No ‘Poo Rules: On Breaking Up With My Shampoo

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Originally published on The Green Beauty Team

I have long been a user of toxin-free, better-for-you cosmetics and personal care products—and routinely check Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database before making new purchases. I learned to read labels and avoid chemicals that are known to cause harm and are linked to a range of health issues, from allergies to cancer. But I had never considered actually giving up shampoo until I read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. The rule that stuck with me most: Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Have you seen the ingredients label on a bottle of shampoo? Even the purported good-for-you ones aren’t that great.

Yes, I know there are shampoos available that are non-toxic, but I was also interested in scaling back on the product front. You know, minimizing all the stuff. I am nowhere near giving up my lip gloss or mascara, but shampoo? Why not?

How natural could I go?

I had already heard about the “no ‘poo” movement—yes, it’s a bit of a movement. Go ahead and Google it and you’ll find lots of greenies out there doing it, not all of them granola-hippie types (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I read about how it takes weeks for your scalp to adjust to the process and that it gets worse (oily, listless, dirty) before it gets better (no need for shampoo).

I decided to go for it and prepared myself for non-glam days with greasy hair. Because I suffer the fate of fine-haired girls everywhere, my hair can look oily after just one day without washing. Conditioner? Never an option. I reasoned that it would be similar to dealing with the awkward in-between phase you face when growing out bangs or that short haircut you regret the second you cut it.

Well, I have grown out bangs countless times and even pretty gracefully grew out a pixie haircut with the creative use of hair bands and scarves. Each time I tried going “no ‘poo,” I found that no hair band or scarf could hide my oily locks. My hair was heavy and slick. There were unplanned pleats. My pillowcase was disgusting.

The first time I gave up

It was for a vacation—because did I really want to look dirty in my vacation photos?

Still, I was determined. Or maybe not.

The second time I feel off the no ‘poo wageon

I was two weeks in and simply forgot, reaching for the bottle of shampoo that remained in the shower. (Lesson learned: Drink coffee before taking showers.)

I resolved to give it another try. Again, I felt a little dirty after two weeks but carried on.

Third time’s a charm, right?

This last attempt was thwarted when I began a new job search and was called for a job interview. Could I show up for an interview with oily hair? I asked a friend about it. “Do you want them to think you’re a dirtbag?” she asked. “Go wash your hair.” She spoke with authority. (Dirtbag?)

I decided to wait until the morning of the interview, but looked back at myself in the mirror and knew I didn’t want a first impression to look like this. So I washed it. (And I got the job.)

It seemed like it was time to rethink this no ‘poo thing. I realized I wasn’t opposed to washing my hair—I was simply opposed to using shampoo to do it. I didn’t want to use anything on my head that was chemical-based and I wanted to cut back on products. Why not try a shampoo alternative? And why not look right in the kitchen?

It made perfect sense. I had already started using my own homemade beach hair spray using ingredients from my pantry (see my post on DIY beauty products and treatments using kitchen items).

The solution seemed so simple: I already used baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and honey on my face—to exfoliate, tone, and wash—so I tried using them on my head in the shower.

Like a mad greasy-haired scientist, I took to experimenting each separately to see what worked best.

A baking soda paste made with water worked well when rubbed gently into the scalp, but felt a little drying on my hair. But a bottle filled with equal parts baking soda and water felt better to rinse through hair. I found the apple cider vinegar to clean hair, but it left my roots looking too slick. Honey gently rubbed on my scalp and through hair also felt cleansing and gentle.

My easy, all-natural formula

Now, I use the baking soda or honey to gently massage into my scalp and hair.

I also started using a homemade dry shampoo composed of equal parts corn starch, baking soda, and cocoa powder, applied to my roots with a makeup brush. (Mmmm, chocolate.)

I still find I need to wash my hair most days—and to count on the dry shampoo—but I don’t think anyone would know I broke up with my shampoo. In a happy twist, my fine hair actually looks like it has more body and bounce.

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