Think twice about using that shampoo

Mar 02 2011 Published by under Body Image, Guest Posts

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This is a guest post by Laura, who blogs at smash your t.v. and have adventures, as part of a series about hair and how it plays into our concepts of beauty/physical attractiveness, gender, and culture. I’m currently seeking more writers and bloggers to contribute to the series. Contact me if you are interested.


Laura’s hair, since going ‘poo-free

Growing up, I only used a small handful of things for my hair: shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer, and a curling iron (on special occasions).

I also purchased a bottle of hairspray and a straightener when I went off to college because that’s what some of my friends used and I thought it was required to own. I used the hairspray and straightener probably two times, and only because they were there. Both are gone now.

My current morning routine regarding my hair just consists of a shower (some days I wash my hair, some days I don’t), letting my hair dry naturally while I eat breakfast and read, and blow drying the remaining damp hair before I leave. Oh, and I comb my hair. That’s it. I thought that was normal. I was baffled to find out about all the products that many other women use and the time dedicated towards a perfect ‘do.

Hairspray. Shampoo. Conditioner. Leave-in conditioner. Mousse. Hair gels. Gloss. Shiners. Masks. Straighteners. Curling irons. Hair rollers. Hair extensions. Often, three or four products are used at a time. Wow.

How many of these do you have on your counters? How much money do you spend on these products and accessories? How many empty bottles do you toss out on a regular basis?

I understand the desire to have healthy, beautiful hair. Who doesn’t want hair that makes you feel beautiful? The problem is that most people have a skewed perception of what is beautiful and don’t realize that most hair products actually damage hair and body, as well as the environment.

Let me say that again. We are damaging our bodies and our environment with these products. And for what? To achieve a false standard of beauty?

Images of long, shiny, blond hair infiltrate our televisions. Magazines with beauty advice list ten products we need to get a certain look. Drugstores offer dozens of products with appealing labels. We then fill up our bathrooms with these hair care products because that’s what the media says we need to have beautiful hair.

We believe these products make us look good without realizing that our natural selves – whether it be skin color, eye color, hair color and type—are beautifully unique.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need all that stuff.

Your hair is perfect just the way it is.

What about 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Surely, not everyone was walking around with stinky, ugly hair before the first modern shampoo was introduced in the 1920s. They didn’t cut their hair, either. In the 19th century, many women sported long, free-flowing hair, which was a mark of their femininity. Femininity aside, their hair was beautiful and clean.

And guess what? They washed their hair once or twice a month.

Some of us who are old enough may also remember our mothers and grandmothers visiting the hairdresser once a week for cleaning and styling.

You’d be amazed at some of the items women put in their hair before modern shampoos and hair styling techniques were developed. The difference between modern hair products and those belonging to our great-grandmothers is that their products were primarily chemical-free. These ranged from baking soda and herbs to egg whites and oils.

Having slightly dirty hair was also the only way women could achieve elaborate hairstyles that seemed to be held in place with a single comb or pin. The natural oils in hair made it manageable for them to style it. Basically, dirty hair was the style.

Did you know that shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils? Every day, when you slather shampoo on your head, the chemicals in the product remove your body’s natural oils from your hair; as a result, your hair is telling itself to produce oil quickly to make up for the loss. If you stop shampooing your hair on a regular basis, your hair will eventually stop producing too much oil and clean itself.

That was the secret to clean hair hundreds of years ago. Women didn’t need to wash their hair often and when they did, it was washed with items found in the kitchen or done professionally. Many people don’t realize they can still do that (I would go for the cheaper, at-home option).

Can you skip the hairspray today? Can you avoid washing your hair tomorrow? Could you even take the step to drop shampoo altogether and adopt a basic, natural hair care regime?

Here are some ways to treat your hair and the environment better:

Just use less! Kick that hair gel out of your routine. Drop the hairspray. Let your hair air-dry.

Check the ingredients on the label and be mindful of your purchases. Buy organic and natural. Avoid sulfates and parabens, the two dominant and most damaging ingredients in shampoos.

Also look out for petroleum-based ingredients, synthetic colors and fragrances, propylene glycol, DEA and TEA, and nitrates. Formaldehyde is an ingredient in most shampoos that doesn’t even show up on the label.

The scary thing is that what goes on your body also goes in your body. Your skin is not a perfect shield to chemicals. Also, these chemicals end up in our water supply and pollute the earth.

While no shampoo or conditioner is perfect, it is important to be mindful of your purchases instead of grabbing the first pretty bottle you see. Next time you reach for that shampoo or bottle of hairspray, read the label. Think about it. I highly recommend watching Annie Leonard’s The Story of Cosmetics.

Go poo-free! Baking soda is a very popular no-poo alternative. Just mix one tablespoon of baking soda in one cup or small bottle of warm water until it forms some kind of a paste, and use the mixture in your hair, gently massaging your roots. Since this method can make your hair feel dry, use apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. One cup of water mixed with one-two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar will do.

If you do decide to go poo-free, keep in mind that it will take your hair two to four weeks to adjust. Expect some oily hair in the beginning. Be patient. Experiment with mixtures. Another bonus: when I went poo-free, my thin hair seemed thicker!

Love your hair. Turn off your television. Ignore beauty magazines. Embrace your hair.

It is a part of you and you are beautiful.

About the author

Laura is a graduate student earning a master’s degree in special education and loves working with people with disabilities. She also writes about about living simply and consciously, minimalism, and creating happiness at smash your t.v. and have adventures. When not working, she is curled up with a book, drinking tea, walking in cemeteries, meeting new people, and doing cartwheels. Just because.

