Friday, May 1, 2009

Shampoo: Not the best way to clean hair? How to go poo-free

"In recent years, "no poo" has become something of an underground beauty trend... that's split into two camps: beauty mavens who believe they've found hair care's dirty little secret, and environmentally minded folks who want to use fewer plastic products and products with fewer chemicals." (Source: Today)
I've recently discovered the 'no-poo' movement, in which people replace shampoo with a natural alternative like baking soda or clay or or nothing at all. It seems like a crazy idea to not use shampoo. It's something that we just accept as absolutely necessary, almost as much as toilet paper (which, by the way, I won't be giving up any time soon). But it's not necessary. I've avoided shampoo for the last week and my hair looks and feels much better than before, plus I'm no longer having product build-up problems that made me obsessive-compulsive about washing my hair every day. Thanks to Lucy and I, I found the solution.

Why go poo-free?

Your health
  • Shampoo contains chemicals that strip your hair of healthy natural oils, replacing them with artificial oils that don't absorb into the skin very well and don't allow much release of your natural oils. This makes your hair weaker and requring more frequent washes.
  • It can eliminate problems such as dandruff, itchy scalp and product build-up.
  • It makes your hair look and feel better, if not at first, then after your head has gotten over its shampoo addiction and returns to a state of balance.
  • Most shampoos contain mineral oil, which is what's left over when crude oil is turned to gasoline.
  • Other common chemicals in shampoo may have additional unhealthy effects on your body. Since chemicals are absorbed by the skin, these enter your body, too. There's a (scary) list of them here.
It's very inexpensive
  • All you need to replace shampoo and conditioner is baking soda and apple cider vinegar (more on that below). Both are very cheap compared with some shampoos and conditioners.
It's more eco-friendly
  • Cut down on frequent fancy bottle packaging and buy the things you need in bulk instead - usually with very minimal packaging.
  • Avoid supporting the production of harmful plastics and chemicals.
Avoid animal testing

I posted about animal testing in the cosmetics/personal care industry (and how unnecessary it is) last year.
  • The use of chemicals in shampoo, such as those above, mean that these products will probably have to be tested on animals.
  • Most shampoos and conditioners purchased are tested on animals. This makes it easier to avoid supporting these companies.
How to do it (my way)

You can check the below links for alternative and trouble shooting ideas if this doesn't work for you. There's no 'right' way. This is just what I like.

You need:
  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Two small plastic cups. One should be shallow enough for you to easily reach your fingers into the bottom. You could cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle due for recycling. I used a cup and bottle of Ellie's that weren't being used.
  • A big everyday hairbrush that's comfortable to use
  1. Put about a heaped tablespoon of baking soda into the shallow cup.
  2. Turn the tap on as little as possible and put a tiny amount in the cup, and mix. I like using a thick paste (but it shouldn't be gritty), but some people like a more watery mixture. Include more water if you want.
  3. You can add a few drops of your essential oil to this mix, if you like.
  4. Put about a couple of table spoons of apple cider vinegar in the other cup, and fill it up with water.
  5. Head into the shower with your two cups.
  6. Spread some of the baking soda paste onto your fingers and rub into your roots. Keep going back to the cup until it's finished. I usually start with the areas around the hair line - front, sides, then back, and then do the middle by parting the hair horizontally at intervals.
  7. Leave it in for a minute and clean the rest of your fine self.
  8. To get rid of any existing product buildup (especially this first time) give your head a good massage. It also stimulates growth and natural oil production (no, this won't make your hair oily!). Use your fingertips and rub back and forth in short strokes, gently but firmly. Concentrate on the area around your parting, because that's where the roots mostly show.
  9. Rinse the mixture out of your hair.
  10. Use the other cup's contents on the lengths of your hair. (I promise the vinegar smell won't stick around forever.)
  11. Rinse it out.
  12. When your hair is dry, brush your hair. (Use a wide-toothed comb when wet if you need to). Brush it at least twice a day, regardless of when you wash it. This will distribute the natural oils along the length of your hair and make it nice and shiny.
For convenience, I usually estimate the amounts without using a measuring thing, then mix the baking soda with my fingers in the shower, and just swirl the apple cider vinegar cup.

How it's worked for me

I had given up on my hair a little, because in my teens I started getting a lot of product built up on my scalp. I didn't use much, if any, styling products, so it was the shampoo and conditioner. I stopped using conditioner. I didn't use a hairbrush because my hair didn't get knotty.
I washed my hair every day because otherwise it got greasy and awful.

The first day I tried this my hair and head felt lighter, due to the lack of chemicals and product in my hair. It felt softer, too, and very clean. When I brushed my hair it had a really nice shine that wasn't there before.

