No, this isn't some sort of bathroom abstinence program. Fed up with my cantankerous, thick hair, I decided to try no-pooing - that is, no shampoo. I had seen a scattering of articles dedicated to the topic, and I figured I had nothing to lose since I wasn't happy with the state of my hair in the first place. I write this not to provide a super-scientific account of the dangers of shampoo, or to preach a natural lifestyle, but to serve as account of one experience in the world of no-poo.

Why Should I Stop Shampooing?

People give up shampooing for a variety of reasons, but largely their concerns are based around the environment and a desire to turn to more natural roots, no pun intended. Shampoo is full of chemicals and it creates a lot of waste via plastic packaging. And though I haven't seen it scientifically substantiated, I have read that shampoo strips your hair of natural oils. So supposedly it's just a big vicious cycle of hair products; shampoo makes your hair dry, so you put conditioner back in to make it softer. Whether or not you want to believe that is your call.

But on the more frugal side of things, hair products can get expensive! After many years of several shampoos that didn't do much for me, I was ready to submit to the nagging of my hairdresser and give into the salon shampoo game. But before that, I thought I'd give this no-poo a shot.

Taking the Plunge

I feel like I should make a disclaimer that I'm not an Earth-mother type that fosters a desire to be one with nature and is fearful of chemicals. I'm not on the organic food boat, I usually forget my reusable grocery bags. I say this not to poke fun, but to say that you shouldn't feel like no-poo can't be for you.

I was more motivated by the fact that I had already taken my hairdresser's advice and stopped washing my hair with every shower, and indeed, my hair had gotten better. So I decided to take it a step further and give up shampoo entirely. A lot of no-poo advocates will recommend washing your hair with vinegar and baking soda, but it sounded stinky and I'm a little lazy so I began just rinsing my hair with water. I've heard that the vinegar and baking soda mix is meant for just the beginning of your introduction to a shampoo-less world, but I've also heard that people just use regularly in lieu of commercial shampoo. How grungey you want to get is up to you. You can either slowly cut back on regular shampoo as you make the transition, or go cold turkey.

Getting Through the Awkward Stage

I'll admit that this experiment was made much easier by the fact that I work from home. I didn't have to feel self conscious about how greasy my hair looked or worry about subjecting my co-workers to the awful stench of my scalp if this turned out to be a terrible idea. But mostly, it was pretty tolerable. I can only recall one time that I thought to myself, "Maybe I should just wash it." But I persevered, and nobody ever told me my hair looked gross.

But let's face it: your hair is going to feel oily. I dealt with this by shaking corn starch in my hair. It does leave a bit of residue on your scalp, and it will show up grey in darker hair (note to self for Halloween costumes), so you'll have to comb it out or use it underneath your top layer of hair and more sparingly on top. It also helps to use a comb or washcloth to move the oil from the roots to the tips of your hair.

If you can't stand your greasy locks but want to keep with it, the no-poo period is a good time to experiment with your hair. If you're lucky enough to have long hair, there are lots of hair tutorials around the web for neat up-dos and braided styles. I frequently wore my hair in braids and took advantage of my hair's natural wave and let it dry into nice curls. But if you can't bear to even look at it, maybe you should shop around for hats or take up knitting to make your own slouchy beanies.

Two Months Later

The Wikihow article about no-poo claims the adjustment period is about two to four weeks, but in my case, I didn't feel fully confident about my hair until about two months in. It's still oilier than I was used to, but it feels and looks healthy.

Back in my "poo" days, my biggest complaint about my hair was its sheer density; it used to be that if my hair reached shoulder length or so, it would just start growing outward, leaving my head with a rather trapezoid silhouette. In addition, the ends were frizzy, which just made the whole thing grow even further and further outward. Not so anymore! My hair is now nice and vertical! I'm planning on keeping with it, though I am anxious to explain to my hairdresser why I don't want a wash and cut.

Of course, everyone's experience in no-pooing is going to be different. What may be a slight discomfort to one might be an intolerable itchy scalp to another. But if anything, see if cutting back on washes helps improve the quality of your hair, and keeps you from having to go down the beauty aisle so often.

Helpful Products:

  • Dry shampoo comes in powder and aerosol form; I prefer powder. Both Ulta and Sephora have a good selection.
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar will help you through the early stages if you don't want to go cold turkey.
  • John Frieda Frizz Ease Secret Weapon Finishing Cream is good for dry ends if you need to use a little product.
  • Corn starch is a much cheaper alternative to dry shampoo, but it is harder to get out of your hair than dry shampoo.
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