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14 responses so far

  • Cheryl says:

    Excellent post, Laura. I really enjoyed it, and you’ve given me a lot to think about. My stylist convinced me to stop shampooing every day and the results have been amazing. Curly hair tends to be dry, so I only shampoo every 4-5 days. I’m curious about the shampoo alternatives, though, and plan to give your method a try.

    • Laura M. says:

      I’ve yet to have a stylist tell me to stop shampooing my hair although one did suggest I try olive oil (just a teeny bit!) as conditioner when I had yet to control the dryness that baking soda can cause. It’s awesome that your stylist gave you that suggestion! Shampooing every four to five days is definitely a lot better for your hair than daily. Let me know if the alternative works for you! I’m not sure what the results are with curly hair.

      And THANK YOU for letting me participate in your series!! :D

  • Katherine says:

    Great post!
    I just wanted to chime in about the baking soda solution. I love that there are so many uses for baking soda that help keep our environment kleen, but I’m afraid that using it on your hair does dry it out a bit.
    Hair and skin has a ph of 4.5 to 5.5 The baking soda solution you are recommending comes in at 8+ (Tide ph 10); meaning striping natural oils, swelling the hair shaft and opening cuticle; for those who use any form of color this will let the color molecule escape!
    From your picture it seems you have fine textured hair so this swelling that occurs in the shampoo process you probably find helpful, however, for someone with curls or courser texture this step would make the hair unruly and frizzy, which was beautiful in the 19th century and the 1980′s. ;~)
    The vinegar does have a lower ph so after the hair is stripped, it helps ‘seal down’ the cuticle for shine and softness. I do agree that we shouldn’t have to work so hard and use the many cancer causing chemicals in the name of superficial beauty.

    Personally, I use pureology ( 100% vegan products, and I firmly agree that ‘dirty’ hair preforms better. When I worked in the salon I always had bridal parties come in with “day old hair” – 2 for longer thicker hair and got the best updo’s!

    • Laura M. says:

      Baking soda is amazing.

      And you are right, it really dries out the hair. That’s something I didn’t find out until four weeks after going poo-free and struggling with combing my tangled, dry locks. I didn’t know about the ph levels regarding skin and baking soda – thank you for sharing that! I am still struggling to find the perfect balance of vinegar, but I’m getting there!

      Isn’t it interesting how different types of hair were considered beautiful by society’s standards at different periods in time? Having frizzled bangs (a result of using hot tongs on the hair) was even extremely popular at one point.

  • Laura M. says:

    I didn’t touch on hair dying because that topic was previously discussed in the series, but I did want to mention that I dyed my hair a few times in college, as well. That picture in the ‘about me’ is from over two years ago when I dyed my hair for the last time. Hair dying is probably the worst thing you can do to your hair – health-wise. It was about that time that I started to really learn about the chemicals in hair products. Excuse the old picture – I’m usually behind the camera, not in front of it! :)

  • Very cool! I am inspired and encouraged by this! I like seeing women doing this. It takes a lot to go for it, but once you do, you never look back. I just passed 150 days!

    I think it gives us a chance to really question what we consume and why.

  • Meg says:

    How long have you been poo-free? I tried it for a month and my hair was disgusting. I wasn’t using any baking soda concoctions but my hair literally felt wirey and rubbery. My scalp was really itchy and it just was not shiny at all. I also work out a lot. I do hot yoga at least 5 times a week, this drenches my hair. Do you get your hair wet everyday? I know that also strips the natural oils out of your hair. I would love to try this again I just feel semi-defeated.

    One more thing… I noticed if I blew dry my hair after I got out of the shower it looked even worse, but it was too cold to go outside with wet hair. I have long, thick hair that takes hours to dry. I seem to have a lot of obstacles. :)

    • Laura M. says:

      I started at the end of summer last year (August 2010) and went two straight months without shampoo. During those two months, I didn’t use the apple cider vinegar and realized my mistake (dry, thick hair can be frustrating and hard to comb). Since then, I’ve been switching back and forth between baking soda and regular [natural] shampoo. I do get it wet almost every day – using water to ‘wash’ is good, too! My hair has been itchy at times – this is due to a lack of conditioner.

      Have you ever thought of pulling your hair back in a stylish way on days when you can’t blow-dry your hair? I’ve noticed the same thing with blow-drying, and I generally don’t blow-dry my hair anymore now.

      Everyone’s hair is different and everyone’s hair responds differently to the same treatments. Experiment and see what works – and stick with it longer than a month. :)

  • Laura your hair looks fantastic! I still haven’t gotten up the courage to try going poo-free. Part of the reason I love shampooing is for the light fragrance it leaves. I wonder if a drop or two of essential oil would work for this?

    Thanks for sharing your experience sans shampoo!

    • Laura M. says:

      Thank you! I do admit that I miss the fragrance from using shampoo. Yes, you could probably add in some drops of essential oils into the baking soda/water mixture. I should try that now that I’ve perfected my baking soda hair care regime (I just tossed out my ‘just-in-case’ shampoo a couple days ago)!

      TIP: 2 TBSP of baking soda works better than 1.

      • Jess says:

        For my hair I use shampoo from this essential oils company. It actually puts essential oils into your hair and leaves it shiny. I think as long as it is healthy for your hair, I don’t see a problem with it. But it has sodium laureth sulfate (which I believe is not really good for your hair) I don’t think people should be using it.

  • Pam says:

    First, I can’t imagine anyone not washing their hair in a month in this day and age. It’s digusting because after a month it’s dirty and stinks of all types of odors. Second, most women are not ‘lucky’ enough to have wash and wear hair like the author. To write and advice women that they don’t need hair products is stupid. Every woman I have ever known has needed something to have decent-looking hair. Go ahead and continue to not wash your hair or style it. You have to walk around like that with people wondering why you didn’t do anything with your hair. Dirty, unstyled hair will be what people remember you for.

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