I've been doing this for two weeks so far. I've been washing my hair mostly every two days. It gets a little flatter on the second day, but not oily like before. Once I left it three days and it looked a bit greasy by the third. This might stop happening in time, when my hair is used to the new routine.

If you try this, let me know how it goes!


No poo community on LiveJournal
Skin problems TV programme on
Shampoo-free on Babyslime at Livejournal
No Shampoo Experiment
Why you should go no 'poo'
Shampoo-free: Healthy hair, naturally


Kerry said...

That's some great advice. I use Lush shampoo bars and conditioner... In fact, I use Lush for my skincare as well. Lush products are all handmade, not tested on animals, and without any harsh chemicals. Environmentally friendly, yay!

cottonjens said...

thanks you, heidi and seek and ethical fashion, for this no poo advice. my hair is naturally a little dry and I have been trying to get behind the hair hype for years. this advice is very helpful. enjoy your may day~

janssendesigns said...

Thanks for this info. I switched to shampoo bars (from DressGreen on etsy) and love them. Wash every other day & once a week apple cider vinegar rinse. I hadn't heard of the baking soda treatment-I'll try that too. My hairs are very happy!

Anonymous said...

I'm going "no poo" as well. Today's day two and I've only water rinsed the last two days. Will be trying the BC/ACV rinse this weekend. Thank you for you post!!!

StephanieK said...

I've been doing real-soap shampoos with ACV and I've had such great results, so I would like to try your method too. Great article and thanks!

Clare said...

I'm going to go out and get some apple cider vinegar! I've always felt a bit uncomfortable putting so much rubbish on my head.

Also thank you for putting my clock in your etsy favourites! I looked at your beautiful clothes and it's nice to see others who are interested in ecological and pretty items.

Clare (PrettyGreen)

emily hiller said...

awesome, thanks for this post. Im going to the grocery store now to get me from baking soda and apple cider vinegar!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed instructions. I have been waiting for my shampoo and conditioner to run out so that i can go no poo. I only wash my hair once or twice a week as I have really dry hair so I think so poo would be perfect.

How is is going now after a little more time?

Hope E said...

I'll have to try this. I'd love a Poo-free existence. I wonder if the vinegar will be harsh on my pink...

Heidi and Seek said...

Kerry - I didn't know Lush did shampoo bars. That's great!

cottonjens - You're welcome, I hope it turns out well for you.

janssendesigns - Thanks for pointing me to DressGreen. I'll definitely keep them in mind when looking for skin care products.

mandyink, stephanie, emily - No worries! How is your hair now?

Tricia - I did a hair update!

Hope - There's probably some info on the LJ community (link at the end of post) about doing it with coloured hair, but I think it should be fine.
PS. I adore your work!

Sarah said...

I actually watched "What's Good For You" recently and they attempted the "no shampoo for 6 weeks" experiment with two volunteers.

Actually the results were pretty surprising, even the their hair appeared to be healthy, when they went to the hair specialist to examine their hair follicles, the close ups revealed a excess of oil/dirt build up on the scalp.

I dont know, I always thought that shampoo was bad for your hair (even though I could never bring myself to with go it), however after watching that show I was a bit put off.

Heidi and Seek said...

Sarah - did they replace the shampoo with anything? I'm a bit wary of using nothing, too. Or at least, if I went to using just water I'd make sure to give my scalp a good scrub often.

Also, I may be cynical, but were there any shampoo endorsements? :p

Sarah said...

Nope, no shampoo endorsements. Have you ever watched the show? It's kind of like Mythbusters but Australian produced and they deal with things more health related.

They only used water and nothing else. I think they were just testing the "hair will get healthy after 6 weeks of not using shampoo) theory. Both volunteers went through the gross stage and by the end of the 6th week they mentioned that their hair FELT and looked great, however the close up examination of their scalps was reallllly gross.

Heidi and Seek said...

That's interesting. I've heard of the show but haven't actually seen it.

I guess that proves that using a shampoo alternative instead of nothing (and instead of shampoo) is probably the best way to go.

megcevans said...

Hi Hayley, I have been no-poo for 2 weeks and my hair is fantastic. I usually straighten it daily as my hair naturally frizzes terribly with no particular style. Since going no-poo my hair is kinda curly/wavy. I'm pretty amazed at how good it is. Thanks for the tip, and I'm loving the rest of your blog. I actually watched that show Sarah mentioned too - they spent a solid 10 mins looking at the volunteer's scalps and going "ewww" - I am very cynical, so I don't think it was completely without commercial motive!

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

Do you have any idea what I can use to get a shine back to my hair? Basically I think i've been over doing it with the straightening lately and i'm suffering from a lot of split ends so I think the heat has damaged it. I was taking a look at the ghd uk website and they are recommending thermal protectors, has anyone used these and would you recommend? Thanks, Jane