Would you do No Poo?
Is your hair your crowning glory? Do you swish your freshly washed tresses around luxuriously so they land oh-so-perfectly around your face, just like those incredibly glossy women on the telly? Maybe that’s a bit far-fetched but, even if you don’t consider yourself blessed in the hair department, you most likely wash it regularly. Unless you’re among the beauty enthusiasts and environmentalists leading the No Poo charge: people who are caring for their hair by not washing it with shampoo.
If this is the first you’ve heard of No Poo (that’s short for “no shampoo”, by the way), just Google it. At the time of writing, I get a solid 8.5 million results. This alternative hair-care phenomenon has been around for a while but it seems to have really hit its stride in the past year or so.
The reasoning behind letting your locks go suds-free is that your scalp naturally regulates its oil production. When you over-wash your hair, the scalp’s sebaceous glands release extra sebum to stop the hair drying out, which leads to greasy hair, which leads to you shampooing it again, which leads to … a never-ending cycle. By leaving natural oils in the hair instead, rather than stripping them out, you allow the scalp and hair to regain its innate equilibrium. The end result — after a transition period, aka oil-slick central — is supposed to be stronger, healthier hair.
This alternative hair-care phenomenon has been around for a while but it seems to have really hit its stride in the past year or so.
No Poo is also part of a wider movement: individuals who are standing up to corporations that are inundating the Earth with plastic waste and toxins, and promising health and Beauty to people that they can’t provide.
It’s a method certainly worth road-testing — even if the initial reaction is a grimace. Fortunately for me, my hair-do of choice is a ponytail and I’ve only recently discovered how to use a hairdryer. I do like grease-free hair, though, and have been using an organic shampoo every two days … so this one may be tricky.
Putting it to the test
After researching online and asking friends (devotees and anecdotes abound), I discover two main ways to come off shampoo. One is to go cold turkey: stop using shampoo and conditioner entirely, even the natural varieties, and rinse your hair with plain old H2O. The second method is to wash with a bicarbonate-of-soda-and-water solution or another gentle shampoo alternative, and condition using an apple cider vinegar rinse to restore the hair’s pH balance.
The other trick to a successful switch seems to be to brush regularly with a bristle brush in order to stimulate the scalp and distribute the oils along the hair shaft.
As for that transition period I mentioned? Apparently, it can last 2-6 weeks, depending on what products you’ve used in the past and how frequently you’ve washed your hair. In the hope my hair rebalances itself earlier, I decide to wash with just water and use the occasional shampoo alternative.
By leaving natural oils in the hair instead, rather than stripping them out, you allow the scalp and hair to regain its innate equilibrium.
By day three my hair’s a grease trap, so I take to swimming in the ocean daily before rinsing with clean water. My scalp feels itchy and has some white buildup, but I brush and tie my hair back each morning and soldier on. That weekend, though, I have a wedding and can’t face turning up with greasy, slightly smelly hair, so I “wash” it with baking soda and rinse with ACV. It feels squeaky-clean.
Week two and three are oily ones — and I do cheat a bit by rubbing in a few sprinkles of cornflour as a dry shampoo. On the bright side, my hair’s ideal for a “slicked back” look, so I rock a daily bun. I wash my tresses with water every two days then spritz on a water and essential oil blend; the sebum smell is fine but this just helps me feel a little nicer. My ends are dry, despite furious brushing, so I also start leaving a smidge of coconut oil on the tips overnight for added moisture.
On day 19, it’s time for another wash. There are plenty of DIY shampoo recipes in the blogosphere but I try washing my hair with a raw egg then rinsing with ACV. It sounds bizarre but the result is shiny, silky hair (that, surprisingly, doesn’t smell like salad dressing at all!).
Six weeks in and my hair is starting to look normal and, while it’s still slightly greasy, it’s almost ready to wear down. Its condition is also much, much better than it was before this experiment and all I’ve used is three eggs, a couple of sploshes of vinegar, two tablespoons of bicarb soda and a quarter of a cup of cornflour — almost enough to bake a cake.
One person whose story has spurred me on is Lucy Aitken Read, a British blogger and activist — a very stylish one at that, with lush red locks — who hasn’t washed her hair for two years. She’s written a book about her experiment, Happy Hair: The Definitive Guide to Giving up Shampoo, and blogs at lulastic.co.uk. She might inspire you, too.
Is No Poo the way forward? I’ll get back to you in a year.
Like what you read?
Sign up for a weekly dose of wellness
Want glowing skin? Carla Oates shares her top natural beauty tips
Carla Oates, natural beauty expert, author and founder of The Beauty Chef, discusses how harsh chemicals and prolonged sun exposure...