shampoo? I just read about it on Whole Foods' blog, and while I think I'd miss the lather, I'm tempted to try it.

  9. Court, I've heard of apple cider vinegar being used as a rinse after washing with baking soda, and I know it used to be used as a conditioner "back in the olden days" before commercial conditioners were available. The idea was that it removed the film left by shampoo, I think? In any case, I've heard good things about it but haven't tried it myself yet.

  10. I think I said this when you started your experiment, but I remain convinced that face-washing is the biggest waste of time and money ever. I've never washed my face except if I needed to wash something specific off it (or if I felt peer=pressured to at middle school sleepovers, ha).

    i also haven't used shampoo since I was in high school, but I have wavy/curly hair, which is infamously unfriendly to shampoo. I do condition it 3-4x/week, and I find that it starts getting tangly and then ratty after a few days of not being conditioned. Did you have that issue at all?

  11. Raz, I want the Survivor chicks to debunk face wash once and for all! I should try to be on it just for that. Re: conditioner--you know, my hair IS much more tangle-prone than I remember it being the last time I had long hair. (It's super-long now, btw.) I hadn't connected it to not washing but that may indeed be it. In any case, I wear it up four days out of five anyway so it's not a huge issue, but I'll have to think about it...

  12. Yeah, I have this theory that people either have hair that gets greasy after not being washed or tangly after not being conditioned, but not usually both. Seriously, a week of not conditioning my hair and it's dreadlocks.

  13. Rebekah: So I had considerable acne/blackheads/whiteheads basically everything zit-related and I tried EVERYTHING that the pharmacy would sell me or a doctor would give me and it was horrible and do you know what finally cleared it up for me? Do you?!

    Washing only at night with water and a mild soap, moisturizing twice a day. THAT IS IT. Sometimes I don't use soap! Sometimes I skip a night! But my skin? It is clear. Maybe this information will empower you! Worth a shot, anyway!

  14. Raz, funnily enough, the first time I went without shampoo (unintentionally; I'd been in a car wreck and was so drugged it wasn't safe for me to stand in a shower) I totally turned all dreadlocks. It was sort of awesome.

    Catherine, thanks for the tip! Even if it doesn't work for Rebekah, it'll work for someone. I interviewed a woman who worked at a makeup counter (this was years ago) and she said that while she knew she was supposed to peddle the goods of her company, if someone came to her with acne she'd be like, "Listen, just try a mild cleanser and water and leave it alone. This stuff won't help." Ooh, now I totally want to do a piece on traitorous secrets of people within the industry!

  15. about not washing your face:
    -how often do you wear makeup?
    -what products do you use (fundation, eye makeup, ...)?
    -how do you remove it?

    i would like to try but not sure how to remove eye makeup without washing my face

    i like your blog a lot
    cheers - ento

    1. Anonymous, I wear makeup almost every day--a tinted moisturizer, concealer, blush, eyeliner, mascara. I rinse my face thoroughly with water at the end of the day, so I am sort of washing it--just not with soap. My eye makeup comes off pretty easily by doing that, but you could also try the rinse-only method and then use a separate eye makeup remover just to be squeaky-clean. Good luck!

    2. will try rinsing makeup just with water, thanks for reply
      inspired by your blog i have cut my hair really short and stop washing it. so far i like it a lot
      thanks for writing this blog :)

      best - ento