Dirty Little Secret #2: No ‘Poo

I have delayed writing this post for quite some time. I composed it in my mind many times, but I chose not to write it. I stated in the first Dirty Little Secret, that I hesitated to reveal my skin care program because my friends would observe my skin more closely. They did. It is a little unnerving. I expect that something similar will occur with this post.

Additionally, some of my friends already suspect that I have gone off the deep end. Fermented food, creation science, adoption and homeschooling are a little too unorthodox for them. I am fairly certain that this additional bit of information will irrevocably qualify me as weird. Maybe that was inevitable. Oh well, here goes:

I have not used shampoo since July of 2010.

Ewww! Really? Wow, I never noticed. But why?

First of all, going ‘poo-free was not a random, hippie-esque whim. Like most things, this decision was a journey. I have always struggled with my hair. I have tried every shampoo and conditioner on the market. They either made my hair dull and brittle, giving me unbearable scalp itch, or they coated me with so much wax that I broke out with acne. Most products worked initially. Nothing worked for very long.

Eventually, I read about the ingredients in commercial shampoos and conditioners. Have you ever researched the unpronounceable chemicals that are listed on the back of your bottle? You might be surprised to find that many of them are toxic. Even the baby shampoos contain unsafe ingredients. If you want to research it, this site will get you started.

I will not go into the details of why these chemicals are used. I will leave that for the chemists, financial analysts, and conspiracy theorists to debate. I will only say that for me, the traditional shampoos were not only not working, they were loaded with things that I was no longer comfortable putting on my body. I needed to find something different.

I tried shampoo bars. They worked, but they eventually dried out my hair and scalp. So, I began to try every SLS-free, paraben-free, everything-free shampoo and conditioner I could find. I found one that worked as well as the regular brands (ie: I had occasional good hair days), but it was expensive.

At that point, I discovered the no ‘poo community. I figured I had nothing to lose, and a lot of money to gain.

If you don’t use shampoo, doesn’t your hair get nasty?

Let me clarify that I still wash my hair regularly. (I know some of my out-of-state friends were imagining me with a headful of dreadlocks, dust, and flies. Ewww!) Being ‘poo-free simply means that I use a few safe, natural, easy-to-find ingredients to clean my hair. But I DO clean my hair. If I had not, I would not have been able to keep it a secret for so long – at least, not without becoming a hermit. (And yes, that is actually a picture of my hair. The lighting makes it look much more red in the picture than in real life.)

In researching natural hair care, I discovered countless recipes. Many incorporated baking soda. Some were simple herbal teas. Others were quite exotic. For some people, the endless options can be completely overwhelming. If that is you, take it one baby step at a time. Personally, I chose to view the process as an experiment to find a custom regimen, designed for my unique needs. I knew I would have an occasional bad-hair day good hat day. But really, I was having those anyway. How bad could it be?

I tried several methods. In the interest of brevity, I will list the few that I found to be most effective and that I still use.

1. Baking Soda: Because I have a tendency toward dry hair and scalp, I used only 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water. These ratios can be adjusted depending on your hair type; some people use up to 1/2 and 1/2. Mix it in a squirt bottle or old shampoo bottle that you can keep in the shower. Basically, you squirt a little of this mixture on your scalp and massage, just as you would shampoo. When your hair feels slippery, rinse it out. This must be followed by a vinegar water rinse in order to balance the pH. You will find that recipe below.

The baking soda method gives a deep clean. It is really great for removing buildup caused by silicones. I found that it dries out my hair if used regularly, so I use it only occasionally. My daughter uses it every few weeks. (That is her hair. It looks beautiful when she brushes it, but she’s usually too busy for that.) Baking soda is a good option for traveling.

2. Herbal Tea: The herbs used will vary depending on your hair color and type. I like to use chamomile and calendula for brightness and shine. I pour 2 cups of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of herbs. Then I cover it and let it steep overnight. In the morning, you can use it immediately, or refrigerate it for up to one week.

