Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No shampoo

This post is entirely about my attempts to stop using shampoo. If you're not interested, stop reading now.

I stumbled upon this blog one day while looking for... something.

The idea of not using shampoo seemed like an interesting concept for several reasons. First, I have very oily hair. In the couple of weeks prior to me discovering that blog, several people had made comments to me about how washing your hair all the time would make it more oily. Apparently those comments had seeped into my brain somewhere. Second, I'm trying to cut down on random potentially-toxic chemicals applied to my body. For example, we don't use fabric softener any more; I bought these static-reducing dryer balls (which work pretty darn well, really). Third, it sounded like an interesting science experiment and I am, to the depths of my soul, a scientist.

My previous hair care routine had been to wash my hair in the morning with shampoo and (most of the time) conditioner. By the second morning, it is usually looking a little oily. When I was working full-time, I washed it every morning because by the end of the second day, it's pretty limp and nasty looking.

The most basic "recipe" for no 'poo use calls for a baking soda wash with a vinegar rinse. Often apple cider vinegar is recommended because it's less harsh than regular white vinegar. I decided I would start with this. Being scientific, I actually measured out 1 tablespoon of BS and mixed it with a measured cup of water. It's always best to start with known quantities. I was quite impressed with the results of the first wash. My hair looked clean, it felt clean, and it smelled very slightly, but interestingly of ACV. I felt like my hair looked better on the second day post-wash compared to washing with shampoo, however it was a subtle change.

Unfortunately, I started getting itchy after a few days or a week (or possibly slightly longer - this is why I should blog about things AS they are happening, rather than after the fact). At the time, I blamed this on some antibiotics I was taking. However, after I finished the antibiotics, the itchiness didn't seem to totally go away. It's very sporadic and I'm not sure what's causing it. My top two culprits are BS/ACV or the laundry detergent we're using. My head gets itchy, which is likely caused by my hair-cleansing regime, but my body also gets itchy particularly where the waistband of my pants sits.

I tried an experiment to determine if it was the BS/ACV. I washed my hair only using the shower sprayer (that we normally use to wash the dog - but I'm sure he doesn't mind). I didn't get body-itchies, but my neck and shoulders, where my wet braid touched, seemed more itchy than they should have. However, we have to account for a 30% placebo effect here (but in reverse). Because I went into this experiment thinking that it could be the BS, did that make it more likely that I would be itchy in only those areas?

A piece of evidence refuting the BS/ACV = itchy hypothesis: I came home and changed my clothes and immediately became quite itchy over most of my upper body. Was it because the shirt and pants that I put on had been in a load of laundry that hadn't rinsed completely? We have a very small washing machine and sometimes I think all the soap doesn't get rinsed out completely.

So now, with one supporting and one refuting piece of evidence, I'm back where I started. I've decided to change BOTH of my potential variables (bad science, I know) and see if the itchiness goes away. We got environmentally-safe, hypo-allergenic laundry detergent that I'm going to start using. I am also going to try alternatives to BS/ACV for hair washing. If it's the BS, then the itchiness should go away immediately upon ceasing its use. If it's the laundry detergent, then I may have flare-ups while I wait for all my clothes to cycle through a round of washing with the new detergent. A third variable is the mystery bar of greenish soap that we started using. I'm going to use only Ivory soap to remove that as a variable. I'm a bit more concerned with eliminating the itchies than with carrying out a well-designed experiment.

One consequence of this whole itchy drama is that I need to find alternatives for BS/ACV hair care. Here's what I've tried so far:

-conditioner only: made my hair very flat and heavy, probably because it was a fairly heavy conditioner. I should try this again with a different conditioner, but I don't want to buy anything for this project yet. Cutting down costs is part of the fun.

-lemon juice rinse: left hair fairly flat and limp. Also, it was hard to keep out of my eyes. Maybe fresh lemon juice would work differently (I used the kind you buy in a bottle).

-applesauce: didn't work at all. Apples are acidic (which I didn't know until I started canning), which makes them useful as a shampoo. However, this didn't work for me: my hair was very greasy-looking and heavy as soon as it dried. Also, applesauce makes a terrific mess in the shower and is really hard to rinse out.

-soap: this is supposed to strip less oils from the hair, so it's not quite as bad as shampoo. However, it's fairly harsh at oil removal. It worked ok, but I probably didn't use enough. It was sort of challenging to work up a lather in my hands, then try to apply it evenly to my head - it didn't seem like I had enough.

Today, I'm going to try grapefruit juice (fresh-squeezed). Mostly this is because we have two elderly grapefruits that need to be used up. The one grapefruit I tried from that group wasn't particularly tasty, so the rest haven't been eaten. Now, one of them gets to be used for this cause.

Things that I'm going to try in the future:
-coffee: it's quite acidic and has the side effect of darkening hair (and maybe covering grey hairs??)
-rosemary: boil a bunch of it in water, then use it as a rinse once it's cooled.
-yogurt: sounds gross and like it'll make a terrible mess.
-beer: seems like a waste of perfectly good beer, but if it works I could buy a really cheap kind.
-tomato sauce: I canned plain tomato sauce last summer (tomatoes boiled, then run through the food mill). It's also an acid and should work like lemon juice


  1. Have you seen the infomercial for WEN? It is a not-shampoo hair cleaning product that people seem to love. Also Aveda makes a "dry-shampoo" that you sprinkle into hair/scalp on non-wash days that seems to work for people.

    I can't (well sort of can't) believe you tried APPLE SAUCE. I know you have tons of it, but, yeash, the lengths you are going for science here.

  2. I haven't seen any infomercials because I don't have TV. :)

    I'll have to look into the dry shampoo thing. Supposedly you can use cornstarch and some other things, but I'm afraid that it'd leave white powder everywhere. I also considered using chinchilla dust bath.