Well, I am proud to report that I have not used commercial shampoo for one whole month.
No, really! And I don’t have dreadlocks, either. In fact, my hair is the softest it’s been my entire adult life, not to mention it feels thicker. I would suggest that it’s easier to style, except I don’t really style my hair. But it does have a little wave to it that I haven’t seen in decades.
Back in the days when I haunted the Mothering boards, I remember reading about No Poo in the Natural Family Living forums. It sounded interesting, but I was too tired to drag supplies from my kitchen pantry and into the shower. I was generally too tired to drag myself into the shower, truth be told. Maybe I did go a little bit No Poo in those days, but it wasn’t a planned regimen, and it didn’t have quite the same effect.
Now, I’m all about the No Poo. It’s awesome. I’m also No Deodorant (I’ve been No Antiperspirant for about five years). It feels so good to keep all those chemicals off my skin. It’s also very self-satisfying to make my own cosmetic/hygiene supplies, but that’s just the homesteading geek in me.
As for the No Poo, it’s so easy to do. All I’ve done, really, is to stop washing my hair with industrial solvents and switch to a gentle baking soda scrub with a cider vinegar rinse. That’s it. And instead of washing my hair daily or every other day, I do it twice a week. The other days, I simply rinse it in cool water, and brush it well every morning & evening. Taa daa!!
Why no poo? Well, it’s simple, really. The whole notion that you have to clean your hair with shampoo is a stroke of marketing genius. We’ve been conditioned (haha- get it?) to believe that our hair is not clean unless it has been scrubbed and scoured daily with a smelly bottled substance. And as long as you use conventional shampoos, you’d be right. This is because your hair “cleaner” is actually a hair “stripper”, stripping the natural oils from your hair and scalp. Why do you think we have natural oils on our hair and scalp? Mother Nature is not wasteful. Well, okay, maybe the gall bladder is a little passe’ these days. But, generally, she doesn’t do things without a reason. The reason you have those oils is to protect your hair, and also to repel bacteria, dirt, and other undesirables from your scalp. Your body is smarter than you are, and it knows that you need those natural oils. So, after you get your head all “clean”, it goes into panic mode and produces more oil to protect you from yourself your head. It’s a supply-and-demand thing. The more you “clean” your hair, the “dirtier” it will be, because your body will just keep making more and more oil to keep up.
When you first kick the shampoo habit, your body will be confused. It is smart, but you are being unpredictable, so it will take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months for your head to catch on to this new way of doing things. Don’t give up. I almost caved into the shampoo temptation several times, because I decided to quit shampoo in JULY, when it is rather warm and humid and when I sweat like a fat man on a hot roof in a most unladylike manner. But I stuck it out, and am now enjoying the softest, healthiest hair ever.
Actually executing the No Poo Process is ridiculously simple. Go to your cupboard or pantry. Pull out your baking soda, put a couple teaspoons (maybe a tablespoon, if you have a big head) into a small cup or container, and mix enough water into it so you can pour it over your scalp. Hint: use warm water, or it will be quite the shocker when you are in the shower. While you’re in the kitchen, fill another small container with some cider vinegar. If you have long hair (shoulders or longer), you’ll probably want about 1/4 cup or less. If you have shorter hair, maybe 1-2 tablespoons. If you’re butch, use your best guess. If you’re bald, you can skip this step completely, because it’s to condition your ends, not your scalp.
Now. Into the bath or shower you go. Wet your hair like you normally would. While you’re doing this, take a last look at that plastic bottle of industrial solvent that you are never again going to pour onto your sweet little scalp. Go ahead, give it a sneer. Stick your tongue out at it, or make some other insulting gesture if you like. This is important, because you are freeing yourself from the shackles of commercial consumerism (not to mention taking a huge chemical load off your body). Once your hair is completely wet, grab your container of (hopefully warm) soda water. Pour some on your scalp, just a little bit near the crown. Set the bottle down. Use your fingertips to massage your head. Make little tiny fingertip circles, don’t just rub back-and-forth (you’ll tear at the hair follicles). Start at the crown and work your way out. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but find a consistent routine so you don’t miss any spots. Some people suggest outlining a circle on your crown and then filling it in. Me, I am greasiest at the hairline, so I work from my center part out towards my ears. Then, I rub from my center part back. If you get to a spot that doesn’t feel a tiny bit gritty from the soda, pour on some more. The soda is a gentle cleanser whose job is to clean your scalp.
Once you are thoroughly massaged, you can rinse out the soda. It will rinse faster and easier than any shampoo you’ve ever tried. Once it’s out, take your cider vinegar. I like to dilute mine with an equal amount of warm water. Pour it over the ends of your hair (not onto your scalp). Since I have shoulder-length hair, I pile all my hair on top of my head and then pour the vinegar over it. Scrunch it in. Then, proceed with the remainder of your shower routine while the vinegar conditions your hair. Some people leave it in for an hour. I find three to five minutes is plenty long. I wash the rest of myself, shave my underarms, and then rinse out the vinegar. The smell is completely gone once you rinse it out, so don’t worry about smelling like a pickle.
That’s all there is to it. Of course, your hair will continue to produce oil at industrial rates for a short time, until it adjusts to the kind and gentle No Poo routine. If you find your hair is intolerably greasy during the transition period, you can give it an extra wash. Use more soda, or play around with the amount of vinegar you rinse with. You can also try brushing your hair out with a comb, which will pull oils from your scalp and onto the hair shaft (actually very desirable). For me, the first two weeks were…. well, I’ll be honest. They were pretty gross. I felt good the day I washed my hair, but in between, I felt like a dirty hippie. It didn’t help that I had been working out in the garden a lot and getting pretty dirty and sweaty. The third week was much nicer, though. And this last washing, which marked A Whole Month Of No Poo, my hair felt like silk in my hands. I’m glad I stuck it out.
Besides being good for your skin, which is your largest organ and a direct route for chemicals to infiltrate your body, going No Poo has other tangible benefits, too. It’s economical, for one. A really expensive bottle of ACV – like Bragg’s, for example – is about $5 or $6 in my grocery store. I can get baking soda for about 79 cents for a one-pound box. This means that it literally costs me a couple of pennies every time I wash my hair.
I also love finding ways of doing things that don’t require industrial products. While you might argue that baking soda is an industrial product, it is, at least, an edible one. I could take a swig of my shampoo and probably not harm my insides too terribly much. I can bake muffins with my shampoo. Who doesn’t like muffins? And, if I were really industrious, I could probably ferment my own apple cider vinegar. This gives me the satisfaction of (a) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose production is harmful to the environment, and (b) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose ingredients are harmful to me.
Don’t worry. I will still love you if you grab the Garnier or pour on the Pantene. But seriously, folks. Challenge your world view of what is *truly* necessary for a healthy, clean and satisfying life. Take control of your health and hygiene, and you may find it not only cheaper, easier, and healthier, but possibly better, too.
And if you find that No Poo is Not For You, it’s alright. You can still put that baking soda and cider vinegar to good use in your kitchen.