Personal: On A Life Without Shampoo

Exactly one month ago yesterday, I gave up shampoo.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in, but yes, you read it right: I haven’t shampooed my hair in an entire month.  I also haven’t touched store-bought deodorant.  Or lotion.

Stop sniffing.  I smell fine.

I’ll get into the finer reasoning at some other time, but basically I wanted to reduce 1) the amount of chemicals I put on my body, 2) the amount of chemicals I put everywhere else, and 3) the amount of money I spend on essentially unnecessary things.  (Did nº 3 stop me from recently buying a new purse?  No, but nobody’s perfect.  And hey, I saved all that money not buying shampoo!  I digress…)  I also got really tired of dealing with oily hair, and if you’ll suspend disbelief for a moment or two, you won’t think I’m nuts when I say that STOPPING the use of shampoo has made my hair cleaner, less oily.  And softer.

I know, I know.  I’m a hippie.  Move along.

I have fine AND thin hair (Thanks, Mom and Dad!), which is basically a one-two combo that guarantees that if I wash my hair in the morning, I’ll look like a drowned rat by about 5 o’clock.  If you suffer as I do, you probably know what I’m talking about, and I feel for you.  For awhile, I mitigated the issue with a good ol’ lemon juice rinse, which afforded me an extra hour or two of presentability, but still wasn’t cutting it.  I googled the heck out of home remedies and was sorely disappointed… until I found the (very, very poorly named) “No ‘Poo” Method.

You’ll find hundreds of websites and videos (though I recommend avoiding those actually filmed IN showers — yes, seriously) that go into greater detail, but the basic argument is that shampoo tricks your scalp: Your scalp produces oil to protect and nourish your hair; shampoo completely strips away that oil.  You add a little something back with conditioner, but the message your scalp receives isn’t, “Clean is great! Stick with it!”  Rather, “OH CRAP THE OIL IS GONE! MAKE MORE! MAKE MORE!”  Obviously, every scalp is different (I’m looking at my friend Debbie here, who could go a year without washing her hair, damn her), but this was the case for me — overdrive city.

The miracle cure?  Behold: BAKING SODA!  Taaaa daaaaaa!

No kidding.  Every day for the last month, I mixed about 2 tablespoons of baking soda with around 1/3rd cup of water (this is really give or take, I eyeball it in the shower), poured this mixture over my head and massaged the holy heck out of my scalp for a minute or two, then rinsed.  The rinsing is the only part I don’t really enjoy, and it took awhile to get used to — “sticky” isn’t the right word, but it isn’t the squeaky clean feeling you learn to expect from shampoo, because it’s cleaning the dirt while leaving most of the oil.  I followed with about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (you could use lemon juice, too) mixed with about a cup of water, poured over my head to “rinse” and condition (and, surprisingly, detangle).

When my hair was longlonglong (which, if you’re friends with me on Facebook you know is no longer the case as of Tuesday), it was impossible to comb without the vinegar rinse.  The ends were also dry, but in their defense, I hadn’t had a haircut of any kind in almost a year (again, hippie).  Now that my hair is shorter, I’ve cut my measurements in half and have no dryness.

I’ve read that there is a “transition period” of sorts, while your scalp resets its oil production (that. sounds. so. gross.), that can last anywhere from a day to a month or more.  I figured if anyone were going to suffer this discomfort, it would be me, but I never did — in fact, I noticed improvements from the first week.  I’ve also read that people really, really miss the suds of shampoo, and I never quite understood this.  At least not until a day two weeks ago when I cleaned the heck out of my apartment all morning, then exercised fairly vigorously, and I felt disgusting — don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I really wanted that squeaky feeling, but I fought the urge to shampoo and I got over it.

So, it’s been a month.  Am I happy?  Well, let’s just say that I can now go TWO DAYS without “washing” my hair (I don’t do this every day, though; I’m not THAT MUCH of a hippie) — but if you knew how impossible this was before, you’ll understand that this is a huge deal for me.  Most people probably won’t want to try this, and I totally understand that.  My hair doesn’t smell like some made up, improbable combination of fruit and flower and I get the appeal of that.  (Coincidentally, for those wondering, my hair just doesn’t smell like anything at all.)  But hey, maybe you didn’t know this was something you wanted to do, maybe you think I am super gross now (fair!).  Either way, I just thought I’d share.

Also?  I just bought a 13.5-pound bag of baking soda from Costco for less than $6.  And I think I found a new belt I probably need to own.  Good thing I’m saving all of that money on shampoo. :)

Do you have any weird “home remedies” that you use?  For anything (personal hygiene, cleaning, whatever)!  I’d love to hear them.

September 11, 2010 - 2:24 pm

Preston I keep trying to switch to night showers because it would leave me more time in the morning. Every time I do it, I feel gross all day at work and go back to morning showers by the second day. If there’s a transition period, I’m too sensitive to the sensation of uncleanliness to overcome it. If there was a scientific study telling me it’s cleaner to shower at night than in the morning, at least I’d have that to motivate me to keep going, but I haven’t yet found such important scientific research (I actually looked).

September 13, 2010 - 1:57 pm

Janice Day That’s really cool, Molly. My hair is also very fine and it gets oily and flat super fast. I’ve looked into “non-shampoo” products like WEN but it just seems like a ridiculous amount of money and you have to use A LOT. I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t need FORTY PUMPS of anything! I do use sulfate-free shampoo but now I think I’m gonna try your baking soda method!

September 13, 2010 - 3:40 pm

Robin Ann Molls,

I am so on board with this!

I have been experimenting with going without shampoo for a month or so now. At first I started researching products to use, like WEN or HairOne {I think those are the right brands}.

I found that they are super expensive…huhhh.

So, I stopped using shampoo and ONLY used conditioner. Ummm.. My hair is kinds long and thick, so this made it super HEAVY. It didn’t really move or sway anymore. So, I brokedown and used a bit of low-chemical shampoo. MAN did that take away the heavy feeling. So, for two weeks I have been using that only one per week and just the low-chemical conditioner. It’s not bad and I was scheduled to conduct more research on the matter, but it looks like you did it for me.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I am going to give it a shot with the amount of B-soda and Apple Cider V that I have in my cupboards before I commit to buying it in bulk.

I will keep you posted.

September 13, 2010 - 3:44 pm

Robin Ann P.S. I also use Baking Soda as an exfoliant for my face. It’s wonderful.

September 20, 2010 - 8:51 pm

debbie Two things:
1) I’m gonna try it too (then maybe I can go TWO years without washing!)

2) I’ve smelled Molly’s hair, and it’s true – it smells like nothing.

And Molly, I’m ready for my MEFlotion…

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