Thursday, September 16, 2010

The No (Sham)poo method

As I briefly mentioned in my list on Monday, I had a horrible reaction to the hair dye I just used to dye my hair brown. It may be a new developed allergy on my part, it may have been a minor chemical burn, we really can’t tell- all I know is that my scalp is not happy which means that I am not happy.

I quickly learned that when my head started itching I should just get my hair wet. To me, and most of us, wetting our hair means taking a shower, which means washing your hair. So for a few days I was washing my hair twice a day in hopes to keep the itching/irritation under control. This worked until it didn’t. I started looking online for some other things I could do until this passed and started reading about shampoo. As with many things we use mindlessly, it’s really not good for you. If you are just putting it on hair, which is dead anyway, it isn’t really a big deal but think about what goes on in your shower.

You grab the bottle, dump some on your head and start lathering. The shampoo/conditioner sits on your scalp which is porous. Maybe you leave it on your head while you soap up the rest of your body or shave, more chemicals are being soaked into your body. Then you rinse it off, during which the shampoo runs all the way down your body’s skin (also known as the largest organ you have). Do you honestly believe that in all that contact all those chemicals on the back of the bottle don’t seep through into your system at all?

The kicker about this is, the chemicals actually don’t do anything for the condition of your hair. You aren’t gaining anything from them and their potential danger. Sodium Lauryl Sufate/Laureth Sulfate is put in solely for the lather affect, because people think that unless it lathers and creates lots of bubbles, they aren’t getting clean. Also, this and other chemical cleaning agents are also found in other household cleaning supplies. If it cleans off the baked on grease from your pans, is it really right for your hair?

Lets assume for a minute, that the chemicals at the levels we absorb them don’t create endocrine, reproductive, skin irritation and eye problems the fact is they are just too harsh to use everyday. The act of these cleaning agents strips all of your hair’s natural oils and your hair follicles go into oil production overdrive to survive. Then you start shampooing more frequently because your hair is unmanageable if you don’t- which repeats the cycle. Your scalp starts freaking out, your hair is limp/dry, split ends form and then we pile more products into our hair to get more life into it. Not only is all that true, but many of us are allergic to the chemicals in shampoo without even realizing it. The signs of the allergy could be itching, dry scalp, flakes, and hair loss. Anyone who has skin sensitivities to detergents or has issues like eczema are likely allergic to most shampoo. I’m allergic to everything, including apparently hair dye, so quite frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if I was allergic to shampoo too, and I’ve had all the symptoms above. (sorry for the TMI)

Through all of this, I realized that my excessive shampooing due to my scalp issue was actually irritating me more, and I found a chemical free, natural, no animal products/testing shampoo which had great reviews. I promptly ordered it, the only issue now was that it would take time to be processed and shipped, so what do I do until then?

In my searches, I stumbled upon this fringe underground community who practice the no ‘poo method as they call it. Yes, I realize I’m late to the party since NPR did a story on this movement two years ago but no one I know has ever mentioned it, nor have any blogs I’ve been to. There seem to be three distinct groups who practice this method:
  1. the hard core environmentalists, for whom even natural shampoo is too damaging to the environment due to the packaging
  2. people with tons of allergies
  3. health-nuts who refuse to consume anything they cannot pronounce; not by eating, cosmetics, drinking, nothing
The interesting thing that some people found is that after a period of gross, greasy hair that one associates with not washing your hair their hair is actually in much better condition then before. People who thought their hair was stick straight had natural curl/waves, people with fine/thin hair had thicker hair with incredible body with no products nor styling, people with curly hair had the defined, bouncy, beautiful curls of their dreams with no frizz. The thing was, that after a specific amount of time- your hair will take care of itself. Your oil production goes down because you aren’t stripping away all of your natural oils, your hair is stronger, healthier, shinier and full of life.

The issue many people have is that they can’t get past that initial greasy hump. For me though, I don’t care what my hair looks like. As long as it doesn’t smell, get itchy, or anything gross like that I could really care less. Secondly, I just dyed my hair brown. Darker colors are much more forgiving of greasiness since you can pull it back and hide it whereas blonde hair actually changes colors when greasy like a flashing beacon that you skipped your hair wash that day. So I decided to try a little mini no ‘poo experiment until my new natural, vegan shampoo gets here.

There are two separate methods of going no poo:
  1. washing your hair a few times a week with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar
  2.  the water only method

The first method is out for me for a few reasons; one, baking soda strips can strip hair dye color out of hair. I went through a lot of pain and suffering for this hair color so no thank you. Two, I could just imagine how that conversation would go over in my house when I try to explain why there are cooking items in the bathroom. I prefer to avoid that. I’m mocked by my conservative “global warming is mythical liberal propaganda” republican husband for even walking in a Trader Joe’s.
So I’ve decided to go the water only method route. The idea is that you do “wash” your hair when you shower but with nothing but water and your own fingers. First, turn up the water almost as hot as you can stand it (helpful since that’s the temp I take all my showers with) and with your fingers massage/scrub your entire head taking more time at your crown area since more oil collects there. Interestingly, you can actually feel your hair get cleaner- I’m not sure how to explain it more than that, but you can. You can’t rush this step: and bonus! scalp massage stimulates your hair follicles so your hair grows faster/better. Then take a wet washcloth and stroke it down each side of your hair (I’ve heard it’s 100 times each side, but I have short hair and I don’t have the time for that so I do maybe 10). This moves the oil down your hair shaft.

Then rinse with cool water to close the hair shaft. I then spray on a couple spritzes of leave in conditioner because my hair tangles a lot. I’ve heard that some people put some gentle conditioner on the ends of their hair after the water cleaning step but before the spurt of cool water step.

My observations so far (I’m on day 3): When I woke up this morning, instead of being limp, flat and greaseball-looking my hair looked clean and surprisingly had more body then normal. I water washed and then came to work:

This is what my hair looks like right now. Keep in mind that normally, my hair would be so greasy that I would have to pull it back or it would just hang in lifeless limp strips around my head.

Yes, my hair normally looks like that.  I have zero body, and have the thinnest hair imaginable.  That's why I keep cutting it so short.  To prove that it's not body-less due to oiliness here's a picture of my scalp.

The one mistake I have made is that I used a dallop of conditioner on the ends because I was afraid that I was really tangled.  I lost a lot of the body I had when I woke up due to that.  I also don't think it was really necessary.
Maybe there’s something to this no ‘poo thing. I don’t think I’ll continue it once my new allergy-free (I hope!) shampoo gets here, but maybe it will help me extend the time between washes which would save me money in the long run. Maybe my hair would like it too.  Though I do have to admit, I'm mildly curious to figure out how long I could go without washing it without any type of soap.

If you are curious how your hair/skin/makeup products stand up:


Angela said...

It's funny that you should mentions that you haven't read about this on any blogs, because in the last month or so, I've read about this on two different blogs!
I switched shampoo brans recently (to a cheaper brand), but I really haven't liked what it's been doing to my hair. I feel like it makes my hair greasier, which in turn makes me wash my hair more, making it even greasier! I just can't win. I've been contemplating doing the baking soda/apple cider vinegar deal. I may just suck it up and go for it!

P.S. I like your new hair color :)

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