This provides a light cleaning and freshening. I like the scent. Because it is already acidic, no conditioning rinse is needed (for my hair). This is a great recipe for travelers since tea bags are lightweight and many hotels have in-room coffee pots which can be used to boil water.

3. Water only: Basically, you wet your hair and massage your scalp. The massage helps the natural sebum move down the hair-shaft. It works well as long as you have removed all the chemical buildup.

I use this method when I am too lazy to make tea, or when I wake up with terrible bed-head that is beyond the help of dry shampoo and a curling iron. (I have much less bed-head and hat-hair now.) I usually follow a water wash with a squirt of conditioning rinse only on the ends. Obviously, this works well for traveling, too.

4. Dry shampoo: For this, I use 1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder. Other options include cornstarch, or even baby powder. Those with dark hair may find ground coffee or cocoa work better. Apply a very small amount of the powder to the roots of your hair. Leave it for 15 minutes. Then brush out with a natural-bristle brush.

I like to use this when my roots are just a little bit oily. It absorbs oil well and leaves my hair shiny and bouncy. It is perfect for days when I am in a hurry. It is another good option for travel.

5. Egg: This is my own recipe and my preferred method. I scramble one raw egg with a drizzle of honey and two drops of essential oil. I put that on my dry hair, massage it in, and leave it for several minutes. Then, I rinse it with cool water. I follow it with my conditioning rinse (below).

The raw egg is a little gross at first. It helped that I had used it in homemade deep conditioning treatments before I went no ‘poo. The honey is a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture into my scalp. Some people find that honey lightens their hair. That would not bother me, but I have not noticed a difference.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioning Rinse: In a squirt bottle, mix 1 tablespoon of ACV in 1 cup of water. Add a few drops of any essential oils you like. Squirt this on your hair, focusing on the ends. Some people have better results when they spray it on the roots. Some people find that even one drop on the roots makes their hair greasy. It amazes me how chemically different people can be. You can rinse with cool water afterward, but it is not essential. The vinegar smell will dissipate when your hair is dry, but the essential oil scent will remain.

I love this. It really helps with detangling my daughter’s long hair. In a pinch, a quick spray will also help freshen hair. One option I have not tried yet is to infuse the vinegar with fresh or dried herbs. It is supposed to make the vinegar scent more mild. When I try it, I will post my results.

Minor details

There is a transition period when going ‘poo free. For some people it takes a week, for others, a month. I suppose it depends on how much junk is built up in your hair. My transition was short and not unbearable. My hair felt thick for a few days. I put it in a ponytail and no one noticed.

You may want to gradually transition by alternating shampoo with baking soda. You could also start by eliminating the shampoo and just using a silicone-free conditioner to clean your hair. Some people switch to shampoo bars first, others continue to use shampoo with progressively less frequency and volume until they can comfortably switch. There is no right way to do it.

Many people find that their hair type changes after eliminating shampoo. The harsh chemicals that strip the scalp of its natural oils can cause an over production of oils. Once your body gets used to the new routine, you will find that it is much more balanced. Most people find that they need to wash their hair much less often. With shampoo, I had to wash my hair every-other-day. Now, I use an egg wash about once every week or so, with one water or tea wash in between. Of course, I alter my routine depending on the weather and my lifestyle.

The no ‘poo lifestyle takes a small change of habits, a little planning, and, possibly, a lot of experimenting. I decided in the beginning to have fun with it. Yes, I had a few mistakes along the way. When you need a good laugh, ask me about those; I’ll be happy to share. Even with the mistakes and transition, I had more good hair days than I ever did with shampoo.

Bottom Line
My hair is healthier, shinier, and softer than ever before. It is not perfect. It still gets stringy when I let it grow long. It still flips out instead of under at certain lengths. However, I am spending less time and much less money on it. My good hair days far outnumber the bad. Best of all, I finally like my hair. That is a big deal for me.

For more recipes and some excellent problem-solving, you may want to check out these sites:

More shampoo recipes
Problem-solving and a list of the dangers of SLS and other ingredients
Someone else’s experience. (I am not the only freak.)